Dengeki Playstation 343 (Archive link)
Translation (Archive link)
Killer is Dead was a side-story to Killer7 published episodically on DENGEKI Playstation 2 magazine between September of 2005 and March of 2006. It was later partially republished on Famitu’s own website, and fully reprinted in The Complete SUDA51 Book. Despite its title, it actually has nothing to do with the game of the same name.
The final chapter of the story was never written, leaving it on a cliffhanger, despite the fact that the Famitsu re-upload was supposed to lead into Suda eventually penning the finale. Killer is Dead was eventually repurposed into a prologue of Travis Strikes Again.
The “Devil Have Mercy” group has translated the short story, although the project may have been abandoned before it could be cleaned up. With no information on the group itself, I’ll just link to their current translation. I’ll update the page if a new translation is ever released.
Summary & Analysis:
- How could the story have ended?
- Connection to Killer7
- Connection to Travis Strikes Again
July 1, 11:45 AM
Shigeki Birkin’s Apartment
Our protagonist is Shigeki Birkin, a professional killer nicknamed “Bat Man” due to his weapon of choice. The story begins with him receiving a letter and getting so upset at the postman’s attitude that he decides to kill him on the spot.
The letter turns out to have been sent by Curtis Blackburn, declaring that Birkin has been marked for death and only has seven days to live. Curtis is already known in the Seattle underground as a fearless assassin who never misses his mark.
This line in Curtis’ letter:
“In seven days, I shall deliver your death.
Please be a gentleman and dress appropriately.”
Might be a direct reference to this scene in Killer7:
UPDATE: Jolovey has informed me that this is not, in fact, the case. I just kept it in because I think his correction is interesting.
In the short story, ‘be a gentleman’ is a translation of the line “礼節には応えよう / reisetsu niwa kotaeyou” whereas in the K7 cutscene Kun Lan’s dialogue is literally ‘Gentleman’ (ジェントルマン / jentoruman). Given how quirky it already is for Suda to use the English word for gentleman in K7, I think he would have used it again for any intentional callback.
Just as Birkin is considering his course of action and which Paradise to escape to, positing Greenland as an option, Dan Smith bursts into his apartment and shoots.
July 1, 2:32 PM
Parking Lot of the Diner ‘Knoxville’
Birkin has a meeting with 12-years-old informant Christopher Mills. While Birkin would like nothing more than to kill the kid, especially as he was five hours late (which might be Birkin over-exaggerating, considering he was in his apartment less than three hours before), he acknowledges that there’s channels that are open only to him, and that killing him would be a bad idea.
Their meeting spot, the Parking lot of the diner “Knoxville”, is probably a reference to Johnny Knoxville from Jackass, whom Suda is a fan of to the point of using him as an inspiration for the character of Travis Touchdown later in his career.
Source (Archive link)
Mills’ unrealistic reach compared to his young age seem to indicate that he was already under the employment of the United States Government. There is actually some real life precedent for the USA infiltrating underage operatives in the criminal underworld; Most notably, the case of White Boy Rick:
Source (Archive Link)
Through their conversation, it is revealed that Mills previously provided Birkin with illegal, untested drugs, that Birkin would take in exchange for a fee to act as a test subject. In his narration, he comments on how the previous drug actually gave him severe pain in his joints and lymphonodes, a pain that he could not possibly conceive, and ended up in the hospital, where he smashed the doctor’s brains in.
This practice has also been parodied in the videogame Yakuza 0.
With Killer is Dead being set in the USA, namely in Seattle, these tests could not happen under color of law, which is why criminal syndicates are involved.
In the real world, western governments involved in unethical medical experimentation usually rely on plausible deniability and emergency use authorizations in order to turn foreign or local populations into unwitting or unwilling guinea pigs; some known examples include the Tuskegee & Guatemalan Syphilis experiments and the AIDS crisis.
Source 1 (Archive link)
Source 2 (Archive link)
Source 3 (Archive link)
Through their conversation, Birkin reveals to Mills that he has been marked for death by Blackburn, and asks him to keep an eye on him. Mills refers to Blackburn as a “true friend” (implying that they are associates) and that he might be able to save his life.
