The series takes place in a world where humans cannot die except by old age. Well, that's not accurate - they die all the time, but immediately revive, completely whole and healthy, regardless of the state they were in before death. People are so comfortable with death, even their own, that it is seen as a solution for a wide variety of different things. There isn't even a medical industry to speak of as, whether someone has broken an arm, ruptured a kidney or just has the sniffles, they simply kill themselves (or have a friend, loved one or even co-worker in the case of workplace accidents do it). They only die permanently of old age.
Except recently, people have started dying.
There's a new disease, RDS--Revival Deficiency Syndrome--that prevents people from reviving. Most don't even know they have it until they innocently try to kill themselves (a sentence I never imagined I'd be writing). And while the cause of the disease is unknown, even exactly how it is transmitted is unclear, it's understood immediately that people are being infected intentionally, by those the government has dubbed "Vectors", who marked by the fact that they, too, cannot revive and, without exception, have false identities.
The government and the police track these Vectors down, killing them, often before they can be interrogated, simply because of the level of violence Vectors are frequently willing to inflict in order to make their escape. After all, they can't permanently hurt their pursuers so there's no reason to hold back.
And Rin, the girl on the cover above, absolutely doesn't hold back. She's an Escape Artist, you see, and her job is to protect Vectors - many of whom are simply trying to live their lives. And she's perfectly willing to maim and delay as many cops and soldiers as need be to help her charges escape their clutches.
There's a lot of questions in this series.
The material ones: who are the Vectors? Where do they come from? Why are they infecting people with RDS? The answers are unknown, although Yasohachi sprinkles clues throughout the early chapters that lead me, at least, to come to some of my own conclusions. By the end of the first volume, one of those conclusions was more or less confirmed for me.
There are also a lot of interesting moral questions.
What is the value of life when death is so commonplace? How can people who cannot die reconcile their own nature--which a scientist who studies the Revival phenomenon freely admits is completely at odds with every aspect of scientific law; in fact, he says that the Vectors, scientifically speaking, are far more natural and normal than "regular" humans--with the world around them that don't seem to be part of?
Those questions don't have easy answers, but I hope Yasohachi takes the time to explore them a deeply as he's able.
I almost skipped this book, as I said. Though the concept was interesting to me, I saw an early review describe the book as "pure splatter gun", which I took from the context to be mindless violence and gore (and the cover image above seems to support that). And while it is gory, it's all entirely within the confines of the premise and actually isn't gratuitous once you grasp the concept. The police, soldiers, etc cannot die for more than a moment and are perfectly willing to put themselves into any kind of danger you can think of to achieve their goals - sure, it hurts, policeman Wakabayashi says, but only for a second. Rin's only option for fighting them, which she does often, is to disable them and she's quite skilled at shooting off arms, legs, even just hands or feet, while leaving the person alive but unable to kill themselves. And yes, those scenes get very gory, but it doesn't bother anyone in the story aside from the frustration it causes them.
Because, as I believe Yasohachi is trying to convey, death is quite possibly one of the most important aspects of life. As a species it has historically given us reason to do our best, to keep trying, to work smarter instead of harder, to find the most efficient, least dangerous way to accomplish our goals. In a world where death is meaningless, people are fearless, but they're also lazy. They use brute force, regardless of the damage to themselves, because there are no consequences.
And they seemingly do not value life. Sure, they value people... victims of RDS-related deaths are mourned, but it seems to me that their deaths are more upsetting because it means it might happen to you, rather than being upsetting because someone is gone. The possible exception to this is Inspector Kenzaki, the head of an anti-Vector police task force, who serves as the nominal series lead, whose sister was a victim of RDS. Even so, I can't quite get a handle on whether or not his sister's death is his real reason for wanting to take down vectors or simply an excuse. He hates the vectors as unnatural, claims they are diseased vermin little more than animals. "The difference between man and beast is Revival" he tells a Vector he's about to kill. It seems more like fear-fueld rage drives him than anything else.
If you can't tell, I enjoyed this book a lot. It's a great mixture of police/cat and mouse drama, light science fiction and action that brings up some fairly heavy moral quandaries. The art is great, the story moves quickly without feeling rushed, and there are plenty of mysteries set up in the first volume to keep me eagerly awaiting the next.