How can you tell when a creator is firing on all cylinders regarding their current series? When they ditch their main cast and setting to focus on an all-new group of people in a completely different situation. That’s what mangaka Kengo Hanazawa does in this latest omnibus as we continue to focus on former shut-in Takashi Ezaki after he’s rescued by Kurusu and his companions. After he makes it back to their base with capable survivor Kowashi, Ezaki is slowly brought into their tight-knit and tightly-packed fold as he gets to know the many rules they’ve established in order to stay alive and starts to pull his weight in order to show that he belongs there. While the ZQNs provide an ever-present threat, this community also has its own share of issues to deal with. From the schoolgirl who wants to head to her school to see if her parents are still alive, to the other survivor that’s contacted them via CB radio, to the members in a nearby shed that are thinking of making a break for it, to Kurusu’s general craziness, you’re left with the feeling that things here could implode at any minute.
That they do shouldn’t surprise anyone. What makes it interesting here is that it happens in spite of the fact that everyone was following the rules. The idea that sometimes you can do everything right and still be screwed gives the subsequent escape some real drama, and actually inspires some sympathy for the characters you’ve just been introduced to. Hanazawa’s masterfully orchestrated ZQN attacks also keep the excitement level high throughout. Hideo and company may be MIA until the last few pages, but the mangaka does such a great job fleshing out this new community and its characters that the absence of the main players in the series up to this point isn’t that big of an issue here.
Neither is the revelation that “Kurusu” isn’t a specific name but a special type of ZQN. What is an issue is the fact that Kurusu-types all have a specific look to them, which honestly just comes off as a little goofy when we see three of them going at each other. Also, the end of this whole arc does feel more than a little abrupt. As if Hanazawa felt that he had digressed from Hideo and co. for too long and was eager to get back to them. I can understand that feeling, but whatever concern he may have felt was unnecessary. This was another excellent volume of the series, showing Hanazawa fully in control of the narrative almost to the very end.