April 06, 2010

REVIEW: Yugo the Negotiator - The Endless War

Yugo the Negotiator 21 (of 22)

Shinji Makari and Shu Akana

Kodansha 2003, Elex Media (Level Comics) 2010

"Yugo Beppu is a master negotiator and mediator. Fluency in five languages, Socratic wit, and a deep understanding of human nature combined with top-level international connections make him a formidable operator." -- Manga Updates

"Yugo doesn’t kill people, nor does he threaten them with brute violence. He uses his extensive knowledge and calm judgment, and believes in the person’s true self." -- Wikipedia

Yugo, Yugo, Yugo...

Which self-respecting, intelligent and refined woman--
would not want to throw herself at you?

*rite, enough fangirling now -_-*

Admittedly, I am a hardcore fangirl of this series -- and not just because Yugo's recent incarnations have become more and more bishie in looks ^^; (blame Shu Akana!) For me, Yugo simply represents the best that seinen manga has to offer.

Throughout his manga serialisation (which ran for a decade in Kodansha's Afternoon Magazine beginning in 1994), the negotiator has saved the lives of many friends and foes, won the hearts of many a great man (from Pakistani Dacoits to Hong Kong triad leaders), all the while outwitting cunning juntas and politicians in a set of story arcs much grounded in reality.

The series also proved to be quite popular in Japan, as seen from the release of its animated TV version (2004) and publication of bunko volumes straight after the tankous concluded in volume 22. Several Yugo 'side stories' (or "Yugo II") have since appeared in Kodansha's Evening, in which Yugo acquired a new haircut(!) and encountered negotiations relatively closer to home. Eight books of this new serialization have been published to date.

Now, as a loyal Yugo follower, I sometimes wondered why creators of the series chose to end Yugo I in volume 22. I also wondered why they decided to start a new installment -- and deliberately gave Yugo a somewhat 'different' feel and persona -- when Yugo was doing just fine as he was.

Reading Yugo the Negotiator 21 over the long Easter holiday last week had now made me realise: The second last arc of Yugo I -- taking place in Paris and subtitled 'The Endless War' -- may have just marked the end of Yugo's beginning.

Synopsis so far: (compiling volumes 20 and 21)
Yugo becomes involved in the Palestininian conflict in Paris when he joins a terrorist cell headed by Urji, member of the Palestine Liberation Movement who had lost his family in the conflict.

Hounded by a team of sharp-thinking Mossad agents and the cell's extremely suicidal inclinations, what is Yugo's true intention and how can he get Urji and his Palestinian friends out of trouble?

Arc characters:

* Palestinian cell members Urji, Zagala and Abdul
(in discussion with Yugo following a close call with Mossad agents)

* Mustafa, an orphaned Palestinian boy living with Urji and his friends in Paris

* Aisha, Mustafa's aunt and an apparent member of Urji's terrorist cell

* Ben, Solomon and Gigi: three Mossad agents stationed in Paris
(Though their roles aren't clearly specified in the book, Gigi is the team's de facto leader with Solomon acting as
fellow field operative. Ben is the team's analyst and driver)

* A very emotional, out-of-character Yugo >,<"

Personal reactions a.k.a the fun part: (spoiler alert!)

There is a good reason why this final arc has been subtitled The Endless War. With relatively more hard-boiled action, explosions and gasp-eliciting twists (that only became more apparent in volume 21), it was equally interesting to see Yugo feel defenceless dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dubbed as one of the most enduring and explosive in the world.

Another plus point would be the arc's well-developed cast of supporting characters, particularly the three Mossad agents Gigi, Solomon and Ben. While Gigi becomes more sympathetic as the story progresses, Solomon establishes himself like an all-round nice guy and Ben... well, he only looks more intelligent and charming... like another analyst I know! XDD

The creators also did well by steering clear of religious debates by attributing the Palestinians' extreme methods largely as a desperate plight over losing their home and everyone/everything they've loved. What's really touching is the overall notion the arc seems to suggest: that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can never be solved by one man alone -- even if that one man is the master negotiator.

Last but not least, this story brings out Yugo's humane side more than ever before. Though misjudging/miscalculation of situations happens to the best of us at times, Yugo's gravest mistake is
to apparently underestimate the power of indoctrination (both religious and military) over those who feel like they have nothing else to lose in life.

Personally, I'm guessing the whole episode would have left Yugo slightly 'traumatised' by the end that he'd decide to take a 'break' before returning as a slightly more mature Yugo in the new installment!! -- let's wait for that in volume 22, shall we!

For now, however, pardon me as I get back to drooling over Yugo and his rampant emotions ^^; After all, it's not everyday that you get to see Yugo so worked up like this:

KYAA KYAAAA XDDD (poor Gigi always chasing after Yugo)

Thank you for reading my very long review! (^^;)
-- Images scanned from Yugo the Negotiator 20 & 21, Level Comics 2010