Volume 7 continues to reveal Yaichi’s past, traveling all the way back to when Yaichi first met Jin. Yaichi, or Seinoshin as he was then known, was the adopted heir to a noble family. When his mother gave birth to a legitimate son, Jin’s gang was contracted to kill him and make it look like a kidnapping. Sensing something in the young man, Jin not only spared his life, but invited him to join his crew, and eventually into the Bakuro gang. He became Sei the Drifter then, and with no purpose of his own, became a tool for the Bakuro gang’s leader, cold-hearted and vicious. Then the big job, the one that broke Bakuro apart, arrived, and Yaichi drifted away once again, leaving the gang to its fate. In Edo, Yaichi met Otake and the owner of Katsuraya, and he found a new place for himself, eventually starting up the Five Leaves gang. Meanwhile, back in the present, with Yaichi in hiding, the Five Leaves are doing what they can to keep things together. Including helping an anxious Masa discover what sort of mess his younger brother has gotten himself into. Though not before Ume and Masa start putting two and two together, and realize that the mysterious man (Jin) on the hunt for Yaichi had been staying at Goinkyo’s house. Fearing for the old man’s safety, the two men rush to Goinkyo’s house, but find it empty. Okinu disappears next, leaving Ume distraught and demanding answers, which only Masa can give him. Ginta at last returns with information and a new job, but it’s not quite the one they were expecting. Masa finally learns the truth about his family’s situation and his brother’s role in the lies that Masa was fed. Masa finally puts his foot down and shows Bunnosuke how foolish and reckless he’s been acting. For a brief moment, Masa becomes the head of the family that he should be, but eventually turns the responsibility back to his uncle, again distancing himself and his reputation from his family. The family matter dealt with, Masa leaves and stumbles across Yaichi, who is immediately found and confronted by two former Bakuro members out for blood. Masa, still willing to believe that Yaichi is more than he claims to be, still willing to trust him despite everything, steps in to protect Yaichi, easily cutting down the attackers. Yaichi is understandably confused, but Masa explains that there’s something he wishes to protect more than anything – his new family, the Five Leaves. And that includes Yaichi.
There’s one volume left in this series, and Ono is on her way to an epic conclusion. This has been the best volume so far, and it perfectly sets up the story’s conclusion. I can’t say I’m happy to see it end, but since it must, well, this is the way to do it. My only real complaint is that, while we finally got to see what really happened in Yaichi’s past, it’s still not clear how (or even if) he betrayed the Bakuro gang (other than not warning them the cops where on their trail, I guess). Maybe I’m just not seeing it, maybe it’s meant to be vague, or maybe it will be fully revealed in the final volume as Yaichi’s final secret. There are certainly some hints that suggest he did not betray his gang. There’s also the fact that while he may be ruthless, he doesn’t appear to be heartless or evil. The way the events play out in this volume, it seems like Yaichi simply didn’t return to the gang after the job went bad, and so wasn’t there when they were captured. It seems natural that the gang would blame their demise on the person who was missing. What’s going to be important in the end are the motivations of Jin and Yagi, and what Yaichi means to them. Right now there’s plenty to speculate about, but Ono has done well to hide the absolutes from her readers. This has been such a well crafted story since the first volume. The characters, specifically Masa, have grown and become so much more than they originally appeared. Masa, who was so timid and virtually helpless early on, takes on an air of authority in dealing with his brother, and becomes a deadly protector when Yaichi is in danger. He doesn’t even hesitate to strike down the men attempting to kill Yaichi. And he does kill them, which is a first for him, and a turning point. That moment, along with how he handles his brother, shows that Masa has finally decided that he belongs with the Five Leaves and considers himself a full-fledged member, instead of a nervous man who simply hovered around on the edge. The artwork is beautiful, as always, though I do feel as if the early portions of the volume are oddly sloppy. As if Ono had to rush the first chapter or two. Though even a slightly sloppy Ono is a beautiful Ono.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.