capncosmo: Den-Liner heading into time warp (Den-Liner)
[personal profile] capncosmo
Plot Summary

The main character of the book is Ichijou, and it starts off with him meeting up with all the old peeps at Sakurai and Sasayama's wedding. The wedding reminds him of Godai, who has not been seen since the final battle with N Daguba Zeba. He goes to Pore Pore, and he meets Tamasaburou and Minori. Minori is now married and has a son name Yuunosuke. Tamasaburou, as per usual, is making scrapbooks, this time of an idol named Togibe Rin. They also talk about this rash of people dying from malfunctioning oxygen capsules.

Sugita makes good on his conversation with Ichijou at the wedding and invites him out for drinks. They talk about Ichijou's love life, and then Sugita gets down to business: Something is not right about about these oxygen capsule malfunctions. They seem to be making a pattern--almost like a game. Ichijou is disturbed that they might be dealing with the Unidentified Lifeforms again. What is also disturbing is that Sugita is getting resistance as he tries to investigate it. The guy who made the capsules had been killed, but before they could investigate anything, the body was cremated. He asks Ichijou to help him, and says he knows someone else who would be perfect.

Ichijou shows up to their meeting room-cum-headquarters and learns that the person Sugita was talking about is Natsume Mika, who is now a detective in her own right. Sugita tells them about another disturbing series of deaths in central Japan. All of them died of anaphylactic shock, so it was believed to be wasps, but analysis suggests it was actually a jellyfish sting-even though none of them had been near water. Ichijou and Natsume go to Nagoya and the surrounds to talk to the victims' families and investigate. On the surface it seems like they're unconnected, but Natsume notices several of them were fans of Togibe Rin, and she had been doing meet-and-greets around Japan, so they had had physical contact with her. They also had colors in their names in a pattern. Ichijou is resistant, but Natsume resolves to pull together the evidence.

Ichijou visits Tsubaki to tell him about the investigation, and he mentions something a little strange Natsume said, which Tsubaki declares means she's warm for his form. Ichijou is not convinced. They also talk about Godai. A blurred image of the white Kuuga is all over the internet, and they wonder if Godai hasn't come back. Tsubaki confronts Ichijou over what he's suspected all along: Godai didn't just heal up and go off adventuring again; he disappeared, and Ichijou lied to everyone to reassure them. Ichijou recounts the truth of what happened on the mountain, and how Godai disappeared before Ichijou could get to him. He also implies the last scene we see at the end of Kuuga with Godai on the beach with the kids is just a recurring dream he has. Tsubaki listens to all this, then takes him to meet Sakurako-san. She has something to tell him: Prof. Natsume had some unpublished papers that she's getting around to cleaning up and publishing for him, and in it, there's a reference to another tomb, this one "of darkness." Ichijou is concerned that it might hold Grongi, but then he reasons that the initial Grongi weren't in tombs but rather buried in the ground. Sakurako says she'll try and figure out what the Tomb of Darkness is and let him know as soon as she knows anything.

Meanwhile, Natsume has made the color pattern, the fannish-ness, and the opportunity all come together. It seems to indicate overwhelmingly that Togibe Rin is a Grongi, but since the last fight with the Grongi, the law has changed. Since Grongi have a human-like intelligence, human rights supporters were saying that it wasn't right to kill them without due process of law, so now the police could only use force if the Grongi turned into their animal-esque forms and immediately threatened the police. Natsume and Ichijou go to Togibe Rin's office and speak with her manager. They're convinced she's going to kill the audience at her concert in two days. The manager freaks out and asks them to leave, but they run into Rin on their way out. She's confident and has nothing to hide. Natsume wants to push, but Ichijou decides they'll leave. He reasons that there are many ways she could pass for human, and if she passes their tests now, it'll be that much harder to go after her later. Instead, they need to gather proof that she's a Grongi and figure out a way to foil her plot and cause her to reveal herself.

Mika pretends to be a back-up dancer and sneaks into the concert venue. She confronts Rin, which Ichijou and Sugita can hear through a microphone she's wearing. Rin implies she's killed her manager, but until she comes right out and says it, they can't rush in. She reveals he name is Togibe Rin -> Rin Togibe -> Rinto Gibe -> Rinto shine (die Rinto), and they can hear some sort of fighting between the two of them, so they charge in. The stadium starts to collapse, and Ichijou is hit with some falling debris, but before he passes out, he sees the white Kuuga facing off against Jellyfish!Rin.

