Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Old Boy Book 8

"...By the end of this night, one of us is going to be dead" - Kakinuma

Time for the eighth and final volume in the Old Boy series.  Old Boy was a Japanese manga that ran from 1996-98, written by Garon Tsuchiya, drawn by Nobuaki Minegishi and translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian.  It inspired the much more famous 2003 South Korean film of the same name, although the film and the manga diverge quite considerably as the story moves along.  The eight volumes tell one, intense, on-going storyline rather than being split into arcs like western comics tend to be.  Previously on Star Trek The Next Generation: "Mr. Worf, dispatch a subspace message to Admiral Hanson. We have engaged the Bo..." no wait that's wrong.  Start again. Previously on Old Boy: Imprisoned for ten years in a yakuza run prison, his sentence paid for by a rich man going by the alias "Dojima", ordinary bloke Goto Shinichi is finally released with no idea what he did to inspire such hatred.  That first night of freedom he meets and sleeps with a young woman called Eri who begs him to have sex with her.  After some time under surveillance Goto and Dojima meet and Dojima challenges Goto to remember what he did to him in the past, if he can do so, Dojima will kill himself. If he can't, Dojima will kill Goto.  Crashing at a bar called "Moon Dog" owned by a friend called Tsukamoto, Goto follows the clues Dojima gives him and gets in touch with his old elemntary school teacher now a writer called Yayoi Kusama.  She joins the "game" figuring out Dojima is actually called Kakinuma.  Kakinuma had also planned revenge on her too, but decided instead to have her join with Goto to make things more challenging for him.  Goto searches his memory and finally thinks the incident Kakinuma hates him for is to do with music and with Yayoi's help they discover they both tried out for the choir, singing a test song called "Town Of Flowers".  Goto has also had Eri taken into hiding to protect her from Kakinuma but at the end of the last volume, Kakinuma's henchman contacts Yayoi because he is tired of this "game" and reveals Eri was hypnotised and her supposedly chance meeting with Goto set up by Kakinuma for reasons yet unknown...  And now the conclusion.

[Note:  This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left, and the sound effects have been left in the original Japanese and subtitled instead]

The hypnotist is called Suzanne Hirose.  Yayoi sends her some flowers after the performance so Suzanne asks to meet her to express her gratitude.  Yayoi comes backstage and Suzanne invites her out for a drink.  They hit a bar and after a couple of rounds, Suzanne says "this is about floor 7.5 isn't it?" (that was the floor of the prison Goto was kept on).  Yayoi asks how she knows and Suzanne says she seems "over-motivated", just like the man back then who asked her to perform hypnosis for a great deal of money.

Suzanne: "Could you take a risk? I'm a 100% twenty-four karat lesbian.  If you sleep with me I guess I might talk."
Yayoi and Suzanne go drinking.
Yayoi is lost for words, then Suzanne says she's only joking, she knows Yayoi is straight. Also I think I might start self-describing as a "100% twenty-four karat lesbian" whenever I meet new people.  Just to make things super awkward.  Anyway,  she then tells Yayoi she'll confess her role up to a point and that her first job was to make sure she could come and go from floor 7.5 freely which she did by hypnotising the guard.  After that she had access to Goto whenever Kakinuma wanted.  And over a series of days she planted a post-hypnotic suggestion in Goto's mind.

Goto meanwhile has gone to the Moon Dog to find Kakinuma there.  Kakinuma refers obliquely to "her" (Eri) being hidden from him and now it's time to "set a limit on our sudden death round."  He drugs Tsukamoto with a knockout spray so he and Goto can talk freely.  He then tells Goto he knows Goto knows about the song but still can't recall the incident occuring linked to it.  Goto asks if it's because he got picked for the choir and not Kakinuma.

Kakinuma: "Hmph.  I'm not so petty a man.  It was much more dreadful.  Something to rival a Greek tragedy."

Goto asks if maybe this incident is all in Kakinuma's head.  Kakinuma retorts, "to think you could forget. You truly are a sinful man."
Last meeting in the Moon Dog.
Yayoi takes Suzanna back to her flat for more drinks.  Suzanne says that doesn't it feel like they have met before.  Yayoi is horrified that she might have been hypnotised too, but then Suzanne says "just kidding.  I'm only pulling your leg".  And that this is the first time they have ever met.  Yayoi frowns and pours the drinks.

Back with Goto and Kakinuma they set a time limit of one week for the game to resolve.  Goto says he has conditions. First they should stop coming to the Moon Dog.  It should just be him and Kakinuma alone together for a week.

Goto: "I probably won't remember the incident connected to 'Town Of Flowers'.  But the moment you try to execute me, I'll resist you like any human being."

Kakinuma says he has to veto that condition.  He wants their "charming array of supporting characters" to be present.  Goto then punches him hard in the face.  He tells Kakinuma he'll take him out in the street and beat him senseless, get arrested and make sure the full story of their game comes out.  "I have no choice" says Kakinuma and acquiesces to Goto's demands.
Goto must have enjoyed that.
Back with Yayoi and Suzanne, Suzanne says she hypnotised Goto to go to a certain bar in Shibuya and gave him a description of Eri.  Then she hypnotised Eri to fall in love with him.  Then Suzanne realises something.  Kakinuma's secretary Kyoko was present and told Suzanne to leave her with the hypnotised Eri for five minutes.  So Eri must have another post-hypnotic suggestion implanted in her that Suzanne doesn't know about.

Yayoi asks Suzanne if she could make Eri remember that post-hypnotic suggestion.  Suzanne sys she could as long as it isn't "double-locked", hypnotised in such a way it would be impossible to discover.  Yayoi also asks if she could help Goto recall an incident from his childhood. "Maybe" responds Suzanne.
Suzanne and Kyoko mess with Eri's head.
Meanwhile Goto and Kakinuma have gone to a luxury hotel with an enormous suite.  Kakinuma shows Goto the gun that one of them will die by in a weeks time.

Kakinuma: "Now try and remember.  A solitary sensibility for a person's whole life, and the very instant two solitary sensibilities collided with each other."

Goto then gets a call on his mobile, it's Yayoi who asks to meet him.  She tells him she's met a "VIP who's close to the core of this game."  But she can't say anymore over the phone.  Goto tries to tell her to forget about him, things will resolve themselves in a weeks time.  She realises he is trying to protect those around him and she is going to put her life on the line and he must hurry to her apartment.
The hotel room the final showdown will take place in.
Kakinuma says he doesn't mind if Goto comes and goes, and is happy he is gathering more information on him, it's "the least you can do after all the obsession I've given you..."  Goto takes a taxi to Yayoi's place.  Also there is Kakinuma's henchman who Yayoi vouches for.  She then introduces him to Suzanne and tells him all about how his meeting with Eri was set up via hypnotism.

Kakinuma phones his henchman and fires him and his subordinates so Goto won't have to worry about being followed now.  Suzanne says that hypnotising Goto into recall the hidden memory may be impossible because he doesn't believe his and Eri's meeting was a set-up.  Goto is too strong minded (when she hypnotised him on floor 7.5 she had many days to influence him), he needs to see her releasing Eri's hypnotism first and then she can help him.

