Friday, April 18, 2008

Pumpkin Scissors Vol. 2 by Ryotaro Iwanaga

The Empire and the Republic of Frost have been at peace now for three years, since the "Thin Ice Treaty", but the wounds made during the war are still evident. The Pumkpin Scissors, better known as the Imperial Army State Section III are still working to clean up the fallout from the war.

Corporal Oland is a mystery. Although he is a member of the Pumpkin Scissors, his past is unknown and is driving Warrant Officer Machs crazy. Then, Machs sees a gun exactly the same as Oland carries, and learns that the gun was only ever used against tanks, but that no one wanted to carry them, as sending an unarmored man against a tank was sheer suicide. So the gun never went into production. But then why does Oland carry one?

Another problem arises when a tank confiscated from a Viscount is hijacked and tries to take out the Pumpkin Scissors men there in the hangar. Oland steps in and saves the day with his anti-tank gun, driving Machs to research Oland's background and who he really is. Machs learns of a unit called 901-ATT. Called "The Invisible Nine", a unit that should not have existed. Further research brings up the fact that Corporal Oland was transferred into the Pumpkin Scissors by the Imperial Science Research Institute.

Oland, meanwhile, has been in the hospital, injured by the attack on the tank. His roommate is there due to an accident on the job, but when he disappears from his bed, Oland realizes that something is wrong. He finds his roommate on the roof, where the man tells him that he was fired from his job for missing work... because he was in the hospital for a week after being injured on the job. His boss blames him being let go on the economic depression after the war.

Oland manages to convince the man not to commit suicide, and saves him when he slips on the edge of the building roof. But that puts Oland into the hospital for even longer when he's injured again saving his roommate.

The second story concerns refugees living in the sewers. During the war, many of the people went to the government shelters only to find that they were full. With nowhere else to go, they went down into the sewers, which at least afforded them some protection from attacks. But now there are people still living there, unable to leave, or unwilling, or both. Many of them are drug addicts, but when the Pumpkin Scissors go down there to try and get the residents to relocate, they discover that the water and sewer authority is letting the people live down there and selling them addictive drugs to screw every last bit of money out of the dejected drug addicts. Not only the drug addicts live there, but their families, who do their best to raise the money their loved ones need for the drugs. And the sewer authority workers take advantage of this, using and abusing the people living in the sewers.

When the Pumpkin Scissors discover the true depths of this depraved system, the head of the water and sewer system sends his enforcer in to kill them, a psychopath obsessed with fire and burning people so that he can feel "warm" inside. Can the Pumpkin scissors defeat the psychopath with the flamethrower before he can eliminate the evidence of the water and sewer department's wrongdoing?

This is a most unusual series, a military series that takes place, not *during* a war, but in the aftermath of one, based around the country dealing with economic depression, displaced people, and wartime secrets. It's an interesting enough mix that I don't usually see in manga, as more wars tend to be fought in manga and the cleanup left to the reader's imagination, after the manga ends and the war is (usually) won.

I haven't yet seen Volume 1 of this, but now that I have read this one, I am definitely going to be on the lookout for it. Each member of the Pumpkin Scissors is a separate and individual character, including the intelligent messenger dog. For a generally quirky, yet interesting look at the aftermath of war, Pumpkin Scissors will tickle your funnybone even as it exposes the inequities and injustices of war.

Incidentally, the name of the unit (and the manga) comes from the scissors one uses to cut through the rind of a pumpkin. Like those scissors, the unit cuts through the hard crust of corruption to set free the people affected by it.

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