Hachi no Wakusei
::: Neuro Hard is Copyright Shirow Masamune and Fujimi Shobo 92/93/94 :::
:: Reviewed by Lucas for the MSHP 11/2000 :: Back To MSHP Main ::

Impression Review : Episodes 1 - 7 (Unfinished)

A Lengthy Introduction To The 'Planet Of The Bees' Series

The early 90's were busy years for Sensei Shirow. Having just tied up loose ends for Koukaku Kidoutai (Ghost In The Shell) for Kodansha and Senjutsu Chou Koukaku Orion as well as Intron Depot 1 for Seishinsha in 1991, Shirow jumped in with a contribution to Fujimi Shobo's newly-released Comic Dragon by starting the Neuro Hard series. At this time, Shirow was fresh off doing Exon Depot Shimban, Appleseed (Gaia) and also starting off Dominion Conflict. Very active years indeed. Comic Dragon was launched late 1992 as a counterpart to the popular Dragon Magazine, both catering mainly to the fantasy genre. Initially Comic Dragon ran quarterly, and went monthly in the end of 1993. Shirow Masamune's Real Image World Neuro Hard- Planet Of The Bees was with Comic Dragon from the first issue until mid-94, running on an erratic schedule. See Appendix section below for details of Neuro Hard's serialization.

Neuro Hard, subtitle Hachi no Wakusei (Planet of the Bees) is an ongoing series by Masamune Shirow to build blueprints for a 'world' that would serve as a platform for other manga-kas to use as a setting for their stories (Or even animation and computer game creators). There are character designs, mecha designs, settings, concepts etc. which other artists or authors can use. Shirow said there would be total of 80 pages when it's done and there are so far 10 episodes, with the 7th split into a part 1 & 2. Currently the page count stands at 48.

A collection of the series is yet to be released... and there is an indication that Shirow Sensei is shooting down any attempt to even think about translating or making this series available again in any other format. Shirow Sensei must have his own good reasons why he is not in favour of re-visiting Neuro Hard. In an interview with Dark Horse Comics, Mr. Toren Smith, Studio Proteus' President said that Neurohard is at the moment on hold (more like terminated! - Lucas) because a lot of Shirow's research materials and books were damaged during the Kobe earthquake and he has not fully recovered them yet... (More on the issue of Neuro Hard's untimely stoppage at the Appendix section to follow).

Briefly, Neuro Hard is a story set in the year 2300 when humans are drifting in the mechanized planet Hurema Hiyuto and space exploration is the order of the day. Intelligent lifeforms were detected in the fifth planet and a team of explorers decided to investigate. By mistake, the expedition administrators stupidly brought in a rowdy bunch of space pirates who proceeded to blow up the main ship and crashing them into the strange Planet Anthea. The Planet of the Bees - where a colony of aggressive wasps dominate the land.

As the team begins the exploration in the spaceship Housenaka, they started to discover the remains of a high-tech civillization on the planet. One of the expedition leaders, Martina was injured badly but somehow revived by a strange bee / wasp who she fondly calls 'Rose'. From then onwards, Rose and Martina developed a somewhat symbiotic relationship. Meanwhile, the team lands into more and more strange encounters in the wasp civilization... what is the outcome? Will the humans survive? Will this be a new beginning for humanity? Neuro Hard opens up a new enchanting world in deep space, introducing new concepts, technologies and lifestyles which only Shirow Sensei can do so well.

Neuro Hard is an extraordinary, unique piece that really stands out from the rest of Shirow Sensei's works. We have seen Shirow cover quite a variety of subjects that are the mainstay themes of Science Fiction- terrorism and futuristic post-war search for Utopian society (Appleseed); fantasy world of gods, legends and parallelism with Shinto myths (Orion); gung-ho tough cops with high-tech anti-crime machines in a polluted future (Dominion), the exotic mix of science and magic (Black Magic); network hacking, futuristic cyberpunk and a cyborg's dillema (Ghost In The Shell) to mention a few. But one fundamental theme in the SF genre remains buried among the pile of 'forgotten' Shirow works- Space travel, colonisation and alien populations. Two of Shirow's works that never made it to the English medium addresses this theme specifically- Machine Head and Neuro Hard. While both generally run along the same vein, Shirow Sensei is probably taking Neuro Hard more seriously and in my opinion is a classic Shirow in every sense.

