of Itoshi, Lehanan Aida, & Aldaria’s Orochi no Kishi, et al.
This was originally Pt.2 of the full review. I wanted to get into the story and the main characters, at least through the first 280 pages or so, but this includes some spoilers. I usually try not to include any, but some of the things I wanted to address can’t be addressed without doing so, and for that I apologize and promise to keep them to a minimum.
One hundred or so pages later, but still not at the end; I’m hesitant to move further. Yaoi Revolution mentioned on their Facebook page that there would be a second volume. I am very happy and very anxious. I haven’t finished the first volume yet, so I don’t know if I should be anticipating a continuation or not, but I assume that both Mouse and Sadao will be returning, because what would it be without them? So, looking forward to more of one of my new favorite couples is something that makes me quite giddy. BUT, what if only one of them… AH! Perish the thought! It just wouldn’t be right.
We meet Mouse coming up from under the hood of a car whose owner is never mentioned. He seems to be irritated, but at nothing in particular, it’s just his underlying disposition. Not to say that he’s ornery or anything, but under the hood is where he likes to be, so I assume that everything else is just a bother. But, fortunately for him, his uncle Fred’s interruption, which brought him up in the first place, promises to grant him the opportunity to put those grumblings to use. Enter the Orochi, a homogenous-looking crew who have parked their bikes around the pumping stations and are freeing their road armor of accumulated sand and earth, creating clouds of red dust and arrogance as mouse makes his way out of the garage to greet them. Without delay they enter the shop to make a mess of it and its keepers. Just at the point where they seemed to be going far beyond too far, in swoops one Sadao Koga to, depending on how you want to look at it, save the day or make his grand entrance after all of the pomp and circumstance.
Much to Mouse’s dismay, it turns out that this imposing presence is the leader of the hooligans and he’s looking for him. Knowing trouble when he sees all 5 feet 10 inches of it, Mouse feigns ignorance to bring an end to the unwelcomed visit. This kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday, but it’s the kind of thing that happens enough that he just chalks it up to being just another day in the desert he calls home. I suppose the one exception would be the $200 Sadao left on the counter to compensate him for his trouble.
With such an introduction, the thought of these two ever reaching the point where they could exchange smiles without daggers in their eyes, let alone swap spit, is just short of never gonna happen. However, it does, but not before it gets worse and not just your typical chain of misunderstandings worse. No. I’m talking about will he live to breathe another breath worse.
Well, he does live to breathe another breath, lots of breaths; lots of hot, moist, panting, straining breaths, but I’ll get to that later. After surmounting the insurmountable, Mouse finds himself somewhat comfortable in the company of Sadao, his guard dog, Tagata; his general, Shiratori; and host of racers and auxiliary clan-folk to round out what still amounts to a kidnapping. These clan-folk and racers exist under the Orochi no Kishi, the Banner of the Serpent. Their lives, though not the kind of meager existence that Mouse has passively laid claim to, bear no resemblance to a walk in the park. A hard, but fulfilling life on the road is what shows on their faces, affirmed in their walk, and imparted through the words they speak. However, rather than such wear and tear leaving them as hollowed out husks, it has refined them, polished them, and smoothed them–much like how rushing and raging water or chisels and rasps can transform stone–into a cast of beautiful and individually charismatic people. So, though outward appearances would suggest otherwise, they are a rather heterogeneous bunch that Mouse comes to seek his place amongst.
In his own way, Mouse manages to hold his own against these wasteland warriors. It’s never easy and success in such endeavors is a very fluid notion, but, for the most part, he stands his ground and when he can’t, he won’t go down without trying to take someone with him. Mouse seems like he’s got guts and won’t take anyone’s nonsense, no matter how much bigger or stronger they are than him, either that, or he’s really stupid. But after looking back on 280 pages worth of story, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mouse is neither brave nor idiotic. I think his motivation for everything is extremely simple: survival. Though, that means something different for everyone. Exceeding the need for food, water and shelter–the basics of physical survival–is Mouse’s need for the survival of his psyche–his very self; he needs to be him, he doesn’t know any other way to be and things don’t always go so well when he’s in unfamiliar territory. Most people have a different face and temperament for different situations, but not Mouse. He’s always him; perpetually wary, curious, and almost completely dismissive of protocol and at the pinnacle of these characteristics is his near-complete lack of a filter. In his actions, in his speech, and in expressing his emotions, he’s almost completely unadulterated. Sadao calls it unspoiled, but whatever you want to call it, there’s rarely a moment that he doesn’t give someone pause for concern.
