Time for the seventh 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: Goto Shinichi, an ordinary, everyday guy was kidnapped one night ten years ago and held in a private, yakuza run prison. His prison term was paid for by a rich man going by the alias Dojima who hates Goto due to a certain event in their past. After he is released, Goto meets up and sleeps with a young woman called Eri, whose happy positivity he likes to be around. He later reunites with an old friend called Tsukamoto who owns a bar called "Moon Dog" and who lets Goto crash there. Dojima gets in touch with Goto and starts playing a game where he drops hints to try and lead Goto to the memory of what he did to scar him so. Narrowing it down to his time in his final year at elementary school, Goto gets in touch with his old teacher who now writes crime thrillers under the name Yayoi Kusama. After hearing his story she tells him Dojima must be an isolated child called Kakinuma. Goto, Yayoi and Kakinuma end up all meeting together and Kakinuma escalates the threat of the game by pretending to have Tsukamoto killed. Realising Eri will be his most likely target for a real murder, Yayoi arranges for her to hide out in a Tokyo pool hall that's off the criminal radar. Goto goes to the beach to search his memory in quiet contemplation and realises that somehow the one lesson Yayoi didn't teach - music - is significant. 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]
Goto phones Yayoi with his information regarding the music lesson. Yayoi remembers that the elementary school put a lot of energy into the choral group, a male teacher taught them and students from each class were chosen to perform. Goto was one, Kakinuma was not. Goto says that is no reason to hate someone. Yayoi agrees but also says it must be important. She asks him what Kakinuma's voice was like when he sang the test song. Goto says apart from this one flash he can't recall the music room at all. Yayoi says she can hunt down the teacher and find out what the test song was. Goto returns to the Moon Dog and waits.
|Drinking in the Moon Dog.|
Kyoko and Tsukamoto return with Taiwanese hors d'ourves, yummy. They all tuck in while waiting for Yayoi. Kyoko sneaks into the toilet and calls Kakinuma's henchman. Yayoi enters the bar and sits between Goto and Kakinuma, "a flower in each hand" she comments. Yayoi mentions the music teacher and Kakinuma scowls, meanwhile his henchman breaks into Yayoi's flat.
Kakinuma introduces Yayoi to Tsukamoto as an author. Tsukamoto wonders if he should get an autograph, but she says she is "super unknown." More people arrives at the bar, so Goto, Kyoko, Yayoi and Kakinuma leave to make room. Kakinuma says that Goto doesn't want Tsukamoto knowing about their relationship.
Yayoi and Goto go to another bar and over drinks she tells him that the music teacher passed away five years ago from cancer. But she didn't give up, she got in touch with another student in that year and found out the name of the test song "Hana no Machi - Town Of Flowers." She says it's such a famous song even she can sing it. Goto wracks his brains but cannot recall the melody at all. Yayoi takes him to a late night CD shop and picks out a CD with it on and asks the shop assisstant to play it. As Goto listens he imagines himself being sucked through space into the moon.
Flowing along ribbon of the wind
In a ring, in a ring
We galloped away!
We saw the beautiful sea
Overflowing the town of flowers
In a ring, in a ring
We danced away!
With spring! With spring!
We danced away!
After hearing it Goto says he always liked the tune. Yayoi asks if he can sing it, but he looks embarrassed. She takes him to a karaoke club and they go into a private booth. A man who has been shadowing them sits outside and records what is going on inside.
Kakinuma's henchman returns with a camera full of photos of Yayoi's handwritten notes and copies of her floppy discs. He says he can't analyse it because fiction holds no interest for him. Curious, Kakinuma asks if he likes movies, but Mr. Henchman says the only things that move him emotionally are war documentaries and footage of Nazi Germany. Kakinuma says he'll check over the stuff himself.
|Yayoi rockin' out|
Yayoi: "The moment you sing 'Town Of Flowers'... that moment, this game.. this war... will end".
It's morning, so Yayoi returns home, while Goto goes back to the Moon Dog and Kakinuma works on analysing Yayoi's notes. Yayoi sees that she left her floppies out and although she didn't specify where Eri is, it was "incautious of me". Kakinuma's henchman delivers the recording of the karaoke session and Kakinuma asks him if he narrowed Eri's location down to one locale could he finds her? The henchman responds that his spy network includes the police so he probably could. Kakinuma says that she's on "the left bank of the Sumida river." He gleaned this from slight clues and biases in Yayoi's notes, and we get a look at Eri, still happily living and working in the pool hall at that location.
Kakinuma reads some analysis of himself in Yayoi's notes, she has noticed he is left handed but has tried hard to cover this fact up, Kakinuma is annoyed that she has discovered this. Finally Eri phones Goto at the bar, he tells her to call him on his mobile in a few minutes and goes outside to take the call. She tells him people are looking for her so he says he'll shake his tail and come find her. He races through the streets, climbing and jumping from buildings until the person following him loses him. He takes a taxi to the pool hall and he and Eri share a warm embrace.
|Goto and Eri reunited for a short while.|
He returns to thinking about the song. He knows the words, but why can't he sing it? He passes the time playing mahjong while the henchman tells Kakinuma that Eri has disappeared again.
Kakinuma: "Their side is quite the match, such terribly exquisite offensive and defensive maneuveres. Just as I imagined. No, moreso. The game's unfolding thrills me!"
Eri ends up at a farm in a rural area close to Tokyo. She once again settles in fast and the people there take to her immediately. Yayoi is out shopping when Kakinuma's henchman appears and offers to carry her basket. He tells her he is here at his "own discretion". He asks that she trust him and could they go back to her flat and talk?
|The henchman switches side.|
Yayoi is suspicious saying there is no way he'd betray Kakinuma. He tells her that Kakinuma discovered Eri's location from her notes, that his "powers of insight are almost pathological." Yayoi says he needs to show her some proof he intends to double-cross Kakinuma, or get out. So he admits "the girl Eri, she's dangerous." She was "scouted" by Kakinuma as well as him.
|Oh but it can be.|
The henchman leaves his card with Yayoi and she broods over what he has told her. Next day she calls him up and he returns to her flat to talk some more. He says Kakinuma had set some things up before he employed him, like implanting the tracking chips. He also believes the meeting with Eri was set up well in advance and it was achieved via hypnosis. He has a good idea who did it as well.
He took the woman who Goto had to have sex with in book 3 to unlock a clue to a female hypnotist and he believes she also hypnotised Eri and Goto into meeting and falling in love. In frustration Yayoi says she doesn't understand why Kakinuma doesn't claim his victory as Goto can't recall the incident. The henchman says Kakinuma prolonging the game is "precisely my reason for no longer want to be involved in this affair." He then takes her to the hypnotist who is performing a show and here volume seven ends.
|Yayoi at the sexy hypnotist's show.|