Neuro Hard is my kind of Shirow work, at a time that I consider to be a peak in Shirow's manga career. Great cast of characters, phenomenal drawing and character design, excellent mix of technology, mecha, and biological creatures, unique interesting plot, a generous touch of humour, and jam-packed with those footnotes and essays which makes it read more like a manga-textbook cross than a straigthforward piece. Its sad to see the series prematurely ended this way, but for this Shirow fan its living a dream in reality. I'm deeply impressed, very in love with this wonderful wonderful unfinished gem of Shirow work. Machine Head (a similiar work to Neuro, but shorter) was somewhat collected in Appleseed Hypernotes, and if there ever is going to be another compilation of Shirow's un-collected / one-shot works in future, I would love to see Neuro Hard included.


Boasting a colourful and diverse mix of characters, Neuro Hard's cast is an interesting and amusing lot. Here's a list of the 'main characters' that is central to the story up to Episode 7 and whatever side information that I think best describes them. Note that I'm not very sure about the names as it tends to get confusing... Names in brackets is the Japanese pronounciation, assuming of course that it is actually referring to the correct character.

  • Martina Ryuudo (Marutina Ryuudo) - The protagonist in Neuro Hard, representing the typical Shirow main girl. Short red hair, upbeat and active, adventurous and has no interest in boys but chooses a bee instead! ^_^ Rescued by Rose after a serious injury while exploring Anthea, Martina is strangely attached to the wasp. Generally she has very good relations with the rest of the team, including team leader Chris and the weird alien.

  • Martina "Rose" (Marutina Ga Roozu) - A 18cm long wasp / bee from Planet Anthea that attaches itself to Martina and follows her around after reviving Martina from a serious injury. The two appears to share some sort of symbiotic relationship and for some reason Rose appears to be immortal. It is unclear whether she is called Martina Rose or just plain Rose, but the name is given to the wasp by Martina.

  • Christina Strontium (Kurisutina Sutoronatiumu) - Just called 'Chris' by fellow team members. Of Neputanian race (from the Neputania planet) - Serious, moody, cold and uptight spectacled expedition leader for whom things always seem to go wrong, sending her mood swings wild. Fits in the 'mature woman' role category (eerily similiar to Inspector Katsura in Dominion Conflict! ^_^) and has a fierce determination to win no matter what the situation. Often gets frustrated with the rest of the team who never seem to listen to her. Directly responsible to the administrators in the main ship. Also plays a cruel game in wrecking Louise and Solto's love relationship.

  • Nikki (Nisiki) - An attractive, cute short haired girl with psychic abilities. Always hangs around Basutona (who I think is her assistant with similiar powers). Plays a fortune teller in episode 5, and has the ability to communicate with alien creatures as demonstrated in the aquatic species episode wher Nikki converses with a bunch of mermanoid creatures underwater.

  • Baston (Basutona) - A short but stocky guy who is always around Nikki. Either he shares similiar psychic powers as Nikki or is her assistant. Seems to be very useful when it comes to hard manual labour too... ^_^. Originally belongs to the sea-people (?) and is able to adapt to living on land.

  • Louise Frost (Ruisu Hurosu) - A well-built, tall girl who looks European. From the start of the story, it was obvious that Louise is involved pretty deeply with Cain and it is from the start also that the relationship was hit. This was following a subtle hint from Chris that she was somehow 'involved' with Cain and he reacted pretty nervously. From then onwards, the strained relationship between Cain - Louise comes into play whenever the team get together. Her role in the team seems to be the same with Martina and the two often go on expeditions together in their heavy space-suits.

  • Solto - OK I finally confirmed this bloke's name (sounds Italian?). However, as mentioned he is trying to establish a steady relationship with Louise but something happened between him and the cruel leader Chris which threatens his relationship with Louise (Solto's Neputanian, and polygamy is apparently the norm on his planet, so... ^_^). On board the Housenaka, Cain is one of the ship's pilot and would go on expeditions occasionally too.

