Well, last update we had three short chapters. Now it's one very, very long one.
Chapter 29 is back to Yutaka and Shinji.
Shinji listens closely and only hears a bird chirping, so he judges that they've escaped Yumiko and Yukiko's killer.
"Relax when you have to. But also be on your toes when you have to. The point is, make no errors of judgment."
It's backstory time! This piece of wisdom comes from his uncle who basically raised him, teaching him everything from baseball to hacking the internet.
Yutaka says he should have waited for him at the school, but he was too scared.
Shinji crossed his arms with his Beretta in his left hand. See? The left-handedness is really emphasized. Anyway, he starts to say that it might not have been good to stay after all, but Yutaka probably doesn't hear because he's started crying. I believe this is the first male character to cry, although Shuya's come close a couple times.
Yutaka is crying because he feels like he's pathetic and cowardly and didn't do anything to save Izumi from dying.
We don't know much about Izumi, just that she was called a preppy, her dad is town representative, and Kazuo killed her in the first massacre.
It turns out, unlike some other characters we've heard from, Yutaka actually went looking for her, which serves to explain why he was in such an odd location when most of the kids appear to have tried to find a structure to hide in. But he has no way of knowing that, and it'd probably be cold comfort.
Shinji listened without saying a word. He heard the chirping again up in the treetops. There might have been another bird. The chirping overlapped, as if the birds were talking to each other.
The writing of this is certainly wonky, likely because of translation issues, but I really do like the style of it.
Anyway, Yutaka comes to a decision. He wants to get revenge on Sakamochi and the government at large. This surprises Shinji - he hates what's happening, but going against the government is suicide, which he says to Yutaka. Yutaka naturally responds "I don't care if I die. What else can I do for Izumi now?" which is a pretty good example of why using teenagers as your state punching bag isn't a good decision. You're guaranteed to get some of them willing to die to get back at you.
Shinji thinks that he's never loved anyone like that, although he's already slept with three girls. Uh, okay. Then we get into daddy issues. His dad's got a mistress and Shinji hates him. His mom just ignores it and fills her time with various hobbies. They don't like or trust or help each other. As a result, Shinji doesn't have much of a model for how long-term relationships should look like. So he's fine hanging out with girls, but nothing beyond there. And although his uncle was a good replacement parent, he never had any advice on this subject because he died two years ago.
It's a bit surprising that this is revealed so easily. I suppose that's part of the manga being more polished. In the manga, Shinji keeps flashbacking to his great uncle and this and that, unknown that the government is listening to him talk about how he learned hacking and such from the guy. You realize he's signed his uncle's death warrant - and then Shinji drops the fact that his uncle's already dead.
The earring on Shinji's left ear came from him. His uncle always had it with him. He told Shinji, "The woman I loved wore this. She died a long time ago though."
Also interestingly, in the manga that woman survives his uncle and as I recall is the one to give him the earring. The whole thing served to show that there was a resistance and that it was still around after his uncle died, which I liked.
Anyway, the book goes on to ramble about marriage and how his baby sister asked if he wanted a romantic or arranged marriage and he said maybe he wouldn't marry anyone and now he hopes she'll find someone she loves and what if he dies without ever finding someone?
So Shinji asks Yutaka what he loved about Izumi. He says she was pretty, surprising Shinji, who thinks there are prettier girls (Takako, Sakura, Mitsuko - although he knows Mitsuko is bad news)
Yutaka then smiled a little again and said, "When she looked drowsy and rested her cheeks on her hands, she was pretty." And then he continued, "When she was watering flowers by the classroom window, the way she touched the leaves, she was pretty."
It goes on like this. I really like how personalized love is in this book. That's my basic litmus test for what love should look like - a person in love reacts differently to something than everyone else. Just saying this person's really attractive doesn't do it, and writing a character as objectively pretty great is terribly bland.
Shinji says Yutaka sounds like a poet and that he bets that up in heaven Izumi's happy to know someone loves her so much. Yutaka begins to cry again.
Shinji adds that also, he's up for the revenge deal.
This isn't the first time he's thought about the issue of their government and what he'd so when he grew up. He reminds us that they're fascist and kill everyone who opposes them. Apparently their net is wide enough that they get plenty of innocent people in the process. I wonder if the latter part is widely understood? If so that's a pretty big crack in their power. Once people think they could be targeted even if they do nothing wrong, they have less to lose by disobedience. But it seems unlikely given that both characters whose parents were murdered have assumed it was for being anti-government.
Shinji thinks the government is evil. He figures everyone probably does, but that most people are too scared to admit it. And sure, he says, Shuya listens to illegal rock like a rebel, but he doesn't go on to actually oppose the government.
Then his uncle dies in a suspicious accident after he's been acting weird for a while. He mentioned he was talking to his old mates at one point but wouldn't give any details.
Shinji had once told him, "You're so great." His uncle only grimaced and replied, "No, you're wrong. I'm not at all. You couldn't survive in this country if you really wanted to be good. I'd be dead if I were really a good person."
