Monday, September 18, 2006

Book-A-Day #62 (9/17): Path of the Assassin, Volume One: Serving in the Dark by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima

This is the third Koike-Kojima storyline to be translated into English and published by Dark Horse over here (there are a couple of related, shorter storylines with one or the other of them and other creators, too, but I haven't followed them yet). The first was Lone Wolf and Cub (in 28 volumes), which is generally considered to be their masterpiece -- and it is really good. Then came ten volumes of Samurai Executioner, which apparently they did just before starting Lone Wolf.

Now comes this, and I don't know how many volumes it will be before it's done. The original copyright date on this book is 1972, which would (I think) put it right in the middle of Lone Wolf -- perhaps the two series appeared concurrently, or maybe they alternated.

The story is historical fiction, about a young ninja (though that word is usually not used) serving the young lord who would one day become Tokugawa Ieyasu and unify Japan. It's set right in the middle of Japan's most insular period, among people who are hard to fathom for modern westerners. On top of that, this is the first Koike-Kojima story not to be flopped photographically for US publication; it has been translated, but the art and story still reads from right-to left. (And -- having read a lot of comics the other way over the past twenty or more years -- I'm finding that hard to get used to; it doesn't flow easily for my eyes.)

So I found this story very distanced, but I still enjoyed it. Kojima's art is very dynamic (even in a book like this, where half of the story takes place in the dark) and Koike is good with character.

I should mention that this has a big "Parental Advisory" sticker on it, like most of the Koike-Kojima books I've seen. The other ones (especially the later Lone Wolf volumes, where body parts fly about with abandon and gallons of blood are spilled) have this warning mostly for violence, but this is the first one where the warning is primarily for sex. The young lord's wedding night is quite graphically depicted, and there are several other sex scenes. None of it is gratuitous, but I'm sure it will offend someone. Sex always does.

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