by Rebecca Silverman,


Omnibus 1

Plunderer Omnibus 1
Numbers are the rule of the world of Alcia. Everyone has a count somewhere on their bodies, measuring something unique to them, and once your count reaches zero, it spells the end. Therefore those with higher counts are held superior to those with lower, a reality of life that Hina is largely unaware of. After witnessing her mother being sucked into “the Abyss” (the fate of those with a counter of zero), Hina set out to honor her mother's last wish and find “the fabled Ace,” although she has no idea who that might be. Her journey takes her to a town where she meets Licht, who looks like the last person who could be the Ace she's after with his count of -999. But in a world where zero means doom, how could he have a negative number?

Suu Minazuki's work is perhaps better known for fanservice than anything else, although it wouldn't be fair to label them as nothing but that. Plunderer, although not light on the scantily clad ladies, is much more of a straight sci fi/fantasy story than at least Gou-dere Sora Nagihara, the only title in print in English by the author as of this writing. (Judas was licensed by Tokyopop and appears to be available digitally.) The story is set in a world that at first appears to be fantasy-based (but definitely has some elements that suggest something else, particularly towards the end of the omnibus) where everyone has a counter somewhere on their body. What it counts varies from person to person – our heroine Hina's counter measures steps taken, tavern owner Nana's counts how many times people have complimented her food, etc. It's a very random system ripe for an inequal society, and it comes as no surprise that those with higher numbers are held as more powerful than those without. Lest you think that this is a mature take on Dr. Seuss' Star-Bellied Sneeches, however, higher numbers can order lower numbers to do something that is then obeyed involuntarily, so there are real consequences for people. The other major consideration is that when someone's counter reaches zero (so if seventy-eight people told Nana her food was awful, she'd hit zero), that person is then sucked into what's known as “the Abyss.” Whether that means death is unknown, which feels like some important foreshadowing.

About the only other thing that we know about the world is that three hundred years ago there was a terrible war, which took a toll on the population of the world. At that time, people known as “fabled Aces” appeared and used seemingly supernatural powers to help defeat the enemy. The Aces vanished, but after watching her mother be pulled into the Abyss, young teen Hina set out to fulfill her mom's last wish, which was to find “the” Ace. Is this Ace the last one left? The strongest? That's unclear, mostly because everyone assumes that he's dead and only a legend remains. Hina, however, raised in solitude, is unaware of any nuances attached to the name, so she's willing to believe that he truly exists.

Needless to say, this makes Hina one of the more naïve heroines in recent manga. It's a testament to Minazuki's skill that it doesn't make her intensely irritating as well – she's innocent but not stupid, willing to learn to live in the world she finds herself in but retaining a sweetness that most other characters have lost. That's what seems to draw the aforementioned Nana to her, but also Licht, the man who is very likely who Hina is looking for. He does not, however, want to be found, or at least labeled as the Ace, which makes things much more difficult for her. Just why this might be is at this point unclear, but it seems likely to be because of the war.

The story quickly gets caught up in Licht's desire to avoid capture and calling too much attention to himself, as well as his inability to stand back when he sees someone in trouble, particularly those who are being mistreated by people in power. These traits sit uneasily with the omnibus' brand of fanservice, which is especially uncomfortable. Apart from the fact that Hina's counter is on her upper inner thigh (resulting in lots of scenes of men forcing her legs open so they can see it), the character of Lynn is much more troubling. Lynn's rank in the army forces her to wear a micro-mini as part of her uniform, something which makes her very uncomfortable. (In fact, the hem is drawn so that it looks like she's constantly tugging it down.) This brings a lot of male commentary that she “must want us to see” her underwear because of its length. Not only is Lynn quite vocal about not wanting people to look up her skirt, but it's also part of her government-required military uniform, so it's plain that she's not wearing the mini-skirt because she wants to; it's literally required of her by her job. It's clear that we're meant to think the commentary of the men who want to see her undies as funny, but it's a mean humor; if Lynn didn't care, that would be a different story.

Needless to say, the mode of fanservice may turn some readers off the series. If you don't mind it, however, Minazuki is building up an interesting world and story. Hina's ignorance about the world – or at least how long ago the war was – may speak less to her upbringing and more to her and/or her mother's actual ages, something that's very much in question with Licht as well. The mystery of the Abyss is one that deepens as the story goes on, as is how the count system came to be and functions. By the end of the second volume included in this omnibus, there's a feeling that what we're seeing may not be the real world at all, meaning that Licht's penchant for hiding his face behind Noh masks may not just be an artist affectation. There's a surprising amount of depth behind this opening omnibus of the action series, and it's likely going to be worth seeing what the story has in store.

Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B

+ Intriguing foreshadowing, interesting world
Uncomfortable fanservice

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Story & Art: Suu Minazuki

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