As Mills drives away, Dan Smith once again appears before Birkin, declaring that he’s the only one who can kill Blackburn and send Birkin to Paradise.
July 2, 11:00AM
Shigeki Birkin’s Apartment
Birkin reflects in his appartment on the origin of his nickname, the Bat Man, and on how disappointing his targets have been in the past years, although he is disturbed by the memory of the man he killed the previous night.
July 2, 2:30AM
Construction site of Horizon Tower.
The Horizon Tower was actually a location meant to appear in Killer7, but was scrapped sometime during the beta stage of development. It would have acted as Curtis Blackburns’ base of operations.
Source (Archive link)
This paragraph is Birkin’s memory of last night’s event. A man named Samayoru is sitting next to a pile of hundreds of asian-looking corpses. Birkin’s job is to kill Samayoru, but first, Samayoru (who also appears to be his client. That is to say, he seems to be the one who requested his own death.) instructs him to take care of said corpses, smash their faces.
Birkin complies with the order, but when questioning Samayoru on the purpose of beating up a bunch of corpses, the man refuses to answer. Birkin theorizes that Samayoru might want to make the corpses unrecognizeable, but Samayoru denies that motive. After a short conversation about Birkin’s life choices as a bat-carrying assassin, he complies with the contract and kills his target.
July 2, 11:30 AM
Shigeki Birkin’s Apartment
The narration picks up from the end of the first paragraph. We are back in Birkin’s apartment and it is revealed that he contracted Dan Smith to kill off Curtis Blackburn in order to save his own life, or in the worst case scenario, at least enact revenge.
Dan and Birkin begin preparations on Blackburn’s hit.
July 2, 3:11pm
Construction site of a new building
In order to scrunge together some cash, Birkin takes on a contract from a different informant called “Rare” Ray Zack (The name might be a wrestling reference, though I am not sure). As opposed to Mills, who won’t lift a finger unless huge payouts are involved, “Rare” would also provide lower-level contracts.
Ray contracts Birkin to kill a certain man, sitting right there in the construction site. However, Birkin realizes his target is Samayoru again, the same man he killed the previous night, welcoming him to Paradise in a line reminiscent of Chapter 17 of Flower, Sun and Rain.
July 3, 7:05 PM
Shigeki Birkin’s Apartment
Birkin monologues about his situation, and on his impotence in facing up to either Curtis Blackburn or Dan Smith.
Mills is in the apartment with Birkin, and he warns him that Antwerp, the company that provided the experimental drugs, is also after him. Everyone else who acted as a test subject has been killed except for him.
Their conversation is interrupted by an incoming car, coming to kill Mills.
Considering Birkin and Mills escaping the assassins is mentioned in the following paragraph, I can only imagine that the “PM” in the header is actually a typo, with the scene actually taking place at 7:05 AM.
July 3, 1:30 PM
Hotel Don’t Move
Having escaped the Antwerp hitmen, Mills accompanies Birkin to the Hotel “Don’t Move” and silently leaves him. After a chat with the frontman, reminiscent of Garcian’s chat with Edo Macallister in the Smile chapter, Birkin is told that a meeting with Blackburn was arranged for him on the top floor, and realizes the entire place is probably owned by him.
While terrified, Birkin decides to go through with the meeting, as it is apparently essential for the ultimate plan him and Dan have concocted to ultimately kill Blackburn.
Once he steps into the top floor room, Birkin is instead faced by Samayoru, who once again demands to be killed by him. Birkin informs him that as many times as he kills him, he just won’t be able to “erase” him, making the whole excercise pointless. He does, however, comply with the order.
July 3, 6:12 PM
Hotel Don’t Move
Birkin monologues about two of his contractors, Phillip and Roswell, who have taken advantage of him in the past by cutting or delaying his pay. They work for the local mafia boss Mario Castiglione, whose relationship with Curtis Blackburn’s syndicate is growing more and more tense by the day. That is to say that eventually, one will have to kill the other in order to take control of the Seattle underworld.
His narration is interrupted by the Frontman, informing him that a guest has arrived to meet him.
