After spending almost ten years following the adventures of Rakan and Chigusa in Silver Diamond, I was lost when it came to an end. I followed the manga from the beginning and it was hard imagining the hobby without it. And then I saw the first images of Sugiura Shiho’s new manga, Shuuten Unknown (Last Stop Unknown). I learned to let go and embrace the excitement of seeing your favorite mangaka present a brand new setting and characters. We’re in for another fantastic ride.
The story starts with a treasure buried deep in the mountains. Two rival groups show up to claim the treasure, ready to kill any in their way. However, only a single member from each side survives the treacherous landslides to claim the prize. When they make a grab for it…
The treasure cleanly snaps in two, leaving a piece in each man’s hand. Rumored to be worthless unless you have the whole thing, this is a problem. Each man is desperate to return the treasure to their respective group, so they try to kill each other. Their struggles cause an avalanche and as they plummet to an impending death, the treasures react and encase them in a protective cocoon. They float safely to the ground, but something is wrong.
They soon realize they can’t take off the gauntlets, making it difficult to take the other half from their rival.
They can’t hurt each other–the treasure blocks any incoming attacks. They can’t even go very far from the other. The gauntlets pull them back together. So the two men are stuck together, despite the fact they don’t get along at all, don’t trust each other, and are both searching for a way to trick or kill the other.
Between these two guys, Sugiura Shiho shows off her ability to make sympathetic characters. The blonde man needs the treasure to barter for his freedom. The collar on his neck signifies that he’s property of his boss, who regularly buys abandoned children and uses them as disposable pawns. He doesn’t want to live with the indignity of being a slave and wants to rid himself of the collar at any cost. Of the two rivals, he’s the calculating, cynical one. He’s calm and clinical with his thoughts and actions, trusting no one. He’s sharp and a smooth talker, quick to manipulate a situation to his favor.
The other man is about the same age and also a pawn of a large group. However, he’s grateful to his boss because the boss tolerated his existence when no one else in the world noticed him. So he wants to bring back the treasure to prove his worth. Both men are essentially treated as property, but have very different views about their situation. This man is loyal to an undeserving boss. He’s also more emotional and volatile. His actions are more spontaneous and reckless, making him unpredictable. His black hair stands out and signifies he’s from the eastern lands like the rest of his group.
After nearly being killed from survivors of both factions, the men learn that they were never meant to return alive and now have nowhere to go. They are alone with no money, supplies, or food. So they fall back to what they understand best–thievery and trickery.
The blonde still needs the gauntlets for his freedom, so they plan to sell them and then he’ll sneak back later and steal them back. However, the plan is halted when they learn there’s no easy way to remove the gauntlets. The treasure was originally a type of form-fitting accessory for the rich, but the techniques to make (and remove) them are mostly forgotten. The item’s tendency to tighten and cut off arm circulation made most abandon it, but there might be some knowledgeable craftsman left many, many towns away. It looks like the boys are going to have to get comfortable with each other as they have a long distance to travel together.
Their initial character development is similar to Chigusa in the beginning of Silver Diamond. They don’t know how to trust others, they are solitary in nature, and they are troubled and have no sense of self-worth. However, their interactions with each other and other people start to erode at this harshness and nurture a more empathetic, human side. At least when they’re not fighting.. actually, the bickering seems to help a lot! At the end of the fourth chapter, they finally learn each others’ names, closing that gap just a bit more.
By the end of the first volume, it’s apparent we’re in for another engaging adventure from Sugiura Shiho. She’s always been talented at world-building and lore, so I’m curious to see what’s ahead. The art (and the men) are beautiful, with little recognizable bits and pieces from her past characters. We can already see the characters develop as they struggle being on their own, away from their bosses. It looks like they’re starting to realize they might not be alone in their predicament. A common theme in her manga is characters bringing out the best in each other and this manga will certainly follow that tradition. They’re a little more feisty than Rakan and Chigusa and like to butt heads, so it should be a fun ride. Even though we had to say goodbye to Silver Diamond, the future looks promising with Shuuten Unknown!