With Volume 9, we continue with (but do not complete) the large scale invasion arc. Big players (on both sides) are taken down and everything hinges on Mikumo’s ability to save Chika from the Aftokrator warriors. This is a volume with a LOT of action as the Border Squads fight various enemies and try to discover their weaknesses. Of course, behind it all Jin is pulling the strings and smartly setting ‘incompatible’ opponents to confound, stall, or defeat each of the invading Neighbor humanoids and trion soldiers.
Story: Enedora has figured out the secret of the training room and is now free. Shinoda has activated his own trigger and come down to help Suwa contain the highly powerful neighbor black trigger. Jin, meanwhile, is keeping Hyuse busy and several Border agents are confounded by Hyrein’s highly powerful egg crown. But in the background, remaining mobile, is perhaps the most dangerous of all the humanoid neighbors – “Warp Lady” Mira. Worse, she has her sights set on Osamu and “Golden Baby Bird” Chika-cube. With seconds until the crossroads of the future that will determine the best and worst outcomes of the invasion, can Mikumo save Chika against such powerful foes? And what will be the cost at the end?
Several key Squad dynamics are really brought to fore in this volume: Border Squads’ ability to strategize and uncover weaknesses in the enemy (especially Kazama). Teamwork and utilizing the strengths of individual members outside of teams (Izumi teaming up with snipers) as well as within (Suwa squad making great use of the similators to stall Enedora. And Border’s asset of being flexible and learning from the neighbors and then using that knowledge for effective counter measures becomes highly important at this point. This is much more than a simple battle and Ashihara orchestrates the scenes beautifully. Of special note, we get to see the snipers play a bigger role in the action finally.
Suwa and Kazama squads really shine in this volume but the best has to be the entrance of Miwa; striding slowly in like Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western, armed with all the knowledge that the Border Squads have gleaned about the enemy. Thanks to Jin’s meddling, each of the Neighbor humanoids are paired with someone who can not only hold up to them, but in several instances in this chapter, even defeat them. It may be one-on-one, a whole squad, or several squads working in tandem. But the end result is several great battles.
Although all the Border action is great, Miwa gets to steal the show here, hence his first cover of the series. Of note, this volume also contains a fan voted favorite scene: Miwa and Yuuma yelling at Replica to show them Hyrein’s location just as he is about to capture Chika-cube. Bring on volume 10! Also included are extras: Q&A, character profiles, promo images in black and white. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.