Birkin is met by Pedro Montana, Curtis Blackburn’s full time lawyer, bringing a stack of documents in order to confirm Shigeki Birkin’s identity beyond any reasonable doubt to prepare for his upcoming killing.
Birkin easily overpowers Montana’s bodyguards and takes him hostage, resolving to contact Dan Smith.
July 4th, 10:18 AM
Hotel Don’t Move
Birkin uses Mills to broker a deal; In exchange for Montana’s safety, Birkin and Dan will act as the middlemen in the negotiations between Castiglione and Blackburn. Their ultimate objective being to set up a trap to kill both men. The details are discussed over dinner at the hotel.
July 4th, 12:00 PM
Dan and Birkin are driving to Castiglione’s mansion. During their drive, they provoke each other with puns which eventually results in Dan shooting off Birkin’s pinky finger. Interestingly enough, Dan already refers to himself as a member of the Killer7, implying that the Smith Syndicate was already referred to as such before the Union Hotel massacre.
They also refer to their ability to kill as “Criminal Power”, a term that is never used in Killer7 proper but is a core tenant of The Silver Case & The 25th Ward.
July 4th, 2:48 PM
Dan and Birkin face off against the Castiglione henchmen. Dan manages to drop hundreds of them, and Birkin notices how Dan’s ability to dodge bullets puts him in a completely different league as a killing machine than himself.
After all the henchmen are taken care of, Dan and Birkin finally meet Castiglione. Birkin tries to convince Dan to spare Castiglione so that the meeting can take place, but Dan seems reluctant to comply.
Birkin tries to convince Castiglione that their show of force was meant to impress Castiglione into hiring them to take down Blackburn so that he can remain top dog in the Seattle underworld. Castiglione, however, is not convinced by their argument and surmises that they are not to be trusted. By blowing a whistle, Castiglione summons a full blown army of henchmen who quickly surround them. Outside of Phillips and Roswell, Birkin recognizes all the other soldiers as Samayoru.
Dan confirms that the men do, indeed, all look identical.
This is where Dan explains that the Samayorus Birkin has been encountering are prototypical versions of what would ultimately be the “Heaven Smile”. It should be noted that the Heaven Smiles were portrayed as fully human in earlier versions of the game:
You can also see human-looking Heaven Smiles in the Sunset animated intro:
Phillips and Roswell try to get Birkin to their side, which is when we are given a second revelation: Birkin himself is also turning into Samayoru, which he confirms by looking into a mirror. The experimental drug that he took being responsible for his transformation.
This is where a lot of the puzzle pieces come together; we can easily infer that the mountain of corpses next to the first Samayoru was also a batch of Heaven Smiles. It’s also a further hint that Mills, at his young age, could already be a Government employee. We are told in Hand in Killer7, namely in the Jaco Reports, that the world order establishing that the Heaven Smiles would be the source of terrorism with the Killer7 being the only ones able to stop them had been decided in government talks:
In the decision of the meeting, twenty-eight years ago, Japan’s destruction wasReport #23
mentioned. So were the Heaven Smiles. And, of course, Killer7 . . . .
Why are the Killer7 able to kill the Heaven Smiles? Because it was decided, in
the beginning, all that time ago. The balance of power in the concessions,
twenty-eight years ago, determined it.
The date mentioned in the report, 28 years ago, refers to 1982. Although no date is ever mentioned in the story itself, through Mills’ age we can infer it takes place in 1973. (Mills is forty-nine years old in 2010, as stated in Hand in Killer7. Him being twelve in this short story, places it 37 years before 2010.)
Looking at the Hand in Killer7 timeline further confirms this:
[ 1973 ]Timeline
Harman Smith lost his chess game against Kun Lan.
As part of his loss, Harman promised to give Kun Lan control over the major cities of the west coast of the United States of America. Harman began the process by sending DAN SMITH to Curtis Blackburn in Seattle, to destroy the small gangs there and establish Blackburn’s control.
CHRISTOPHER MILLS, as a young boy, became Blackburn’s informant and entered the world of underground society.
