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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Anne Freaks, Volume 4

by  in Comic News Comment
Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Anne Freaks, Volume 4

Anne Freaks, Volume 4
Written and Illustrated by Yua Kotegawa
ADV Manga; $9.99

I’ve told the story before about how I was once madly in love with this girl and how I dodged a bullet by not ending up with her. She had all kinds of issues that I wasn’t prepared to deal with, but I romantically and naïvely thought that I could be the one to fix everything and make both of us happy. It was a powerful fantasy and – in hindsight – explains a great deal of my attraction to her.

That wasn’t the only time that’s happened either. The need to fix is strong. Off and on throughout my pre-married life I found myself attracted to some really needy women. I wanted to be the Knight in Shining Armor that rode in and fixed everything. Of course I never could, but man, the idea was addictive.

Ever since I’ve figured that out, I’ve never criticized women who always fall for Bad Boys. Most people want to be the hero and fix someone. At its root, it’s a symptom of poor self-esteem (we get to ignore our own problems in order to work on someone else’s, plus there’s always the remote possibility of an esteem-building success), but it would be awfully hypocritical to point fingers at women who do it when I’ve been guilty so often myself. This is also why I totally get Yuri in Anne Freaks.

The deal with Yuri (and the rest of us) after the break.

In volume 1 of the series, the beautiful, but manipulative Anna recruits Yuri into her quest to take down the terrorist organization that destroyed both of their families. She also pulls in Mitsuba, but the focus is clearly on Yuri. He’s a sweet kid (matricide notwithstanding) who’s in love with Anna and his attraction to her is a huge part of what makes the series so compelling. Will Yuri and Anna get together? Do we want them to? What kind of couple would they make?

In volume 2, the focus leaves Yuri and Anna for a while to introduce some crucial, new characters, but the couple is always there. Anna seems to retreat into herself for a while though and we get our first hint that she’s not as together as we – and Yuri – thought. At this point though, Yuri’s still trying to get his mind around what’s going on, including his relationship with Anna. He’s in no position to help anyone.

Volume 3 starts putting everything together and the story hits its climax. The kids – with help from a couple of like-minded adults – infiltrate and destroy the terrorist organization. But like I said when I covered that volume, it ends with an excruciating cliffhanger. The terrorists have been hurt, but it’s not clear to what extent and it looks like not all of the main characters are going to walk away from the fight.

I have to tread carefully to avoid spoiling the end of this final volume in the series, but at one point a character who’s close to Anna tells Yuri, “So now it’s you.” It becomes clear later what this character means. The torch is being passed. Anna is Yuri’s responsibility now. If she’s going to be fixed, or even controlled, Yuri’s going to have to be the one to do it. The story of volume 4 is whether or not he’s going to accept the job.

He’s clearly in love with Anna, but over the course of the series she’s gone from being a charming Bad Girl to being a violent monster. We see just how much that’s true in this volume. Yuri’s decision should be an easy one. He ought to run for his life and leave Anna to the police. But it’s never that easy, is it? Not when you’re in love. And it’s to Yua Kotegawa’s great credit that Yuri’s dilemma is so real.

I haven’t talked much about how Kotegawa structures her story in this series of reviews, but I’ve grown really fond of it. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger of some kind – usually emotional in nature – and the next one begins with a couple of teaser pages to set up the drama with another little cliffhanger, then there’s a title page and the story gets moving again.

Kotegawa’s pacing is exquisite. Exposition is rare, but when it’s necessary, she gets in and out quickly, returning you to the action before you even realized you’ve left it. Most of the time you’re tearing through pages, eager to see what’s going to happen next, and Kotegawa makes that easy with large panels that encourage you to keep moving while also making the whole story feel big and cinematic. Dramatic moments are almost always splash pages that give you a second to drink them in before continuing. And because she does this so perfectly, you fall into her rhythm. You trust her to carry you along. And that’s when she gets you.

Her art is very emotional. It’s manipulative even, like Anna. When she wants you to feel frenzied and chaotic, she throws a ton of detail-obscuring speed lines at you so that you don’t know what’s what. Then she’ll slow down enough for you to catch your breath and see what’s going on before delivering the right character moment to make you feel how she wants you to. Though the situations in the story are extraordinary, the characters all act and talk so naturally that you can’t help but feel what they do: nervous, sad, afraid, thrilled, disturbed, and yes, protective.

You don’t know what Yuri’s going to do because you don’t know what you’d do yourself in his position. You’ve got no idea because – like Yuri – you’re in love with Anna too. Disturbed, monstrous, beautiful, funny Anna. And you know that no matter what Yuri chooses to do – whether he stays with her or walks away – it’s going to be heartbreaking.

Five out of five insane beauties.

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