This is a theme this week. Lucky y’all. This will be a rare Friday blog.
There is no game tonight as the guys are out for a variety of reasons. I will investigate what is on TV on Friday nights. Yay! I will also read some sections in a PKI and Certificate book.
Today I’ll talk about Lone Wolf and Cub. This is a comic book series, Japanese manga actually, released in Canada as a 28 volume series. The creators are writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima.
Lone Wolf is Ogami Itto and Cub is his young son Daigoro. Itto is an assassin for hire and Daigoro often plays a role in the assassinations. The early stories are seemingly stand-alone tales of various assignations the pair undertake, but it becomes a complex tale of revenge for the Ogami clan versus Yagyu clan and their head the villainous Yagyu Retsudo.
The greatest strength of the series is the page-to-page and panel-to-panel storytelling shown through the art. The comic can spend more than twenty pages on a single pass in an iajutsu duel. Twenty nail biting, suspenseful pages. Pages are spent to establish scene and mood. The pacing is entrancing and entirely different than what is portrayed in an American comic.
And the action! Zowie! Imagine the detail apparent in the Matrix-type bullet-time shot, but still showing speed and skill. There are about 8400 pages and the action is different and exciting on everyone of them. Swordplay, archery, sprinting, horseback chases, avalanches, fires and floods are only some of the set pieces. Explosions and medieval firearms are also impressive weapons used in certain scenes.
At first, you marvel at the horrendous parenting shown by Ogami Itto. But the bond between father and son is a deep and touching aspect of the overall story. While Itto shares few mores with me, both he and Daigoro have a rigid sense of honour and moral code.
When I say Daigoro participates in the missions he often behaves beyond normal three year old capabilities, but within the logic of the story he is as remarkable as his father and the story does not push the required suspension of disbelief beyond what is necessary.
The violence is often disturbing and some depictions combining sex and violence sometimes made me uncomfortable. It is interesting as the story often portrays women as being very formidable even within the cultural restrictions of feudal Edo, but also uses nudity and sex in a manner that seems exploitative to me. In general, I think it is mostly a cultural difference, but I think that the work was boundary pushing even in Japan when originally released.
The overarching story is pretty incredible. You slowly come to know Ogami Itto and understand his quest for revenge. You very slowly learn about Yagyu Retsudo and the vast array of forces aligned against Itto. Not every story contributes much to the overall plot, but even side missions come to raise the overall tension of the tale by showing the time passing and the threats Daigoro and Itto must overcome.
There is one major misstep for me as late in the story another villain is introduced besides Retsudo. Abe-no-Kaii serves to provide a final obstacle to Ogami. But he comes from no where, is not a valid threat to Ogami, possesses no code of honour (in contrast to even other villains in series) and wallows in disgusting depravity. Finally, he breaks the tension and pacing when it seems time for the final confrontation between Retsudo and Itto.
Complaints aside I highly recommend this series. It is excellent, excellent material. It is the longest single comic story I’ve ever read. Good stuff.
Time to find supper. No donair tonight. 😦