So it is possible that the Heaven Smile virus/drug was initially being developed independently (the story suggests its origin point being Germany, but also implies it might be a fake lead) before being formally adopted as a tool of control. The timeline also outright states that Mills is Blackburn’s informant, explaining his earlier line about Curtis being a “true friend”.
July 5th, 4:44 AM
At Shigeki Birkin’s Apartment
In Japanese, the number 4 is indicative of “death”. Therefore, the specific time indicated here is a numerical pun indicating that “it’s time to die”.
Birkin has a conversation with himself as Samayoru in the mirror. Samayoru reveals that he makes himself known to all of the “neighbors” (people who have been infected with Heaven Smile) as a sort of companion to take away the fear of death. Birkin interprets his own tears when looking as Samayoru as him being “ready to go”. The typical Heaven Smile laughter is revealed as a side-effect of the tumors that the virus grows inside the host’s body (thus explaining Birkin’s previous comment about his lymphonodes).
Birkin also reflects on the economic mechanisms that keep him tied to Seattle despite always intending to leave.
Samayoru refuses to elaborate on Blackburn’s motive in targeting Birkin, but after a torture session (which I can only surmised happened within Birkin’s mind or the spiritual plane) he at least reveals his identity as a prototype “smiling face”. A “smiling face” being a person who has been drained of all information. In other words, a person turned into an empty husk, with the only purpose to act as a weapon. Samayoru claims that is going to be Birkin’s ultimate fate, and Birkin passes out.
July 5th, 8:06pm
‘Rolling Thunder’ Nightclub
Dan Smith presents Castiglione’s head to Blackburn in exchange for a high ranking position in his syndicate. Blackburn and Dan exchange some threats. Birkin is present at the scene, possibly to try and negotiate his survival.
This sheds some light on Dan Smith’s motives; by looking at the Hand in Killer7 timeline i quoted before, we know that Dan’s ultimate objective was always to infiltrate the Blackburn syndicate and take out its competition, under orders from Harman.
July 6th, 0:18 PM
At Shigeki Birkin’s Apartment
Birkin muses on his remaining options during his last day on earth. After careful consideration and some spicy details about Pedro’s marriage, he elects to try and ask Mills for one last favour.
July 6th, 2:52 PM
At Seattle Tower.
With his death incoming, Birkin decides to chase love one last time. He narrates on how he had been visiting the same librarian in hopes of connecting to her. On his final day, he manages to strike a conversation with her and the two run out of the building together. Birkin ponders on wether the face she sees is his own, or Samayoru’s. After confessing his feelings for her, Claudia comments on how Birkin’s smiling face is scaring her, after which he is overcome with the urge to kill and smashes her head in with his bat.
July 6th, 10:30 PM
At Ristorante Dioxin.
Birkin meets with Mills at a high class restaurant. Mills presents Birkin with three pills: One of them will numb his senses so that his assassination won’t be painful, one will kill him outright, and the other will accelerate the progression of Heaven Smile, turning Birkin into a human bomb. Birkin, recognizing this as a bluff, takes all three pills at once with no effect. He then prompts Mills to call Blackburn, after which Mills reveals that Blackburn has been waiting for his call, and that he is merely acting as a messenger.
How could the story have ended?
This is obviously speculation on my part. The story has never been properly completed, leaving a bunch of questions unanswered.
For once, why did Blackburn mark Birkin for death? The only conclusion I can come to is that Castiglione was backed by Antwerp, and taking out “Smiling Faces” was Blackburn’s way of undermining Castiglione’s influence. As we know from Killer7, Blackburn himself eventually takes over organ trafficking routes that are used as raw materials to construct more Heaven Smiles. That is to say, he took over Castiglione’s market of manufacturing terrorism.
It is obvious that Dan Smith was just using Birkin to get a meeting with Castiglione, so that he could use the killing of Castiglione as a gateway into the Seattle Self Defence Force. Which initially led me to theorize the letter itself might be a fake, used by Dan Smith to set up the whole situation. That wouldn’t match up with Pedro Montana, Curtis Blackburn’s lawyer, going to such lenghts to confirm Birkin’s identity however. Blackburn definetly had a motive, but what that motive was, we’ll never really know.