  • Rigerian-Gray (What the..?) - Your typical "Alien" lookalike, when in actual fact they are artificial creatures... mass-produced androids rather, but of a biological kind. Devoid of any reproductive and gastronomical functions. They "breed" and live in a bee-like fashion / philosophy, even having hierarchical rankings- soldiers, workers etc. as in honey-bee communities.

  • Keppel (Gepperu) - A weird, cranky old guy who shows up once in a while and always seem to be pissed off at something. He's a Martian and suffers from inferiority complex as Martian technology is considered 'old' for the current generation and hence his fearsome display of "firepower" - one point dressed up in a crazy Robocop-like suit to make battle with the wasps. Weird and insane! ^_^

  • "Young Guy" ( ? ) - The last member of the team (who also has a name that I'm trying to work out! ^_^). Hangs out with Basutona and often runs into trouble with Nikki who sometimes uses him for her psychic experiments. He seems to be always stressed out throughout the series.. ^_^

  • The Administrators - A bunch of six administrators who are supposed to be the authority above Chris' expedition team. This group includes the always-in-conflict pair of scientists Kyoji Kindoru and John Kuramoto who never agree with each other's opinion on everything (much like the Hebime - Fuzen exchange in Orion). In true Shirow fashion, the beaurocrats are a bunch of useless, good for nothing loudmouths who can never cooperate and come up with reasonable decisions. ^_^

  • The Kurobusu Space-Pirates - This bunch of six rowdy Space-Pirates from Mokuto Planet is nothing but trouble. They are the ones responsible for crashing the team into Anthea and subsequently causes even more problems on board with their barbaric ways... But who is to blame? A bunch of idiots brought in by another bunch of idiots... ^_^
Introducing The Neuro Hard Crew

Martina
Martina Ryuudo




Rose
Martina "Rose"




Christina
Christina Strontium




Nikki
Nikki




Baston
Baston




Louise
Louise Frost




Solto
Solto




Rigerian-Gray
Rigerian-Gray




Keppel
Keppel




Young Guy
"Young Guy"

Its always the same with these guys...
'Fearsome' Beaurocrats!
You don't wanna mess with us! ^_^
'Fearsome' Kurobusu Space-Pirates!


Side note: What and why is this an 'impression review'? It simply means this is more of a 'visual review' where I'll describe the events purely based on the impressions of the picture sequences and my very very limited understanding of the kanji texts. Neuro Hard, unlike the Shirow-illustrated novels, is a complex text-dependent work. To some degree, the general idea and plot of Neuro Hard isn't to hard to comprehend, its just that when we get to the nitty gritty bits, e.g. cross-sections of starships, molecular based transfers (see example in Appendix: The Complications of Neuro Hard below), history and landscape of alien planets... you get the idea. It is said that even Japanese readers have trouble coping with the specialist terms used or invented by Shirow and is a translator's nightmare. However, I hope fellow Shirow fans will find this little effort interesting and somehow useful.

Also, at the moment, my personal Neuro Hard collection stands at episode 7-2, and I'm still trying hard to source out the last two published episodes. The final missing 8-pages must play a significant role in the story and probably would contain some clues and explanations regarding the stoppage of Neuro Hard, so until I can source them out, the mystery remains and it makes it tough to do this review without having the overall view. Another important point is that Shirow Sensei appears to feel very very strongly against translating or releasing Neuro Hard again, and I have to take that into consideration by not going too far. All I can say is I'll try my best to give the clearest explanations possible. And of course, I'll expand and modify through time whenever I come across any answers, further information or realize some horrid mistakes- Lucas. 7th Nov. 2000

Proceed to Neuro Hard Episodes Impression Reviews (Episodes 1 - 7)


Appendix 1: Masamune Shirow's Neuro Hard Run in Comic Dragon

1992 - 1994 ; Publisher: Fujimi Shobo (Subsidary of Kadokawa Shoten Publishing).