Every cell in his 5 foot 5 inch frame is wired to make things right for him. When he tried to rescue his prized possession, I believe he felt that, if nothing else, he had to have this one thing with him or everything in his life before that day would be gone; all the memories, all the sweat, all the time, and all the dreams would just cease to be. As far as I’ve reached, the story doesn’t dig into what his carefully fashioned Ninja really means to him, but considering that it was mentioned that his father died 10 years prior to the story line and that the bike had been his life for the last 9 years, I have a feeling that its assembly may have been an ameliorant for him while dealing with his loss. I think it is a piece of him, one that he needs to feel whole. There isn’t much mention of it until the equipment trailer scene, but I believe that the wave of emotion whose undertow dragged him down deep in those moments is a testament to the fact that he had not gotten over its assumed end, but was just modulating his grief and adapted it into a reef of sorts to shield him from the virulent crests that threatened to come down on him.
Prior to that scene his vacillation between relishing in the trying, but edifying life that had been forced upon him and staving off the turmoil in is heart (and pants) brought on by a swelling love was expressed externally with assurance, but was actually comparatively irresolute. Every rise of his heart was weighted with doubts and because the ropes that raised it were made of fleeting things, they could not easily withstand the words of Sadao and others in the camp that relentlessly sliced at them. After failing to escape the Orochi’s clutches, he did not strive with determination one way or the other and until his first embittered departure from Sadao’s trailer, he dangled and swayed as incident after incident continued to pile up in the midst of a compromise. As there was a type of liberty to be found on either side of his decision, which should he choose? This remained unclear to him until that painful departure and it was at that point that he steeled himself to free his heart and leave other passions behind. But to do so, only to be pressed into immobility by the same force that compelled you to flee, is more than most people could take. However, for Mouse, it is more of a switch. In the same way that some hybrid vehicles can effortlessly switch the impetus that powers it, so can Mouse re-prioritize the things that complete him and in that moment, it became Sadao. It was as if life just laughed in the face of all of his efforts-however incongruous they were–and decided that the place where he would finally feel safe and at peace would be beside the person that had been the greatest threat to him in the not so distant past and would be so, even more so, well on into the future. And as his Orochi experience was still one of transience, he would be forced to endure such tumults again and again.
Sadao made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to be trifled with and while Mouse certainly took it to heart, the warning only served as something of a window into the inner workings of his captor. Once Mouse had been embraced by and embraced in return the way of the Orochi–the way of Sadao–though not entirely consciously, he quickly came to understand the delicate balance that must be struck to both prove himself to be worth all the trouble Sadao went through to secure him as well as ingratiate himself into the very -ness of the abiding existence that was Sadao Koga. It was surprisingly simple: just be himself and do all that he can to keep being that way; this was subsequently confirmed by the man himself. As I mentioned, Mouse doesn’t know any other way to be, so he could not help but to do what was in his power to maintain and reclaim those things that make him who he is. As such, later, when he got up in Sadao’s face for one of his many transgressions, he was taking back his sense of self that was being held hostage by Sadao, a self that he’d been for 26 years, a self that had survived through the physically and emotionally lean years; a self that wouldn’t just sit back and accept being used or dismissed, he wouldn’t feel right with himself otherwise. And it just continued on.
Mouse’s heart and mind was set to confusion the moment he met the Orochi clan boss. Throughout the story he struggles a great deal with his feelings for him. He could not stand this man who was intrusive, self-important, had an unbreakable sense of absolute control, and an unapologetic one-track mind (this one is oddly similar to his own way of being). Yet, it was these same qualities that captivated him and transformed Sadao into his heart and body’s desire. His fall into love was brutal and did not leave him unscathed. Even as he castigated himself time and time again for hoping or believing that there was more to them than carnal pleasure, he continued to flit about the broken glass-paved road to Sadao’s heart. For Mouse, once Sadao became a part of him, he had no choice but to do what was necessary to remain whole.
I love Mouse; he’s clever and dense and earnest and delightfully candid (as can been seen in the quote above). Like me, in serious moments, his mind wanders into ridiculous territories effecting much needed levity to dire situations. He is uncouth to an alarming degree, but that’s one of the things that endears him to me. It has been a knock down drag out fight up to this point and when I stopped reading, I left Mouse at place where I was afraid to turn the page. With every fiber of my being, I am rooting for Mouse’s happy ending and if I were the god that he prayed to in those last moments, it would be my heart’s joy to grant it to him.
Original Comments (by the author)