Reviewby Carlo Santos,
The great war may be over, but the military's work is never done—especially in the case of Section III, the unit whose main job involves reconstruction. Going by the nickname of "Pumpkin Scissors," Section III cuts through the thick skin of corruption and tries to set things right. Sometimes that involves looking into dirty organizational secrets—like how a maniacal viscount got his hands on a highly advanced tank. There's also something shady about Corporal Randel Oland, the "human anti-tank weapon" who once served with a unit that technically shouldn't exist. Even the city's sewers are harboring a dark secret: a community of refugees engaged in an illicit drug trade, supported by corporate interests. Only the morally upright soldiers of Pumpkin Scissors can stop this cycle of greed.
There's something decidedly blue-collar about the world of Pumpkin Scissors. There is no epic war to be won in a blaze of military glory—mainly because the war is already over. There are no cloak-and-dagger secret ops missions for an elite task force—instead, the task force is a ragtag team of everyday soldiers providing public services. But even without the glamour and spectacle of other military-themed titles, the second volume of the manga is still good entertainment, especially as it starts to reveal new layers of plot. In fact, it seems that every organization that isn't the Pumpkin Scissors unit has some kind of ulterior motive up their sleeve. With a healthy dose of conspiracy and some hard-nosed action, this military saga still has enough firepower to succeed.
The thickening of plot begins as early as the first few pages, with the folks at Section III investigating the tank they captured in the series' previous installment. In fact, the whole volume shows a better sense of continuity overall—each chapter ties into the next one, whether as a direct continuation or through certain subplots. One of the most intriguing subplots in the book's first half is the mysterious past of Corporal Oland: we learn more about him as Officer Machs digs up the dirt, as well as seeing how people interact among the unit. However, this storyline does sag in the middle as Oland gets hospitalized for an entire chapter; clearly, making friends with a downtrodden patient isn't quite as thrilling as pure military action.
Fortunately, the second half of the volume picks up the pace with a drug-smuggling plot—the ideal blend of conspiracy, backstabbing, and gun-wielding combat. And really, who can say no to the visceral thrill of Randel versus a guy with a flamethrower? Yet this storyline has a thoughtful side as well, depicting the plight of sewer-dwelling refugees and how their desperate situation (combined with corporate meddling) has turned into a cycle of crime. If one were to look for a political angle to Pumpkin Scissors, this is it right here: the condemnation of Big Business and Big Bureaucracy as scary evil guys who are out to get the Common Man. In fact, it's even revealed that other branches of the military have something shady going on; between these plot threads and the ominous last scene, it's clear that the series will have plenty of momentum going into Volume 3.
The blue-collar feel of Pumpkin Scissors also comes out in the artwork, which is unspectacular but still gets the job done. It's not going to win any awards for stylishness or detail, but it accomplishes the most important goal—telling the story visually. A varied cast of characters definitely helps; Randel's towering size keeps him from being mistaken for anyone else, and the other supporting members of the unit each have their own distinctive look. The cleanly lined rectangular panels also make it easy to follow each scene, and the careful spacing of dialogue helps to avoid visual clutter. There's no need to chatter too much in this series, after all—just let your weapons do the talking! And of course, that's exactly what happens in the action scenes, which come alive with plenty of explosions, blood and flying debris (although, as mentioned before, not quite as spectacular as the best in the genre).
Dialogue is pretty straightforward throughout this volume, and we should be thankful that it doesn't get bogged down in military jargon like other similarly-themed titles. Still, there are times when the writing gets a bit too over-the-top—Alice's roundabout explanation of the "Pumpkin Scissors" name; Randel's sappy hospital monologue about what the unit means to him—but this doesn't happen too often, and usually the script makes for smooth reading. Sound effects are left in the original Japanese, with tiny translations placed next to each one, and a brief glossary of cultural notes can be found in the back. (Not that it's terribly important—the fictional setting of the series has nothing to do with Japan anyway, apart from one joke in the text.)
With its second volume, the Pumpkin Scissors manga isn't exactly a giant leap of creative of expression, but it is continuing to build on the foundation set at the start of the series. The characters are getting to know each other better, certain organizations are getting involved in conspiratorial subplots, and the series is moving away from episodic adventures and towards a more continuous arc. It loses a bit of steam in the middle with the hospital episode, but the high-stakes action and societal commentary in the drug-smuggling storyline more than make up for it. Clearly, postwar adventure can be just as interesting as actual wartime.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Various conspiracies and subplots gradually push the story towards something deeper.
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