5 out of 5
Tightly and brilliantly scripted, leaping back and forth from Sugimoto’s team – caught in an intense snowstorm – and Asirpa’s troupe (of guides / pseudo-jailers), trying to cross into Russia and learning more about Kiroranke’s past, and his ties to Asirpa’s father.
While I’ve elsewhere noted when Noda works in beat-by-beat formats instead of longer arcs, the balance of all the beats in this volume is perfect – it is (relatively) smaller scuffles and conversations, but they’re all handled with fairly even weight, and lean on momentum the whole while through. This is blended with further fantastic character moments (Ogata says Hinna!) and the little reveals that are actually major ones, which I think is a big strength of the strip – the casual way we come to know things instead of via obvious exposition dumps – as well as splashes of culture exploration and Shiraishi humor.
The denseness of the storytelling – visually and narratively – and how easily accessible and entertaining the book remains throughout, and how consistent Noda is with all that stuff… it’s mind-blowing.