Friday, September 17, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 226 (9/17) -- Red Hot Chili Samurai, Vol. 1 by Yoshitsugu Katagiri

Some books are so puffy and lightweight that the mere act of casting a critical spotlight on them causes them to explode, like some cheap, old nitroglycerine sweating away in a basement. Red Hot Chili Samurai is one of them, a silly little manga about a teenage swordsman and his mostly uncharacterized sidekicks who battle "bad guys" in a vaguely historical Japanese setting.

Sento Kokaku is sixteen years old, hotheaded (as required, since he's the hero of a shonen samurai manga) and addicted to chewing hot peppers (in an attempt to give him something distinctive). In typical manga fashion, we're told his blood type and astrological sign, as well as his birthday and his likes and dislikes. (Is he a samurai, or a Playboy pinup?) His father, the bland local lord, sends him out on missions to break up gambling, prostitution, and other "bad guy" operations that, in actual "samurai-era" Japan, were mostly likely run by the guy in that position. But let's not focus on verisimilitude here, or we won't get anywhere.

Sento has matching boy-and-girl samurai sidekicks, plus a ninja who "speaks" only by holding up signs and doesn't seem to do much. (But the action of Red Hot Chili Samurai is so muddled and difficult to follow that I may have missed something.) They all have the modern superhero's aversion to spilling blood, and the concomitant ability to whack people with swords into unconsciousness without actually hurting them.

It all has more energy than sense, which is appealing to young, overstimulated boys of all nations. The art is professional enough during static scenes, but quickly loses track of any action into a confusing clump of panels of body parts slashing at each other. There are many better samurai manga out there than this, but this one is good enough for what those jumpy boys really want out of their stories: undemanding, utterly moral tales that will never make them think for a second.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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