Wild Adapter 6

January 31, 2012

Kazuya Minekura – Tokyopop – 2008 – 6+ volumes

So. Volume 4 was about what Toki does when Kubo disappears. This volume flips that around, so that we see what Kubo does when Toki disappears.

A story like this has a lot of factors. When Kubo disappears, since he’s the one that earns money and puts a roof over their heads, it’s likely either a police matter (because he’s a shady character), or some sort of mob revenge thing. Kubo lives a dangerous life, so there’s a lot of bad things that could happen to him at any time. But that’s not true of Toki. Not even the major players in the story seem to know much about Wild Adapter, and it doesn’t look like anyone is missing Toki, or knows who he is. Kubo thinks it might be an issue of Toki regaining his memory, and if that’s the case, he’s willing to let things go.

But of course it’s not. Toki is kidnapped by Kubo’s old yakuza gang. Kubo being the apathetic nihilist he is, and Toki being the only thing in life that means anything to him, he goes to get him back.

This was so epic I couldn’t believe it. There is a side character story told this time, about the leader of the yakuza youth gang that took over after Kubo left, and how he and his friends came to join this gang. Actually, these characters have been hanging around the fringes since volume one, which impressed me. One of them was a gang member that Kubo took revenge for in volume one, and another was a man that saw Toki and Kubo in an arcade a volume or so ago. That short, almost inconsequential scene has consequences in this volume, and affected the leader of the youth gang deeply. We also get more insight into the youth gang, and the leader of that particular yakuza group in general. There was an implied relationship between he and Kubo. We learn of the master/unquestioning servant relationship that the youth gang leader seems to be maintaining with him. It’s a bit of a mystery why these gang members want to make an enemy out of Kubo, when they know full well he blew away their rival gang singlehandedly.

Kubo tracks down Toki, and then he does indeed go on a rampage against his old gang. It’s an ugly, fascinating trail. He doesn’t know where Toki is being held, so he goes to the headquarters first. Then he learns about their supply route, and sneaks on board the tanker where Toki and the entire youth gang are. The whole thing is… very intense. Exquisite action and ugly emotion all twist together, and most frightening, Kubo really does seem to feel absolutely nothing while he’s doing all this. He doesn’t stop until he gets close enough to ask to hear Toki’s voice.

It’s absolutely amazing stuff. This is a good volume to leave off on for the time being, both because the story here is so satisfying and because the loose threads almost seem inconsequential after this. What is W.A.? Who is Toki? Not important. Not that I still don’t wanna know, but I’m curious to see how the plot will continue after a story this intense.

A series this good always leaves me craving more like it after I’m finished. Banana Fish is almost as close as it comes, I think, but I’m going to keep looking.

Wild Adapter 5

January 26, 2012

Kazuya Minekura – Tokyopop – 2008 – 6+ volumes

I thought the story had skipped a bit weirdly in volume 1-2, so I was happy that this volume covered the “missing year,” where Kubo picked up Toki and the two get used to one another. The vehicle for the story this time is a little boy named Shota that lives next door to Kubo. He doesn’t have any friends, and winds up with Toki as a best friend by the end of the book. He’s a good narrator, though slightly too wise for his years at times.

It’s a pretty dark story, since Toki is dealing newly with his memory loss and has nobody but Kubo, a stranger, to help him. He doesn’t like Kubo and doesn’t trust him, and all his instincts tell him to run. He actually does run away, but Shota finds him passed out and helps Kubo bring him back. It’s Shota that helps Toki and Kubo get together. Toki won’t trust “adults,” so Shota is the one that brings him his meals and entertains him initially. All three characters have mini-drama events by the end of the volume, one of which is a beating for Kubo that involves all three.

This is a somewhat slow volume compared to the others, since there’s not an overarching yakuza plot or anything that Toki and Kubo are trying to unravel. It’s very character-focused, and the development happens slowly. I quite like it, and especially in a story like this about Toki and Kubo getting together. A lot of time and effort goes into the relationship here, which makes it that much better.

Again though, it took me two or three readings to parse some of the metaphors the characters were using, particularly anything Kubo says. What’s wrong with that guy? They’re nothing too complex, and I think I’m trying to read too much into them, but still, they slow the story down a bit for me. But that’s a relatively minor nitpick, and it’s hard to imagine that Wild Adapter would be as good without them.

I don’t have that much to say about this volume since the premise is so simple, and saying more would probably spoil it. As good as this was, it also suffers from being in between two really, REALLY great volumes. Volume 6 was a fine volume to leave off on, though.

Wild Adapter 4

January 19, 2012

Kazuya Minekura – Tokyopop – 2008 – 6+ volumes

Okay. Volume 4 and volume 6 are my favorites in the series, because they deal with Toki and Kubo directly. This volume shows what happens when Kubo disappears and Toki has to get him back. Volume 6 is about what happens when Toki disappears and Kubo has to get him back. But that one is a very violent story for another day.

