Otaku Corner: Tokyo Tribes Vol. 2

Tokyo pre­pares for all-out gang war­fare in Tribes Vol­ume 2

In a pre­vi­ous Otaku Cor­ner col­umn, I reviewed the first vol­ume of the manga series “Tokyo Tribes.” Tokyo Tribes is the first manga series I’ve read that per­fectly com­bines Japan­ese comic art with the raw power of urban Amer­i­can pop cul­ture, mainly hip-hop and R&B music. When I last reviewed Tokyo Tribes, it mor­phed from a stand­alone work to a tril­ogy, giv­ing way to var­i­ous spin­offs, a live-action movie, and a in-development TV series super­vised by cre­ator Santa Inoue.

A short recap: The story is set after a time where riots occurred in Tokyo where gangs known as “tribes” con­trol cer­tain areas via a shaky truce. Kai of the “Saru” and Mera of the “Wu-Ronz” are sworn ene­mies, whose his­tory sets the stage for all-out war involv­ing all tribes for con­trol of Tokyo’s streets.

On the way to drop off Saru’s leader Tera to work, Mera and the Wu-Ronz ambushed Kai, Hasheem and Steno, result­ing in Tera being seri­ously injured. Kai goes after Mera through Shibuya’s rooftops lead­ing to a bat vs. katana bat­tle between the for­mer friends. Dur­ing the bat­tle, both men nearly fall from a build­ing. Iwao, leader of the Hands, show up with military-grade weaponry, shoot­ing Mera down. Skunk and the other Wu-Ronz rush to Mera’s aid, but Iwao and a few Hands mem­bers inter­vene, demand­ing pay­back for Mera cut­ting off a Hands member’s arm.

While onlook­ers and police are dis­tracted, Mera mirac­u­lously sur­vives his fall, and attempts to kill Hasheem as Hasheem guides Kai to a safer exit from the build­ing. Kai and Tera rush to Hasheem to pro­tect him from Mera but Tera is beheaded by Mera and more chaos ensues. Hasheem, feel­ing respon­si­ble for Tera’s death, attempts sui­cide while a few of Saru’s mem­bers ram­page through Shibuya look­ing for pay­back against Wu-Ronz mem­bers. They find an oppor­tu­nity through Unkoi, son of the Wu-Ronz bene­fac­tor Big Bubba, at a local karaoke bar. While the Saru mem­bers made short work of other Wu-Ronz mem­bers, Unkoi gravely injures two mem­bers, while his per­sonal body­guard Galileo chases the third to the final page of the book. Mean­while, Kai is deal­ing with trou­bles of his own as his father appears deter­mined to remove him from the Saru for good.

Dur­ing this vol­ume, I still felt the awe­some vibe from the first one, but more meat was in the sto­ry­line. Inoue-san gave read­ers a bet­ter expla­na­tion why both char­ac­ters have this venge­ful hate toward each other beyond Mera blam­ing Kai for his girlfriend’s death. Dur­ing a brief back­story, Bubba’s cor­rup­tion took Mera’s moral com­pass and the lives of his par­ents, which made me feel a lit­tle sorry for him since he not only hates Kai but also wants to destroy Bubba’s life as well. I also felt Kai’s pain after Tera’s death since Tera was also a men­tor to all the Saru members.

Inoue-san also showed his spe­cial skill of adding cer­tain pop-culture ref­er­ences such as Tower Records and dis­play­ing ren­di­tions of hip-hop and R&B artists’ album cov­ers. The art­work was also top notch, espe­cially when show­ing Unkoi’s ruth­less side as he fought the Saru mem­bers. It was as if I was read­ing the bat­tle scene from Kill Bill Vol­ume 1. Tokyo Pop’s ded­i­ca­tion to Tokyo Tribes remains strong, thanks to Alexis Kirsch and David Walker han­dling trans­la­tion and adap­ta­tion, along with Stu­art Levy col­lab­o­rat­ing with Inoue-san as exec­u­tive pro­duc­ers, ensur­ing that this hip-hop vision con­tin­ues with­out compromise.

With the Saru in tur­moil with­out a leader, and the Hands and Wu-Ronz prepar­ing for all-out war in Tokyo’s streets, what will hap­pen? Can Kai and Mera tri­umph over their per­sonal issues and make peace? We’ll revisit the scene of gang war­fare in Vol­ume 3.

Bran­don Beatty is Editor-At-Large of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

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