13 Days of Halloween with The Owl in the Rafters: Day 14

Posted on Nov 01 2011

Haha! Thought you had gotten rid of me did you? Well, I’m not done yet! Since I normally update on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, I’ve technically got a review scheduled for tomorrow, but I’m pushing it forward a day and tacking on just one more title to my 13 Day countdown as a special All Saint’s Day send off! Today I want to present you with a dated horror title that’s more outrageous sci-fi comedy than horror at all. Fourteen is just one of many horror manga by the famous horror author, Umezu Kazuo. Kazuo is the now 75 year old manga artist and author, musician, television and feature film producer, and even the designer of a haunted house and his own private home. As a manga artist however, he is best known outside of Japan for his 1972-1974 serial horror, The Drifting Classroom.

Like many other Japanese horror manga artists, Kazuo draws very heavily on the bizarre and surreal with a typically dated approach to sci-fi (That is to say that his “scientific” explanations in many stories make no sense) and is somewhat notorious for his emphasis on facial close ups on characters’ reactions. Of his various horror titles, The Drifting Classroom, Nekome Kozou (aka “Cat Eyed Boy“), Hebishoujo (lit.”Snakegirl” but published in NA as Reptilia), Orochi (aka Orochi: Blood), and the collection of short stories title Scary Books have all been translated and published in English by Viz Media, Dark Horse Comics, and IDW Publishing.

Fourteen Sai (Lit. “Fourteen Years“), aka just “Fourteen“, is not one of those titles licensed in North America and probably for the better, really. If Fourteen ever were to be published in English, I have absolutely no idea how a company would go about marketing it to its audience. It’s too dated to make for a successful horror, too serious to really be considered a comedy, too outrageous to be a drama, and too convoluted to hold a child’s attention. Really I feel like this is less a horror and more an adult’s absurdist comedy, if that paints any sort of a picture for you. If it doesn’t then don’t worry because this is one of those rare occasion where I don’t mind spoiling a few things. So, unless you’re particularly dead set on going into this title blind, read on for my attempt at a “brief” overview of the major events of Umezu Kazuo’s Fourteen Years.

The story takes place in the distant future of Earth, where mankind has hidden itself away underground and now lives in massive futuristic cities sprawling the underground. In these underground cities the story begins focused on a girl and her friend as they seek out the consultation of a shady fortune teller. The girl in question is just fourteen years old but revealed to be pregnant and when the fortune teller conjures forth a mysterious face of smoke that tells the girl that her yet to be born baby will die in fourteen years the girl doesn’t know what to think. (If you think this sounds a little bland don’t worry, because the girl doesn’t actually show up again for another 80 chapters.)

After this only mildly odd occurrence with the young girl we have our sights shifted to the processing plant of Bio-Chicken, where the world’s supply of genetically cloned chicken breast is grown. In one of the vats of developing chicken breasts the overseeing researcher finds an eye ball. Yes, from the cultivated chicken breast somehow an eye had developed. Fascinated and horrified by how this problem could have arisen the scientist hides his finding in the hopes of discovering the truth behind the bizarre mishap himself before his superiors can learn of it. The mutated chicken breast soon develops signs of a small heart and at an alarming rate begins to grow into a full grown human man, but with the head of a chicken! The bizarre chicken man develops higher brain functions, learns to operate a computer, rifles through the scientist’s collection of academic programs, teaching himself a wide range and staggering depth of scientific knowledge, and then upon being discovered he assaults and seemingly kills his guardian before fleeing into the night.

As Chicken George pursues his scientific study, he becomes a lecturing professor at Cambridge University, constructs a chicken-man-made island of trash to conceal his miraculous secret laboratory. He attempts to destroy mankind via a sophisticated biological germ weapon, but comes to the horrifying revelation that mankind’s annihilation would only bring about the downfall of all animal kind as well. His predictions for the future of mankind and animal kind alike lead him further into the deep mysteries of the universe and he resolves to try and build a rocket ship capable of taking all the animal kingdom into space where they can lay in wait for both themselves and mankind to reach a state of negotiability. To this end he discovers the secret to immortality, which he uses to bargain with Madam Rose, Grand Master of World Economy and ageless bloodsucking baby eater, for the money needed to fund his rocket’s research and construction. (Spoiler: The secret to immortality is cancer. I really wish I was joking when I say that.) Also, green babies happen.

In the midst of all this the vice-president of the United States conspires against both Dr. Chicken George and the world and uses a farcical romance to lure Dr. Chicken George away from his research and ultimately to try and destroy his knowledge while the Grand Master of World Economy attempts to monopolize Dr. Chicken George’s research. The spy then falls in love with Chicken George and turns against her government employers, and Chicken George wipes his memory to protect his research. Then a giant, burning, space crucifix full of hostile aliens show up, they rape several hundreds of thousands (more likely millions) of people to death, conclude that their plan to avoid their own extinction via raping mankind isn’t quite working out, and then leave just as swiftly as they came. As they leave they suck the planet dry of its life energy, causing earthquakes and volcanos to blast mankind’s waste back at them as nuclear waste rains from the sky. (Nope, still not making things up.)

Finally faced with the end of the world and humanity as they know it, the world’s leaders, with the President of America at the head, intend to launch the chosen elite children of the new generation of astronaut ninja babies into space. The public finds out that the world government intends to save only a select few and so armed civilians march on Capitol Hill mere minutes before the escape rocket’s launch. The launch succeeds but America Young, son of the president of the Unite States of America is left behind. In a final desperate attempt to find an alternative way to send his son into space, the American President puts his son into the mechanical tyrannosaurus rex that Dr. Chicken George originally built to take all the Earth’s animals into space with, along with a host of other children from other countries left behind during the riots against the world wide escape rocket launch. The mechanical tyrannosaurus then launches into space full of ninja astronaut 3 year olds and a few of the President’s bodyguards. They fight space pirates lead by the surviving 3 year old clone of the former Grand Master of World Economy at one point and America, the green-haired, ninja, astronaut son of the former President of America is is forced to use his psychic powers to save the tyrannosaurus spaceship and subsequently the future of the human race.

This summary only brings us to the start of the final chapter so far, but other than to avoid spoiling the ending, I really don’t think I need to say anything more to make it clear that this manga is an outrageous and hilariously nonsensical roller-coaster of twists and absolute nonsense, so I’ll leave things as they are. The whole story spans over the course of the titular fourteen years as mankind combats the threat of extinction. The story is broken into a total of 8 major “story arcs” over the course of 13 collected volumes, although the story arcs do sort of blend together starting with the 4th arc. The major arcs are as follows: 1) Chicken George, 2) The Green-Haired Boy, 3) The Blood of Immortality, 4) The Earth in Peril, 5) Choosing Children, 6) Apocalypse Verse I – The Great Coming of the UFOs (No, there is no “Verse II”.), 7) The Great Escape, and 8) The Final Day of the Human Race. At this point I could easily have just spent this entire review feeding you a crock of lies, but you’ll just have to read Fourteen yourself if you ever want to know the truth. So, with this final bizarre closing piece I hope I’ve managed to give you all something new to look into this Halloween season.

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