Interestingly, the past two volumes have been more about side characters than the boys themselves. Volume 2 had the lover of the W.A. victim, and volume 3 was about the reporter that the boys team up with to investigate the cult. This volume’s side character is a murderer, and we see him occasionally as the story makes concessions to the fact that guilt is driving him mad, but he doesn’t really have the starring role that the other characters did. This volume is all about Kubo and Toki.

While making a “sketchy” delivery for Kou, Kubo inadvertently winds up at ground zero of a murder. Kubo was delivering drugs to a prostitute, who is killed minutes before he shows up at the door. With no record of the man the prostitute was with, the police only have Kubo on the security tape and his prints on the buzzer. They bring him in, but unwilling to compromise Kou’s business by admitting to the delivery he was making, Kubo remains silent while the police torture him into admitting he was on the scene. This situation is made worse by the fact the police know he was a former yakuza boss, and has a prior for assault.

Meanwhile, he tells Toki to stay clear of the apartment, and nothing else. Toki gets angry, and begins to suspect that Kubo’s disappearance may have something to do with Anna, a girl that tries to get in touch with Kubo right before everything goes wrong. Toki doesn’t know anything about Anna, and while trying to figure out what happened to Kubo, realizes he doesn’t really know anything at all about Kubo. But that doesn’t stop him from digging to the bottom of the mystery, and it’s Toki’s detective work, along with Anna and the reporter from last volume, that help Kubo in the end.

Kotodama, the belief that something becomes true once you say it aloud, is one of the main themes in this volume. The murderer believes he was cursed into being a “small man” by something a grade school teacher said to him when he was a child. Kou mentions that Kubo doesn’t really believe in truth, that once something is said aloud it becomes a lie. And Toki doesn’t believe in kotodama, period. I wasn’t sure what to make of all this, particularly of the point that was made along the lines of Toki being Kubo’s truth. I know that there’s a shiny surface fujoshi meaning to it, but I wasn’t entirely sure what the metaphor was trying for. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that Kubo only relies on himself because he doesn’t really believe in anything else, so Toki has to be his “truth” and pull him out of this mess? There’s a conversation with Kou that makes sense in that light. Saying it aloud here makes it sound less sensical, but the dialogue in the book itself is a little… vague itself.

There are lots of beautifully ambiguous scenes. Aside from the stuff I mentioned above, other good ones are Toki and any other character. His interaction with Anna is especially ambiguous. He seems shocked by the fact Kubo has had sex with her, and tends to dodge her questions about who he is and what he’s doing. Anna also makes Toki uncomfortable in general. There’s more dodging of inquiries into Toki and Kubo’s relationship when the reporter asks what’s up with that. Whether it’s romantic or not, the ambiguity and the strong bond between the two is one of the best things about this series.

I am literally dying for more. Minekura is very ill, and I wish her the very best in recovering from her terrible illness. Drawing this and Saiyuki seem very important to her, and Wild Adapter recently changed publishers and was reissued in a new edition, so I hope her recovery has put her in a place where she can continue, if she wishes.

Wild Adapter 3

January 17, 2012

Kazuya Minekura – Tokyopop – 2007 – 6+ volumes

Ugh. This is SO RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. I don’t know why I have a soft spot for these vaguely BL-flavored action series. But Wild Adapter is one of the best, and it’s hard to deny the appeal of the nihilistic Kubota and… well, Tokito, who just seems to be along for the ride, though in a mostly self-aware way.

In this volume, Tokito and Kubota attempt to infiltrate a religious cult that advertises a method that causes men to go back to their roots… or adapt back to the wild. It makes more sense in context, basically the cult is rejecting manmade societal restrictions and advertising a more primal mindset, but this is, of course, drug-induced to some extent. Tokito and Kubota think that the cult may be connected to W.A. While in their first round of infiltration, the two meet up with Ryoji Takazawa, a reporter trying to dig up dirt on the cult and its famously protected leader. Tokito and Kubota are reluctant to help him at first (basically, why would they?), but they trade information after they keep running into Takazawa. Takazawa is more deeply involved in the cult than it first appears, and the cult is also more deeply involved with the yakuza and drug scene than it seems as well.

I’m not going to be able to properly convey just how awesome this volume was, but rest assured, it had all the good stuff. Epic infiltration, spectacular captures, jumping out windows, burning buildings, family intrigue, stoners, guns, and lots of strangely nuanced conversation. Just what is a personal god? Regardless of how much Toki may or may not mean to Kubo, what makes him a god? Is it the fact that Toki finally made Kubo care about people? Hmm.

As for the “vaguely BL” part of the equation, that part is still as light as it ever was. It’s not quite as indirect as Banana Fish, where it’s entirely possible that there really isn’t any romance between Ash and Eiji, but the implications are infrequent and not very involved. Strangely, a lot goes unsaid between the two, and the heavier hints in this volume are mostly just more touching than normal. Their relationship isn’t part of the plot in this volume, though, or most of the past volumes, either. I’m not entirely sure if the romance will ever be more than implied, though.

