Time for the second 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: The main character Goto Shinichi was kidnapped one night ten years ago and imprisoned in a private Yakuza run prison paid for by a man going by the alias "Dojima" who seems completely obssessed with him. After Goto's release he meets with a young woman called Eri who he sleeps with on his first night of freedom. Dojima continues to stalk Goto, who discovers a GPS tracking chip embedded in his back, which Eri cuts out for him. Now he plans to use the chip to fool his stalker and be in two places at once. The first volume ended with Goto following his first lead to the lock-up and who did this to him - the Chinese restaurant he was fed from all those years. Having discovered part of a receipt in his food one day, he has narrowed it down to ones called "Seiryu" (Blue Dragon) so they visit the first on the list and he tucks into some gyoza (dumplings) to see if it is the one while Eri looks on anxiously. 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]
|Eri and Goto|
They travel from restaurant to restaurant and Eri notes the detirmination in Goto's face. They finally only have one left to try. "This has to be it!" exclaims Eri. They order gyoza and Goto eats, then he says "no". The action then jumps forward to him and Eri in bed together. Goto goes for a bath and broods, crushing his beer can in silent frustration.
Eri gets out the phonebook to recheck the restuarants and notices something he missed. There is one restaurant called "Shiseiryu" she excitedly tells him. Maybe the reciept fragment was missing the "Shi" part. Goto says nothing, but envelops her in a loving embrace.
Goto: "It was one phony, weak-kneed 'world champion' after another. Shamelessly talking themselves up. Is boxing dead?"
He snaps out of his reverie and asks Kassim for a favour. Could he look after the chip while Goto slips out for an "appointment". Kassim agrees and Goto leaves and travels finally to Shiseiryu.
Goto enters the restaurant with some trepidation. He orders gyoza, and surreptiously checks the place for anyone who might have noticed him. He finally takes a bite of the dumpling and pulls a pained, then resolute face. He has found the right restaurant at last. He knew from the TV that the time when his evening meal was delivered was between seven and eight o'clock. He then sees the cook hand over a large order to a delivery boy to be taken to "the usual place."
|This manga always makes me hungry.|
He decides he's going to have to do something "risky and totally reckless" now to locate the secret floor. That evening he returns and when the delivery boy enters the lift he goes in with him. He is also carrying the chip so whoever is monitoring him will "panic" when they see where he is.
He tells the delivery boy "same floor as you. I'm with the gang". The delivery boy presses the buttons for floor seven and eight at the same time and this takes them to the hidden floor 7.5, the lock-up floor. Goto leaps over the crouching delivery boy and kicks the gun out of the lone guard's hand, knocking him out. He then makes the delivery boy hand out all the meals to the inmates before locking him in an empty cell. The guard comes around and Goto uses his gun to threaten him into talking and demands to know who had him locked up.
|A Goto of vengeance.|
Guard: "Because this lock-up business operates on a strict principle of secrecy, people trust us and we get constant requests. It all comes down to money."
They never ask for a client's private information so there is no paper trail and things stay secret. He thinks it was Saijo because ten years ago he got a huge promotion straight to chief. Unfortunately for Goto, Saijo is currently serving a seven year sentence in a real prison so he won't be able to question him. Having exhausted this line of enquiry, Goto tosses him in the same cell as the delivery boy and locks them in. He regards the gun for a moment.
Goto: "This thing could limit the way I think, the way I act.. I'll get my revenge bare handed."
|The guard faces a calmly angry Goto.|
Meanwhile Goto is lurking outside the building and sees Dojima's thug exit the parking garage and get into his car. The thug checks the GPS tracker and is startled to find Goto is still nearby. Goto comes up to his car and knocks on the window, then tells the thug "I want to speak to your boss". The thug hesitates and looks ready to drive off, but Goto says if he leaves he'll toss the GPS chip and he'll never be found again. So the thug lets him in the car and phones Dojima.
|Dojima's thug gets a surprise.|
Dojima: "The reason I locked you away like that is because I wanted to ruin you."
Goto asks why he didn't just have him killed, but Dojima in return asks him how he kept his sanity all those years. Goto doesn't answer either, but says they should meet up and talk face-to-face. Suddenly the thug sets off Goto's seat's airbag and sprays something in his face that knocks him out. Dojima tells him to take him to a hotel somewhere. he arrives at the same hotel later and contemplates Goto sprawled unconcious on the bed.
|Dojima is one creepy guy.|
Dojima phones his hotel phone and pretends that now he has taken his chip back his surveillance of Goto is at an end. Goto says that Dojima failed to "ruin" him and that:
Goto: "I don't know why you hate me so much, but you've clung to me so hard this far.. I don't think you're going to let go of me now."
Dojima agrees and tells him he'll be in touch. Goto leaves the hotel and mooches around Tokyo a bit thinking all he can do now is sit and wait. He travels to a racetrack and makes a beeline for a bearded man placing bets on races. The man sees him and is shocked, "You! You're alive" he says.
|Reunion with Tsukamoto.|
Goto asks about his lover at the time he disappeared, called Mitsuko. Tsukamoto tells him that she got married six years ago and has a young daughter. Goto says that as long as she is happy that's all that matters. Goto then asks Tsukamoto if he knows or remembers anyone who hated him ten years ago. Tsukamoto can't think of anyone and soon Goto has passed out from the whiskey and is sleeping face down on the bar.
Goto: "Please believe me. I didn't run away from you. Someone.. set me up. That's all I can say."
She doesn't press him any further and he muses that back then he probably would have married her. Now though, she should forget about him, he doesn't want to hurt her family. She asks if he needs any help, but he refuses saying "my strength is my asset". She says at least she can treat him to a meal and they go for food. Afterwards they part and Goto tells her to "be thankful for the life you've got."
|A life that could have been.|
Another pacey and exciting volume here. Although the investigation into the lock-up turns out to be a dead end it still supplies some cool moments and as a way of drawing out Goto's stalker proves he is clever and resourceful. However he is up against Dojima who is a master player, the only one able to screw with Goto's head and we'll find out more about the psychopathology of a man who'll pay a prostitute to sleep with the object of his obssession as the story goes on. Getting a glimpse of Goto's life before he was imprisoned proves bittersweet, although Tsukamoto proves himself a good friend to Goto by giving a place to crash and not badgering him about things Goto obviously doesn't want to share with him. From this point onwards Dojima really starts putting the mental screws into Goto as their "game" starts to escalate. Join me in a few days time for book three why don't you?