Yayoi contacts the motorcylist who hid Eri in the last book.  He's called Numba and she tells him to come over, they'll all be in a car and he can escort them on his bike to where Eri is.  He does so.  Numba goes to find Eri who is with relatives of his and makes up a story about Eri's debts being cleared and it being safe for her to leave now.  He then takes her to where Goto, Yayoi, Suzanne and the ex-henchman are waiting.
Nearly all the supporting players gather.
They all sit round a fire and Suzanne hypnotises Eri and makes her recall how she was given a description of Goto and told to save her virginity for him and create an opportunity to give it to him when they first meet.  Suzanne then asks her what the second post-hypnotic suggestion is, but Eri asks for the "key word".  Suzanne says it's just as she feared.  Eri has been "locked" and only the right password will unlock her.  The ex-henchman says Kyoko must have done it and he can use truth serum to find out the key word from her.  Before that though it's time to discover Goto's childhood memory.

Goto now believes he was hypnotised so Suzanne starts to put him under again.  Once he is in a trance, Yayoi asks him questions.  He is taken back to the day of the singing test, he is nervous, the kids are coming up to sing in alphabetical order.  Goto frowns, now Kakinuma is singing and he looks nervous and shy.  Then adult Goto slumps forwards and passes out.  Suzanne says they can't do anything for him now, he'll wake in a few hours.

Suzanne: "I think he probably passed out as a means of escape.  The experience was that deep.  That's my conclusion".

Yayoi: "But that conclusion does solve anything does it?!  We still don't know why Kakinuma hates Goto".
Goto.. remembers.
Suzanne asks Numba to give her a life to the railway station.  She has done all she can for them, she just came for the "fun and anticipation of giving you a taste of the other side." She leaves on the back of Numba's bike while the others sleep in the car.  They are woken by Eri saying that Goto is gone.

Yayoi's phone then rings.  It's Goto.  He tells her that for the next seven days he will "hone my heart in the mountains".  Then he will return on tuesday to end things with Kakinuma once and for all.  He tells her he remembers the incident now.

Goto: "I was moved by Kakinuma's singing.  He didn't have a beautiful voice by any means, but it was if his soul itself was singing.  All those people in the class who hated him.  I'm the only one whose heart was penetrated by Kakinuma's song."

So Yayoi wonders if Kakinuma hates him for forgetting "the truth".  Goto says he is not sure, but this is definitely at the core of their game.  He then thanks Yayoi for all her help and asks her to put Eri on.
Eri is understandably upset.
Eri is tearful saying he must hate her, but Goto tells her he tucked a letter to her in her hair and she should read it when the others won't notice.  Driving back to Tokyo, Eri is sitting on her own in the back of the car, so takes out the letter and reads it.  It says that although they were both hypnotised, Goto believes there was an inevitability about them meeting even if they hadn't been.  If he is still alive, one month after his confrontation with Kakinuma, she should wait for him on "that bridge" and he'll come find her.

Back at Yayoi's flat, the ex-henchman phones her saying that Kyoko has left for overseas.  So now they'll never be able to unlock Eri's final hypnotic suggestion.  She tells him not to chase after her, it's time that both of them leave the game as well.
Farewell Yayoi.
A week passes and Goto returns to the hotel suite Kakinuma is waiting in.  Kakinuma asks him directly what it was that "lethally wounded my heart".  Goto says it was because he was moved by his song.

Goto: "For you with your innate suspicion of people, it rattled you to your very core...and the sense of 'shame' that came from that is the reason you came to hate me."

Goto says he wins, but he won't kill Kakinuma.  But Kakinuma says that wasn't quite the correct reason.  He says he wins and points the gun at Goto.  "You lie!!" says Goto.  Kakinuma starts singing "Town Of Flowers" to him and we get a flashback to him and Goto as kids, young Goto watching young Kakinuma sing.  And we see that Goto was so moved he actually shed tears.
The truth.
Kakinuma: "My whole life, perhaps only you understood my loneliness.  It was humiliating.  I couldn't forgive it... If only you didn't exist, I could have just been a success in life without ever having to doubt it."

He then fires the gun at Goto who dodges but gets hit in the shoulder.  Kakinuma then says he wanted to ruin Goto by having him become a murderer.  He looks sad for the first time and says "I wanted to be born a man like you".  Then he puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger, killing himself.  A month later Goto meets a delighted Eri waiting for him on the bridge.
The game ends.
Sometime later, Goto and Eri are married with at least one kid as Eri calls him a "salaryman dad".  A mysterious parcel arrives, inside is a music box that plays "Town Of Flowers".  As it does so, Eri gets the oddest look in her eyes.  That night Goto has a nightmare where Eri jumps off the balcony of their highrise flat, he wakes with a start but she is safely asleep beside him.  He goes out to the balcony himself and thinks to himself, "this war is still not over."  And that concludes the story.

Unlike others I find this to be an cool ending for the manga, Goto finally gets his happiness but he'll always have the worry about that mysterious post-hypnotic suggestion implanted in Eri.  Normally I dislike "It's the end... or is it?" conclusions to a story but here it's perfectly in character for Kakinuma. Even beyond the grave, Kakinuma is able to mess Goto around. The lesbian hypnotist, Suzanne is a little bit of a deus ex machina, but I don't think she can be fully considered one as hypnotism has been in the mix since book 3 so it didn't just come out of nowhere.  I'll talk a little more about Kakinuma's motivation in a minute, but it's interesting that the major difference between the inciting incident in the film and manga is that the film "Goto" did something malicious, while manga Goto did something empathetic, which seems to have affected which one deserved a happy ending.
The end...?
I was going to discuss how the film compared to the manga here, but I don't want to spoilerise one of the greatest Asian films ever.  Check out the wikipedia summary if you don't ever plan on watching it, but to quickly summarise: "Goto" has an entirely different reaction to his imprisonment, hypnotism does still play a role, there is no prolonged cat and mouse game between him and his captor, the reasons for him being locked up are entirely different, there is an "Eri" but no "Yayoi" equivalent and the whole thing ends in tragedy, horror and finally outright denial for Film!Goto.  About the only thing that remains the same is the general "emptiness of revenge" as a motive theme both have going on.  It's a great film, but not one to watch if you like happy endings.

So, returning to the manga, did Kakinuma love Goto like Eri thought, despite all the protestations to the contrary?  I don't think so, I think he was more powerfully jealous of him (at least of the imagined Goto not the reality), as evidenced by his stated plan to make Goto more like he is. Suzanne shows that the mangaka wasn't shy about including a homosexual character so if Kakinuma had been gay, it would have been made more obvious. He stated he wanted to "ruin" Goto and if he can mould Goto into a person more like Kakinuma is, he doesn't have to feel bad about who he is at his core. I think his "sex" is the exercising of power, over men and women - that's what gets him off, love has obviously never played much part in his life.

Love wins out in the end. Even if it started with malicious intent.
"Fooling" Goto into falling in love seems to be the main reason he hooked him up with Eri, with the possibility in the epilogue of still having the power of life and death over her and by extension Goto even after he has gone.  Goto, a boy who is handsome and as his old teacher says, has a raw sexuality about him even at that age.  Note how Kakinuma kept putting sexual temptation in the way of Goto, hypnotising Eri into sleeping with him, paying a prostitute to spend the night with him in a hotel, making Goto have sex to get a clue as part of their "game" and even putting him in contact with their MILFtastic ex-teacher it's like Kakinuma is trying to prove that even emotions and forces such love and sex can be subjegated and controlled by the exercise of his power. 

