Masanosuke’s brother, Bunnosuke, is in town, and he’s not thrilled to be in the same town as his disgraced older brother. Dealing with Bunnosuke is the least of Masa’s problems, however, as Yaichi is still acting strange and is staying mum on the future of the Five Leaves. He does at least hear promising news of his brother’s exploits through Sachi’s (their sister) fiancé, who pays him a visit. And more presently Ginta, who gets work inside the compound where Bunnosuke is staying, and spies on the group of men there. Bunnosuke does not have kind words for Masa, and that coupled with Yaichi’s bad mood leaves him stressed and exhausted. His mixed feelings cause him to hesitate on a promising offer from the man running the dojo where he works. He tries to give his younger brother words of strength, even as he hands over what could be the last payment for a while to help with Bunnosuke’s debts. This sum resurfaces, however, in the strangest of places. To Masa’s disdain, it’s clear Bunnosuke is meddling in dangerous things. Meanwhile, Tachibana is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious Bakuro gang, and it’s all Yaichi can do to throw him off his trail. He gets dangerously close to uncovering Yaichi’s identity, and though he remains suspicious, turns his attention toward tracking down former Bakuro leader Jin (the scarred man searching for Sei the Drifter). Jin himself has approached Goinkyo (Soji the Saint) for help in tracking down Sei, putting the old man in a compromising situation. The Five Leaves get started on their final job, but things go awry when the person paying the random pays only half, and tells Yaichi to simply get rid of the boy they kidnapped, claiming he’s not the true family heir. When they return to Ume’s restaurant, Yaichi uncharacteristically has a harsh conversation with their hostage, informing him of his family’s decision. After the job is completed, Masa follows Yaichi, and though the thief is initially annoyed, he finds himself protected by Masa when Jin suddenly appears and reveals he knows him to be Sei. Masa comes to a decision, and goes to Yaichi to tell him the truth of his own past. Having shared his full story, he announces that he is going to Goinkyo for the truth about Yaichi’s past, since he knows Yaichi will refuse to tell him himself. It’s Masa’s way of being honorable, revealing his own past before learning the past of another. Finding himself conflicted given recent occurrences, Masa is determined to discover what kind of man he is working for. At Goinkyo’s the old man goes back to the time he first met Yaichi, when he was a cold-hearted member of Bakuro, still known as Sei, dispensing out his boss’s justice without question or hesitation. A short bonus story illustrates Ume’s meeting with Goinkyo, and the day they became friends.
I wish Masanosuke was my older brother. He’s so kind and generous, and Ono draws him in such a gentle way, with a beauty and grace in contrast to his clumsy manner and awkward social skills. Plus he’s got those big, dark eyes that can look into a person’s soul. Did I say “older brother”? I probably meant something else…. Ahem. Masa has really grown as a character since the first couple of volumes, where he was just a passive observer of events. There is far more to him than first appeared, and he’s become just as interesting as everyone around him. Which is good, because at this point in the story, Masa is becoming a solid focal point for events, even as he does his best to keep pace with Yaichi. Everyone else takes a back seat this volume, their stories told, their motivations (mostly) clear. Only Yaichi remains a mystery, and the careful life he built is unraveling at a quick pace as his past comes hurtling forward to drag him back down. If things were dragging on before, they are certainly moving now. Jin has found Sei the Drifter, and he’s prepared to exact his revenge (or whatever it is, exactly, that he wants). Judging by their relationship in the past, which is shown in the flashback near the end of the volume, Jin holds no love for Yaichi, who killed one of his underlings without remorse. And just from what I can recall from past volumes, Yaichi also betrayed the Bakuro gang at some point, and more recently he’s killed another underling and friend of Jin’s. Masa’s going to have his hands full protecting Yaichi, if that is indeed what he decides to continue doing after hearing his story from Goinkyo. Will he remain loyal to Yaichi after hearing the truth? Masa is an honorable guy, despite his ties to the Five Leaves, though it’s worth noting that he’s never viewed the gang as evil in any way. Deceitful certainly, but not evil. He’s blindly followed Yaichi up until now, but he seems to be having a crisis of conscience, which is why he goes to Goinkyo to find out what kind of man he is. Frankly, it’s not looking good for Yaichi, just based on the piece of the story told by Goinkyo that Ono shows. Goinkyo paints a picture of a lost young man, cold, ruthless, aimless, doing only what his boss requires of him without question, having seemingly no desires of his own. There are certainly elements of that in the current Yaichi, but there’s also been an underlying kindness there that suggests he’s not evil at heart. He’s a complicated guy, though, and Ono still really hasn’t revealed much about him. She’s taking her time, but things are coming to a head, and decisions will have to be made. There’s just two volumes left, and there’s no clear outcome, which is how it should be. The story has plodded along at times, but Ono really knows how to tell a good tale.
Don’t forget that this week marks the Viz Signature Manga Moveable Feast! Check out Kate’s introduction to the Viz Signature line over at The Manga Critic, and make sure you check in with the robust archive.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.