Comic Dragon No.1 / 92
Comic Dragon Vol.1 / 92
Debut; Neuro Hard Introduction 'Poster'
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.2 / 92
Comic Dragon Vol.2 / 92
Ep.2 Neuro Hard Introduction 8 pages
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.4 / 93
Comic Dragon Vol.4 / 93
Ep.3 Neuro Hard 8 pages + Poster, Shirow cover
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.5 / 93
Comic Dragon Vol.5 / 93
Ep.4 Neuro Hard 8 pages
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.12 / 93
Comic Dragon Vol.12 / 93
Ep.5 Neuro Hard 4 Pages
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.1 / 94
Comic Dragon Vol.1 / 94
Ep.6 Neuro Hard 4 pages
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.2 / 94
Comic Dragon Vol.2 / 94
Ep.7-1 Neuro Hard 4 pages
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.4 / 94
Comic Dragon Vol.4 / 94
Ep.7-2 Neuro Hard 4 pages
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.5 / 94
Comic Dragon Vol.5 / 94
Ep.9 Neuro Hard 4 Pages
490 Yen
Comic Dragon No.6 / 94
Comic Dragon Vol.6 / 94
Ep.10 Neuro Hard 4 pages + Shirow Poster
490 Yen.

Neuro Hard debuted in mid-1992 in conjunction with Comic Dragon's launch. The first 'episode' of Neurohard was simply a B4-sized poster with little annotations throughout introducing the setting and the main characters. Subsequently, successive Neuro episodes ran in 8-page installments until December 1993 when Comic Dragon went monthly. During this period until the premature end of the series in mid-1994, the episodes were 4 pages each. Obviously having the time constraint from a quarterly schedule to a monthly one affected Shirow Sensei's productivity. The current page count stands at 48, ~ 50% short of Shirow Sensei's planned 80 pages from 10 episodes

Looking at the story now as a Shirow fan (personal opinions and suggestions to follow!) Neuro seems to be getting on very well. It has a good mix of science fiction, aliens and bees (which are Sensei Shirow's favourites! ^_^) and a generous portion of humour. So why did Shirow stop? Studio Proteus' President, Mr Toren Smith did mention in an interview with Shirow that Neuro Hard is presently on hold because a significant amount of books and reference materials belonging to Sensei Shirow were damaged during the Great Hanshin Earthquake of Kobe in early 1995. Shirow's career went through a drastic change since. However, the question remains that Neuro ended in June 1994, so the decision to stop must be made at least two or three months prior to that.

Neuro Hard is not the only one. Right before the start of Neuro in 1992, the attempt at Appleseed 5 wavered after just 4 episodes. While this happenned under completely different circumstances, there are several 'theories' that I think might have played some part in the ending of Neuro Hard. Firstly, the nature of Neuro Hard. Comic Dragon's line-up of comics include stories from sci-fi inclined artists like Kia Asamiya (Silent Moebius), Satoshi Shiki (Stormtroopers of Death), Johji Manabe... all of their series stopped, and I know for one Shiki Sensei's Stormtroopers never made it 'official' and ended up as a doujin publication. Comparing that with the line-up of today's Comic Dragon - Slayers, Digimon, Sorceror Stabbers Orphen... Sci-Fi is simply at the wrong book for the wrong reader crowd. Then there is the punishing monthly schedule which I think plays a big big part as I don't think Sensei Shirow can cope with such a tight schedule. Seishinsha's Comic Gaia (Orion, Appleseed, Dominion serializations) ran quarterly, Kodansha's Yanmaga Buta 'Pirate Editions' (Ghost In The Shell) does not have a fixed schedule, and GITS 2 faltered when it ran weekly in 1997. Looking at the trend, serialization on a fixed schedule basis would not work for Shirow Sensei. However, at the end of the day, the Kobe earthquake probably did the most damage.


Appendix 2: The Complications of Neuro Hard

It has been said that Neuro Hard is so complicated that even professional translators and native Japanese readers sometimes find it hard to understand and to distinguish between what is a genuine scientific term / phenomenon or purely made up by the creative mind of Sensei Shirow. To appreciate the true value and brilliance behind this elusive Shirow work, one needs firstly to understand the way Shirow decided to present the series.