When Goto confesses to feeling like an outsider back then, at first Kakinuma literally cannot conceive of Goto being just as isolated and scared for his soul as he was as well as deliberately going on to live a "humble" existance. There's the implication across the series that Kakinuma had some evil inherent in him and blamed Goto and his teacher for being the only ones who seem to have realised this. The inciting incident seems like such a minor thing, but it was Kakinuma opening his heart up in song and he seems to be most angry that Goto though moved by it, soon forgot about it and that it was his idealised "enemy" who felt this way. Goto for a moment connected with Kakinuma and that was what Kakinuma could not forgive. Slights, even imagined ones at that age can become magnified over the years and thus Goto became the focus of all the silent and impotent frustration Kakinuma felt as an outsider back then. And let's not forget the type of person Kakinuma is, someone who gets off on exercising absolute power and what better way to feel that power than to completely possess the object of your hate, first via prison then through their "game"?
In the end, Goto was the better man and Kakinuma knew it.
So what do I like about the story? I like Nobuaki Minegishi's brooding atmospheric art, I like how it uses a slow, decompressed pace to establish a real sense of time and place and that the sparse script by Garon Tsuchiya lets the art tell the story through body language and facial expression. I like the constant emphasis on food and drink as Goto indulges in all the socialisation experiences he missed in prison. I like the symbolism of the moon, always watching - a representation of Kakinuma himself. I like Goto and the heavy implication that imprisonment might actually have allowed him to become at peace with himself - the exact opposite of Kakinuma's intentions and I like how all this spiralled out from one incident in their childhood born of Kakinuma's self loathing and as something he could never get over no matter what success he made of his adult life. Perhaps the wrap up isn't as neat and tidy as the film version, but I like how Goto finally gets a happy ending this time around unlike his less sympathetic film counterpart. In book 3 he describes himself as a "happy slave" before his imprisonment, but once Kakinuma is gone he had the opportunity to walk away and remake his life in any way he pleased but he went back to meet Eri on the bridge and he gratefully returns to a conventional life of marriage, a salaryman job and a family and realises it's not slavery at all if you choose to live that way and enjoy it. The story definitely benefits from being read all in one go, which allows for the atmosphere and tension to build without disapating between chapters. This is a fine manga that resulted in a superb film and both should be of interest to enthusiasts of East Asian culture.  And that's all I have left to say about it.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Old Boy Book 7

"This is truly a stimulating night after all" - Kakinuma

Time for the seventh volume in the Old Boy series.  Old Boy was a Japanese manga that ran from 1996-98, written by Garon Tsuchiya, drawn by Nobuaki Minegishi and translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian.  It inspired the much more famous 2003 South Korean film of the same name, although the film and the manga diverge quite considerably as the story moves along.  The eight volumes tell one, intense, on-going storyline rather than being split into arcs like western comics tend to be.  Previously on Old Boy: Goto Shinichi, an ordinary, everyday guy was kidnapped one night ten years ago and held in a private, yakuza run prison.  His prison term was paid for by a rich man going by the alias Dojima who hates Goto due to a certain event in their past.  After he is released, Goto meets up and sleeps with a young woman called Eri, whose happy positivity he likes to be around.  He later reunites with an old friend called Tsukamoto who owns a bar called "Moon Dog" and who lets Goto crash there.  Dojima gets in touch with Goto and starts playing a game where he drops hints to try and lead Goto to the memory of what he did to scar him so.  Narrowing it down to his time in his final year at elementary school, Goto gets in touch with his old teacher who now writes crime thrillers under the name Yayoi Kusama.  After hearing his story she tells him Dojima must be an isolated child called Kakinuma.  Goto, Yayoi and Kakinuma end up all meeting together and Kakinuma escalates the threat of the game by pretending to have Tsukamoto killed.  Realising Eri will be his most likely target for a real murder, Yayoi arranges for her to hide out in a Tokyo pool hall that's off the criminal radar.  Goto goes to the beach to search his memory in quiet contemplation and realises that somehow the one lesson Yayoi didn't teach - music - is significant.  And now the continuation.

[Note:  This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left, and the sound effects have been left in the original Japanese and subtitled instead]

Goto phones Yayoi with his information regarding the music lesson.  Yayoi remembers that the elementary school put a lot of energy into the choral group, a male teacher taught them and students from each class were chosen to perform.  Goto was one, Kakinuma was not.  Goto says that is no reason to hate someone.  Yayoi agrees but also says it must be important.  She asks him what Kakinuma's voice was like when he sang the test song.  Goto says apart from this one flash he can't recall the music room at all.  Yayoi says she can hunt down the teacher and find out what the test song was.  Goto returns to the Moon Dog and waits.
Drinking in the Moon Dog.
That night he and Tsukamoto are enjoying a drink when Kakinuma and his secretary Kyoko come in to the bar. Kakinuma makes a veiled reference to them getting Eri out of his clutches.  At that moment Yayoi phones Goto on his mobile.  Goto takes the call and proffers the phone to Kakinuma.  Kyoko takes Tsukamoto out to go get some food, Kakinuma tells Yayoi to come join them at the bar, she agrees.  "There is an expectant atmosphere.  The beauty of the brink of extinction in the air" Kakinuma says.  Goto thinks they can now confront Kakinuma with their new lead.

Kyoko and Tsukamoto return with Taiwanese hors d'ourves, yummy.  They all tuck in while waiting for Yayoi.  Kyoko sneaks into the toilet and calls Kakinuma's henchman.  Yayoi enters the bar and sits between Goto and Kakinuma, "a flower in each hand" she comments.  Yayoi mentions the music teacher and Kakinuma scowls,  meanwhile his henchman breaks into Yayoi's flat.

Kakinuma introduces Yayoi to Tsukamoto as an author.  Tsukamoto wonders if he should get an autograph, but she says she is "super unknown."  More people arrives at the bar, so Goto, Kyoko, Yayoi and Kakinuma leave to make room.  Kakinuma says that Goto doesn't want Tsukamoto knowing about their relationship.
Confronting Kakinuma.
Kakinuma sends Kyoko home.  Then Yayoi asks him if something happened in the music room.  "Exactly" he replies.  But that he has "confidence that Goto will never remember 'the incident' as long as he lives."  He accuses them of hypocrisy again then walks off saying they need to have a meeting without him and when they meet in the Moon Dog again they can use his real name now.

Yayoi and Goto go to another bar and over drinks she tells him that the music teacher passed away five years ago from cancer.  But she didn't give up, she got in touch with another student in that year and found out the name of the test song "Hana no Machi - Town Of Flowers."  She says it's such a famous song even she can sing it.  Goto wracks his brains but cannot recall the melody at all.  Yayoi takes him to a late night CD shop and picks out a CD with it on and asks the shop assisstant to play it.  As Goto listens he imagines himself being sucked through space into the moon.
Symbolism!
Over the valley of the rainbow colours
Flowing along ribbon of the wind
In a ring, in a ring
We galloped away!
We saw the beautiful sea
Overflowing the town of flowers
In a ring, in a ring
We danced away!
With spring! With spring!
We danced away!


After hearing it Goto says he always liked the tune.  Yayoi asks if he can sing it, but he looks embarrassed.  She takes him to a karaoke club and they go into a private booth.  A man who has been shadowing them sits outside and records what is going on inside.

Kakinuma's henchman returns with a camera full of photos of Yayoi's handwritten notes and copies of her floppy discs.  He says he can't analyse it because fiction holds no interest for him.  Curious, Kakinuma asks if he likes movies, but Mr. Henchman says the only things that move him emotionally are war documentaries and footage of Nazi Germany.  Kakinuma says he'll check over the stuff himself.
Yayoi rockin' out
Back with Yayoi and Goto, she sings a "warm up" song as Kakinuma checks her work to find out where Eri is being kept.  Yayoi finishes her song and offers Goto the mike to sing Town Of Flowers.  But he says he can't recall the tune at all even though he just heard it in the shop.  She sings it instead, but this pains Goto until he stands up and yells "STOP!!". She does so and he says that "I swear I'll make myself able to sing in eventually".  Yayoi responds:

Yayoi: "The moment you sing 'Town Of Flowers'... that moment, this game.. this war... will end". 

