They say that behind every good man is a better woman. Gun-for-hire Roy Revant might disagree. Already the legal guardian of Solty, a mysterious resemble whose innocent appearance belies her tremendous power, Roy finds himself with another young woman residing under his roof; Rose, a beautiful thief, and would-be Robin Hood, with a penchant for hand guns, motorcycles and frilled frocks. What's a lowly bounty hunter got to do to be left alone these days? Time to grab a trench-coat, pull up the collar and stalk the streets as jazz music silkily escapes the bar rooms to join the cool evening air.
The second volume of Solty Rei picks up almost immediately where the first left off; Rose, or 'The Blue Comet' as she sometimes prefers to be known, has just moved in with Revant and is already causing havoc. When she's not trying to recruit Solty to a life of crime, she's reprimanding Revant for the dust that coats his apartment or transforming his spare room into a lavish boudoir fit for a princess. And that's before her brothers in crime arrive on the scene.
In terms of character development, director Yoshimasa Hiraike seems to have pushed Solty to one side to allow Rose to take the limelight. Individual episodes highlight a murderous incident from her past, her relationship with her brothers and her teenage dreams of being courted by a rich and sophisticated gentleman. Solty, on the otherhand, remains very much as she started. Hopefully this is only a temporary slight, and Solty will be given the opportunity to shine in future volumes.
Similarly, the overarching plot threads established in the opening episodes - principally the Blast Fall disaster and Solty's unknown past - take a back seat here for more domestic concerns. Most, if not all, of the included episodes tellingly feature either a shower or meal time scene (if not both). Rather than a hindrance, this change of pace is a welcome distraction from the series' larger concerns, in the process allowing another of the its themes to emerge: family and home. In many respects all the principal characters are looking for somewhere to belong and be accepted. Both Solty and Rose seem bound to Revant and, despite initial reservations and fears of further loss, he too is slowly becoming attached to them.
The series' setting remains as appealing as it's cast. It's old-fashioned-futuristic appearance is certainly novel, if not entirely original. The likelihood of a an explanation of precisely how this world came to be seems increasingly unlikely. If you're the kind of fan that needs to know exactly why vinyl records sit alongside holographic news-sheets, or why mecha tanks share the roads with vintage cars, you will likely be left wanting. That said, Solty Rei doesn't profess to be a work of hard science fiction so perhaps it is unfair to bemoan this point. The final episode included here, 'Treasure and Rescue', sees Rose and Solty trapped underground in the old city. Deserted city walkways weave under the world above like a time-capsule of pre-Blast Fall life. Typical of how the series uses its setting, the episode's focus isn't on exploring this abandoned world but on the sisterly bonding of the two female leads. After falling through the floor amidst a hail of rubble, their primary concern isn't survival but to have a shower; "It's the basics of being a girl" explains Rose.
Solty Rei remains a dependable if unexceptional series. If you enjoyed the first volume, this installment wont disappoint. But, if you're looking for a series to rival Cowboy Bebop, that other jazz infused genre mash-up, then you may wish to look elsewhere.