V2 Panzer – Rough Ride and Guide
[V2 Panzer is the name of a manga by Leiji Matsumoto that was serialized in 1988 and 1989. It follows the adventures of Serazard and her two companions as they race to meet and defeat the world dictator Zera Tsender. This is a rough walkthrough for the series with my own commentary is in brackets]
1. Savior Serazard [Saber Serazard is also possible]
The early 21st century was the last Warring States era, a period of great turmoil. Now the year is 2987, and a lot of technology has been banned, including motorbikes. Years ago the powers that be promised to allow motorbikes again if motorcyclists banded together and beat the feared mechanized division [that apparently controls the world]. In a gallant effort against the tanks, all motorcyclists were massacred. Savior Serazard became an orphan after that battle (both her parents were bikers), and knowing that the proposal to lift the bike ban is still operative, she decides to march against the division again…even though there are practically no bikes, fuel, or people who can drive the machines left. Luckily, Serazard runs into an old man with just the bike for the job.
[The race works like this: there are several “relay points”, usually in cities, where the racers must get a document stamped in order to continue. How they get from one relay point to the next is up to each racer (the road isn't fixed). In the meantime racers can battle each other as they see fit...]
2. Daiba & Serlock
Serazard finds a man to identify the bike (a BSA G35-14, i.e. a 1935 British motorbike with a v-twin engine and a sidecar) and fix it up for her. The man is killed soon after, but she is saved by a young man who pledges to help her win the race. This is a race set up by Zera Tsender, the head of the mechanized division. It’s a battle race, only bikes and cars built up to the 1930s are allowed in, and only weapons built up to the 1860s are to be used. If someone other than Tsender’s men wins, he pledges to lift the anti-bike law.
3. The life of H.H. Baseron da Saiman
The young man is Serlock Maybach (Harlock clone) and he travels with Gen Daiba (Tetsuro clone). Serazard listens to Serlock’s name and recognizes that they both have the same ancestors (meaning German, likely). Daiba declares he is Japanese. This is what Serazard says about Japan and the Japanese (remember this is penned in 1988!):
“The Japanese are only good at commerce, they stick like bats everywhere and suck up to everyone, famous for being the least trustworthy of the world’s races.”
Serlock shoots, Gen drives. Serlock claims to have participated with Gen in the Great Motorcycle Battle that killed Serazard’s parents (even though it is believed every single rebel fighter perished in that struggle).
Serlock talks of Baseron da Saiman (“dasai” = in bad taste and “man” is recognizable to the Japanese from such titles as “Batman” and “Superman”, so there’s a joke here). She is the empress of this region (despite styling herself a Highness), and in reality a puppet of Tsender’s.
Gen draws up a manual for the BSA so Serazard can use it even when the two-man combo isn’t around.
The three dash to Baseron’s palace and Serazard is told to take care of Baseron by the two men, who leave who knows where. Serazard dispatches the empress and drives back out into the waste.
4. The mayor and the Permission to Murder Time Period
Serazard arrives at Cylinder City and the two men catch up with her. Gen talks about their motives in entering the race: on the surface, they want to beat Tsender and repeal the law banning bikes and other motorized vehicles. Their true motive is another: to beat the dictator and have one of them become dictator himself. Serazard thinks this is hilarious, and Serlock and Gen are both embarrassed.
The crew registers their bike and weapons for the race, Serazard has a machine gun that is too new, but she manages to get an official seal from the officer and place it on the weapon before he’s aware of what’s happened. This means the weapon is official for the race. She then kills the officer with the same gun! The crew gets taken to the Cylinder City mayor, Bid Low, who is immediately recognized by Serlock as the former Explosives Team commander for Zera Tsender. Serlock blows Bid Low up and Serazard mows down his children. The mayor is a robot, as seem to be most of Tsender’s men. All of this is fine because in this town murders are allowed during the night…
The race is set to start and all of a sudden Serlock and Daiba disappear: Serazard is the only participant out of 4,444 people (in 3,862 vehicles) that does not have any experience riding!