It's morning, so Yayoi returns home, while Goto goes back to the Moon Dog and Kakinuma works on analysing Yayoi's notes.  Yayoi sees that she left her floppies out and although she didn't specify where Eri is, it was "incautious of me".  Kakinuma's henchman delivers the recording of the karaoke session and Kakinuma asks him if he narrowed Eri's location down to one locale could he finds her?  The henchman responds that his spy network includes the police so he probably could.  Kakinuma says that she's on "the left bank of the Sumida river."  He gleaned this from slight clues and biases in Yayoi's notes, and we get a look at Eri, still happily living and working in the pool hall at that location.
Eri hunted.
Police and other shady characters start asking around where Eri is.  One of the pool hall regulars calls to Eri and warns her about what his happening.  He says he can get her away from this place, but Eri assures him she isn't a criminal she just ran away from home so she'll be OK.  Once alone she contemplates the phone and thinks "Mister, what should I do?"

Kakinuma reads some analysis of himself in Yayoi's notes, she has noticed he is left handed but has tried hard to cover this fact up,  Kakinuma is annoyed that she has discovered this. Finally Eri phones Goto at the bar, he tells her to call him on his mobile in a few minutes and goes outside to take the call.  She tells him people are looking for her so he says he'll shake his tail and come find her.  He races through the streets, climbing and jumping from buildings until the person following him loses him.  He takes a taxi to the pool hall and he and Eri share a warm embrace.
Goto and Eri reunited for a short while.
She asks him why the police are searching for her and Goto admits "the situation is really complicated."  He phones Yayoi who is surprised Eri has been found, she sends the motorcyclist from the last volume to take Eri away to a new location that neither she nor Goto will know about to prevent inadvertant leaks.  Eri waves Goto goodbye and as she is driven off he is left alone looking very folorn.

He returns to thinking about the song.  He knows the words, but why can't he sing it?  He passes the time playing mahjong while the henchman tells Kakinuma that Eri has disappeared again.

Kakinuma: "Their side is quite the match, such terribly exquisite offensive and defensive maneuveres.  Just as I imagined.  No, moreso.  The game's unfolding thrills me!"

Eri ends up at a farm in a rural area close to Tokyo.  She once again settles in fast and the people there take to her immediately.  Yayoi is out shopping when Kakinuma's henchman appears and offers to carry her basket.  He tells her he is here at his "own discretion".  He asks that she trust him and could they go back to her flat and talk?
The henchman switches side.
They do so, and he admits to breaking into her place and copying her notes, "this isn't an apology.  I was doing my job".  Yayoi is taken aback then she says "understood, now talk".  He rambles a bit about how in his intelligence jobs he lost all faith in the politicians of the country and ended up yielding to self-loathing and working for Kakinuma.  But now he believes "this futile game should be ended quickly."

Yayoi is suspicious saying there is no way he'd betray Kakinuma.  He tells her that Kakinuma discovered Eri's location from her notes, that his "powers of insight are almost pathological."  Yayoi says he needs to show her some proof he intends to double-cross Kakinuma, or get out.  So he admits "the girl Eri, she's dangerous."  She was "scouted" by Kakinuma as well as him.
Oh but it can be.
Yayoi is shocked by this revelation saying Goto and Eri met by chance.  But as she protests she realises the truth in what he says.  The henchman says that Yayoi was pulled into the game to make things more interesting, Eri was as well.  we then cut to Eri calling Goto to tell him not to worry about her and that she is being looked after by kind people and could he "end this war soon and come and get me!"  Just a little longer reassures Goto.

The henchman leaves his card with Yayoi and she broods over what he has told her.  Next day she calls him up and he returns to her flat to talk some more.  He says Kakinuma had set some things up before he employed him, like implanting the tracking chips.  He also believes the meeting with Eri was set up well in advance and it was achieved via hypnosis.  He has a good idea who did it as well.

He took the woman who Goto had to have sex with in book 3 to unlock a clue to a female hypnotist and he believes she also hypnotised Eri and Goto into meeting and falling in love.  In frustration Yayoi says she doesn't understand why Kakinuma doesn't claim his victory as Goto can't recall the incident.  The henchman says Kakinuma prolonging the game is "precisely my reason for no longer want to be involved in this affair."  He then takes her to the hypnotist who is performing a show and here volume seven ends.
Yayoi at the sexy hypnotist's show.
Once again this book moves the plot along significantly.  The revelation of the song and Goto's continual blanking on it, along with the revelation that hypnotism has been involved shows that for all his handicaps and clues, Kakinuma has stacked the deck from the start.  Eri being hypnotised explains her desperation to have sex with Goto as soon as they met which was so strange when it happened in book one.  The woman Goto had to have sex with being hypnotised as well was an early indication of this aspect of the plot having future significance and with the henchman's defection to the "other side", all the pieces are in place ready for the endgame in the final volume to come.  So please join me in a few days time as Old Boy wraps up with the "war" between Goto and Kakinuma concluding with an outright winner, but who will it be..?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Old Boy Book 6

"It's been such a long time" - Kakinuma

Time for the sixth volume in the Old Boy series.  Old Boy was a Japanese manga that ran from 1996-98, written by Garon Tsuchiya, drawn by Nobuaki Minegishi and translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian.  It inspired the much more famous 2003 South Korean film of the same name, although the film and the manga diverge quite considerably as the story moves along.  The eight volumes tell one, intense, on-going storyline rather than being split into arcs like western comics tend to be.  Previously on Old Boy:  Locked up for ten years in a yakuza run prison, a "sentence" paid for by a rich man going by the alias "Dojima", Goto Shinichi is released once his sentence is over, none the wiser for the reasons why he should have been imprisoned.  After meeting and sleeping with a young woman called Eri on his first night of freedom he reunites with an old friend called Tsukamoto who owns a bar called "Moon Dog" where he lets Goto stay for now.  Dojima contacts Goto and tells him that it was an incident in their shared past that made Dojima hate him so much.  Thanks to the hints he drops, Goto gets in touch with their old elementary school teacher now writing crime thrillers under the name Yayoi Kusama.  She and Goto meet and once she hears his story she tells him Dojima must be an "ominous" kid called Takaaki Kakinuma which doesn't help Goto as he can't recall anything that might have made Kakinuma hate him, only that he tried to avoid him as much as possible.  Kakinuma then tries to put doubts in Goto's head about her alleigance to him as he is in fact her literary agent, although when Goto tells Yayoi this she tells him her agent is a woman, but must have been Kakinuma in disguise.  She also thinks Kakinuma hates her too and has manipulated her just as much as Goto. The stakes in the game are high, Kakinuma has agreed to kill himself if Goto can remember the one incident that he could not forgive... And now the continuation.

[Note:  This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left, and the sound effects have been left in the original Japanese and subtitled instead]

Still shocked by the revelation that she was duped by Kakinuma, Goto tells her that Kakinuma has her home under surveillance as well.  She chides Goto for thinking that she'd sold him out.  She ruminates that this is all so strange she's lost confidence in writing fiction.  Goto asks what name the disguised Kakinuma went by, "Grace Mizukoshi" replies Yayoi.
"Grace Mizukoshi"
Goto tells her he doesn't blame her for being set-up by Kakinuma.  She says she feels like Kakinuma "really knew how to hit me where it counted".  Just like when he was a kid.  Then a delivery man knocks on the door and hands over a box.  Inside is the wig and rubber mask of "Grace Mizukoshi".  Yayoi takes the mask away and goes and puts it on.  She returns to Goto who says "you could have fooled even me".

