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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Anne Freaks, Volume 3

Anne Freaks, Vol. 3Written and Illustrated by Yua KotegawaADV Manga; $9.99

“Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.”– Michael Corleone

I know how you feel, Godfather. I enjoyed the second volume of Anne Freaks, but it suddenly became a very different series than the one promised in Volume One. A rapid invasion of new characters took the focus off of Anna, Yuri, and Mitsuba and the psychological drama that had been developing between them. Sure, new dramas were coming into play, but I missed the tense, claustrophobic world inhabited by the main three characters. It bothered me as I was reading it, but by the end of that volume I thought I’d gotten past it. I obviously hadn’t though, because after I bought the third volume it sat on my bookshelf for a while before I finally decided to give it a try. I’d lost the excitement and figured that this might be the last one for me. But then I read it.

Though the cast is still large, it doesn’t grow any bigger and I get the feeling that all the major characters are now onstage. In a story as twisty as this one, it’s comforting to have that feeling of consistency. It’s also nice that Anna is back to wicked form after sitting out most of the second volume. Yuri and Mitsuba split off from her in that book in order to infiltrate the terrorist organization they’re all trying to bring down, so we don’t get any more scenes of her manipulating them.

But in watching her with her friend Moe and the mysterious priest, we get to see her manipulate grown-ups instead, which is almost as good. It’s more fun when she messes with Yuri and Mitsuba because there’s also an element of romantic tension. The stakes are raised for the two boys in a way that they aren’t for the men, but Anna takes a different approach with Moe and the priest that’s also entertaining. With them, she’s just plain nuts. As Anna, Moe, and the priest make their own plans to attack the terrorist group, Anna’s obsessive determination drives the effort in a way that’s unsettling to the other two. Though the men don’t like it and would love to change it, it’s very clear who’s in charge.

What really surprised me about Volume Three though was Yuri and Mitsuba’s story once they arrive at the terrorist headquarters. As sons of fallen members, the two boys are warmly welcomed by the group and called “brothers.” As they meet the others, Yuri and Mitsuba are struck by how normal they seem. There are families with young children –toddlers even – and one young man asks them if they know what happened to his younger brother who went on a mission looking for Yuri and Mitsuba. The two boys recognize the missing fellow’s picture as someone Anna killed in an earlier fight.

Having read mostly kids’ manga before Anne Freaks, I expected this twist to be just as lamely simple and illogical as the others. “Oh, look. The terrorists are human after all. Yuri and Mitsuba have been on the wrong side all along. Anna’s just a bad guy. Yawn.” But it’s not that way.

As Yuri and Mitsuba spend more time with the terrorists, Kotegawa doesn’t let us forget the atrocities this group has committed. And are still planning to commit. Humanizing them isn’t an easy cheat to create a new twist in the story; it adds to the complexity of the drama and leaves the reader feeling as conflicted as the main characters. There are no white hats in this story, just ones that are a slightly lighter tint of gray. Fortunately for me, I’m still convinced that the best character in the book – Anna – is wearing one of those.

Kotegawa does something else different at the end of this volume. He ends on an agonizing cliffhanger. I’m fully back on board for the next one.

Five out of five booty-kicking Red Riding Hoods.

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