It’s pretty rare for a manga volume to focus on a side character and be this good; I actually didn’t miss Company 8, Shinra, etc. all that much. Then again, the backstory and fight focus on Benimaru is interesting enough but also kind of predictable way to get to know a little more about one of my favorite characters in the series. There’s actually just a little character growth shown, although again, not much of it all that surprising. The one thing I’d like to have seen is Benimaru using the smarts he supposedly has; he acts like a punk (which he calls himself) and says all he does is fight (kind of true) but he’s clearly got observation skills and a lot of knowledge, so why can’t we see that or why won’t anyone besides Konro say it?
Basically this whole volume is Benimaru facing off against the Infernal (demonic doppelganger) version of his former teacher/mentor/father figure, the former chief of Asakusa; for once, the fight isn’t just one major power up after another, there’s some actual engagement between the two fighters besides the typical yelling, and the commentary on the ground mostly courtesy of Konro is more than just repeating what’s just happened. There’s also a pretty interesting “don’t jinx us!’ comment about the potential of who the worst doppelganger to show up could possibly be, with a maybe suggestive visual; granted, could be total red herring, but the idea is intriguing.
The action does shift towards the end, this time to Sho, another side character who looks like he’s being set up for some self-discovery about his (and his brother Shinra’s, the MC) mysterious past, including who their dad may have been (or not been). The possible move back to the original mystery of what happened with the fire that destroyed their home and separated the family is linked with the reveal about what the who Great Cataclysm thing is designed to do; it starts with the sudden realization by several characters that the Moon suddenly looks ridiculous (“[that fight] changed the art style of the moon”); it does, now having a leering grin face at crescent phase. This image also directly connects this series to the author’s first big manga hit, which he said in some interview was sort of a sequel to this one, or I guess this one is the prequel. How far that goes is another thread to sort of follow, but I hope it’s not too much the focus. We’ll have to see. At least he fourth wall breach is done well, although besides Hibana’s line about the art, if I hadn’t seen the interview excerpt I have to wonder if it would have as interesting a moment.