With her still in the old lady drag they go out for a meal together.  She says Goto must look like a "rich gigolo who's speciality is rich old ladies."  They have their meal and suddenly Kakinuma's "referee" shows up soon after Goto tells her they are probably under surveillance.  The referee takes them to a private bar where Kakinuma is waiting, Yayoi goes to the powder room to remove the disguise, leaving Goto and Kakinuma alone together.

Kakinuma: "It's like a dream.  An extremely private class reunion.  A beautiful teacher and two of her male students transcending space and time to meet again."

Goto fiercely demands to know again why Kakinuma hates him, but Kakinuma says that'll be the theme of this evening.  Out of the disguise, Yayoi joins them and Kakinuma finally confirms that is his real identity.
It surely is Yayoi.
Kakinuma asks the referee to make a ruling in his and Goto's game.  The referee says Kakinuma has won and Kakinuma sends him away.  Goto admits that it was Yayoi who remembered who Kakinuma was so he agrees that he has lost.

Goto: "It's bizarre but any memory of you is completely gone".

Kakinuma snaps that he wants Goto to call him by his name and not just "you" all the time.  He then tells him that during their school days "I'll be damned if I was ever a threat to you."
Kakinuma's sore spot.
Goto asks if what he did to Kakinuma was violent.  Yayoi says she thought Kakinuma was a "problem child" back then.  Kakinuma says he broke no school rules "you just didn't like me.  It was an instinctive aversion, right?"  She agrees and goes on to say she hated him.  Kakinuma says he's pleased when a woman "tells me straight what she likes and dislikes".  Goto thinks some more and asks if he did something "to scar you so decisively without realising it?"  Kakinuma says "yes" and scowls.

Kakinuma says that as the winner of their game he has won the right to kill Goto.  He then hurls his glass of booze into the back of the bar saying "there is no ecstasy in winning like this.. we're going into sudden death."  Yayoi asks him why he made Goto his target and not just her.  Kakinuma gives them a potted history of his life as an adult.  He made his money during the speculative property bubble and withdrew all his money so didn't lose anything when the bubble burst.

After that he lost motivation for a while then he remembered Goto "that fervent soul respected by everyone."  He decided to erase the humiliation he suffered during his time in Yayoi's class.  Yayoi says his greed for money was replaced by greed for revenge.  Kakinuma says it was "deeper and more important, perhaps tied to my very identity."
Goto in his old life.
When he had a detective report back on the life Goto was leading now Kakinuma couldn't believe he was living such a humble existance after being so "exceptional" at school.  Goto says that was only Kakinuma's impression of him.  Kakinuma asks Yayoi what she thought of Goto back then.

Yayoi: "Out of the whole class, you two were the ones who stood out.  Like each of you was embracing an extreme.  The sun and the moon, that's the best metaphor for it."

And Goto was the positive sun to Kakinuma's negative moon, correct?  She affirms this to be the case.  Kakinuma says it's that perspective on people "that I want to topple to the core."  Goto asks if that him deciding to live a quiet, simple life made him a hypocrite.  Kakinuma says yes and now all Goto needs to do to win the game is remember what he did to Kakinuma, so the game continues.

Goto then asks what Kakinuma's motivation was in paying Yayoi to write a new book.  Kakinuma says his original plan was to sneer at the finished manuscript and rip it up in front of Yayoi's face.  But he then decided he could use Yayoi in his game with Goto and changed up his plans accordingly.
Kakinuma's original revenge plan.
Yayoi says she'll pay back the advance he gave her, but Kakinum says fifty million yen is "pocket change" to him.  He says she is going to write a new book:

Kakinuma: "About a proxy war between God and the Devil.  Between Goto and me.  A transcript of the game if you will.  Although which one is fighting for God and which for the Devil I don't know!!"

He then changes the subject and asks "would you like to see a dead body?"  He says if he allows Goto to continue into the sudden death round he has to kill someone, so shall he show them the body?

They all drive to a canal and to Goto's horror it's Tsukamoto floating in it apparently dead.  Goto grabs Kakinuma in a rage and threatens to throw him off the bridge, unflustered Kakinuma says this should enocurage Goto to search his memory harder.  He then says if Goto officially accepts his offer of a sudden death round he'll bring the body back to life.  A bewildered Goto agrees and Kakinuma reveals that Tsukamoto has just been drugged and fitted with a life jacket so he'll float.
Tsukamoto gets dragged into the "war".
Goto says he should just kill him if he is going to kill anyone.  "To think you could treat your life so flippantly" responds Kakinuma.  He then walks off and Goto and Yayoi go to the Moon Dog bar.  Yayoi says it probably isn't safe to talk there so they go to another bar to discuss what has happened.  Yayoi asks Goto "who's the person it would hurt you the most to lose?"  Goto immediately thinks of Eri.

Yayoi thinks Eri will be Kakinuma's trump card so they must get her out of his clutches.  They return to the Moon Dog and find Tsukamoto there none the wiser for his dip in the canal.  He thinks he just passed out drunk, not realising he was drugged.  Next day Yayoi and Goto put into operation a plan to get Eri to safety.

Goto phones Eri and tells her that a man will come to the door in a moment and to do as he says.  A handsome young man in motorcycle leathers knocks on her door and tells her that Goto asked him to get her to safety.  They drive off and are tailed by Kakinuma's henchman, but the motorcyclist manages to lose him in the traffic, when they arrive at their destination he changes the plates on his bike back and tells her it wasn't Goto who sent him but an "ally".
Time for Eri to go into hiding.
Later Yayoi calls Goto on a "back alley" mobile phone which she thinks can't be intercepted.  She tells Goto she's had Eri taken to a pool hall on the outskirts of Tokyo.  Eri seems happy enough to be there, helping out the elderly owner and has a room to sleep in there too.  The motorcyclist told her "there's no safer place to hide a person inside of Tokyo as long as you don't leave the area."

Yayoi tells Goto that place is where she hid out for a while after writing about the criminal underworld put her life in danger.  The motorcyclist was a man who is a big fan of hers and she believes Eri will be safe from Kakinuma for now.

They continue their phone conversation.  She asks Goto why he didn't go to the police after his ordeaal and why he has let himself become Kakinuma's plaything.  He says before he was locked up his "boring, ordinary life had killed any hopes in me."  So he was able to endure his imprisonment and because he wasn't killed he knew his enemy would reveal himself to him at some point.  She apologises "Of course.  Outsiders don't call the police."  Goto says he doesn't like calling what's going on a game, "this is a war".
Goto ruminates on what's happening.
We get some flashbacks to his childhood and what little he can recall of Kakinuma. He says that if Kakinuma was going to hate someone there are plenty who made fun of his looks or coordination.  "Not once did I exchange a word with Kakinuma" he says.

Yayoi asks if he realised he was a popular kid in elementary school?  Goto says he didn't realise his strengths until junior high.  She says she initially thought Kakinuma picked him just because he was the popular one but it is definitely Goto specifically he hates with a passion.
Eri fitting in easily.
We the get a look at how Eri is getting along where she is hiding out.  She is popular with the clientele and is her usual happy self.  Goto wanders round Tokyo that afternoon trying to jog his memory.  Meanwhile Kakinuma's henchmen reports in that he lost Eri.  Kakinuma calls Yayoi "quite resourceful" and when his henchman apologises, Kakinuma just seems pleased the other side have made the first move in their sudden death round.

