~by Yumi Tamura
As part of the Yumi Tamura Manga Moveable Feast, I decided to take a look at the first of her works to be released in English--a short, two-volume series called Chicago. The second volume of Chicago, The Book of Justice, was initially serialized by Viz Media between 2002 and 2003 in its monthly shoujo manga magazine Animerica Extra and was subsequently released as a trade collection later in 2003. The volume was first published in Japan in 2001. Tamura is probably best known for her series Basara; I have seen almost nothing written about Chicago despite the work being her first official introduction to English-reading audiences. The two volumes of the series are now also out of print in English. I read the first volume of Chicago, The Book of Self and was intrigued enough by it to track down the second volume as well.
Operating out of a bar called Chicago in south Shinjuku is a privately organized team of agents who take on rescue missions that the police won't or are afraid to touch. Originally Rei and Uozumi were a part of the Self-Defense Force's Rescue Squad Four, a rescue team that was wiped out after the Great Tokyo Earthquake. The only survivors of the squad, Rei and Uozumi have been recruited by Chicago, joining the reserved but talented gunman Shin and Zion, a pilot who seems happier making gyoza than he does flying. The members of Chicago's rescue squad might need to work a bit on their teamwork, but there is no denying that they are all very good at what they do. As the team takes on more rescue missions a troubling pattern emerges: they all appear to somehow be connected to the demise of Squad Four and Rei and Uozumi's pasts. Rei and Uozumi are determined to uncover the truth, but digging any deeper may very well end up costing more than just their lives.
Much like the first volume of Chicago, The Book of Justice is filled with outrageous but entertaining and engaging action sequences as the team members carry out their rescue missions. It's great fun even when it's not particularly believable. What is more believable are the characters themselves and their complicated and frequently antagonistic relationships with one another. I enjoyed watching them interact (and get on each other's nerves) a great deal. Sadly, since not much is revealed about Shin other than a few ominous comments and implications, he largely remains a mysterious, handsome stranger. However, The Book of Justice does reveal more of Rei and Uozumi's history, including how they met and came to work together and why they're so close. Even Mika, Uozumi's boyfriend, is given a chance to briefly take center stage in The Book of Justice.
Because Chicago has so much going for it--an intriguing mystery, great action scenes, interesting character dynamics--it's particularly disappointing and frustrating that Tamura ended the series just as things were pulling together so nicely. The second volume of Chicago is much more even and focused than the first; Tamura seemed to be hitting her groove with the story and characters. Unlike in the first volume, all of the character and plot elements serve a distinct purpose and the more awkward attempts at humor are missing. Tamura ties up most of the major plot points in The Book of Justice, but the series is still brought to an abrupt and rushed close. She assures readers that Chicago wasn't cancelled--she just felt that it was time to move on, which I find almost worse. It's a shame Tamura decided to end the series after only two volumes. Chicago had great potential and I would have liked to have seen more.