No one on Earth can die. This isn’t a recent development (like in Torchwood: Miracle Day); violent death hasn’t existed for as long as anyone can remember, and since you instantly resurrect at full strength whenever you’re killed, a bullet to the head is the preferred cure for papercuts, stomach upsets, and disease. (You can still die of old age.) People only fear one thing, an ultra-rare but spreading condition: “Vectors.” These mysterious individuals can actually be killed permanently and, if you get too close to them, you might become one and die too.
Shin’ichi Kenzaki is the head of the anti-Vector police task force, a man with a grudge dedicated to identifying and killing Vectors before they contaminate the rest of Japan. Unfortunately, he and his team have stiff competition from the “Escape Artist,” a mysterious woman who shows up to blast cops’ arms and legs off with high-powered machine guns so they can only writhe around slowly dying of bloodloss while the Vectors make their escape. And the Escape Artist has ties to a whole secret organization, a group whose goal is “to put an end to this twisted world,” to take immortality away from mankind. Can the police find and stop these terrorists? Spoiler 1: the dreaded Escape Artist is secretly a member of Shin’ichi’s own team, a quiet girl named Rin. Spoiler 2: the Vector infection is spread by emotional closeness to a Vector, such as love …
The popular manga Ajin asked the question, “What if there were a few people who couldn’t die?” Immortal Hounds flips that, telling a cat-and-mouse detective story (with lots of gore and gunfire) in a topsy-turvy world where the hapless few Vectors seem pitifully outmatched and outgunned. It’s interesting and suspenseful, a premise that sparks the imagination and invites readers to ask questions, some of which Yasohachi may have anticipated and others he may not (i.e., if this is a parallel world where death never existed, how could it look anything like the 21st century we know? Would weapons even have been invented? And why does the Escape Artist have a magic sash on her head which, like Clark Kent’s glasses, conveniently keeps her coworkers from recognizing her?). Of course, it’s easier to come up with a cool idea for a world than to explore its ramifications for hundreds of pages, and every time Yasohachi introduces a new “rule” about Vectors, things get a bit wobbly; by the end of Volume 1 it’s still too early to tell whether it all makes sense. But it’s a fun, violent ride with some cool mind games as it wades through the bloody territory of love and death. Recommended.
story and art: Ryo Hasohachi