Later that night Goto goes to the beach and decides to sit and contemplate the sea in silence until he recovers his lost memories.  And he does have a breakthrough.  He remembers there was one class Yayoi didn't teach, it was music, and for some reason that feels significant.  And there volume six ends.
A man, a beach and memories.
The battle between Kakinuma on one side and Goto and Yayoi on the other takes some interesting turns in this volume.  Yayoi proves to be a valuable ally, no wonder Kakinuma says his intent with her was to provide him with a "handicap". Interesting that the three main characters now are all "outsiders" in society, though only Goto had that outsiderdom forced upon him unwillingly. Upping the stakes by threatening Goto's friends and his lover snaps Goto out of his somewhat passive attitude towards Kakinuma and forces him on the initiative.  In their lengthy coversations we have it hammered into us that as far as Kakinuma believes, he and Goto represent opposites and he won't rest until Goto is as corrupted as he is.  The final revelation in the book that music is somehow significant to the incident Kakinuma has been alluding to will form a major part of the final two volumes as things start to come to a head in their "war" with each other.  Join me in a few days time as we find out how a simple tune might hold the key to everything that has happened so far.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Old Boy Book 5

"I've got zero hope of winning the game" - Goto

Time for the fifth volume in the Old Boy series.  Old Boy was a Japanese manga that ran from 1996-98, written by Garon Tsuchiya, drawn by Nobuaki Minegishi and translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian.  It inspired the much more famous 2003 South Korean film of the same name, although the film and the manga diverge quite considerably as the story moves along.  The eight volumes tell one, intense, on-going storyline rather than being split into arcs like western comics tend to be.  Previously on Old Boy:  Between the age of twenty five and thirty five, everyday guy Goto Shinichi was kidnapped and held in a private, yakuza run prison for a decade.  One day he is released as mysteriously as he was first abducted and with no idea who did this to him and who despised him enough to pay what he later finds out was three hundred million yen to have him incarcerated.  After meeting and sleeping with a young woman called Eri on his first night of freedom, Goto starts investigating who has done this to him.  His captor keeps up surveillance on him and finally contacts Goto by phone telling him this is all part of a game they are going to play with Goto needing to remember a shared incident in their teenage past that caused the man, going by the alias "Dojima", to have such hatred for him.  Dojima finally meets Goto in person when he comes to the bar - the Moon Dog - run by Goto's pal Tsukamoto and the place Goto is crashing currently, and they confront each other in person.  They spend a night fishing together on Dojima's boat and Dojima admits "The reason I locked you away for ten years is because I couldn't forgive you." He elaborates no further, telling Goto that if Goto wins their game, he will kill himself.  And now the continuation.

[Note:  This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left, and the sound effects have been left in the original Japanese and subtitled instead]

After enjoying a sumptious breakfast on board Dojima's boat, they all return to shore.  Dojima says he'd like them to both come fishing again with him and Tsukamoto enthusiastically says yes.  Before they part, Goto and Dojima stand together contemplating the sea.  Dojima says they have both "played all the moves we can now" and that he is on course to win because Goto can't remember who he was back in their school days.
The "referee".
Tsukamoto drives Goto back into the city happy because he got Dojima's secretary Kyoko's phone number and drops him off near to the Moon Dog so he can go return the rental car.  Goto walks back to the bar and unlocks it and immediately senses someone else in the bar.  It turns out to be another of Dojima's henchmen.  The henchman removes a bug from the bar's phone saying there will be no more call for such surveillance now Goto is committed to the "game".

He describes himself as an "observer" and "referee" for the game.  Dojima wants things sped up so he has authorised him to give Goto some hints about their past.  Then Tsukamoto arrives and the referee shuts up.  Later Goto says Tsukamoto can leave and he'll lock up, so Tsukamoto departs leaving Goto and the referee alone.  Goto then throws a glass of booze in the referee's face.  The referee is unphased by this saying he isn't a violent enforcer.

Goto then muses that if they are talking about a time in school when he was messed up, it would be high school.  But the referee says no, he and Dojima met during elementary school, grade six, class B.  He asks for Goto's yearbooks and finds the picture of their class headed by an attractive female teacher.  Goto looks at the male students in the photo but try as he might, can't recall any of them hating him so much.
Who can it be?
The referee then starts talking about their teacher, Mrs Yoko Kurata.  He places a novel on the bar and says that she got a divorce and stopped being a teacher and became instead a writer of hard boiled crime fiction under the name "Yayoi Kusama".  The referee says Dojima told him she might have major clues about who Dojima was back then.  He departs leaving a pensive Goto contemplating the book he left behind.

Goto visits Yayoi Kusama's publisher the next day and requests her contact information.  Her editor comes down to the foyer to speak to him directly, he says to Goto they don't give out author's details because of stalkers and so on.  Goto says can he at least pass on Goto's contact information on to her and let her know he is one of her ex-pupils.  Her editor is interested in that revelation as he knows very little about her and her past.  He goes and phones her, then returns to Goto saying he shouldn't expect too much but he passed Goto's information on to her.
Yayoi Kusama
A week later, in the middle of the night, her editor calls Goto at the Moon Dog and tells him to go and wait at the fountain outside Shinjuku station at 0300.  If after thirty minutes she hasn't appeared, he should give up on meeting her.  Goto rushes out and waits at the fountain.  Thirty minutes pass, and just as he is about to leave, Yayoi Kusama appears.  She tells him that if he had looked like a normal, well adjusted person she would have left him alone.  But he looks like one of the troubled protagonists of her novels so she had to talk to him.

She says his reasons for getting in touch with her seem "far more desperate" than a class reunion.  She asks if he was followed as she has the experience of "someone who's lived among monsters".  They go to a hotel and Goto is hesitant, but she assures him her interest in him is not sexual.  So they get a room and share a few drinks.  Goto then asks her if she can recall someone who had "limitless hate" for him back then.

She doesn't answer but she self-describes herself as "an outlaw by nature" who only sells three thousand of her books on the first printing and doesn't allow them to be reprinted.  Then she asks Goto to "tell me all about your ordeals" and Goto brings her up to speed on the story so far across a few pages of picture only flashbacks.  He asks her again why anyone would hate the "happy laid back type" he was then.  Yayoi says that's the kind of incongruity authors love writing about.  Then she says "this man probably despises me as well".  In her opinion, this person, "I believe fears true outsiders".
Catching up with teacher.
She carries on talking, saying that as a teacher she knew everything about her pupils, even ones on the cusp of sexual desire. She then says she never met a student that had such an "ominous demenour" as the boy she believes to be Dojima.  She asks Goto what will happen when she reveals who he is.  Will Goto win the game and what will his life be like afterwards?  She then says that someone willing to pay as much as Dojima did to have Goto locked up must be messed up and have perverse inclinations, but with someone like Goto out there:

Yayoi: "He would begin to recall a lifetime's worth of shame, a lingering scar of unpleasantness.  But if you didn't exist, he would be able to rest easy without any doubts that his view of life is right.  That this world is built out of nothing but evil desires."

Goto thinks this is a fatalistic view, but she responds that Dojima's aim has been to drag Goto into this fatalistic world.  She decides to go to sleep and says she will tell Goto who she believes Dojima to be tommorrow.  So the next day Goto meets her back at the hotel room and she tells him that year Dojima was a transfer student.  This jogs Goto's memory and he says the name "Takaaki Kakinuma".  Which doesn't help Goto in the slightest as he can recall no significant contact between them!
Takaaki Kakinuma as a boy
Yayoi also can't think of any incident that might have caused Kakinuma to hate Goto so much.  When they both graduated elementary school at the end of that year they went to seperate high schools and as far as Goto can remember, had no contact with each other.  Goto thinks hard and can just about recall that Kakinuma was avoided by the other pupils, he had the air of a "middle aged investor".  He also recalls that he actively avoided thinking about Kakinuma himself, as if his thought circuits switched off when confronted by that "mysteriousness of him".  Yayoi says she has figured something out.

