After reading the first three volumes of Alive, it quickly threatened to become one of my favourite mangas. The third volume in particular was really compelling and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this, the fourth instalment. I was looking forward to finding out what would happen to Taisuke and Yuta, two evolved humans (‘comrades’) with special powers. They’re travelling north, searching for Taisuke’s former-friend-turned-enemy Hiro, and ultimately they’re searching for answers.
This volume gets off to a surprising and inauspicious start with the introduction of a talking owl. Yes, this is a sci-fi series so the rules are out of the window, but a talking owl just didn’t do it for me. Thus far, Alive has been a serious and bleak tale, dealing with themes of death, and the value of life. The owl character to me seemed to be too silly and frivolous, and just did not sit well with the rest of the story and characters. Thankfully this feathered friend doesn’t play a huge role and hopefully, we won’t see too much of it in the future.
The rest of the volume sees Taisuke and Yuta continue to travel north. They meet another new comrade in the form of the beautiful Nami, this volume’s cover star. She’s a really good character. Her power is the ability to create claws made from ice, but more interesting is her attitude to the whole ‘comrade’ situation. She is deeply distrustful of other comrades, but she joins our heroes as a means to an end. It creates a slightly tense group dynamic, but surely Taisuke’s good nature will get her to open up? I hope so because I like her and it’s another plus point for this series.
The trio board a boat headed for Hokkaido, where they encounter a number of unexplained deaths – the telltale sign of the presence of another comrade. It’s fat, ugly otaku, Okada. He is just as good a character as Nami but for completely different reasons. His power, the Grim Reaper’s Promise, is intriguing and allows for some inventive storytelling. It ultimately leads to a great cliff-hanger at the end of the volume, which left me desperate to see how things would turn out.
Overall though, it was a slightly uneven volume. I love the art and the distinctive, well-realised characters. But I didn’t appreciate the talkative bird and the generally slow pace of the volume. The plot wasn’t advanced much, just some interesting new characters were added to the mix. I wasn’t very impressed at first but the volume was saved by the great and dramatic ending. Del Rey’s usual good extras round off the publication.
This volume of Alive was not the most thrilling, but it does have endearing characters and a constant element of mystery. A solid entry and I’m very curious about where this is all going.