5. BSA G35-14 and the (k)Night Riders
Serazard is helped by an old couple, Jack and Betty. Jack has a watch designed by the aviator Lindbergh. The couple leaves and Serazard is off. She has a tough time controlling the BSA and then suddenly Serlock and Gen show up again out of nowhere just as an aerial tank comes overhead.
The aerial tank has just engaged an enemy and destroyed it. The enemy was Jack and Betty, who purposefully drew fire from the airtank because they knew Tsender’s men like to kill the last straggler in a race, and Serazard was that last rider at the moment. Serazard picks up Jack’s watch (he had told her it would be hers if he died) and Serlock finds a locket on Betty with a photo of a girl who, in his own words, looks just like Serazard [classic Leiji moment!].
Serlock gives to Serazard the following excuse: he and Gen can only materialize during the night, they must disappear during the daytime. This was as a result of being fired upon by a strange weapon at the end of the great battle against Tsender. During the day they are simply spirits who can think and know what Serazard is up to even if she cannot see them. Serlock says that one way to put it is that they become one with the bike during the day. Serazard tells them to drive the bike themselves during the day but they reply they cannot move anything then. Serazard hopes that her parents aren’t really dead and have been attacked with the same weapon.
At the end they muse that maybe this BSA bike will be the savior of the world…
6. Iron Grave
The three run into a prophet that warns them to leave all metal objects except gold outside of the next town, Gas Town. They leave him with the bike and go in to get food. They find a handmade (in Japanese, handbeaten) udon shop. They sit down to eat and the staff begins to beat them! So Serazard gets mad and starts whipping everyone and everything. The place is all rusty and collapses immediately. Gen and Serlock flee with udon bowls in their hands. Next they stay in a really nice hotel but everything is rusted and eventually it collapses. All of the hotels fall like dominoes.
Basically, the town’s main industry is gas (bituminous coal releasing sulfur) and the mayor owns the gas company. Since Gas Town is an official stop on the race, many have stopped here [and this means their vehicles are done for] but racers can simply get a stamp without bringing in their bikes, and this is what the crew does. They get a tour of the gas company, and Gen (who is some kind of engineering genius) quickly figures out that the factory lacks the machines for cleaning up the sulfur and ammonia released in the production process. The crew decides that this must be an elaborate plot by Tsender to knock out as many racers from the competition as possible. As they leave the town Tsender’s men blow it up, since it has already served its purpose.
7. Zera Tsender’s Nightmare
As night turns to day, Serazard arrives in the Houseless City. A report is sent to Zera Tsender, who seems to be a very sexually ambiguous personage (manly face with long hair and a womanly body). Tsender decides to visit Serazard personally and sneaks into her bedroom. Serazard is very confused!! Tsender’s self-introduction:
“I am the all-powerful ruler of all things, all between heaven and earth, all the universe; the awesome, the holy…Zera Tsender!”
Tsender is interested in Serazard’s lovely neck (apparently he is building himself the perfect body and he is in need of a good neck). The reason he knows who Serazard is, he says, is because the body he has currently is no other than her mother’s body!!! He adds there is a reason he couldn’t use her mother’s head and neck, but that she will only find out if she finishes the race.
Tsender disappears, and Serazard decides this is either because he was a dream or because he had some sort of teleportation device.
Serlock and Gen reappear. They’re upset to find that they are still dead last in the race, and as was explained before, Tsender likes to destroy the stragglers in every race so the BSA crew is always being attacked… Serazard complains the bike is too heavy and she asks them to replace the engine with a “cell motor”, which is of course too advanced to qualify for the course or even to fit such a bike. Serazard gets depressed but snaps out of it when the guys spot a vintage 900 ton “subarenose gunboat” (my coinage for a boat that travels under the sand) in the distance. They decide to go straight up front because gunboats have a hard time firing targets that way. They go on the attack…
8. Sandreise’s Massacre
…and it turns out the whole thing surfaces and it’s a huge monster of a ship with guns all over the place. Gen recognizes it’s a subarenose ship of the type that a certain Capt. Sandreise commands. Serlock and Serazard want to run away but it’s clear Gen has a grudge against Sandreise and he’s bent on its destruction. Gen manages to destroy it even though he’s not sure if Sandreise is on that ship or not.