Yayoi: "The other students just had some indistinct aversion to his darkness so they avoided him.  You were the only one held by Takaaki Kakinuma's prescence".

She then goes on to tell Goto that one she believes Kakinuma tried to kill her by throwing a breeze block off the top of the school aimed at her.  She had no proof he did it, but her intuition told her he was the culprit.

She says she has a disposition which makes it "difficult to adpat to this society we live in".  Maybe Kakinuma saw through her and her true nature.  She too was "gripped" by Kakinuma, she was having problems in her marriage that year and it was if Kakinuma knew that.  One day she realised it would be best for Kakinuma to "die in a car accident or something".  She thought that thought the same day she was nearly killed by the concrete block.
Attempted murder.
She then tells Goto he needs to do whatever it takes to "open up that black box of your memories".  Goto still can only recall fragmentary images from that time. She gives him her number and tells him to call her if he makes any progress.  She also thinks they should keep the fact they know Dojima is really Kakinuma a secret for now.  Goto returns to the Moon Dog and is startled to find Kakinuma and his secretary already drinking there, and Kakinuma smiles and knowing smile at him.

Goto has a drink to steady his nerves, then Kakinuma asks him how their teacher is doing?  Goto says they can't talk here, so Kakinuma tells Tsukamoto he wants to borrow Goto to play an arcade game with him and they leave.  They drive to an empty building Kakinuma owns, and upstairs is a telescope.  It is trained on Yayoi's flat.  Kakinuma says the rent on a flat as luxourious as the one she is living in couldn't possibly be paid for by the royalties from her books.
Doubt.
He then phones her up and asks her how her work is coming along as Goto watches her take the call through the telescope.  Kakinuma notes with some glee that now Goto can't be sure if she is an ally or enemy.  Goto storms off and gets blackout drunk in another bar.  He has a dream where he is tied to a chair and a young Kakinuma is saying to him "why were you so afraid of me?"  Walking back to the Moon Dog he despairs for a moment then reaches the bar and goes inside.

Next day he ponders what he has learned about Yayoi.  "Is it all a trap?!  But it didn't look like a performance to me."  He decides to give her a call, she asks him if Kakinuma has made a move, he responds by asking her if she is keeping anything from him.  She says it sounds like they need to meet in person and she'll be waiting outside her home.  So Goto takes a taxi there and wonders how he can broach the subject of her accomodation.
Who to trust?
She invites him inside and comments that even when he was a kid she could sense his raw sex appeal, but "it seems like we have that old teacher-student relationship, huh?" Goto finally decides to be direct and says her income and lifestyle don't add up.  She tells him that an agent got in touch with her six months ago about publishing her work in the English speaking market.  She got paid fifty million yen up front for her next book.

Then she suddenly realises what Goto is driving at, that the agent could have been one of Kakinuma's puppets.  Goto says he is disappointed that her writers instinct didn't tell her that the agent was Kakinuma himself.  He says she took a call from him the previous night.  "But the agent was a woman" responds Yayoi.  She looks upset at the fact she too has been manipulated by Kakinuma dressed as an old woman and that is where this volume ends.
D'oh fooled as well!
Another excellent volume that really moves the story along.  Revealing Dojima's true identity has not resulted in Goto winning the game, and giving Goto an ally in Yayoi was a good idea as he has someone who really understands what he is up against dealing with the dark and malevolent person that is Kakinuma.  Goto's inability to recall much about him except his avoidance of him is an important plot point for a later volume, Kakinuma is dangling answers in his face but those answers only lead to more questions.  Join me in a few days time for volume six where Kakinuma really ups the stakes in his and Goto's game as Goto and Yayoi continue to try and pin down what happened that fateful year in elementary school.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Old Boy Book 4

"I was afraid of myself" - Goto

Time for the fourth volume in the Old Boy series.  Old Boy was a Japanese manga that ran from 1996-98, written by Garon Tsuchiya, drawn by Nobuaki Minegishi and translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian.  It inspired the much more famous 2003 South Korean film of the same name, although the film and the manga diverge quite considerably as the story moves along.  The eight volumes tell one, intense, on-going storyline rather than being split into arcs like western comics tend to be.  Previously On Old Boy:  Imprisoned for ten years in a private yakuza run jail which was paid for by a man going by the alias "Dojima", thirty five year old Shinichi Goto is released one night without warning and starts his quest to discover who and why felt the need to punish him so.  After hooking up and sleeping with a young woman called Eri on his first night of freedom he finds himself under constant survelleilance by a hired thuggish henchman and GPS chips implanted in his body and clothes.  He manages to discover the floor of the building he was held on and started on a plan to infiltrate the yakuza to discover more, but Dojima shut down that line of inquiry which turned out to be a dead end anyway.  Now the "game" is just between Dojima and Goto. Goto is currently crashing at a bar called Moon Dog run by an old friend of his, a jovial fellow called Tsukamoto.  At the end of the last volume, Goto was put in the weird position of having to have sex with a woman and make her orgasm so she could reveal a post-hypnotic suggestion that would provide a major clue for him.  He obliges her and is told "Remember...your teen years".  And now the continuation.

[Note:  This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left, and the sound effects have been left in the original Japanese and subtitled instead]

The woman he nailed leaves the bar saying there is no point in following her, she knows nothing else.  Later Goto wander round Shinjuku pondering her clue.  He calls Tsukamoto who arrives at a meeting place with him and Goto asks him if he could get his yearbooks - Elementary, Junior High and High School from his parents place.  When Tsukamoto asks if this has something to do with his missing ten years, Goto says nothing.
Talking with Goto must be frustrating some times.
Tsukamoto obliges and goes to Goto's parent place.  He finds out that it's just Goto's father now, his mother passed from lung cancer six years ago.  Goto's father order in sushi and they share a meal.  Unable to tell him Goto is alive, Tsukamoto requests the books making a somewhat lame story up about Goto's friends meeting up and wanting to remember him.  But Goto's father hands them over without question.

Back at the Moon Dog bar, Tsukamoto gives Goto the yearbooks and tells him is mother is dead.  Goto looks sad for a moment then responds with an "I see."  Later that night he breaks into his old high school, hoping it can help jog his memory.  He goes to his classroom and recalls how he used to enjoy sitting by the window.  He wanders about before leaving in frustration.

Goto: "It's hopeless.  I don't remember anything that would make someone hate me."

He goes to Eri's place and meets her as she returns home from work.  She is very pleased to see him. He warns her he is probably still under surveillance but she doesn't care and tells him not to worry on her account.

Goto: "For some reason I wanted to be near this girl's positivity so badly I could hardly stand it."
With Eri again.
He spreads out his yearbooks back in her flat, he says he can't recall anyone hating him back then.  Eri says the person might not hate him, what if he liked him?  What if he wanted him?  What if his love got twisted?  "I'm not a homo" stammers Goto.  Eri says the attraction was one-sided. "He loved you all by himself."  And a scowling Goto with Eri holding onto him regards his yearbooks afresh.