From this and the fact no one will tell him about his uncle's past, Shinji reasonably guesses that his uncle once opposed the government but stopped. He was concerned by the mention of his uncle's old friends for this reason, but figured his uncle knew what he's going.
It was true that the police in this country had the right to execute civilians without any trial, so usually it wouldn't matter whether they shot you in an alley or at work. But when the person involved was related to someone important, then it wasn't unlikely they'd conspire to kill you in the form of an "accident."
That's interesting. I suppose it's part of keeping everyone from knowing just how many people hate them. If the government was truly stable, they wouldn't have to hide any of their murders.
Also, apparently firm directors like Shinji's dad are really important. he was a first-class worker according to the Republic's employment ranking system - does Japan have a ranking system or is this some invention of the evil government really liking rankings? That's not actually the highest possible rank. As their videogames have taught us all, there's always the secret S-rank about A, which in this case is the highest level bureaucrats in the government.
I wonder how this interacts with the betting thing Sakamochi's involved in? That's obviously well outside the sphere of the average person, but is it government people only or do sufficiently high ranked civilians get to take part?
Anyway, Shinji also says this means his dad was somehow involved in killing his uncle, although it's not entirely clear if he means that because his dad's important the government covered it up or if his dad actually helped get his uncle killed on some level.
It couldn't have been accidental. His uncle would never die from electrocution. That was just too lame!
This, though, strikes me as poor reasoning. Accidents do happen and just because you oppose the government doesn't mean it's the only way you could die.
His uncle's death cemented his desire to fight the government, but didn't actually spur him to any action, since he didn't know how to join any rebels and his uncle warned him to be really cautious.
And above all he was scared.
But now even if he were lucky enough to escape this stupid game he'd become a fugitive.
Indeed, the most dangerous people are those who have nothing to lose. But of course, the government knows that - that's why Sakamochi isn't going to leave his safe area.
Shinji repeats that he'll help Yutaka, but adds that what they really need to do first is escape. Sakamochi is small fry, taking him out won't stop the real problem of the larger government. They should escape and kill someone even more important! Shinji is surprisingly optimistic.
Then he decides it's time to pump Yutaka for any information on the state of childmurder. Has he seen anyone? Nope, Yutaka says, he just took off.
Shinji fills him in on events - Mayumi and Yoshio's bodies were outside. Shinji guesses Yoshio came back to kill people, shot Mayumi...then somehow was disarmed and shot by his attacker with his own weapon? Book. If you want to have characters speculating on stuff, let them be wrong sometimes.
Anyway, he says the killer must have been whoever came after Mayumi, namely Shuya.
Yutaka's eyes widened again. "Shuya? Shuya killed Yoshio?" Shinji shook his head. "I don't know. The only thing we know is that Yoshio wasn't able to kill Shuya. So it was probably Shuya. But maybe Shuya just knocked Yoshio out. He's got a soft spot after all. And then Yoshio might have been killed by someone who came out later." Shinji thought about it and added, "Besides, Shuya must have left with Noriko Nakagawa. He might not have had time to finish off Yoshio."
That is a string of weird, weird reasoning. Shuya wanting to take out Yoshio in a non-fatal way doesn't mean he has the ability to do so. Indeed we see something like this in the fact his actual knockout sends Yoshio careening off a roof, which is often fatal. And it really doesn't take less time to somehow knock someone out than to kill them, and so on.
Now, if Shinji had examined the body and found a bloody lump on the corpse's head, it'd make more sense he'd speculate it was their baseball star involved, and since he knew Yoshio was first knocked out and then killed later, he might say that he thought Shuya probably wasn't the killer because it doesn't seem like him.
(And the more relevant Noriko issue is that she could barely walk - so taking Yoshio's stuff wasn't an option, making it more likely they'd have abandoned all of it, bowgun included, for the next person to exit. Otherwise, you'd think if Shuya had merely knocked the guy out, he'd have had the sense to separate Yoshio from his deadly weapon.)
The two of them immediately figure out that Shuya is protecting Noriko because of Yoshitoki due to his crush. Then Shinji goes on to say
even if that wasn't the case, given Shuya's personality, he'd probably planned on gathering everyone who came out after him. But after Yoshio's attack it was out of the question. Noriko was injured too. So he probably just took off with Noriko as his only partner."
We already read that, book.
Yutaka laments that Shinji and Shuya haven't teamed up yet, since they're both so awesome. Shinji then thinks about how awesome Shuya is just as Shuya does about Shinji, and also thinks that he's sure Shuya could never ever kill anyone.
But what he says is that he's glad he's got Yutaka, which nearly makes Yutaka cry again.
He then changes the subject. He says that he saw a group waiting in the trees. By the time he left there were only a few people left, so it must have been Kyoichi Motobuchi, Kazuhiko Yamamoto, Chisato Matsui, Kaori Minami, or Yoshimi Yahagi.
Of those, we know Kyoichi didn't join up with anyone (and Shogo didn't believe he could have) so it's unlikely he was the one. Kazuhiko was Sakura's boyfriend and headed straight to their meeting place, so no one tried contacting him. That leaves the girls. Yoshimi is in Mitsuko's gang, so she's an unlikely choice - at least if Megumi is anything to go by, the girls wouldn't trust her. We don't know anything much about Chisato or Kaori, though. And of course this is assuming the group was trying to pick up members and not attack a particular person, but that's unlikely.