So why does Gen hate Sandreise? Because Sandreise led the Subarenose Fleet that encircled Japan and massacred its human and animal inhabitants (the North Pacific ocean had dried up exposing the seabed). Gen was saved because he was in the great motorbike battle at the time [which was far, far away from Japan, see below!].
A bunch of subarenose ships appear in the distance, and a great big image of Capt. Sandreise appears in the sky [!] and the image talks to them [!!] and he looks like a monkey but calls Gen a monkey [!!!]. Anyway, Sandreise is well aware that Tsender wants Serazard’s body [or at least her neck] intact so he challenges Gen Daiba to a duel!
9. Shock Wave Concerto
Sandreise prepares a combat jet for himself and an old plane for Gen, but Gen chooses to fight on the BSA along with Serlock and Serazard. At first Sandreise is firing away and Gen can’t fire back, but Serazard decides to get nude and expose herself, and since her body is desired by Tsender intact, Sandreise has no choice but to stop shooting and just circle around. Gen is able to aim and fire a missile, downing the jet. Serazard’s body thus becomes the weapon used to destroy the enemy.
The entire subarenose fleet self-destructs with explosions sounding on a musical scale, to match their commander Capt. Sandreise’s jet’s explosion. That’s how devoted (or moronic) this fleet is.
The terrain shifts from desert sand to rock and the BSA goes that much faster. They finally catch up with the next-to-last rider! Day breaks and Serazard is alone. A skeletal monkey shows up, and it turns out to be Tsender’s hologram, because he is giving Serazard’s mother’s body a rest. He “sleeps” with her and she endures the experience because she knows it is only an image and Zera Tsender is not really there…
10. The Great Iranedo Rift Valley
Nighttime. A driver on a modern bike throws an electronic message device Serazard’s way. The message advertises a great resting place owned by a certain Saint Iranedo III. When they arrive they are met with a super advanced structure, supposedly the 128th hotel in St. Iranedo’s chain. Serazard is eager to go inside and eat something tasty, but Gen tells her it’s better to exercise and get an appetite first. The men want her to start practicing driving the BSA without a sidecar. It takes Serazard very little time to figure out that it’s not as easy as it looks when she drives off a cliff!
Serazard discovers a hidden city in the rift. There are people in tattered clothes begging for food and clothing. Serazard gives them all their clothes. Serlock and Gen come down to save her, though they’re more concerned with the BSA’s welfare than her own. Iranedo III finds them and takes them in, gives them food etc…
Iranedo is in charge of environmental affairs for Tsender, and he is very proud of the work he has done, although all of the waste in his hotel goes straight into the rift and the poor people in it. After a while Serazard begins to be harassed by Iranedo (she is nude throughout the entire chapter, not that I’m trying to excuse him) and she forces Gen and Serlock to stop eating and flee with her. The reason is that earlier she had helped the poor kids in the rift town rig the base of the hotel with explosives. As the BSA runs out the hotel structure begins to collapse.
Gen and Serlock detach the sidecar towards dawn and tell Serazard to do her best without it during the following day, and they will check her progress the next night. Serazard has trouble controlling the bike without the sidecar and she drives on without stopping, worried that as soon as she stops the bike will fall to one side…
11. Short-Tempered Bezel
A huge four-wheeled vehicle passes by (and over) the BSA and keeps going. It’s been sent by Zera Tsender in order to destroy the stragglers just ahead of Serazard and thus make it easier for her in the race. Serazard, Gen and Serlock realize this when they arrive at the carnage ahead. Serlock starts to look for BSA parts among the wreckage, saying that ultimately their goal is to destroy Tsender and so to take parts from the dead’s vehicles is a way for them to contribute to their own revenge.