Finally Goto snaps "It can't be possible" and Eri decides to change the subject.  She asks what he was like in school.  Goto says he wasn't a "bookworm" nor was he a "deliquent" and "I just kept to myself."  Eri encourages him to dig further and Goto says "It feels painful somehow, to remember these things."  We then get a look outside at Dojima, who is in a van listening in via the bug in Eri's flat.
Dojima watches from afar.
Goto and Eri go out and Eri says she wants to go for a boat ride.  They row a boat out into the middle of a lake and enjoy their lunch.  Dojima and his henchman observe them from the shore.  Eri then tells Goto she doesn't think it's safe to talk in her flat, hence the boat ride.  Goto apologises for the imposition in her life, but she tells him that she doesn't mind and she hopes one day he'll win his "war" so they can "be lovers for real." He the carries on talking about his teen years and admits he was afraid.

Goto: "I felt somehow I wasn't cut out right for the world we live in.  That someday I might end up doing something terrible."

Dojima's thug lip reads this to Dojima who thinks to himself "impossible!".  Goto says he dealt with these feelings by deciding to "live the most subdued and ordinary life I could."

He graduated high school and got a job at a small ad agency.  For eight years he lived a normal life.  Then he has a sense of foreboding, that the thing he had a lid on had launched a "counter attack".  He became a drunk and a gambler until one day he woke up in the cell and was locked up there for ten years.  Goto says "it's too bizarre", but Eri assures him she still believes him.
His nightmare begins.
Dojima and his henchman sit in the car.  Dojima asks if he is at all curious about what Dojima is doing.  The henchman says it's not his place to question his employer.  Dojima then tells him after a minor accident a few years ago he has plastic surgery on his face  and "became a completely new man".

Later Goto returns to the Moon Dog alone.  He sits at the end of the bar deep in thoguht and doesn't notice when Dojima comes and sits next to him and sets up a "Bottle keep" (reserving a specific bottle for his use only).  Dojima's secretary arrives much to the delight of Tsukamoto, "I don't see a knockout like that every day".

She sits and drinks with Dojima.  As the bar fills up, Goto goes to play mahjong.  When he returns to the now empty bar, Tsukamoto tells him about the woman and how come Goto didn't notice her nor the man sat next to her?  Later Goto is sleeping on the floor of the bar when he wakes in a cold sweat.  He goes to get a drink and notices the bottle with "Alias Dojima" written on it.
Name on bottle: "Alias Dojima".
Goto is confused and tries to picture the man but thinks that he has never seen him in his life before.  Next day he and Tsukamoto go out for a meal.  Tsukamoto says he hopes Dojima and the woman become regulars, "I might get my chance someday."  Goto doesn't recall her.  Tsukamoto says him being gone for ten years has "deadened all the sexual urges you are supposed to feel when you see a woman!"  Oh if only he knew.  Goto tells him to phone him at the mahong parlor next time she comes in:

Goto: "I'll take a good look at her next time as part of my sexual rehabilitation."

Three days later, she returns.  Tsukamoto phones Goto, then he starts chatting with her.  She says she doesn't want to say too much about what Dojima does, only that he's an executive with a certain "venture business."  She comments that Dojima has taken a liking to the bar.  Goto arrives and Tsukamoto introduces her to him, she gives her name as Kyoko Kataoka.  She then takes a call from Dojima saying he'll be there in ten minutes.  And Goto stiffens his resolve for the coming confrontation with a few drinks.

Dojima enters and the atmosphere gets tense.  Smiling Dojima introduces himself to Goto as "Alias Dojima".  Goto mumbles his name in return.  Tsukamoto thinks using an alias is cool.  Goto thinks "we've spoken on the phone so many times, that's not his voice." They all drink some more then Kyoko asks if Tsukamoto does food. He only has snacks so Kyoko and he go to a nearby sushi place to grab something to eat leaving Goto and Dojima alone.
The first meeting.
Dojima then calls the bar phone on his mobile and demonstrates how his mobile shifts his voice up an octave so he is definitely the man Goto has been talking to.  Now sure of his identity, Goto grabs him and pushes him up against the wall.

Goto: "Why?!  What's your grudge against me?"

Dojima says he can go ahead and kill him but he'll never solve the mystery then.  Kyoko and Tsukamoto return with food and they all, bar Goto, tuck in.  Dojima says he and Goto "really get along" and they'll go fishing on his boat one day soon.  Day dawns and Kyoko and Dojima leave.  Tsukamoto wonders if they are sleeping together.  Tsukamoto then comments that Goto and Dojima must have had a really good talk while he was getting food. "Yeah we really hit it off, like old friends" sighs Goto and pours another drink.

Later, alone in the bar, Goto is totally drunk.  He phones Eri and tells her "my enemy showed himself."  He got wasted because he couldn't stand it.  He apologises for calling her in such a state.  She says she now thinks Goto was imprisoned for one reason:

Eri: "No one these days knows what it means to live any more.  But you're different with your idillyic manliness.  That's why he made you a target.  Don't you see?  This man, your enemy's reason for living is you."
Drunken phonecalls, always fun to get.
Goto asks her what he should do?  She says to not be provoked and hurry up and remember what he is supposed to.  We then jump forward a few days to Dojima, Kyoko, Tsukamoto and Goto all in a car on the way to Dojima's boat to do some fishing.  Tsukamoto coming courtesy of Goto's request.

On the boat, Tsukamoto has fun fishing and flirting with Kyoko.  Goto sits apart, sulking.  At dinner, Kyoko says Dojima has taken a real liking to the Moon Dog "[It's] got this jazzy, bluesy feel about it doesn't it?"  Goto thinks Dojima is getting Tsukamoto in his pocket so he'll have an excuse to stay in contact with Goto.  Tsukamoto asks if he can stay and do some night fishing, Dojima agrees.  That night Dojima and Goto sit together and talk.

Dojima: "The reason I locked you away for ten years is because I couldn't forgive you."

"For what?!" responds Goto.  Dojima says that acknowledging that a man like Goto exists makes me "nothing more than a vile pervert."  Are you gay, asks Goto?  "No that's not it" says Dojima.  Then why lock me up, asks Goto again?

Dojima: "'If only you didn't exist' in my teen years that's all I thought about."

Dojima and Goto fish at night.
Dojima says they were classmates, but Goto says he's never seen him before.  Angrily Goto says "no more bullshit" and threatens Dojima with physical harm.  Dojima just laughs and asks if he "has what it takes to be a killer?"  He then takes out a small pistol and holds it to his own head.  He offers it to Goto who refuses it.  Dojima reiterates that threats of violence are "meaningless" and tosses the gun in the sea.

He then says he wants he and Goto to have an "equal match" and that if Goto recalls what he wants him to, he'll kill himself.  He then offers money to Goto to start a business and get back on his feet.  But Goto refuses his money, and says he will remember what Dojima wants him to and they shake hands on it.

Dojima then tells him about his plastic surgery and that he also won't recall his voice because he was a "sullen and silent child".  They call it a night and the next day Goto comes down for breakfast and Dojima is out swimming in the sea.  And thus ends book four exactly halfway through the storyline.
It's that moon again.
This volume is another atmospheric one, quite a bit of it is just silent establishing of time and place via Nobuaki Minegishi's gritty and realistic art.  The long awaited meeting of Goto and Dojima shows just how in control of the "game" Dojima is now.  You can almost feel Goto's frustration's boiling off the page as Dojima drops little hints here and there. It's also interesting, in retrospect to see Dojima refusing to believe Goto was an isolated child himself.  And Goto's fear of what he might turn into almost turns his time in prison into a way of saving him from that shadow self as Goto learned self control and some measure of inner equilibrium there.  The next volume sees the final major character introduced, a woman from Goto and Dojima's shared past, so join me in a few days to find out who she is.