Reviews: Shirow, Masamune

Please Don’t Insist

Masamune Shirow
Ghost in the Shell, book 1

Masamune Shirow’s 1991 Ghost in the Shell, volume 1, collects the first eleven chapters of the serial post-cyberpunk manga. The 1995 English translation is courtesy of Frederik Schodt and Toren Smith.

The 2030s! A wonderful era of realistic robotic servants, cybernetic brain enhancement, and advanced prosthetic augmentation. All are valuable tools in the endless struggle between nation-states. As well as the battle to contain terrorists/freedom fighters/mafias. (Which label to apply depends on your POV.)

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Trouble in Paradise

Prometheus Unbound — Masamune Shirow
Appleseed, book 2

Appleseed Book Two: Prometheus Unbound picks up where The Promethean Challenge left off. While Briareos Hecatonchires recovers from the injuries he suffered in the previous volume, Deunan Knute is trying to fit into a police force made up of former cut-throats barely distinguishable from the criminals they oppose. She’s soon head-hunted by ESWAT (Extra-Special Weapons and Tactics), less for her remarkable skill set and more because the powers-that-be (or a faction thereof) want her somewhere where they can keep an eye on her. Deunan has, as she discovers, a closer connection to the founders of Olympus than she had ever suspected.

The people running Olympus (the city) and Aegis (the world government it heads) have bigger problems than one survivor from badside. The world war was horrible, but it did allow Aegis time to consider and address the issues driving humans towards global suicide. Not enough time, it seems, which leads the Council, bioroids all 1, to consider a bold strategy: apply bioroid discipline to all humans. The result may not be human as humans of the 22 nd Century define it, but at least it and the world it inhabits will be alive.

Interestingly, it’s not the humans who object to this scheme. It’s Athena, Aegis’ senior politician and a bioroid herself.

Athena finds it easy enough to deal with the council: detain them all. While they are in detention, Athena and her subordinates run the proposal through Gaea, the city’s supercomputer. Normally the council is plugged into Gaea while it cogitates, but obviously that won’t work in this case. The vast, cold intellect is free to consider the issue without human or bioroid moderation.

What could go wrong?

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Welcome to Olympus

The Promethean Challenge — Masamune Shirow
Appleseed, book 1

For many people in North America—well, me, at least—Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed series was one of the first translated manga they ever saw. First published in 1985, it won the 1986 Seiun Award for Best Manga. Between 1988 and 1992, the series was published volume by volume by Eclipse Comics, which is the edition I first read1. It was pretty addictive stuff back in the Reagan Era—no American comics I knew of explored SF themes like Shirow’s or had the same striking art—but how well does it stand up today? Does it still have the same punch in a world where many great manga are no further away than the nearest library?

Well, I just happen to have Appleseed: Volume One: The Promethean Challenge to hand….

No country involved in World War Three resorted to nuclear weapons but there are other weapons of mass destruction. As the prelude puts it, “even without (nuclear weapons), the Earth became a quieter planet.”

Survivors Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires have settled in a very quiet, very peaceful neighbourhood. Before they came to town someone doused the place in sarin. The nerve agent is long gone, and so are the unfortunate inhabitants, leaving their material goods for the two soldiers to loot, and their homes for the woman and her cyborg friend to take for their own.

But someone has noticed the pair.

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