Title: Maoh: Juvenile Remix
Author: Megumi Osuga (original story by Kotaro Isaka)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volumes 7 and 8 (of 10), $9.99 each
Vintage: 2007 by Shogakukan in Japan, October 2011 and December 13, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Psychological drama, action
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS OF ANDO’S FATE AFTER HIS SHOWDOWN WITH INUKAI. You’ve been warned.
In the previous volume, Ando was in a race against time to discover the location that Inukai was going to use for the big Grasshopper Action Meeting. As usual, the Bartender was intent on stopping Ando from interfering with Inukai in any way, despite Inukai’s orders to leave him alone. Having finally overcome the Bartender in an intense battle, Ando sets off to find Inukai. As the clock ticks down, a barely standing Ando struggles to concentrate on his goal. Suddenly, there is a blackout across the city, but remarkably there is a distinct path of lighted buildings among the darkness, forming a path to the meeting grounds. Ando follows the crowd, everyone bursting with excitement to hear Inukai’s message, and finally spots the young man in the middle of the crowd. As Inukai whips the crowd into a fervor with his speech, Ando struggles forward, ready to bring Inukai’s carefully crafted world down around him with just a few words. At last face to face, Ando suddenly falls to the ground, and a surprisingly disappointed looking (Or maybe resolved? He actually looks sad for some reason.) Inukai keeps walking past him. Ando’s role is over, just like that, and Inukai takes it as a sign that his destiny has become fully clear since the one person who could stop him failed to do so. The story shifts to Junya, Ando’s little brother, who is determined to discover what really became of his brother. He goes to the Anderson boy for help, grasping onto any lead he can find, starting with the assassin named Semi. Refusing to believe the story given to him by the police, Junya begs Anderson to give him the information he needs. Reluctantly, Anderson hands over Semi’s contact information, with a warning to Junya about the dangerous world he’s about to enter. Well, after Junya miraculously wins all five rounds of a rock-paper-scissors game. Iwanishi and Semi want nothing to do with some punk kid, of course, but annoyed by Junya’s persistence, Semi decides to test his resolve. If Junya is really going to walk this path, he has to realize he may have to kill, so Semi gives him a gun with one bullet and promises to answer his questions if he’ll just pull the trigger, with the barrel aimed at Semi’s hand (as an assassin, his hand is his life, etc). Who his brother was fighting, what his power was, and finally…who hired Semi to kill him. Betting on the bullet firing with his final question, Junya pulls the trigger with a smile on his face. Impressed by Junya’s resolve, Semi takes him to see an information broker, who tells him that the man who put the hit on his brother was (surprise surprise) the Bartender of Cafe Duce. The broker also warns Semi that a war is brewing between political factions in town, confirmed when Anderson’s father laments the loss of his mayoral candidate to Inukai’s.
With new resolve, Junya heads to Duce to confront the Bartender. He finds Shima, a friend of his brother’s, working there, who incorrectly assumes Junya is there to join Grasshopper. Junya decides to go with it, since it will get him close to the Bartender, but on the day they are scheduled to meet, the Bartender’s wheelchair rolls into the street and he is plowed into by a truck. Shocked that his revenge was taken away from him so quickly, Junya still manages to notice that the Bartender didn’t simply roll out into the street…he was pushed. Without a second thought, Junya chases after the man that no one else seemed to notice, somehow following him all the way to his house, despite the man’s obvious attempts to shake him off the trail. Inside the house Junya finds an average looking family, a husband and wife, and two young children, living normally. This family is far from normal, however, as they discuss the family “business” rather openly for having two children in the room to hear how their father is running around killing people. They tolerate Junya surprisingly well, despite his tactless nature, and even invite him to stay for dinner. Asagao, the father and assassin, realizes quickly that there is something special about Junya, and after witnessing the young man win several rounds of rock-paper-scissors against his kids, decides to test Junya’s “power” himself. Turns out his knack for being ridiculously lucky at games of chance is something far more than a simple trick. He makes a deal for information, and Asagao spends the rest of the night testing the limits of Junya’s powers. While Junya is busy searching for answers, poor Shima has gotten himself into a whole heap of trouble. A group of…I guess they’re sort of mercenaries, from a group called Fraulein, has kidnapped Shima after their deal with the Bartender fell through upon his unexpected death. They want to know who screwed up their contract, and they want their money, and they plan to sell Shima and Junya to Grasshopper as the killers. When calling Junya does work, they torture the ignorant Shima for answers, and when they can get nothing out of him, they send Junya a little present to get his attention. Junya turns himself in, and tries desperately to come up with a plan. He convinces them to escort him straight to Inukai, where he comes face to face with the man his brother struggles so hard to defeat. A man who, oddly, holds Ando in high esteem, viewing him as his savoir, and claims that it was Ando’s role to die, and his role to live and continue towards his goals. Junya won’t accept Inukai’s words, of course, and with the spirit of his brother flowing through him, gives Inukai a piece of his mind. Just like with Ando, Inukai accepts that Junya is yet another trial for him to overcome, and releases the boy to stew in his vengeance.
I can already tell that we’ll be getting a completely different sort of story following Junya around, than we did when his brother was the main character. Ando was very cautious, always thought things through, and never compromised his beliefs. Already we’ve seen a hotheaded Junya get into all sorts of trouble, practically shouting from the rooftops that he’s out to get Inukai, and unlike his brother, he was willing to join Grasshopper, even as a front, to get closer to Inukai. Ando never would have done such a thing. Junya also seems to be rather more, um, mentally unstable than his brother. Ando held up surprisingly well under stress, and somehow managed to keep his cool throughout. There’s a dangerous gleam in Junya’s eyes, however, perhaps charged by the aching wound in his heart from the loss of his brother. As if he believes he has nothing to lose. Ando was careful not to try to involve his brother in his problems, but I don’t get the same feel from Junya. Now, I don’t think he will use or somehow drag his girlfriend into his mess, but I also think he will be much more willing to let others suffer for his own ends. Less willing to go rushing to everyone’s rescue. And more likely to use unsavory methods. He chases down two assassins, after all, fairly fearlessly at that, and nearly gets himself killed. He’s reckless, and takes dangerous chances. However, he has great strength of will, and unlike his brother, who constantly wavered early on, Junya is resolute from the very beginning. He’s willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means venturing into and using elements of the underworld. It’s a world he’s not prepared for, but he seems to already have a couple people at least somewhat on his side; or, at the very least, intrigued by him. It’s a world ruled by money, however, and enough money can easily turn a friend into a foe. Already Fraulein has a new master, and that crazy Suzumebachi girl (the assassin who runs around in skirts and absurdly, annoyingly, lifts up said skirts to bare the hornet tattoos on her upper thighs) is now at Inukai’s side. Inukai now has a hold on the city itself, with his chosen candidate sitting in the mayor’s seat. It’s a very dangerous world for anyone wanting to go against Inukai, and Junya’s going to need some serious backup. I do want to make one negative comment about volume 7, and the very silly way in which Junya’s “power” is first introduced. In classic shonen fashion, Junya runs around school beating everyone with his awesome rock-paper-scissors skills, so at first it really seems like his power is just being good at a silly game. It takes time, and a step back from the silliness, for it to become apparent that he is somehow precognitive about the outcomes of situations with low odds. Or well, low odds right now anyway. There’s no telling how powerful he might really be. He’s also been dramatically changed by his brother’s death; he never would have been able to smilingly point a loaded gun at someone before, or have the courage to stand up to someone like the Bartender or Fraulein. So the odds are good that he’ll be far more proactive than Ando was. There aren’t many volumes left, but the excitement is still running high in Maoh.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.