Thursday, October 29, 2009
Fire Investigator Nanase, vol. 2
The story: Whoever killed Nanase's co-worker Tsuraga is now after Nanase, going so far as to sneak into her home to try and silence her permanently. While Nanase uses her wits to defeat her would-be murderer, she still gets saved by mystery arsonist, the Firebug, in the end. While she wonders what the Firebug has in store for her, she gets involved in another investigation. This time, it's a warehouse fire and Chief Tachibana's son is involved and Nanase is determined to prove his innocence. In the second half, more is revealed about the history and relationship between Nanase and her adopted son, Shingo. Also, Nanase gets her very own stalker, but the Firebug stops him from attacking his favorite firefighter. At volume's end, readers are left on a cliffhanger when Nanase, Shingo and dozens of other victims get caught up in a fire taking place in a newly opened high-rise building.
Reaction: While I initially liked the surprisingly independent Nanase and her success in a male-dominated field, the first chapter in the second volume featured a practically nude Nanase. Of course, she used it to her advantage, although she ended up being saved by a co-worker following an anonymous tip phoned in by the Firebug. There's also "suggestive situations" when a sexual offender stalks Nanase. While the overall storyline is interesting — Firebug's plans for Nanase and his subsequent involvement in her investigations — it still carries an air of sexual exploitation. Instead of focusing on Nanase the firefighter and rescuer, we're seeing Nanase the victim.
Deep thoughts: After seeing the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, it was difficult to not draw parallels between that tragedy and the last chapter in this volume, titled "Towering Inferno." On the evening of the grand opening of the Astro Tower, several fires break out and it's presumed to be arson committed by a group of individuals. Of course, I saw several things that are strongly discouraged when evacuating a building — namely Nanase using an elevator to get to the fire instead of the stairs — that really tested my suspension of disbelief.
Artwork: As mentioned earlier, there's some brief nudity in this volume. Otherwise, we're treated to more fires and fire-related science. Firebug doesn't pull the Mission Impossible-esque mask-removing technique, but he does appear in a couple of different guises. The panels are action-packed throughout and their design and pacing reflect that. But, I did experience some confusion when the stalker character was introduced. Initially, I thought it was the Firebug — the guy does have a huge portrait of Nanase in his abandoned church-cum-lair — but it ended up being some new, nefarious guy instead. With all of the costumes that Firebug wears, I found myself wondering if each new character introduced just happened to be him in disguise.
The verdict: Meh. Again, I wasn't particularly drawn into this manga. While the fire science bits are interesting and the story itself is action-packed, I couldn't ignore the sexual exploitation of Nanase. Honestly, I think this would be a really great manga if it focused more on the protagonist's professional role and less on her being a woman. Fire Investigator Nanase is available in the U.S. from CMX.
Review copy provided by CMX.