Di Giorgio, Genêt
Takeo is a Ronin in feudal Japan, whose mission to find his missing brother, Akio, brings him to the impoverished Isle With No Name. The Yakuza have forced the villagers of the island into a yearly tournament, where a champion of their choosing would fight one hired by the bandits in order to be pardoned from a hefty tithe. Of course, the tournament is hopeless, as the Yakuza champion is an unbeatable master swordsman by the name of Shobei and the villagers are penniless in the aftermath of a disastrous plague. Takeo doesn’t have any intention of involving himself in the conflict, but an encounter with Shobei may force his hand.
I’ve always loved samurai stories, from movies to books to documentaries and everything in between. The tradition is as fascinating as it is multifaceted, and I think this book really captures that. The attention to cultural details was pretty fantastic to see. It was a very authentic representation of the place and time, but we get plenty of that myth and mystery that has made the figure of the samurai so famous in popular culture. Takeo, the outcast, on a mysterious quest to find someone who just up and disappeared. (Fan-girls and boys everywhere swoon in unison.) Enter Shobei, the old, experienced warrior with a painful past and nothing left to lose. Mysterious veiled Yakuza boss lady hiring guys with swords to kill other guys with swords. Plagues! Drunk monks! More swords! So many opportunities for nerd-gasmic fight sequences! And there’s just something weird and magicky going on in the background I can’t quite put my finger on but it’s making me already hate the fact that I have to wait to see what happens.
That being said, I feel like this first part was a lot of exposition, which I can understand considering it’s a reboot. There were a couple of great teaser moments for what’s to follow, namely the swordfights. I’m really excited about the swordfights. But this is a heavily story-centric book and while I would enjoy just flipping through 32 pages of steel flying through the air with cool sound effects and chopping people in half with cool sound effects, I also really appreciated how we got to see into a lot of what was going on with the characters behind the scenes as well.
Bottom line: this book sets up nicely what promises to be a really interesting story told with some pretty darn beautiful artwork, pleasing to us normal folk and history buffs alike.