The next relay point is a town where everyone is angry and impolite. While eating in a hotel room the local dictator crashes in with a rocket and claims she (?) will kill them. It seems she’s jealous of Serazard and wants all of Tsender’s attention for herself. Her name is Bezel Stopper and she is a shiny metallic black figure with a smooth heaf. Bezel chases Serazard out of town and they keep fighting on.
Zera Tsender is watching all of this from a control center and it dawns on him that maybe female warriors are best to deal with Serazard. He orders that the driver of the mammoth vehicle that showed up at the beginning of the chapter, a woman named Lieutenant Colonel Yuris Temp. Yuris accepts the order gladly, she is in love with Tsender and she’s eager to destroy both Serazard and Bezel and be Tsender’s number one lady.
The chapter ends with Serazard seeing the slow pack of racers right ahead, but then noticing that Bezel is right behind her and the mammoth vehicle with Yuris right behind Bezel!!
12. The Caretaker of the Dark Maze
Night falls. Gen and Serlock are hanging out with Serazard and asking how she got out of the terrible fix she was in. In fact, right beside them is the debris from both Bezel’s and Yuris’ vehicles so clearly Serazard has accomplished an amazing feat.
The answer is very simple: Bezel and Yuris both underestimated Serazard and feared each other more, so they fought each other first and both died from the battle [revealing, by the way, that they were both robotic]. Tsender is angry, but one of his advisers [who we don't get to see, only to hear] suggests that the Kasei Ravine up ahead will beat Serazard once and for all. The ravine system is so maze-like that not even Tsender’s power extends to it.
The BSA crew arrives at Kasei Ravine. A detour north would take 1,000 km so they have to pass this hurdle somehow. They go in.
[Kasei Valles is an actual feature on Mars!! It's a huge valley system on Mars, named “Kasei” because this is the Japanese name for “Mars”. Does this mean all of this manga's action is taking place on Mars?! I always assumed it was on Earth...and now I go back and realize it is Mars, because the location of the great Motorcycle Battle, and the area under Baseron Da Saiman's jurisdiction (more or less the starting point of Serazard's race) is a place called Chryse Planitia which is also on Mars!]
It’s very cold and dark. They meet a mysterious person looking like a witch: the caretaker of Kasei Ravine. She’s caretaker for the real owner of the place, who is totally independent of Zera Tsender. The caretaker’s name is Moonphase Ganghi. Moonphase cryptically tells Serlock that she knows he is desperate to meet her master (the owner of Kasei Ravine) and she tells him not to worry…he will.
13. Serlock’s Weird Girlfriend
Moonphase says that it’s very uncouth to block a man from meeting up with an ex-girlfriend [hmmm]. A large gate opens and Moonphase tells Serazard that women are not allowed inside unless they take their clothes off (the glee on Daiba’s face is palpable). The three go in (with Gen coming up with all sorts of excuses to grab the naked Serazard) and Serlock meets his ex-girlfriend, named Metrope Estrella. Metrope is incensed that she can smell Serazard on Serlock’s clothes and the two shoot at each other, but both miss on purpose because deep down they realize they have are good people.
Metrope tells Gen and Serazard to go straight down a particular tunnel. Gen wants to spy on the reunited couple as they kiss so to make him obedient Serazard kisses him instead! Gen is totally excited by the kiss, and oblivious to the fact that their bike is waiting for them at the other side of the tunnel. Meanwhile Estrella refuses to leave the Kasei Ravine and Serlock refuses to stay holed up with her inside, so they must part.
