Fort of Apocalypse
アポカリプスの砦 (Apocalypse no Toride)
KURAISHI Yuu (story), INABE Kazu (art)
Shounen – Horror, mystery, supernatural
5 Volumes of 10 Volumes (complete)
Shouran Academy. It’s not the name of a school; it’s a juvenile detention center where the worst delinquents in the region wind up. Maeda is the facility’s newest resident, convicted of murder despite his pleas to the contrary. However, he is forced to start his life anew with his three cellmates, all serving multiple-year sentences. But despite how scary Maeda finds Shouran, it may soon be safer inside its walls than outside…
Horror, survival, and death games may not be my favorite genres or topics, but I’ve read a number of them. In some cases, the situations are so dire for the heroes that you have to just shake your head at how they’ve managed to avoid dying again and again despite the odds and perfect opportunities for them to fall.
Fort of Apocalypse has got to be in the top three in this aspect, as it’s essentially four (or three, if you count Maeda’s innocence) criminals against all of Japan.
(Note that all characters will be referred to by their family names.)
Maeda has just been sent to juvie and may spend the rest of his life behind bars. He insists he stumbled upon a murder scene and may have seen the perpetrator, but no one believes him. Either way, he’s stuck in Cell Four with three others: Yoshioka, the cell rep who has an edge, the quiet Iwakura, and Yamanoi, known as Neumann because of his brains. For the rather timid and emotional Maeda, it’s a scary situation, especially when Cell Four is arguing with each other and other inmates. As part of their punishment for misbehaving, Maeda and some others are ordered to help push a truck that crashed. But Maeda and all these self-proclaimed tough guys are stunned into silence when they turn around and see the guy who was in the truck eating one of the security guards.
Zombie apocalypse, start-o!
At the end of each chapter, the manga keeps a counter of how many of the facility’s 144 guards and inmates are left alive. Despite that, the guys are hardly anxious or willing to work together. The members of Cell Four are just about the only ones looking out for each other. Almost everyone else is either too greedy, selfish, or drunk on power to put aside any grudges for mutual survival. That may not be too unexpected considering Shouran is home to a lot of seedy or awful individuals. But you’d think out of the (pre-death count) 140 other people at Shouran, at least a couple would be willing or able to assist Maeda and the others. Maybe not so much when they first burst in with the news, but definitely by the time they came back with an arsenal.
Yes, came back. The four end up being sent to a nearby military facility to try to round up some weapons to blast the zombies to kingdom come. As they travel the 80 km to the base, they realize that there is little sign of life. The survivors at Shouran may very well be the only people left in Japan — nay, the world. So it’s pretty amazing that these four manage to drive that distance, make a couple of stops along the way, get weapons, and return while nearly mindless cannibals try to attack them.
And that’s not all — one of the manga’s biggest mysteries is that the hordes occasionally merge together to create a giant swarm led by a strange humanoid. Neumann hypothesizes that humans are going extinct, that this is some kind of fast evolution involving a virus, and the strange creature at the top may be the cause. Since the situation has just started and the guys are in exile, they don’t have options to just call in a report or have medicine to reverse the effects if bitten. They don’t even have a large stockpile of food, and the threat of this zombie tide makes this dangerous situation even more so.
Which goes back to the whole against-all-odds thing. Even with the assistance of the other survivors of the prison, this is one of the biggest survival longshots ever. It makes it really hard to believe that such a small squad (which includes someone the other three have only met that day) can pull of a victory. (Well, whatever kind of victory you can claim when practically everyone you know just wants to rip you apart and eat your flesh.) Yoshioka and Iwakura are the main muscle, Neumann the brains (obviously), and Maeda’s the heart of the team. Still, everyone has to pull their weight and then some in order to survive; zombies are very hard to kill and can be tenacious. The backstories of the other three are explored even if their crime and sentence isn’t covered in much detail, but it’s not super important since they’re committed to the fight. You may not like them or all their decisions, but you still want to see if they can go the distance. The group does gain a couple of allies, but still, their odds of finding a unicorn should be higher than their odds of living. Neumann acknowledges this, and Yoshioka notes the irony of the place he wanted to escape from being perhaps the safest place to be. All four leads will probably have their own fanbases though.
However, when I left off, it’s a different kind of crisis kicking into high gear. Suffice to say, someone is horribly injured, and there’s another pressing issue at hand. I am curious as to how Cell Four can protect Shouran when they’re at their lowest point since the start. The mystery involving the cause of the outbreak is getting closer to be solved by the readers and maybe the characters, and there are still a couple of ways that things can tie together.
As a zombie manga, obviously the art is meant to be grotesque. Mission accomplished. The zombies will be seen ripping people apart and eating body parts. Not to mention bugs and missing body parts — disgusting, like it’s meant to be. Maeda and the others will use guns and any other weapons they have on hand to take the monsters out. Like in most zombie media, the zombies are mostly slack-jawed humans with a tint, but the huge zombie horde — particularly what’s at the top — adds some uniqueness. Because of the location and situation, of course the story is dominated by male characters. A lot of the other inmates are big and bulky, but Cell Four are on the lean side. (Although Iwakura has well-defined muscles.) There are a few heartbreaking moments in the story, and the author does a good job of choosing when to show characters’ faces and to not show them. Fight scenes are easy to follow, but they’re often abridged because of the number of enemies. Overall, Fort of Apocalypse‘s visuals are just what you want to see in a horror manga. Also, the covers are really cool: solid colors with a main character on one side in full detail and something scary in more of an outline.
Honorifics are used. Some punching up of the dialogue is noticeable, like changing (in Japanese) “Thank you, Daddy!” to “I love you, Daddy!” The manga used the r word several times throughout the manga. Some may argue that this adds to the authenticity of the dialogue, but it is viewed as a slur nowadays.
Fort of Apocalypse is probably one of the least believable survival stories out there, but the mystery and the nightmare fuel are going to grab horror fans’ interest.
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I hadn’t realized that this got an official English license. Nice. It’s come up on a couple different gore/horror manga icebergs and I’m a sucker for whatever reason of incarcerated teens doing stuff.
That’s a bit of an odd… choice with using the r word. Living in Japan as long as I have, it’s not a common insult even among the most vulgar. I’d have to pick up a copy in Japanese to be sure though. That sounds much more like a translator choice for more impact then what was originally written…
Yeah, I imagine it was the translator’s choice, but it’s definitely one that was uncomfortable to see. Yes, I’m sure in prison and under extraordinary circumstances, not everyone is going to be politically correct, but there are other terms they surely have chosen.
But I imagine if you like this genre, this is a series for you, even if the protagonists are some of the luckiest I’ve ever seen!
I totally agree with you there.
I mean, lucky does play into survival no matter minuscule it may be!
Definitely sounds really intense. I’m not typically much of a survival guy myself. To me I always tend to enjoy the beginning and the setup around the middle but they never seem to stick the landing. I guess I’m always more interested in how you start to survive and run around but not as much about when they find the cure and spray everyone with it or die in the end.
Usually it all just starts to lose its steam by the midway part. This one doesn’t seem to be super long so maybe it can avoid that. Shame on the humans for not being able to work together even when on the brink of extinction!
It is hard to write a good survival story, and I definitely agree the cure part of a zombie apocalypse or whatever is sometimes even more of a stretch in luck than just surviving. There’s luck, and then there’s LUCK.