Now that I’ve finished working on my translation of the first chapter, it was suggested that I write a review of it as well. So, here we go! (The following notes and speculation might be a little disjointed.)
** Please beware of spoilers! If you haven’t read the manga or played through the and Nier series, please read with caution! **
The opening fray reminds me a lot of the YoRHa opening sequence in which the YoRHa squad is under attack—the main 4 girls desperately trying to contact HQ. The thing is, they are able to communicate with the General, but the feeling of such tangible and eminent danger is the same. Also, the YoRHa girls only enter the fray due to their mission. They are commanded to enter into a battle that they normally wouldn’t want any part in…but then again, that’s the entirety of their purpose since they are ANDROIDS. Still, I think that alone is a perfect analogy for the STUDENTS that are forced to fight a battle they really know nothing about. They, like the YoRHa girls, have no free will to choose whether to fight or not. They must fight or die. And if the mission is successful, then they will be able to go home…maybe.
Now, I must say, that the moment the names of the first years were announced… I couldn’t help but wonder what the significance could be. The boy’s name is KUROI and the girl’s name is MASHIRO. KURO. SHIRO. Hmm… A little allusion to, perhaps? And…that could entirely fit into the overall DOD/Nier timeline, too. Perhaps this could be the prequel story to Weiss and “his” brethren books.
Usuki quickly became my favorite character in this chapter—maybe because he is the standard “leader” type character that I love, which is why the ending shocked me so much. I knew the whole chapter was building his character up…making him likeable and such…so it should have been obvious that he was going to die. Very much like Yoko Taro. xD He certainly is the master of misdirection.
Mashiro appears to be the main protagonist of the story since most of the monologues are from her perspective. She is a very young and naive girl thrust into an impossible battle of life and death… but she’s already shown great potential, namely her somewhat of an Intoner Mode battle sequence in which she is overcome with the thought of protecting her friends while going ballistic on the enemy. Regarding Usuki, it seems as though she has a bit of a crush on him…which is really cute, and Kuroi knows all about it and wastes no time to tease her about it (maybe out of jealousy?). I think she has a great admiration for Botan, as well.
Kuroi’s character is all over the place. There are times he shows great intelligence, great naivety, and great sadism. Some of his lines are even redacted! What is he hiding!? How does he know the things he does? He knew about the land mine without having any sort of recon skills like Sumi… and he seemed to know that Usuki was being targeted at the end… I’m thinking that one of his abilities is to see Death. He can see when someone is about to die and therefore can choose to interfere or not. He saved Mashiro multiple times throughout the chapter, but he was unable to (or chose not to) save Usuki in the end. His line “What a waste” I think is a clear red flag. I think he gets some sick satisfaction in watching people die. But I don’t think it’s purely sadistic either, which is why he keeps asking Mashiro whether she wants to live or die. Those who end up dead have lost the will or ability to live and therefore the best end for them is death. Usuki was an idiot to go off on that “Yea! We’re awesome! We can do this!!” speech at that moment—and it got him killed. In Kuroi’s eyes, he deserved it. And boy was that death scene worth it.
We didn’t get to see much of Botan to really make much of a impression of her. She and Usuki are obviously a couple, she is probably not a virgin whereas Usuki is—It’s just another level of “innocence” or “purity” given to his character. Botan, on the other hand, will probably make a better leader than Usuki…which she will probably assume after Usuki’s death. She isn’t as soft or as understanding, as it was shown in the flashback scene during the Chairman’s speech at school. She seems much more realistic to the situation they’re in and a bit less emotional. Then again, she can’t bring herself to call Usuki by his rank of “captain”, which shows her emotional weakness when it comes to him. He is her boyfriend and she cannot see him as anything else. The scene between the two of them ending with Usuki patting her on the head and commenting that she means to call him “captain” is one of the many moments in which I got that “cute squee” moment. Their relationship is very endearing, which makes his loss all the more painful.
Sumi appears to be the straightforward, analytical type. Not much to say about him yet.
The Enemy Forces: It’s never said in the manga thus far, but they are probably the Legion. They appear to be human but they have become infected with the White Chlorination Syndrome (WCS) and have entered into a pact with the god (quite possibly the FLOWER) in order to remain “alive”. Should the reject this pact, they would most certainly die. They have the choice to either enter the pact or die. One or the other. Those who choose the pact become nothing more than mindless minions of destruction to carry out the god’s wish to annihilate all of humanity.
The supernatural abilities: These abilities are probably drug induced as per the DOD/NieR timeline’s reference to the drug “Luciferase” which was derived from particles of Maso that was first given to the military to suppress the effects of the WCS. It is later found to give supernatural abilities and is most effective with younger children. This starts Japan’s NPO push into impoverished areas of the globe in hopes to both combat the Legion and also recruit (and sometimes kidnap) young people to enter into the Luciferase drug trials.
Mashiro also comments that their powers were not meant to be militarized and that their strength still cannot match the destructive force of guns and other machinery. This shows how very out of place these poor kids. There’s almost no chance for survival for them…and the government knows this, which is why they keep sending Crusade after Crusade to combat the Legion.
Courses at the Special Abilities Private High School: There seems to be at least three different courses of training: the Short-Range Battle Course using katanas, the Long-Range Battle Course using telekinesis, and the Recon Course which students can learn to assess the landscape and view the positions of the enemy. Botan, Mashiro, and Kuroi are part of the Short-Range Battle Course, which means they are in the front ranks of the battle. Usuki’s speciality is telekinesis, so he is better suited some distance away from the enemy. Sumi is part of the Recon unit and is more than adequate as a strategist.
The mission: So it was the task of the Short-Range squad to draw in the enemy from the 8th floor of the abandoned building up within range of the Long-Range squad to attack. This is why all of the characters seem to be in the same location during the final moments of the chapter. Their mission to decimate the Legion (as far as they probably know, they are regular humans) but ends up in a massive loss. Who survives and where they go from there will be very interesting to see!
I believe Mashiro and everyone are part of the “5th Crusade” that is talked about in the DOD/NieR timeline. They were deployed to Brazil and were nearly completely decimated in the battle with the Legion. We know that Mashiro’s unit was deployed somewhere in South America, but it’s never stated exactly who their adversaries are in the manga.
There may be a direct connection to some of these kids and the 13 Grimoire tomes. I originally speculated that Kuroi and Mashiro might be related to Grimoire Noir and Grimoire Weiss, respectively, but after reading the short story “And Then There Were None”, I believe it’s safe to say that we have not met the BOY who became Weiss nor the GIRL who became Rubrum. Three other tomes that were referenced to in the novella were the Amber, Emerald, and Azure tomes.
The drugs the kids are taking are probably the Luciferase that’s talked about in the DOD/NieR timeline. It was made from particles of “Maso” that would slow the effects of the White Chlorination Syndrome and was very effective to give young children magic-like abilities. This was not a cure for the disease, however.
I’ve made more translations to the overall timeline if you’re interested, please have a look. It’s around 2011 that things get interesting in relation to the manga.
Well, that’s all for now! Chapter 2 is due out on January 25th!