It was a group, so I doubt they would have been hostile right off
A very interesting note. Even if groups aren't deliberately seeking you, they're probably safer to join on the basis they're less on edge. That's both on a practical level and an emotional one. People will calm down a lot just knowing they're not totally alone, and then if you poke your head in asking to join and they don't totally trust you, well, they don't need to. They've got other people to watch their back instead of having to keep an eye on you the whole time.
but I didn't have any particular reason to seek them out and join them, either.
First off, they're a bunch of people probably not playing - while there are utilitarian reasons for joining up, the main motivator for killing each other is fear, so groups are most likely made of people who aren't going to fight, and also, killing people is hard enough without joining up with them first. If you want to oppose the government, more people generally helps.
But second, you could have just popped over to say hi and that you weren't playing either, then kept going. Then they're less likely to panic later and take a shot at you when you wander near where they're hiding by accident, you could more easily join up with them later, and it'd likely improve morale in general, which is important because the longer this drags out the better chance you have of finding a way out.
Anyway, to Shinji this is why waiting is bad and it's good Yutaka didn't do it. He figures Yoshio returned to kill and that if anyone else had done and seen the group waiting, they'd have died too. Of course, they might have been armed. he adds, which actually is a big hole in his waiting-is-death theory. Yoshio was taking shots at people from a hidden location as they exited. Attacking a group of ready people with unknown weapons would be very different. Even just going after individual stragglers in the woods is different than people exiting a single place into the open. The fact a group could safely form shows that waiting was actually the best idea.
That group wasn't the only ones Shinji encountered either. He saw someone he thinks was Hirono, who he didn't say anything to because she's another of Mitsuko's gang, and Shogo, who he didn't say anything to because Shogo. But he adds that Shogo was armed and didn't make any attempt to attack.
Yutaka responded, "Huh. Then that means he's not an enemy."
Shinji shook his head. "Not necessarily. He might have seen my gun and decided he was better off not attacking me.
Yup. Not engaging doesn't actually prove anything. Even if Shogo hadn't seen Shinji's gun, his own gun would be loud enough to alert anyone. The most you can say is he's not too aggressive.
But just as Shinji should have tried to contact the group, it seems Shogo really should have tried to contact Shinji. Shinji might not trust him enough to join up, but they could at least have exchanged mutual "this is fucked up and I don't want to play" greetings.
Then they discuss the fact there was a gun before the machine gun, and somehow they can figure out this was someone warning the girls and not the same as the killer's. I did argue the girls themselves should have been able to figure that out, but anyone else? Nope. Figuring it out would involve the fact there was no sign of the bullets hitting where they were so it wasn't aimed at them. Failing that, the most reasonable explanation is that the killer tried to snipe them with a different gun, failed, then switched to the machine gun.
It doesn't even matter that they know this, because Shinji is also smart enough to know that whoever fired the warning shot probably moved on so the killer wouldn't find their location, making this all a lot of filler.
I mean, this could have a point, but neither of them are concerned about the question of how many other people are playing. For an individual or a small group trying to figure out if they should try to contact people or kill them on sight this reasoning would be very important, but that's not a worry here. I don't think there's any point in most of this recap - knowing Shinji's opinion on Shogo and such just doesn't matter. For some reason the book keeps having chapters that are just the characters discussing how they somehow know the basic details of most of what's going on.
Shinji's disappointed, because he'd hoped Yutaka had seen someone they could hook up with, but then he realizes that if Yutaka had seen anyone trustworthy they'd have already hooked up. Then he considers who he'd trust, and only comes up with Shuya and Hiroki for boys. He's less concerned about girls, figuring that Yukie and all her friends are probably fine, but that they might not trust him becaus of how much he sleeps around.
But how lucky was he to hook up with Yutaka? He could absolutely trust him.
This is nice. When he said earlier that he was really grateful Yutaka was there it seemed like he might just be consoling Yutaka after his rant about being useless, but it seems he's sincere.
Speaking of Yutaka, he asks what Shinji's been looking for.
Shinji had pulled out a car battery (the power source), a partially disassembled cell phone, and a laptop computer. They were all connected by a patch of red and white cables.
The liquid crystal monitor display had been left on, with the computer screen display turned off.
I like the practicality of that last detail.
The computer is a Macintosh PowerBook 150 which Shinji considers a surprisingly good computer for this backwater. Wikipedia tells me the computer was released in 1994, so it's three years old. I think he's impressed because getting it would require importing, since I'm pretty sure that even back then three years old would be somewhat of a negative, but then he may be putting more emphasis on the backwater part so it's more "Wow, I'm glad they had a functional machine here at all." Or I could be misjudging computer generations entirely and it was still considered pretty great even at three years back then - if nothing else it's a laptop which didn't become common until much later.
Anyway, Shinji's been running a password hack on this and it's found a solution. What does this mean? Dunno yet, that'll be for a later chapter.