WHAT WE KNOW:Edit
Set in an alternate near-future Japan, the protagonist of the story, a young woman codenamed "Kabuki", acts as an agent and television law-enforcement personality for a clandestine government body known as "The Noh". In the first volume of the series, The Noh's nature and background is explained.
The Noh is controlled by a renowned World War II Japanese military man known as the General, who has achieved much power and status for being a brilliant military tactician during his many years of service. The agency itself exists as part of Japan's strict police state, which hunts down and brutally executes criminals for their misdeeds under the veil of keeping the peace. However, secretly the Noh also acts to maintain the balance of crime and order that ultimately benefits the national economy on both sides of the law and thus targets politicians, businessmen and certain underworld kingpins whose actions threaten this balance. Kabuki herself is one of eight masked assassins whom perform these secret executions under the General's orders.
The primary antagonist of the story is a man named Ryuchi Kai, the General's son and another war veteran, who is now a Yakuza boss and every bit as deadly and brilliant as his father but has garnished a reputation for swift brutality. Astonishingly, despite the high level of discretion surrounding Noh, Kai manages to infiltrate the agency, personally, by using its policy of masked operatives to his advantage. He poses as Oni – one of the General's two overseers of the assassins (the other being a mysterious old man named "Dove"). He manipulates Kabuki and her partners into eliminating the entire underworld hierarchy in Tokyo. Publicly Kai is a talented businessman with much stock and influence in the Japanese market, thus this move makes him indispensable and essential to the balance.
Kabuki's origins are revealed as the story progresses, her mother was an Ainu comfort woman named "Tsukiko" taken by Japanese soldiers during WWII. Rather than be used as sex slaves, the General instead had the women act out Kabuki plays to entertain the soldiers, something that was met with scorn by his son, who fast made "Kabuki" a derogatory term among the ranks. Tsukiko in particular captivated the General, a widower, who took her to be his wife. This decision infuriated Kai, who saw it as an affront to his deceased mother. On the eve of their wedding, he assaulted, raped, blinded and savagely scarred Tsukiko with the words "Kabuki" into her back. Tsukiko survived the encounter, however, and she was now pregnant with Kai's child, something the General kept hidden. Tsukiko finally dies, while her daughter, Ukiko is being born. The General in turn raises her as his own daughter. Unfortunately nine years later, Kai, still demented and vicious, learns of the child's existence and savagely attacks Ukiko at her mother's grave, once again carving "Kabuki" into her skin, this time along the girl's face. Ukiko dies for nine minutes but is successfully resuscitated. From then on, the General grooms her into a perfect soldier, having her trained in martial arts, combat and weaponry so that she may never fall victim to another assault. When the Noh is created, she is given a mask reminiscent of her mother's face and the codename "Kabuki" – claiming the term as her own.
In the present, Kai is now a political figurehead and inaccessible from The Noh's wrath, going as far to reconnect with his father to cement his status. Most Noh agents are all dismissed by Dove except Kabuki. Dove reveals that he is in fact her biological grandfather on her mother's side, that The Noh has become defunct, and that Kai's reign has gone on long enough. He dispatches Kabuki/Ukiko to eliminate him, his followers, and The Noh's board of directors. The battle is bloody, and Kai very nearly defeats her, though she succeeds at the last moment. Her final confrontation at the General's headquarters results in her sustaining fatal wounds. Victorious and dying, Ukiko finally limps to her mother's grave to die.
With the following volumes, it is revealed that Ukiko was in fact abducted shortly after this, by a rival agency called "Control Corps", who treat her injuries and keep her trapped and medicated within a hidden asylum for broken-down government agents. For nine months, they study her and probe her for information regarding The Noh. She does not relent and instead, devotes this period to introspection and personal reflection. During this time she is contacted periodically by another inmate – a mysterious individual known as Akemi who has grand plans for escape. Meanwhile outside of the asylum, all of Japan is in confusion as its top political lynchpins have been killed, and The Noh is unable to comment. Dove has vanished and, with him, all knowledge of Ukiko's motives. Thus, the seven remaining assassins have been dispatched to hunt down Ukiko and kill her. Ironically during the months of searching, two of the agents, codenamed "Scarab" and "Tigerlilly", become friends and start socializing as civilians – something which later compromises their mission.
Through Akemi's elaborate machinations, Ukiko manages to escape Control Corps just as her former partners arrive to eliminate her, resulting in the death of one of them. Akemi takes advantage of this and just as Kai did, he poses as the fallen agent to continue infiltrating The Noh, this time on Ukiko's behalf.
Ukiko then embarks on a convoluted trail, given to her by Akemi, so she can forge a new identity and life for herself. Escaping Japan to America, with the help of other brilliant escapees under Akemi's employ, she successfully achieves a blissful, private existence wherein she can be happy. The final pages of the series see her subtly overthrowing The Noh altogether, through a tell-all comic book created by herself and a comic artist whom she encounters. She also falls pregnant, much to her delight.