Saturday, April 26, 2014

Animal Land vol. 9

I'll never get used to the seven month wait in between 'Animal Land' volumes. I've waited longer for other series(a few I follow are yearly), but none make me nearly as impatient as 'Animal Land'. I suppose that just shows how much I love this series and how compelling it is.

In my review of volume eight, I alluded to an old friend of Taroza's that switched sides and teamed up with Giller. "That character" turned out to be none other than the girl raised by lions, Capri. While Capri and Taroza had their tense moments in the past, I wouldn't have expected her to team up with Giller. She says she is doing because Taroza uniting all animals cries would cause pain for her lion brethren. Hearing your prey beg for their life can ruin the appetite after all...But there seems to be more to it. Giller readily admits that he is using her, and says she is aware of the fact as well, but still doesn't turn on him. So he must be blackmailing her somehow. How exactly, is not revealed.

So Capri and Taroza begin their clash with their respective animal groups. You would think that Capri and her lions would have the upper hand, but Taroza's ability to link minds with his comrades and expertly coordinate their attacks makes things relatively even. And Taroza's group wasn't even going for the kill, so in reality, they were superior. In the end though, this battle didn't amount to much. Something of which I am glad of since I didn't really want Capri and Taroza to fight at all. The arrival of bad news from The Tower of Babel led Capri to call for retreat. As things would have it, the lion guards Capri left at the tower were all defeated by a single animal. That animal being a strange looking deer. Not just any deer though. A two-hundred year old deer that has a pretty cool character design. He looks like a mix between The Spirit of the Forest from 'Princess Mononoke', and Xerneas from 'Pokemon X'. He's super powerful, making quick work of all the lions he encountered, and also seems to have connection with Quo. I'm looking forward to finding out more about this mysterious deer.
I choose you, Xerneas!

Speaking of interesting new characters, one introduced at the end of the previous volume is the human-looking chimera, Luke. Luke looks like a little boy, but is really a fearsome monster like the rest. Maybe even more so. On command, he can grow massive limbs, and swat away all the enemy animals with ease. Also, his face and eyes split apart in the most freaky sort of way. But that's not the most interesting part about Luke. What makes Luke unique is that he has an ego. A will of his own. He even disobeyed Giller when he said not to harm Reimu. On top of that, after meeting another chimera with an ego, now he wants to talk to other humans besides Giller. Why? Well, with free will, he may realize that he can follow his own path instead of being Giller's puppet. If he meets with Capri, who has turned "bad", nothing may come of it. But if he meets with our idealistic hero, Taroza, there's a chance Luke could turn "good". He's a wild card, which could be instrumental in the future of the story.
Luke is so photogenic.

Back at the Tower of Babel, Taroza's group starts making their way upward when they enter what is seemingly a twenty-first century Japanese city full of people. But I thought there were just five "miracle children" left on Earth? Appearances can be deceiving. All these "humans" are actually chimeras created in the past by the dwindling humanity to ease their loneliness. Now, they are just weapons. Weapons under the command of Giller. And Giller wants Taroza's group dead. With that, all these human dolls merge into one giant blob monster. Covered in agonizing faces, a sword for one arm, a scythe for the other, spike covered legs, and out for blood. This thing is gross and terrifying. What follows is more of the same coordinated group fighting, led by Taroza's special mind linking ability. Which I'm kind of growing weary of. At first, it reminded me in a good way of a hectic battlefield, soldiers marching and clashing. But over and over again, it just doesn't make for great fight choreography. I'd like to see more focused fights. It doesn't help that the enemies are gigantic and most of the animals are relatively small.

There was one animal that could match the giant chimera blob in size, and give us a bit of a one-on-one fight. The hippopotamus, Catherine. But even then, the fight wasn't much to look at. At the same time though, Catherine was the highlight of the volume. We are just introduced to Catherine in this volume, and her characterization consists of a few short flashback scenes, yet I was already able to sympathize with her and she made a really big impact. It really is a testament to Makoto Raiku's writing ability that he could get me to care about a character in such a short amount of time. There's a lot of cool looking animals in Taroza's group, so I hope that more of them get the same treatment as Catherine.

Do I have to even say that I can't wait for the next volume? By now, that should be a given. It seems obvious that we are in for a 'Game of Death' style tower climb, with Taroza and gang fighting stronger enemies at each floor. That sounds like a whole lot of fun to me, so I'll be the first in line for volume ten in October.

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