Ichijou comes to in the hospital, and Godai is there. Godai asks him to follow him to the roof. They talk, and Ichijou drifts off. He then wakes up for real--it was a dream. Natsume shows up, and she's kind of upset. She tells him that Kuuga defeated Rin, but she also understood why Ichijou wanted the police to handle this and leave Godai out of it; it was terrible to see Rin killed. Ichijou reassures her that they will solve this, as police officers. They run into a politician Ichijou knows, Gouhara Tadayuki, who says his government committee is investigating the incident with Rin. He also tells them he likes that new miracle drink, Lionel. Ichijou checks himself out of the hospital and they go back to headquarters, only to find Sugita laying on the floor in the dark of the otherwise empty room. All of their materials had been confiscated by a shady government agency, and Rin's body had been diverted from Tsubaki, who was going to do an autopsy, and instead cremated. Natsume is upset by all this, but Sugita says they just have to keep trying. They also speculate on why only the white Kuuga showed up. Ichijou says he thinks the amadamu was going away, like Godai mentioned it would, and so Godai forcing a transformation was undoing all the work his body had been doing to go back to normal.

They try to investigate Rin, but the shady organization has already been to her apartment, too. It turns out, though, that Rin's phone had been missing from her bag. They try and track down Rin's mother, but she's gone from the apartment. The caretaker suggests they try Rin's grave. When they get there, they've missed Rin's mother, but they do run into Ra Barube De. She doesn't want to talk to them, but then Natsume starts shooting. She eventually taunts them by telling them how she had killed oxygen capsule guy for violating the rules of the game, but there was still one player left who was so powerful, even ultimate black-whatever Kuuga might not have been able to beat him. She shoots some rose petals at them and disappears.

They track down Rin's mother at their old apartment, where the truth of how she came to have a Grongi for a daughter was revealed. Her actual daughter got mixed up with some bad people and was being violent and abusive, and along came the girl's doppelganger to be with her like she had wanted. So they killed the real daughter and buried her under the floor so Rin could take her place. They also get the phone from the mother, which they give to Enokida-san to investigate. In her investigation, it turns out that there was an app where she could communicate with people without it going through the cell network. Enokida says she thinks it might work using quantum entanglement. She sent a test message, and one came back instantaneously telling her to give up, it was futile anyway. She also mentions that there is search history on the phone about a politician - Gouhara Tadayuki.

They investigate Gouhara and make a pretty good case that he's Rin's mysterious correspondent. The problem is that he's an incredibly powerful and popular politician. He's said to be the illegitimate son of another powerful politician, but Sugita's connections tell them that actually, he was an amnesiac Gouhara Sr. adopted. There was also a suspicious scandal about that Lionel drink being rushed through the approval process and put on the market using bribery. They find out that Gouhara is the one who came up with the active ingredient for Lionel, and that he's planning to kill about 1.6 million people. They deduce it must be connected to the drink somehow, and ask Enokida to analyze it. She finds that there is a quantum-entangled substance that goes into the brain of someone who drinks Lionel, and so he could use that to kill anyone who has drunk it. Then they see that sales of Lionel are about to exceed 1 billion bottles in five days - roughly 1.6 million people will have drunk it.

Enokida works overtime on preparing special bullets for them, and Sugita calls up all the old guard, except the newlyweds. They work nonstop to find a plan to kill Gouhara before he can kill the 1.6 million people with his brain. It seems like they're going to make it, until Gouhara announces a surprise trip to Brazil. Now they only have until that evening to get him.

