From the back cover:
Tenma’s on the run! A wanted man, he’s the prime suspect for the serial killings he’s trying to stop. But he still manages to edge closer to the truth about Johan’s mysterious past, and everything seems to point to a now defunct institution of East Berlin—an infamous “experimental” orphanage called 511 Kinderheim!
The pace is pretty slow in this volume, making it seem less like Tenma’s on the run and more like he’s on the mosey. He travels about, forming temporary alliances with locals (both virtuous and not so) and performing medical procedures when necessary. In between, he meets with a government official with information about 511 Kinderheim, the government-run orphanage where Johan once resided, and obtains a sidekick.
I was a little disappointed in the reveal about 511 Kinderheim because, just like in Blank Slate and other stories before it, it turns out to be an experimental program to mold kids into perfect soldiers, cold-hearted and compassionless. The official, who gets progressively more creepy until he reveals an obsession with Johan, claims that the program isn’t responsible for Johan’s murderous ways, however, since he was a monster from the start. He does, at least, give Tenma a clue about where to go next, and I thought it was cool that Tenma ends up rescuing an abused boy from his clutches. I thought for sure something terrible would end up happening there.
The art is a mixed bag. Some images are gorgeous, the exteriors of homes particularly. Urasawa uses a wide variety of character designs, and I particularly like the way Tenma is drawn. However, some of the panel framing gets repetitive. There are many, many panels that focus on Tenma’s face against a white background as he reacts to something or other, for example. By contrast, Urasawa does exceptionally well with scenes where characters are in motion. I particularly love the scene where Tenma is trying to leave the abused boy (Dieter) at a bus stop on a desolate stretch of road but keeps turning back.
Tenma doesn’t follow up with the official’s tip immediately and, after an interlude helping out at a rural clinic, the story shifts to focus on relentless Inspector Lunge, who has now lost everything in his life except the conviction that Tenma is a murderer. Looks like things will be heating up soon!