At the very end there’s an interesting conversation. Serazard is driving nude. Gen turns to her and asks why on Earth doesn’t she put her clothes back on, and he suggests maybe she is jealous [meaning, I presume, that she is jealous of Serlock's ex-girlfriend and is trying to show off her body to make him forget her]. Serazard answers that being naked feels good and that it’s healthy, and tells him to stop insinuating things. I think it’s very interesting because the exchange reveals that a) Gen himself is jealous of any hold (real or imagined) that Serlock might have on Serazard and b) Serazard seems to be completely honest in her answer, she is beholden to no man.
14. Pirate Airship SS-13
From the map it looks like the BSA crew will have to cross a sea next. They reckon there will be a ferry there but the problem is they have no money. Gen makes the comment offhand that it’s just a matter of having Serazard strip to make some money. Serazard gets really angry and Gen says he actually said they had to “stop” because of the sea, and she misinterpreted it as “strip” (in Japanese, this is “sutoppu” vs. sutorippu” so the words do sound somewhat similar). Once they arrive at the water, a zeppelin shows up in the sky.
They start running after the airship, as it might be the ferry they’re looking for. They go through a great serpent’s skeleton, prompting a debate as to whether it’s a sea snake or a land snake, whether it eats people or not, whether it eats bikes or not… Then they reach the bottom of the airship/ferry, which is about to take off. They dash in but they can’t see any other bikes inside, only a large tank division. What they took to be a ferry for the racers seems to be a transport ship for Tsender’s mechanized division.
One of Tsender’s men (the first mate, it turns out) shows up and tells them that in fact the ship is a ferry and the racers stay in the upper cabins. He promises to give them a “seat”, but it’s first come first serve and since the BSA crew is last they get the worst seat: a cage hanging over an artificial lake. Day breaks and Serazard is suddenly left alone.
15. To the Capital
First Mate Zarak (who is a woman BTW) comes to pick the three up and finds only Serazard there. He’s extremely puzzled and deeply troubled because the airship captain has ordered him to bring in all three. Since Serazard won’t explain the situation to him, he says “something stinks here”. Apparently (I say apparently because so far we didn’t have an instance of this) Serazard’s pet peeve is to be called “stinky” and she gets terribly angry. She beats Zarak up and dresses in his clothes, then goes to meet the ship captain.
She declares she is Saber/Savior Serazard and that she will destroy the captain’s boss Tsender. The captain wonders out loud why such a stinky little girl (literally, girl stinky with piss) like her is so important. Serazard’s eyes blaze with anger again and the scene changes to night time. Gen and Serlock find Serazard in a beautiful bedroom with lots of food. They wonder what happened. Serazard shows them the bodies of the captain and first mate hanging over the lake and tells them they suffered the penalty for insulting her and anyway they were both robots. The ship is Tsender’s ship and it’s currently headed straight toward his command center. Serazard suddenly remembers she put a bomb on the ship and it explodes soon after. The BSA has a parachute and the three drift safely, along with every other racer and their bikes (it seems she warned them the ship would blow up and they all got parachutes!).
They land over Paradox, the great city and capital of Tsender’s empire (population 30 million) which lies in the Zaiman Cape of the Aidal Continent [haven't found any real-life reference points].
Tsender analyzes the situation from his own command center: 16 vehicles (out of 3,862 starting ones) have made it to this final destination. He reckons Serazard might actually reach him and he orders that her mother’s coffin be opened!!
16. Paradox the Capital
On the ground, the BSA rushes toward Tsender. The cadavers and wreckage of the other 15 vehicles and their racers are visible. They see a large number of spacecraft departing from the central region, and Serazard takes this to mean that everyone is scared Tsender’s time is up and they’re leaving him like rats fleeing a sinking ship or fleas leaving a dead cat.
