by Junya Inoue
published by Yen Press; $11.99 US
I thought BTOOOM! Book 4 was a bit slow and repetitive, but this volume (out next month) kicks it all back up into high gear.
We open with the story of how Himiko (the previously unnamed eye candy on the cover) came to the island and her experiences before meeting Ryouta. Given her hatred and distrust of men, it’s not surprising to see that it’s a tale full of attempted rape. In fact, her “origin” is something like Red Sonja’s: attacked by men, she vows to discover her own strength to prevent anything like that from ever happening again. (And conveniently, these stories allow for salacious views of girls’ body parts, thus driving the series’ Mature rating.)
It’s all very cliched, but at least now she’s got a name, a motivation, and a backstory as to why someone wanted to send her to a murder game where it was likely she wouldn’t survive. In fact, we see a lot more of the process as to how these characters wound up being told to explode each other for the entertainment of mysterious remote viewers.
Himiko’s early days in the game also illustrate more of the underlying themes. She meets up with three guys, one of whom is convinced all humans are selfish murderers when they have to be (and so is willing to descend to horrible behavior quickly), one of whom tries to get them to work together to survive, and one of whom is a slobbering fanboy (and waste of air). The debates and what happens to each of them illustrate the core of the book in microcosm.
In a plot twist that reminded me of Lost, Himiko and Ryouta discover another, older inhabitant of the island, with her own backstory (that includes a menacing, abusive man). Her situation promises more twists to come in future volumes.
There is nothing new to this series, but boy, it’s disturbingly addictive. Where something else might be popcorn for the brain, this is gummy worms — bad for you, no redeeming value, and sticky in the wrong places. (The publisher provided a review copy.)