Ichijou goes home to get some rest, but he notices Natsume standing outside in the rain. He tells her to come in a dry off, and she throws herself at him. He's not really sure what to do, so he tries to get her to pull herself together, and she says he's right, she shouldn't be looking for comfort; she should be doing what needs to be done. She runs off and into a taxi before he can stop her. Sakurako calls from Nagano and says she found the Tomb of Darkness. Apparently there was another Kuuga, but that one's belt wasn't complete, and he ended up not being able to control the darkness and going berserk. The belt is also not there. Ichijou gets a bad feeling about this, and puts together that the white Kuuga hasn't been Godai--it's Natsume. He realizes now she was going to confront Gouhara as Kuuga. He goes after her, but she's already fighting with Gouhara. He kills about 300 people - there are crashes and explosions as cars and planes go out of control. She turns into Kuuga to try and fight him, but she's too weak. Ichijou gets involved, but they can't do anything. He turns into Lion!Gouhara, and Natsume turns into Black Kuuga--but her eyes keep wavering between red and black. They fight, and Ichijou rushes to follow. He meets Sakurai, who is hurt they didn't invite him, who has the Beat Chaser 3000. Sasayama is in a helicopter overhead relaying information. Enokida has finished the high powered rifle, but they only had time to make one bullet. Ichijou gets on the Beat Chaser and heads off.

Gouhara and Natsume are fighting on top of a hotel. He hits her, and she flies off into Tokyo Tower. She uses the matter-conversion power to turn the tower black and gear up for a huge attack against Gouhara. If she unleashes it now, though, there are still people in the building who would be killed. Ichijou is torn because he only has the one bullet, but he needs to stop Natsume. But then, Godai Yuusuke shows up. He talks Natsume down, then grabs the Beat Chaser to move Gouhara someplace far away where he can safely blow him up. Ichijou follows in Sasayama's helicopter. They can see Godai and Gouhara fighting, and Ichijou can tell that it's killing Godai's smile again to have to fight like this. So, he tells Godai to duck and shoots Gouhara, killing him. He then falls out of the helicopter.

When he wakes up, he's leaning against Godai. They talk for a moment, then Godai says he'd better be going. Ichijou is determined not to look at him so that he can let him go, but he can't help it. Tears in his eyes, he finally looks back, and it turns out Godai has only gone a few steps. Ichijou pleads with him not to leave, but Godai walks up into the sunset giving Ichijou a thumbs up.


Thoughts

You might think this book is about fighting the left over Grongi, but it's not. It's about Ichijou's personal life. It really shows in the way that the Grongi storyline barely holds together: It doesn't make any sense that the Gegeru would still be going on, especially because the official tally abacus was destroyed. The game has a relatively short time limit, but this is a long-term strategy. Who are they trying to beat, now that Daguba is gone? At first Rin was killing people according to her pattern, but then she was just going to kill them all at once? And Ra Baruba De is going to... what? Just wander around forever?

It would have made a lot more sense to make it a revenge story instead (that's where I thought they were going with Rin; the "togi" in her name is written with the character for revenge). Ra Baruba De is all like, the Rinto have changed to be more like the Grongi. So then, wouldn't you want to punish them for their arrogance? The methods of killing also seemed to get way less plausible. I think Gouhara was really way over-powered, so much so that it doesn't make any sense why he doesn't just kill everyone. They cling to the game explanation, but he had enough people at this point he could have made his goal. If it was revenge, though, he would have just killed everyone, and then I guess there'd be no climactic final battle. ...I'm actually not sure that would have been a big loss.

Even just from the standpoint of the fighting the Grongi storyline - there's no real resolution to Mika's use of Kuuga, and Godai comes flying in literally out of nowhere as a Deus Ex Machina. We've been with her almost as much as we've been with Ichijou, but instead of giving us some growth or something as payoff, Godai just swoops in and talks her down and.... ??? The idea of Mika and the defective belt had a lot of potential, and it was basically squandered, especially because Mika is a character who has some growth to do. The mystery of the white Kuuga, too, despite what it says on the back cover, isn't really a "mystery" in the story. Everyone just assumes it's Godai.

Speaking of Godai, he's kind of a jerk, and it doesn't even make any sense with his character. He's the kind of guy who keeps a ten-year-old promise to his middle school teacher and who voluntarily takes on this terrible responsibility not for justice or even for a selfish reason, but to protect people's smiles. So the idea that he wandered off without a trace for thirteen years... And he wasn't planning on coming back when he did, either. Those smiles he fought to protect, at least the ones of the people around him--the only reason why they're still there is because Ichijou lied for him and has continued to lie for him. The truth would make all the people he cares about so deeply sad. Godai is not that selfish. I would say he was incapable of being that selfish, but I guess he's not. Which feels like a betrayal of the entire thing.

