Here’s something I could never have made up.
On the way back from A-KON this year, I dug out some of the manga I’d bought for the plane ride back home and started reading. One of the books was Buichi Terasawa’s Kabuto, a ninja fantasy with the same delirious flavor to its material as the live-action 1981 movie version of Flash Gordon. The second volume, though, sported a scene that somehow seemed terribly familiar: the hero Kabuto confronts a village magistrate in her bedchamber to allegedly “protect” her from a monster lurking outside … except the monster is right there with him — the magistrate transforms into a half-crab creature and prepares to devour Kabuto alive.
Where had I seen this before? I knew I had, and the question gnawed at me hard enough to make me ignore my complementary packet of pretzel sticks. It wasn’t until the plane touched ground that my synapses clicked, and once I was home I realized the Kabuto scene was an almost beat-for-beat replay of a climactic moment from the chapter “Kanekozo” in Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo #1. I would have cried “plagiarism!” if it wasn’t for the fact that Terasawa was, indeed, one of Tezuka’s protégées. And sure enough, there on the first page of Kabuto was this missive: Dedicated to a great hero, my giant master, Mr. Osamu Tezuka.Read more
Nothing like seeing a series hitting its stride. The Yagyū Ninja Scrolls had a slow first volume, but picked up swiftly the second time out, and now its third installment follows nicely in the same vein. Come to think of it, even if this series hadn’t ratcheted up the way it has, I would’ve had a hard time saying no to it: me, turn down an adventure culled straight from the pen of the man who essentially created the pop-culture ninja mythos as we know it? Not happening. Seeing Scrolls work out as well as it does only enhances the pleasure of reading it.
The story so far: Yagyū Jubei has pledged to help the surviving women
of the Hori clan enact vengeance upon the Seven Spears of Aizu, the
villains who slaughtered their husbands. Under Jubei’s stern but wise
instruction, the seven Hori women begin to do the seemingly impossible:
shape themselves into a fighting force that will use misdirection,
tactics and cunning as much as old-school swordsmanship and blunt-nosed
violence. Individually, they’re no match for any one of the Seven
Spears, and they all know it — but they’ve already killed one of them
(the sickle-and-chain-wielding Daidoji) by working together, and that
alone is a major boost to their collective spirits.
I gotta be honest: At first, with Kurohime, my frustration overshadowed nearly everything else. From what I’d seen of volumes one and two, the series sported great potential but hadn’t quite achieved liftoff. Now, however, by volume 6, the story’s picked up plenty of speed and momentum, a fun mix of ultramodern shonen-manga attitude and ancient Japanese mythology. The latter grabs me a bit more than the former, but the fun of it is that both of those things are jammed together cheek-by-jowl on the same page (and often in the same frame). Most important, I was more interested in what wasactually going on than what could be going on.
The opening couple of pages quite wisely run the voodoo down for everyone who didn’t feel like showing up earlier. Kurohime, the magical gunslinging witch, rebelled against the gods and was punished for her transgressions by having the vast majority of her powers sealed away. In her “powered-down”, “chibi” form, she’s Himeko, a bratty little girl who can barely summon enough energy to blow out a candle. Only true love can unlock the full gamut of her strength, and much to her own surprise she finds it in the form of Zero, a young man with a bit of gunslinging skill of his own. Zero’s death broke her heart, and now despite her diminutive form and minimal strength, she’s determined to find Zero’s spirit and bring him back to life. Read more