Neuro Hard Planet Of The Bees was labelled a 'Real Image World' series by Comic Dragon. In Sensei Shirow's own explanation, he describes it as a 'blueprint' for a fictional world and apart from the general story, would be paying a lot of detailed attention and focus on the backgrounds- the characters, world settings, devices, creatures, weaponry, vehicle, weather and landscape, concepts and technological advancements and the likes. The intention is to set up a 'world' that could be used by other artists, novelists etc. as a setting to their own stories. It works very much like a delicate mix of RPG and science fiction told through the story of Martina and her fellow space explorers. In the course of the story, there are a lot of deviations and explanatory notes (or shall I call them essays) sometimes taking up more than half of the total pages of an episode just purely dedicated to the details of a particular scenario, characters, alien creatures, planet landscapes, spaceships etc.

In this impression review, I have to admit I can't do it very well. There is just no way for me to really get down to the nuts and bolts of the story, unlike Appleseed, Orion, GITS etc. where the English editions are a great help and complement to the Japanese originals. There are currently no plans whatsoever to translate Neuro to the English medium, the proposal practically shot down by Shirow himself (see Appendix 1 above).

Teleport 'Tunnel'

Martina Says 'Hi!' at the middle of the teleport device field
(That's about all that made sense really!)

Personally, I think I get the general idea and direction of the story enough to understand and appreciate it but at the same time a lot of the details and footnotes which looks immensely interesting and so Shirow-ish is...... alien. Frustratingly indecipherable. To illustrate the problem, I have chosen this particular scene from Episode 2 as an example. Here, the Housenaka crew was approaching a foreign planet and the 'wise guys' of the bunch decided to deploy their 'Atomic Teleporting Machine' to obtain a sample of life form from the planet. Here Shirow Sensei jumped to elaborate the principles and working mechanisms of the machine.

As we can see, the appearance of the machine is a huge (Martina was dumped in the middle for scaling purposes! ^_^) discontinuous horse-shoe with an 'A' and 'J' tube cross section. Looks horrendous doesn't it? ^_^... There is a viewing station at the point of discontinuation between 'A' and 'J' tubes. This is where the Housenaka crew control and monitor the machine.

Shirow (with the help of Martina) proceeded to explain the process. You have a matter stored in 'A' which is disintegrated (Step 1), transported (Step 2) and finally rearranged at 'B' to the original form (Step 3). The transfer is by means of transportation of atomic matter in the right sequence. The special thing about this machine is its ability to teleport living matter i.e. humans, aliens, etc. and put them back together alive! However things can get mixed up in the process, where tweaking the atoms will give you an Alien Martina instead!

Martina the Physics Expert

"And that's my alien clone there on the right y'see"
Be careful!! You might end up as a big-headed grey thing!

So yeah, those jargon surrounding those pictures explain elaborately on the exact process and procedures. Theoretically you could know more details, but on the surface its just an atomic level disintegrate - transfer - re-integrate process.

Lesson For The Day
Indeed! Wise Words from Martina.
I might end up accidentally bringing in a bunch of space pirates and shooting this project down, but I'll give it a go anyway! ^^ - Lucas, MSHP.

Ultimately the Teleport Device brought in the fearsome Kurobusu Space Pirates from Mukoto Planet! Oh no! They started blowing up stuff in the Housenaka, much to the dismay of the crew. As a result the spaceship catapulted towards the Planet Anthea down below... Teleporting and interplanetary (sort of) travel has also been featured in Shirow's Orion, except there Seska played with 'magic spells' instead ^_^. So as you can see, that's basically what I meant about understanding Neuro Hard. I think I'm not far off from the general plot of the story and the illustrated concepts, but when it comes to details, its a big big problem. And that's how I will proceed with the Neuro Hard reviews on the MSHP. I'm trying my best...!


Note: Page is subject to spontaneous changes and corrections at any time! Apologies for not being able to present a better, more accurate and informative article. - Lucas.

All Images, Quotes, Data etc. Copyrights Shirow Masamune and Fujimi Shobo
Please do not reproduce without my permission, all contents are strictly for personal use only.