But the person the book is actually about is Ichijou and his personal feelings, particularly about Godai. I can't think of a scene that doesn't at least tangentially involve Ichijou's love life or feelings for Godai, and there are whole scenes that are about nothing but that. For example, towards the end, when he should be sleeping so they can go out in the morning and stop Gouhara, he is up until 3 a.m. tearing his room apart looking for his picture of Godai. He even says that it's not like him to do such a thing, but he can't stop until he finds it. (And then, he puts it in his wallet to carry with him.) It has no relevance to Grongi fighting or mystery solving.

The thing about this in-depth examination of Ichijou's relationships is, it betrays the depth of Ichijou's love for Godai, when it seems like on the surface it was supposed to be doing the opposite. Sugita flat out asks Ichijou if he has a boyfriend at one point, and Tsubaki points out that his behavior is not that of a typical straight guy. Ichijou tries to brush it off as being too dedicated to his job and unwilling to put anyone in the position that he and his mother were in when his father died, but... I agree with Tsubaki (well, not about coming on to Mika; just about Ichijou being unusual). As a matter of fact, the book to me seemed to make a nigh-airtight case that Ichijou is aro-(gr)ace. Regardless of Ichijou's orientation, the fact is that Ichijou's feelings for Godai are incredibly important in Ichijou's life, and by extension in the book.

Given that we do spend the entire book with Ichijou's myriad feelings for an about Godai, then, the ending is doubly disappointing. Ichijou feels guilty for pulling Godai into this, and also for keeping him from everyone else due to the emotional wounds he got in the initial fight against the Grongi. The book goes through again and again these feelings and how Ichijou is helpless against them, and also how things have gotten a little out of control within Ichijou. He's stuck, unable to move forward, because he couldn't do anything to make things right. But instead of a resolution, we get him being made powerless again twice over. And then, even though he shoots the bad guy and he finally gets to say what he wanted to 13 years ago, Godai is still unable to be with them. I really agree with this review's line of thinking here (and also about how the female characters are treated, but I digress) in that, the entire book is basically a litany of regrets and apologies and swearing it will never happen again, but then it does.

Which is why I feel like it would have been better if Godai hadn't come back. (In fact, if other people hadn't seen him, I would have said it was another one of Ichijou's dreams.) Last time Ichijou was forced to rely on Kuuga, even though he didn't want to have to and even though he didn't want Godai to have to. This time Ichijou is the one to deal the final blow, but they still have to have Mika and Godai hurt their smiles in the process of fighting. I feel like it would have been better if Ichijou could have kept his vow. He and Mika (as herself) and their buddies were right on track. They could have done it (and Ichijou did in the end), but there had to be this big, nonsensical thing in the middle with Kuugas.

Because, that really gets at the issue I have with the book. Kuuga, despite being the only rider on the show, was never at any point alone. He had the support of Ichijou, of course, and Sakurako and Enokida and Tsubaki and the other officers and his sister and Jean and Oyassan and Nana and his teacher and other people I'm sure I'm forgetting. He could not have done it alone. Yes, he had extraordinary powers, but without that support he would have died way early on. The idea of the Rinto triumphing over the Grongi in the face of their terrible powers because of their teamwork and determination was at the core of the show.

Give me Mika, who lost her father to the Grongi but didn't let her humanity make her feel powerless as she uses her smarts and skills to pull together the evidence. Give me Enokida and Tsubaki using science and Sakurako using her translation skills to show that knowledge is power. Give me Sakurai and Sasayama and Sugita and their grit and drive to save the world even when all the powers in the world are against them. Give me Ichijou seeing his promise through to the end so that he can finally be free of this guilt that's held him down for 13 years. Give me people who come together to do what seems impossible.

Because, this is a Hero story. Godai is not the hero anymore--and he shouldn't have to be. He protected all of their smiles; now they can protect his. Why can't the regular people be the hero this time?

I think that's why I'm angry, ultimately. The book is an apology, but it's a hollow one. We're sorry we made you do this and we hurt you so, but in the end, we'll call on you again and hurt you some more if we need you. Regardless of Godai's feelings on the subject... You can't apologize for something--do penance for something--you're planning on doing again.

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capncosmo

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