Thursday, October 17, 2013
Animal Land vol. 8
It's been a while since I read 'Animal Land'. Seven months and it felt like forever. But now it's back, and the story is stronger than ever. While still very good, I felt like volume seven was a mild lull in comparison to the rest of the series. Turns out, that was just the calm before the storm that is volume eight...
The first chapter in this volume starts out with the most juvenile, lowbrow, arguably unfunny poop joke. On the first page, a tanuki takes a huge dump on another tanuki's face...NOT at all indicative of this chapter(and volume) contents as a whole. Far, far from it. The contrast between this brand of humor and the events that proceed it is staggering. Now, I'm not going to tell you what happens just a few pages later, because it would probably be the biggest spoiler in the manga, but I will tell you how it made me feel. As I read on about this "event", my hands are literally shaking because I can see what is coming and I'm afraid. This has never happened to me before and I had to actively steady my hands so I could read properly. Then, at the climax of the "event", tears started gushing from my eyes uncontrollably. I've cried from reading manga before, but not like this. I had to stop and dry my eyes because I couldn't see the images through my blurry tears. In a manga with lots of dark moments, this was by far the most devastating thing to happen, both for the readers and for Taroza. With this "event", Taroza's peaceful life is shattered, and he is back on track to achieving his goal, albeit for much more personal reasons, and with an interestingly different mindset.
This volume is so hard to talk about without spoiling things, but one big change that is kind of a spoiler, but I have to talk about, is that there was a time skip. This much should be obvious if you have seen the volume cover. Taroza is now a young man! After journeying around the world to ready himself for the Tower of Babel, Taroza returns to his old village only to find it under attack by Chimeras. And these aren't just any old Chimeras. They're some of the most grotesque monsters I've seen and would be right at home in a a Cthulu mythos story. Not only that, but they are essentially being piloted by normal animals that have allied themselves with the evil Giller. Well, Taroza isn't having any of that and luckily he has made himself some powerful new allies that share his goal, including some awesome ninja weasels, and a football uniform wearing rhino named O.J.
The main body of this volume is mostly a lot of fighting against Chimeras. The villagers that Taroza abandoned five years ago want to show him just how strong they have gotten, and we get to see a lot of Taroza's animal buddies that were once young and helpless all grown up and super strong. I think the best part of the fighting is the coordination among animals. It ends up looking more like a war than a conventional battle manga fight. Though this can look a little hectic and hard to follow. After the fighting, Taroza reuniting with the villagers was momentarily tense, but they quickly got on the same page and decided to set out for the Tower of Babel. This is when we find out another shocking and spoilerific piece of information. Among Taroza's old friends, there has been a defector to Giller's faction! And at volume's end, Taroza and "that character" are all set to put their ideals and lives on the line against each other in battle. This showdown has me very conflicted, and there being more than meets the eye to "that character's" defection, I can't wait to see how this gets resolved.
I'm still reeling from reading this volume. It has been the most powerful volume of 'Animal Land' to date. Even the author, Makoto Raiku, states at the end of the book, "The first chapter of this volume was the hardest chapter I've drawn in my career as a professional.", and if you're a fan of 'Animal Land', it will be the hardest to read as well. If you're not already a fan of 'Animal Land', but are a fan of other popular shonen fighting manga, you have no idea what you are missing. This manga is amazing. Now for the painful six month wait for volume nine...