Anyway, it’s difficult to say more without spoiling the plot. About the only other thing worth mentioning is the interesting information network Kubo has set up among the side characters, both in law enforcement and in the underworld, and I love how Kubo effectively uses both sides to get what he wants. It’s hard not to talk more about Kubo and Toki, too, but this volume is more about the cult than their personalities. As much as I love both of them, the fact that I still enjoyed this volume when it was so plot- and action-driven says something about just how good this series really is.

But next time? Oh, next time it’s all about Kubo. I LOVED volume four.

Wild Adapter 2

January 11, 2012

Kazuya Minekura – Tokyopop – 2007 – 6+ volumes

I hesitated to continue this series, because I knew I would love it and I knew it was incomplete. After doing research, I found out that Minekura has been battling a couple very terrible illnesses, most recently having part of her jaw replaced. She still keeps a blog, and talks about her work and health rather candidly… her condition sounds awful, so I hope for the best for her.

Anyway, I just bought Gravitation ($6 for the whole set!), and I thought I should probably finish up my other pseudo-BL Tokyopop series before I started in on that. I still don’t think this is quite BL, it’s a little too action-oriented for that, and there’s not enough about Kubota and Tokito to convince me. But even so… it’s addictive stuff. What can I say?

In this volume, Kubota picks up another stray, this time a woman named Saori. Saori is pregnant and scared, and wants to go back to her boyfriend but can’t. After Kubota and Tokito convince her to tell her boyfriend about her condition, all three coincidentally converse later to find out that Saori’s boyfriend is the latest victim of the drug W.A. Her boyfriend was also in control of dealing W.A. for the Toujou Group, and the group wants answers about what happened. So the leader, Sekiya, comes after Saori, thinking that she knows more about the situation. Kubota and Tokito try to protect her, but only get drawn into the fray, drawing the attention of Sekiya.

The story doesn’t really let you get into the heads of Kubota and Tokito, and instead we have the side character’s impressions of them to guide us. That’s part of the allure though, and exactly what makes this pseud-BL. Both are intriguing characters at this point, though, for whatever reason, Tokito’s amnesia bothers me. For some reason, it strikes me as over-the-top in a way a drug that turns people into beasts and disembowels them does not. Even so, I enjoy his petty nature, and Kubota’s lack of interest, and both of them seem to have a protective streak a mile wide that extends to both each other and, in this volume, Saori.

It’s not too clear yet what’s going on, but even so, the fight scenes were amazing, the hints to the darker nature of just about everything were tantalizing, and I really just can’t get enough of all the stylish, dark stuff going on here. I can already tell I’m going to tear through the rest of these volumes like nobody’s business.

Wild Adapter 1

November 28, 2010

Kazuya Minekura – Tokyopop – 2007 – 6+ volumes

Okay, okay. I’ve read enough of these BL/vaguely BL action series to know these have exactly what I want. Fantastic action coupled with vague romantic hints. Wild Adapter isn’t very BL at this point, but I don’t mind too much. The comraderie is tinged with hints and one or two scenes worth of kissing and vague implications, but the strong friendship element appeals to me quite a bit here, even without the romance.

I like this one because this is probably the first yakuza story I’ve read that is both sympathetic and not full of gross old men. The moral question about whether one should sympathize with yakuza is valid, but considering heroes can be all sorts of bloodthirsty monsters, the mild-mannered kid that gets pulled into mob activities here isn’t so bad. So that we know these are bad people, the main character (Kubota) splatters someone’s brains across a wall without a second thought as part of his initiation, but after that very little yakuza-like activity takes place. In fact, the plot revolves around the fact that Kubota is so ill-suited for his new leadership position. He’s lazy, frequently doesn’t show up for work, and doesn’t seem to get involved in any of the syndicate’s business. But he’s also an absolute shark when it comes to mahjong, and doesn’t take a second thought when it comes to violence.

Most of the volume is spent fleshing out this incredibly strange character. A great leader despite not really doing anything yakuza-like, carefree and somewhat lighthearted despite being a killer, and even somewhat charismatic despite the fact that the rumors circulate about what a terrible leader he is. There are also hints of politics about a rival yakuza group and a new drug called “W.A.” that seems to turn people into beast men. Mostly it’s about Kubota, and most of what we see is through the eyes of Komiya, his second-in-command that starts out hating them, then grows to respect and even admire him. There is an implied romance, but it is more about camaraderie, as I said.

The volume finishes up at the end of what is probably a very major story line, and it looks like we pick up next time with a new character, a “stray” that Kubota takes in off the street. I’m interested to see more of the action-packed bright side of the underworld. It was definitely a page turner, and most everything about it was quite excellent. Can’t wait to read more.