Back at Tsender’s, an officer is reporting that as soon as the coffin was opened the central computer erased all of its programs. The officer says that both the computer and the citizenry of Paradox have convinced themselves that Zera Tsender is not intending to defeat Serazard, but rather to help her out. Because this decision can only mean the end of Zera Tsender’s Empire, all the citizens are fleeing. The officer says that Tsender has been vanquished by the charms of Serazard and her mother, and he and his minions renounce Tsender. He blows them up with lasers and says he doesn’t need them or Serazard’s mother [he looks at the coffin] and says he will begin a new world with Serazard by his side.
The BSA crew can see Tsender’s palace, but it is surrounded by a moat. They find a boat and put their bike in and start rowing. They immediately come under attack. Dawn breaks as this happens, and Serazard is alone once more. Her boat is blown up and she watches the BSA sink as she swims. She dives and follows the BSA because she’s scared if she loses sight of it she’ll never see Serlock or Gen again.
Somehow Tsender grabs hold of her at this point. This is the real Tsender, not a hologram, and he boasts he doesn’t need Serazard’s mother’s body anymore (and in fact, it’s on the way to be cremated) and that he will be Serazard’s husband forever more. Tsender drags her to where the open coffin is in flames with the beautiful body burning inside.
Last Chapter (17). Eternal BSA
Gen and Daiba “wake up” with the BSA next to them. They are puzzled, last they remember they were sinking in the moat and now they are on land…and there’s bright daylight all around them too! They look up at the palace and see a beautiful woman’s body [that looks like Serazard and/or her mother] thrown from a window and crashing down next to them. The woman is mechanical. The men go up into the palace.
They find Serazard who has just shot and blown up an android. This android was the one calling himself Zera Tsender earlier. Which means the real Tsender is still alive, and he calls out to them from higher up in the palace structure.
Gen goes up but he can’t find any humans, only a giant computer [whether this is the computer that erased all programs earlier or not is not made clear, I'm thinking it isn't]. The giant computer says it is the real Zera Tsender, and Gen does find a plate on the computer that marks it as Type ZT 0019999 from the “Zuera Zender Electric Industry Co.”. When Serazard asks what Tsender intends to do know, the computer says it doesn’t know. The reason is this computer is actually just a “keyboard”, and the real person behind it has for some reason stopped typing (providing input). The real person (or persons) behind Tsender never wanted to kill Serazard, but in fact loved her. The keyboard calls the automaton with Serazard’s mother’s body its “shadow”, and it says the shadow told her repeatedly he wanted her and loved her for this very reason. The entire race, the ban on motorbikes, were just ploys to bring Serazard to this person’s side.
Serazard is outraged by this talk, she yells “Die!” and shoots the computer/keyboard. They then find a list of names of people who handled the Zera Tsender keyboard. One of the names is Maja (pron. Maya, as in German) Serazard, mother of Saber Serazard. This explains why the computer did its best never to harm Serazard, because her mother’s feelings were inside of it.
On the next to last page finally the subject of Mars comes into view!!! Serazard says that it was the pettiness of the hearts of humans that destroyed Earth, and then went on to destroy this colonized Mars, and it is this weakness of human hearts that she, Gen and Serlock have just overcome.
The electronic veil over Mars vanishes, and now one can see Mars’ real moons (Phobos and Deimos) instead of a fake image of Earth’s Moon [I had wondered about this this all this time, because the pictures of the moon resembled Earth's more than the Martian ones!!].
Gen and Serlock have figured out that they weren’t ghosts or spirits, it was all some sort of technological trick coming from Paradox City. Once the computer programs were erased, the software making them “disappear” during the day ceased to function as well…
Serazard tells them they must all contact all survivors on Earth, Mars and Venus and rebuild human civilization. Gen suggests Serazard become Queen of Mars. Serazard starts driving and tells him that once they have gathered around other people they’ll think about what to do for the future.
The final blurb reads:
“Future generations called them V2 Panzers: the riders over the Martian plains who increased their numbers gradually to create a new world. The BSA V2 leading them was marked with respect and admiration. History does not record how far Saber Serazard and her two friends reached in their travels.”