Manga Chapter of the Week: Steel Ball Run Chapter 46 (Promised Land: Sugar Mountain 2)

This weekend, I sunk my teeth into the seventh installment of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure series, cheating a little bit as far as part order order goes.* It ended up being a very worthwhile decision, as I found the series contained bite after juicy bite of ridiculous (but not incomprehensible) content. It’s got everything from non-superpowered horse racing to dinosaur fights to spy-novel style infiltration scenes. It didn’t take me long to plow through the whole story, which integrates both a continental horserace and an epic bodyhunt. SBR is far from a perfect series,** but it’s got mad merits on writing and the way it uses full-page spreads to lay out a scene.

My favorite chapter of the series deals with a comically complex Stand/superpower that’s got abilities halfway between the Golden Axe fable and Leprechaun Gold. It works in the following way: the stand’s owner, Sugar Mountain, offers to return something that a person dropped, but offers both the thing dropped and a ridiculously more valuable version of the same (say you drop an Oreo cookie, she’ll offer you that or a two-pound cheesecake). If one answers honestly as to which they dropped, they get the works. They then have to use up both of those items in fair trades (i.e. they can’t just give them away for free) by sunset the day they receive them. If they fail to do both of those things, they turn into trees like so:

SBR-46-1

Yeah, it’s a little weird

So that’s the general setup, introduced in the chapter prior to this one. Also in the prior chapter, protagonists Gyro and Johnny managed to finagle a couple of necessary body parts off of Sugar Mountain by correctly negotiating the Golden Axe rule of her stand. Beyond the body parts, they’ve acquired a diamond, gold ore, a fancy watch, and $50,000 in cold hard cash. This chapter follows them trying to avoid becoming petrified wood by burning through their Leprechaun Gold via fair trade. All while being chased by a bunch of government assassins. If you think that sounds like the basis of a hilarious heist comedy’s third act, well, you’d be more or less on the money.

Gyro and Johnny explore a variety of routes as they attempt to give away their money. First, they try and buy land from a country farmer, who thinks it’s all fake and immediately threatens to shoot them. Later, when they reach a town, they go all-out and order the best meal at the best restaurant in town, but only manage to spend about $500 there. Eventually, the two do find success selling use up the gold and money buying a building, which nets them even more cash when they receive rent money and the change for the gold and diamonds. At this point, the sun’s starting to set and the assassins are closing in, so the two are getting desperate. In the face of impending doom, Gyro hatches a glorious last-ditch plan: gamble it all away in one shot.

SBR-46-2

Of course, then the casino attempts to cheat them out of their money by rigging the roulette wheel, and they barely manage to save their skins by doing a little cheating of their own. Just in time, mind, for the assassins to come in and start shooting the place up. After some incidental combat action that pushes the heroes to the brink of death from both dangers assailing them, Gyro pulls another slick plan out of his ass and solves both problems at once by hiring the denizens of the casino as bodyguards for roughly six million dollars apiece.

That’s the rough sketch of events, but this chapter is the peak of zany in Steel Ball Run, a series with an already high zany level, and absolutely has to be seen to be believed. I’m personally a fan of heist comedy plots, so this particularly well-executed one was a strike right up my alley.

*I’ve finished parts 1 and 2 years ago, but part 3, Stardust Crusaders is a bit of a slog. Resident JJBA expert Sam advised me to just skip the works and go for part 7.

**If you do end up reading the series, prepare to see the phrase “Golden Rectangles” repeated over and over again and used in place of actual logic ala Hunter x Hunter’s Nen or The Law of Ueki’s A-to-B system.

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