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Monday, June 14, 2010

Seven Samurai

Nothing too heavy today, just some suggestions for samurai fans.  If you like ANY of the following characters, you should check out the rest of them.

1. Miyamoto Musashi - The main character of Takehiko Inoue's "Vagabond". This series follows a sensationalized account of the legendary swordsman's life.  Arguably the greatest swordsman to have ever lived, Musashi is already an interesting historical figure.  When coupled with Inoue's artwork, his journey to become the "strongest under the sun" is beyond compelling.  Beyond beautiful. Beyond words.
 2. Manji - Never one to make a lot of friends, Manji was responsible for the deaths of 100 men before being gifted with immortality.  As one who wants to die in battle, it's not a very good present (nor was it intended to be).  In order to lift this curse, the 800 year old nun responsible makes a deal with Manji.  If he cuts down 1000 evil people, she will let him pass on to the next world.  Even if the idea of an immortal swordsman doesn't appeal to you, the artwork of Hiroaki Samura is sure to impress.  The character design and fight sequences are genius.  Look for "Blade of the Immortal" (and the rest of these guys) in the manga section at Laughing Ogre.

3. Himura Kenshin - For those of you who don't want your bad @$$ swordsman killing people, check our Nobuhiro Watsuki's red-headed assassin.  While he has sworn off killing, his past is blood-soaked enough to make him a constant target of old grudges.  As a goverment assassin during the Bakumatsu War, Kenshin became known as the "Hitokiri Battōsai," mercilessly slaying anyone his superiors targeted. Now, he strives for peace in the era his bloody sword helped create.  I think we all know that never works out.  Read "Rurouni Kenshin" to see if this swordsman can protect his friends as well as his hope for a corpse-free life.

4. Roranoa Zoro - Another swordsman with the goal of being the strongest, Zoro trains and fights tirelessly.  Unlike Musashi, the quest is not for himself.  A tragic childhood promise drives this fighter to push himself beyond human limits.  Luckily, he joined up with the boy who dreams of being King of the Pirates, so he is given plently of opportunities to test his skills against the world's mightiest swordsmen.  Check out "One Piece", by Eichiro Oda. Yes, he does fight with three swords.

5. Usagi Yojimbo -The titular character of Stan Sakai's long running epic, Usagi is the epitome of what we expect from vagrant swordsmen.  He is honorable, spiritual, gullable, and deadly fast with a blade.  "Usagi Yojimbo" is a anthropomorphic window into the world of feudal Japan. Every issue of this series is a testament to Sakai's skill as a story teller.  Don't ignore this series because you harbor an aversion to rabbits. Usagi is a stand up guy, but he doesn't hold back when it comes to cutting down enemies.

6. Ogami Ittō -This guy is probably the one you should hire if you want a protector or an assassin.  If you imagine Batman for hire, you get this guy and his kid.  The stories in "Lone Wolf and Cub" are incredibly deep.  Anything I say about this series is going to fall short to the majesty of its reality.  You should know this is, in large part, what inspired Frank Miller (Sin City, Dark Knight Returns, Ronin) as a creator and artist. Read this series, by Kazou Koike and Goseki Kojima, to light your creative fire.

7. Takeshi Yamamoto -Being a swordsman to the captain of a pirate ship is pretty cool, but being the swordsman to a mob boss might be a little bit cooler (it's up for debate). Enter: Yamamoto.  This guy was the star baseball player at Namimori Middle School before falling in with Vongola the 10th (future mob boss) and his crew.  Yamamoto believes the mob thing to be a game (he's a dumb jock), but that doesn't stop him from learning his family's secret sword style to protect the others.  Look for this guy in "Reborn!" by Akira Amano.

- Ryan

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