After washing up on a beach, Ryouta is taken to a peaceful community called “Sanctuary” to recover. However, all isn’t right there and when one of the community members is murdered Ryouta finds himself embroiled in a murder-mystery.
Ryouta’s plan to hijack the helicopter has ended in failure. Separated from Oda and Himiko, Ryouta washes up on shore alone but is found by a little girl named Kaguya. Ryouta is taken to “Sanctuary” - a fenced-off compound on the island. Here, a group of seven lives in a fragile peace with their explosive bims set aside because no one person would be able to amass enough chips to leave the island by turning on the others. However, Ryouta’s arrival changes the balance of power and after one of the group is found murdered, the Sanctuary quickly becomes a death trap.
BTOOOM! Vol. 13 marks the beginning of a new arc in this story, but sadly it never really comes together effectively over the course of this volume. Right off the bat, we are introduced to a wholly new group of characters living in “Sanctuary” and get to see their momentarily peaceful existence. If anything, this felt a little bit silly just because of how often in this series alone we’ve seen these types of arrangements fall apart spectacularly, making Sanctuary feel more like an excuse to set up the type of murder-mystery that we end up getting.
Unsurprisingly, by the mid-point of the volume it was fairly obvious that things were quickly going to fall apart. I really wish that author Junya Inoue had tried to be a little more ambitious here in throwing in some twists or other plot elements to keep things interesting. The only twist of note was the revelation that Kaguya appears to have some sort of psychic powers, letting her intuit that Ryouta is a good person as well as (apparently) act as a spirit medium. I was left scratching my head at this inclusion because it felt so out of place with setting this series has established so far, and it felt like a completely unnecessary (and not to mention downright bizarre) element to add so late in the series.
Although I was intrigued at first in thinking that the introduction of a new group of characters could be an reinvigorating shift to get the story moving in a new direction, I was disappointed to find out that these characters were simply not very interesting. They are collectively more or less a group of one-note characters, and it almost felt as if they were quickly created for the purpose of putting Ryouta in another sticky situation instead of actually being fleshed-out participants of the game. This is exacerbated by the fact that the in-fighting begins so quickly after Ryouta’s arrival without any chance to really make me care about these characters. This made it disappointing to leave behind the established cast of characters, and by the end of the volume I found myself wondering what Himiko and Oda were up to since the story had spend so much time developing their characters.
Even when things finally fall apart of the group, the story never really gets going in an interesting way. The lack of character development noted above didn’t help matters here, robbing a few scenes of any real dramatic impact since it isn’t clear why we should care about Sanctuary in the first place outside of it being a vehicle for Ryouta’s survival. Ryouta’s own actions in this volume were not noteworthy in the least, and sadly his character is not explored in any meaningful way compared to the last number of volumes which saw him being more introspective about the consequences of his actions. If anything, the most development he gets occurs in an odd scene were Kaguya speaks with the spirit of Ryouta’s dead comrade Taira to assuage Ryouta’s guilt over his death. This might have worked if the entire thing didn’t feel so out of the blue, and the emotional response in terms of Taira apparently giving Ryouta a smile felt a little bit ham-fisted and goofy rather than sentimental.
BTOOOM Vol. 13 doesn’t display much of the artistic flair seen in some of the earlier volumes of this series. The new character designs are boring and unimaginative compared to the characters we’ve seen so far in the series, and I don’t see myself really remembering any of them for much longer compared to the more memorable designs shown in characters such as Himiko and Oda. There are no impressive action scenes to speak of in this volume, and the closest we get to that are shots of Ryouta kicking someone, and a bunch of explosions. Compared to the flair demonstrated in volume 10, it seems that with every volume the art is becoming a little bit less impressive and I hope that Inoue spends a more time in future volumes coming up with scenarios that convey the speed and dynamic feel of the battles seen before.
BTOOOM! Vol. 13 feels like it could have told an interesting story after Ryouta is separated from his friends, but the execution is simply not here to hold up this flimsy scenario. It was disappointing that Ryouta’s time in Sanctuary was wholly predictable, and none of the new characters were interesting in the slightest. It wasn’t terrible, but with little action to prop it up this volume was thoroughly uninteresting and a disappointing turn for this series.
BTOOOM! Vol. 13 was translated by Christine Dashiell and published by Yen Press on February 23rd, 2016. Authored by Junya Inoue, the series originally began in 2009 and is still ongoing in Shinchosha’s Comic Bunch magazine. The series received a one season anime adaption in 2012 and volume 14 will be published in English on July 19th, 2016.
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