Akumetsu (TheByteScene Review)

Akumetsu

3.5 Gore-Filled-Clone-Experiment-Driven-Anti-Evil-Explosions out of 4

Japan’s economy is in dire straits. Thanks to a combination of parliamentary negligence, bureaucratic nepotism, and a lack of economic reform, Japan’s economy has hit rock bottom. Inflation is at an all time high, the Yen is almost worthless, and the citizens are crying out for change with their voices landing on deaf ears; their corrupt leaders choosing to wildly focus on themselves and their own hedonism, instead of those who chose to elect them. Lavish parties are hosted by the CEO’s and leaders of national corporations, banks release almost illegible reports, and once again, citizens are left flabbergasted as to the fate of their country, their future, and their lives wondering who, if anyone, will save them.

The introduction seems to have been lifted from a 1930’s newsreel, placing Japan in a seemingly neverending crisis. In a way, the introduction serves as the perfect catalyst for the plot and narrative.

The same minds behind Wolf Guy: Okami no Monshou, Yoshiaki Tabata and Yuki Yugo, Akumetsu tells the story of Shou and Akumetsu, a citizen behind the thinly veiled mask of a vigilante attempting to instill long term political, economic, and social reform by eliminating the members of the elite who caused the mess in the first place. Reading the series sometime after its publication ended in 2006, I noticed a lot of parallels to the Occupy movement and the aptly named 99% which, when placed in context, really says something about either the mind of Tabata, the writer, or the minds of the hedonistic and accountable. The sole difference being, whereas Occupy protestors had no manifesto or creed, in addition to no major plan, Akumetsu targets, humiliates, and eliminates all those he feels are guilty of sending Japan into abject ruin.

He begins with a perverted official, then targets the three CEO’s of Japan’s leading banks, and continues down the accountability ladder.

The one man designated as good, Japan’s current Prime Minister Shintarou Murase, is told that political reforms must be in place within a one month period, leaving execution as his only penalty. Putting things into perspective, Akumetsu effectively eliminates any, and all opposition to the Prime Minister’s plans, and Murase is expected to convince the National Diet Assembly to fulfil the outlined changes. As Akumetsu puts it, they’re both in this together. Reading on, I wondered which would be more difficult, going on a vigilante killing spree, or instilling political reform in an assembly that knows that not instilling the reforms will lead to eventual death at the hands of the aforementioned vigilante. I still think Murase had the more difficult job of the two.

Akumetsu is a curious character; he’s certainly a terrorist, and though no citizen is ever afraid of his approach, it’s evident that to Japan’s upper class, he is a terrorist hell bent on a twisted view of justice. He isn’t wrong, however. I can’t deny that his accusations, given the context, seem appropriate; the people he targets are absolutely at fault, and their actions manage to bring a booming and prosperous nation to ruin. At the same time, he never once preaches fulfilling the commands of a higher order; his words hide behind them a deep sorrow. Akumetsu is a character who has personal reasons for wanting the reforms, and under no circumstance is he acting for purely political reasons.

He’s lost friends and family to the dealings of the upper class, and the only way he can think of getting back at the people who hurt him is by doing the same to them. In a hilarious way, the sociopathic terrorist main character is quite sympathetic, and what Yoshiaki Tabata does well is having him portrayed as a man in stark understanding of his hypocrisy. At no point does Akumetsu ever claim to be any better or worse than those he executes, he simply claims to be working as an agent of justice, a destroyer of evil, for the people of Japan. Again, for a violent vigilante terrorist, he’s terrifyingly sympathetic.

At the same time, his targets provide a great deal of interest; they’re all based on famous politicians, activists, professors, actors, and media personalities, and while the real people are never referenced, the names are often close enough that it’s fairly obvious who they are. I say obvious, but I had no idea who they were, a quick Google search, though, and more than a few editor’s notes helped clear up my confusion.

Looking at Akumetsu from a literary perspective, it’s difficult to come up with very many criticisms. Behind the overarching One-Month-Reforms plot is the story of the Akumetsu, a fascinating plot interwoven with bits about the Italian and Russian Mafias, and the Yakuza and it’s all done fairly well. By now, I’ve come to understand that Tabata likes working with juxtaposition, portraying an evil character from every possible angle, choosing to ask the audience what they think. It’s not like we can’t think about it either; I see a fascinatingly violent Batman in Akumetsu, without the parental issues. Perhaps that’s not a fair analogy, since any vigilante preaching their own form of justice in an unjust setting will remind me of Batman, but Akumetsu seems to me the Japanese equivalent of Batman; more nationalistic, more efficient, more goal-oriented, and more effective.

The narrative follows the traditional Tabata-Yuki style, having pure narration take up several panels at a time. Again, I must point out how effectively they carry out this style; words seem to have far more emphasis placed in single panels, then when emphatic characters scream them at each other. This brings up a minor point about characterization; every evil character thinks that their actions are good, and that only their existence can lead to a better Japan, so at what point are they expecting their single-minded approach to work. It’s interesting what Tabata seemed to have been trying to say about human morality; even faced with the potential for death, the immoral continue forward, always choosing to ignore the fact that they’ll be next.

Thinking about it, I wonder what Tabata was trying to say about Japan then, and what he’d love to say now about the 99%, the Occupy movement, and everything else that’s happened since 2008. He seems to be making rather straight forward observations; people are bad, so get rid of them, put in people who are good, and everything will work out. Of course, this couldn’t possibly be true, especially in a word as immoral as ours.

Right?

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

    • Shawn Williams
    • April 29th, 2012

    Akumetsu falls in my top 10!

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