Would Birkin have survived? Could he have made his way to Paradise? I personally don’t like his chances, considering that both Antwerp & the Blackburn syndicate wanted him dead, while he was being consumed by Heaven Smile.
I suspect that Dan Smith would have been the one to kill him. He did set that up by saying that he was the one to bring Birkin to Paradise, and also, we know that Dan eventually does join the ranks of the Seattle SDF until he is shot in the basketball court in 1975. The Killer7, as we established, are also the only ones “allowed” to execute Heaven Smiles.
That being said, I cannot discount a twist ending in which Birkin somehow survived. I just find it very unlikely.
Connection to Killer7:
While reading the story doesen’t add much to the context of Killer7 proper, it gives us a glimpse of the fact that the world order that is portrayed in the game was already being built as far back as the 70s. Seemingly unrelated events do line up in a cohesive narrative when looked at from the lens of history.
For once, according to HiK7 the current world order was only decided upon in 1982, and according to the game itself the world was only exposed to the “Smiling Faces” terrorism in 2003. KiD shows us how the development of Heaven Smile was already underway in the 1970s, to the point of having reached a testing phase, predating all the societal changes we see in the game by at least 25 years. It is also interesting to note how the “religious” aspect of Heaven Smile is completely absent at this point, indicating how their denotation as holy warriors only exists as a convenient label to support a specific world order. In the end, a Heaven Smile is nothing more than a human weapon, to be used at one’s convenience.
In Killer7, Andrey Ulmeyda imbibes the Heaven Smile virus in hopes of naturally developing antibodies, but he is consumed by it:
Which is probably a similar condition as what Birkin endured.
Connection to Travis Strikes Again:
Shigeki Birkin eventually made his on-screen debut in the 2019 videogame Travis Strikes Again. The game’s alternative attract mode, which was only released after a week, makes direct reference to the events of Killer is Dead. Positing that Birkin eventually managed to escape from Blackburn’s death sentence, by selling out Dan Smith to him.
The game also included a short Visual Novel campaign, detailing Birkin’s backstory and how he came to become an assassin under the employment of the Castiglione mafia. (The organization is mentioned as operating in the pacific north-west, where Seattle is located, in a surprising piece of consistency.)
Keep in mind none of these events actually have to line up with the game Killer7, as it takes place in an alternate history setting different from that of the other games. That is to say that the Dan Smith, Christopher Mills & Curtis Blackburn who appear or are otherwise mentioned in TSA, effectively have nothing to do with the same characters from Killer7.
However, even when only taking Killer is Dead into account, you have to ignore certain details for the storylines to line up.
First of all, in the context of Killer7, the short story was implied to have taken place some time during 1973. In the context of TSA, the end of the Castiglione mafia has to happen sometime between 2007 (the date of Badgirl’s death) and 2017 (when TSA takes place). Luckily, no dates are ever mentioned in the short story itself, making this retcon quite painless.
When Birkin mentions that Travis has been off the radar for “seven years”, he’s actually referring to the passage of time between No More Heroes 2 (2010) and TSA (2017), during which Travis was in hiding. It is unknown why Birkin did not take a shot at him while Travis was still residing in Santa Destroy; he might have had no way of making a move without alerting Dan Smith.
Through the course of TSA, Birkin is referred to as “Bad Man” rather than “Bat Man”, although that is also easily reconcilable. Unless I am mistaken he is never referred to as “Bad Man” in the prequel VN, and he might have changed his name to honor his dead daughter once his path to revenge was set.
Obviously, KiD made absolutely no reference to Birkin having a daughter, which is harder to ignore. In fact, Birkin mentions being 29 within KiD, which is just nonsensical when applied to the context of TSA where he lost a 23-years-old daughter. The Heaven Smile drugs are also never mentioned within the context of TSA, along with the loss of his pinky finger, meaning these are details you’re just going to have to ignore, or justify with some bizzarre headcanon. I guess Birkin might be an unreliable narrator lying about his age and finger, and the drug being experimental meant it eventually lost its effect.
Shigeki Birkin eventually met his end in No More Heroes 3 at the hands of a blue space alien which is a real plotpoint in a real game.