A heavy-assault multi-ped tank runs amok, under the control of an unknown hijacker using the "recognition code" of the tank's designer, Kago Takeshi, who died a week earlier. After going on a destructive spree at the testing facility, the tank heads towards the urban area of Niihama. Section 9 is called in to stop the tank, as no terrorist group has claimed responsibility, and the military refuses to involve itself unless terrorism is the clear motive. (summary from the second episode of the anime...cause its the same exact thing)
In my review for the first volume, my chief complaint was that the art style lacked the expressiveness of the anime (which detracted from the personality of the characters) and that it was an almost panel by panel recap of the first episode. That hasn't changed, not one iota. The only saving grace for this volume is that the stand alone episode that its based on, TESTATION, is one of my favorite episodes of the series.
That was also a major detractor for it though since I've seen that episode so many times reading it didn't give me the same 'feeling'. It still tore me up inside, but it didn't have that same urgency. The artist/writer did give Kago a bit more backstory, and cleared up some minor things that the episode mainly glossed over (how Kago and Oba met, the real meaning behind Kago's final words), but Kinutani still seemed to struggle with getting the characters to express themselves in the art.
He fared better with the secondary characters--Oba, Kago's parents, the President of Kenishi Enterprises--you can (almost) clearly see their frustration and weariness. However one key factor is missing and its not something Kinutani could really help because of the medium of the story. "Beauty is Within Us" by Scott Matthews (and Yoko Kanno). Its the insert song that plays during the climax of the episode and it SO PERFECTLY encapsulates the episode.
In fact I hunted down a really well done AMV that bridges all the clips, set to the full song (ignore the Spanish subtitles):
I want you to listen to this song, watch those scenes and then tell me if you don't feel moved. Track down the episode (its a stand alone episode so no further knowledge of the series or over-arching plotline is necessary) watch it and tell me if you don't cry (subbed or dubbed, I like both so I won't be picky with which you watch).
I hope, at some point, maybe Kinutani will actually do something with the season long plotline of the "The Laughing Man". Its really the reason why I started watching the series and I want to see how he handles it. I'd also like to see how he handles the Tachikoma episode, as that's another favorite of mine, but honestly I don't know if I could keep reading/buying these GN's at $11 each if they're just a rehash of the anime episode by episode.