Time for the fourth 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: Imprisoned for ten years in a private yakuza run jail which was paid for by a man going by the alias "Dojima", thirty five year old Shinichi Goto is released one night without warning and starts his quest to discover who and why felt the need to punish him so. After hooking up and sleeping with a young woman called Eri on his first night of freedom he finds himself under constant survelleilance by a hired thuggish henchman and GPS chips implanted in his body and clothes. He manages to discover the floor of the building he was held on and started on a plan to infiltrate the yakuza to discover more, but Dojima shut down that line of inquiry which turned out to be a dead end anyway. Now the "game" is just between Dojima and Goto. Goto is currently crashing at a bar called Moon Dog run by an old friend of his, a jovial fellow called Tsukamoto. At the end of the last volume, Goto was put in the weird position of having to have sex with a woman and make her orgasm so she could reveal a post-hypnotic suggestion that would provide a major clue for him. He obliges her and is told "Remember...your teen years". 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]
The woman he nailed leaves the bar saying there is no point in following her, she knows nothing else. Later Goto wander round Shinjuku pondering her clue. He calls Tsukamoto who arrives at a meeting place with him and Goto asks him if he could get his yearbooks - Elementary, Junior High and High School from his parents place. When Tsukamoto asks if this has something to do with his missing ten years, Goto says nothing.
|Talking with Goto must be frustrating some times.|
Back at the Moon Dog bar, Tsukamoto gives Goto the yearbooks and tells him is mother is dead. Goto looks sad for a moment then responds with an "I see." Later that night he breaks into his old high school, hoping it can help jog his memory. He goes to his classroom and recalls how he used to enjoy sitting by the window. He wanders about before leaving in frustration.
Goto: "It's hopeless. I don't remember anything that would make someone hate me."
He goes to Eri's place and meets her as she returns home from work. She is very pleased to see him. He warns her he is probably still under surveillance but she doesn't care and tells him not to worry on her account.
Goto: "For some reason I wanted to be near this girl's positivity so badly I could hardly stand it."
|With Eri again.|
Finally Goto snaps "It can't be possible" and Eri decides to change the subject. She asks what he was like in school. Goto says he wasn't a "bookworm" nor was he a "deliquent" and "I just kept to myself." Eri encourages him to dig further and Goto says "It feels painful somehow, to remember these things." We then get a look outside at Dojima, who is in a van listening in via the bug in Eri's flat.
|Dojima watches from afar.|
Goto: "I felt somehow I wasn't cut out right for the world we live in. That someday I might end up doing something terrible."
Dojima's thug lip reads this to Dojima who thinks to himself "impossible!". Goto says he dealt with these feelings by deciding to "live the most subdued and ordinary life I could."
He graduated high school and got a job at a small ad agency. For eight years he lived a normal life. Then he has a sense of foreboding, that the thing he had a lid on had launched a "counter attack". He became a drunk and a gambler until one day he woke up in the cell and was locked up there for ten years. Goto says "it's too bizarre", but Eri assures him she still believes him.
|His nightmare begins.|
Later Goto returns to the Moon Dog alone. He sits at the end of the bar deep in thoguht and doesn't notice when Dojima comes and sits next to him and sets up a "Bottle keep" (reserving a specific bottle for his use only). Dojima's secretary arrives much to the delight of Tsukamoto, "I don't see a knockout like that every day".
She sits and drinks with Dojima. As the bar fills up, Goto goes to play mahjong. When he returns to the now empty bar, Tsukamoto tells him about the woman and how come Goto didn't notice her nor the man sat next to her? Later Goto is sleeping on the floor of the bar when he wakes in a cold sweat. He goes to get a drink and notices the bottle with "Alias Dojima" written on it.
|Name on bottle: "Alias Dojima".|
Goto: "I'll take a good look at her next time as part of my sexual rehabilitation."
Three days later, she returns. Tsukamoto phones Goto, then he starts chatting with her. She says she doesn't want to say too much about what Dojima does, only that he's an executive with a certain "venture business." She comments that Dojima has taken a liking to the bar. Goto arrives and Tsukamoto introduces her to him, she gives her name as Kyoko Kataoka. She then takes a call from Dojima saying he'll be there in ten minutes. And Goto stiffens his resolve for the coming confrontation with a few drinks.
Dojima enters and the atmosphere gets tense. Smiling Dojima introduces himself to Goto as "Alias Dojima". Goto mumbles his name in return. Tsukamoto thinks using an alias is cool. Goto thinks "we've spoken on the phone so many times, that's not his voice." They all drink some more then Kyoko asks if Tsukamoto does food. He only has snacks so Kyoko and he go to a nearby sushi place to grab something to eat leaving Goto and Dojima alone.
|The first meeting.|
Goto: "Why?! What's your grudge against me?"
Dojima says he can go ahead and kill him but he'll never solve the mystery then. Kyoko and Tsukamoto return with food and they all, bar Goto, tuck in. Dojima says he and Goto "really get along" and they'll go fishing on his boat one day soon. Day dawns and Kyoko and Dojima leave. Tsukamoto wonders if they are sleeping together. Tsukamoto then comments that Goto and Dojima must have had a really good talk while he was getting food. "Yeah we really hit it off, like old friends" sighs Goto and pours another drink.
Later, alone in the bar, Goto is totally drunk. He phones Eri and tells her "my enemy showed himself." He got wasted because he couldn't stand it. He apologises for calling her in such a state. She says she now thinks Goto was imprisoned for one reason:
Eri: "No one these days knows what it means to live any more. But you're different with your idillyic manliness. That's why he made you a target. Don't you see? This man, your enemy's reason for living is you."
|Drunken phonecalls, always fun to get.|
On the boat, Tsukamoto has fun fishing and flirting with Kyoko. Goto sits apart, sulking. At dinner, Kyoko says Dojima has taken a real liking to the Moon Dog "[It's] got this jazzy, bluesy feel about it doesn't it?" Goto thinks Dojima is getting Tsukamoto in his pocket so he'll have an excuse to stay in contact with Goto. Tsukamoto asks if he can stay and do some night fishing, Dojima agrees. That night Dojima and Goto sit together and talk.
Dojima: "The reason I locked you away for ten years is because I couldn't forgive you."
"For what?!" responds Goto. Dojima says that acknowledging that a man like Goto exists makes me "nothing more than a vile pervert." Are you gay, asks Goto? "No that's not it" says Dojima. Then why lock me up, asks Goto again?
Dojima: "'If only you didn't exist' in my teen years that's all I thought about."
|Dojima and Goto fish at night.|
He then says he wants he and Goto to have an "equal match" and that if Goto recalls what he wants him to, he'll kill himself. He then offers money to Goto to start a business and get back on his feet. But Goto refuses his money, and says he will remember what Dojima wants him to and they shake hands on it.
Dojima then tells him about his plastic surgery and that he also won't recall his voice because he was a "sullen and silent child". They call it a night and the next day Goto comes down for breakfast and Dojima is out swimming in the sea. And thus ends book four exactly halfway through the storyline.
|It's that moon again.|