I’m not writing about a lame band, poems by Carl Sandburg, or the city whose corrupt government forced me to pay a traffic ticket that was issued a year before I became a car owner for a car I did not own, on a day I was not driving or even a passenger in a car.
I’m writing about the manga Chicago by Yumi Tamura. The title Chicago refers to a bar in Shinjuku where “the food’s not much, but the drinks are strong”.
Much like Tamura’s other work Basara, Chicago is set in the future. The heroine of the story, Rei, works with her partner Uozumi as part of a disaster recovery team (Self Defense Force Rescue Squad Four). They are investigating a disaster site after a huge earthquake hit Tokyo when they find the bodies of people who have been shot. They hear a mysterious bit of music from Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and a plane flying overhead starts shooting at them. Uozumi steps on a mine, and Rei rescues him. The rest of their team isn’t so lucky.
The rescue mission is a failure, Rei and Uozumi are the only surviving members of Squad Four, and Uozumi loses his leg.
After the failed mission, Rei becomes a courier and Uozumi sits alone in a jail cell playing the cello. A mysterious man appears to recruit them, telling them to come to the bar named Chicago. At the bar a man named JJ asks them to go on a mission to rescue a kidnapped boy, saying that this new mission may also answer some questions they have about the loss of Squad Four.
Rei isn’t too happy about Uozumi having a girlfriend. Yet, when a stoic man named Shin who was also recruited by JJ shows up to join their new rescue mission, she is instantly attracted to him. Hmm…
The first volume of Chicago focuses on Rei, Uozumi, and Shin rescuing the kidnapped boy. The second volume provides more backstory about Rei and Uozumi, and they begin to learn more about the Dvorak loving mystery person who destroyed Squad Four.
Tamura has a (to my eyes) unique art style, the faces of her characters have stronger noses and more mobile and expressive mouths than you sometimes see in manga. I have to quibble though with the way she draws Uozumi playing the cello. Either he has really bad technique or he is playing some sort of weird avant garde piece, because he looks like he is bowing halfway up the fingerboard. Perhaps he is using the Suzuki method.
See, this is a rough approximation of how any sane cellist would hold their bow (I took these pictures in a mirror, so they are reversed):
This is how Uozumi plays the cello:
Even though Uozumi might not be able to play the cello well, Chicago is still a good read. It contains more action elements than your typical shojo manga. Rei is a strong heroine, who is quick to come to the rescue of her male comrades. Sometimes it’s hard to commit to a long running multi-volume series, but since there are only two volumes of Chicago that isn’t a problem. Based on the author’s note at the end of the 2nd volume, it seemed to me as if there might have been a longer storyline planned, but the author might have run out of steam. It’s too bad, because I would have liked reading the further adventures of Rei, Uozumi, and Shin.