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Ima, Soko ni aru senso (There is a war over there now) art by Yuuto Ina, writing by Taylor Taira and Yuuki Amaya, Big Comic Original (2014), Grade: B
I received a copy of Ima, Soko ni aru Senso, vol. 1, so I decided to read it just to find out what the story is. This manga runs in Big Comic Original, meaning that the target audience is adult salarymen. The Japanese is hard to follow and there's a lot of technical and financial terminology. There's very little on any of the three creators in English or Japanese. Baka Updates lists Taylor as "Terror Taira" but doesn't give him any other writing credits, and there's nothing on him in the Japanese wiki (or on the other two, either), although he does show up in the credits for one episode of Golgo 13 in 2014. Yuuki Amaya wrote Magatsukuni Fudoki, but Baka Updates just lists a stub for that one. Yuuto Inai is also listed as the artist for Kick no Oneesan and Kyoudai M1 Monogatari (only a stub article). Unfortunately, the Baka Updates page for Ima, Soko ni aru Senso is also just a stub. There's no officially-accepted English translation. Literally, it's "Now, in that place is a war." However, the Japanese title of Tom Clancy's "A Clear and Present Danger" is "Ima soko ni aru kiki" (Now in that place is a danger), so technically I could treat this as "A Clear and Present War."
(Say goodbye to the shadow bankers.)
Taro Mononobu is a big, muscular guy that works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He's meeting his wife and adult daughter in Shibuya for a quiet dinner, when he sees on the news that China's top four bankers have been assassinated. He runs out of the restaurant, to his daughter's disgust, to return to the Ministry, but the offices are empty of staff. It seems that he's the only one that thinks the killings are the prelude to a war that could destroy Japan, China and the U.S. Meanwhile, in China, Kenryuu Sho, the mayor of the apparently fictional city Tengai (Heaven Ocean) and Jinko Shin, head of national security, had been spying on the upper levels of the Chinese government on behalf of the four shadow bankers, when they'd pulled a coup, with Shin shooting the bankers with a machine pistol. Shin then approaches a Chinese CGI effects house where the artists have prepared a DVD of buildings blowing up for him. He takes the disk and leaves the office as a pair of "cleaners" go in after him and plant a bomb in the room to kill the witnesses (Shin states that the real thing doesn't compare to the CGI).
(And time to say goodbye to Honda and the CIA spy.)
Mononobu is joined by a new hire to the Ministry who is absolutely clueless as to what's going on, but insists of calling him "Mononobe" as a cute affectation, and following him around wherever he goes. Mononobu suspects that things are going to escalate, but the only one that can help him is Honda, a womanizer living in New York. He tries calling Honda, but the guy is in the middle of a conversation with a CIA agent in a restaurant. After the agent gets Honda to compromise himself, two other agents listening in on a bug enter the room and spray bullets all around before leaving, killing their partner as part of the plan. As Honda lies dying, he gives a voice command to his phone to save the last 30 minutes of the conversation and email it to his boss at Toyoda Corp. When Honda doesn't call him back, Mononobu visits Toyoda, and tries talking to Honda's boss (Mononobu calls him "sempai," implying that they'd gone to university together). The guy refuses to help Mononobu, but in the middle of the conversation he receives Honda's email, and drops Mononobu a few veiled hints, and Mononobu leaves.
(The CGI effects group does good fake explosions.)
This brings us up to the first half of the book. After this, everything else starts falling into place. A group of U.S. marines are tricked into participating in what they think is a simple war game, where they're dressed up in Chinese uniforms and plant flags at the top of the disputed Senkaku islands. The Japanese SDF sends a pair of jets to do recon of the area, and they're shot down by Chinese forces, which then start bombing the islands to remove the evidence of the Marine involvement. Mononobu's boss refuses to listen to his report, then goes to a meeting between the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministries only to be caught with his pants down when news of the invasion of the Senkakus gets broadcast. The Chinese ambassador uses this moment to confiscate a specific set of plans from the Japanese ambassador. The Japanese ministry group gets isolated in the meeting building, but they're confident that America will save them. Except that Mononobu's boss points out that this is similar to the Falkland Islands situation - America has its hands tied and can't move to help support Japan. While, in the U.S., a general is trying to convince the White House staff that trying to help Japan is going to bring on a nuclear missile strike that will wipe out the U.S. west coast. At least one of the staff is looking forward to this, saying you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
(The Japanese cabinet is stunned to see a Chinese flag on "their" islands.)
The book ends with Mononobu trying to force his office into releasing key secret information that it's hiding from him. His daughter is stuck in a suburb of Tokyo and it looks like anti-China riots are going to start breaking out around her, his wife is safe at home, and his weak-willed slacker son is working part-time at a konbini, and is about to be attacked by a small hate group intent on killing his Chinese co-worker.
Conclusion: Overall, this isn't a bad manga. The artwork is decent, the line art is clean and detailed, and the pacing is good. I just don't have a lot of interest in the story. On the other hand, the idea of a conflict between Japan and China isn't all that far-fetched anymore. Recommended if you like political dramas.