This is the Edo-era samurai guts. Controversial, tough, angry, highly skilled and lost in a time of peace, the characters of Satsuma Gishiden tell a quasi-historical tale of social caste and brutal reprisal. Readers with a taste for Kazuo Koike's gritty Lone Wolf & Cub will go nuts for master gekiga artist Hiroshi Hirata's tome of samurai struggle. Hirata's art and calligraphy leap off the page during scenes of action, only to unfold upon a full bleed that looks like a fine plate print. It's art at is most expressive, accentuating the classic stoic samurai characters you've come to know, only with a little more true society thrown in to help the reader understand what it was really like to be a warrior without a war.
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Like other Dark Horse Manga titles, this one translates a late 1970s series of historically based samurai adventures. In six masterful, dynamic episodes, Hirata recounts the forgotten history of the samurai warrior caste during the late eighteenth century in Japan's Satsuma Province. With no battles on which to sharpen their skills, the samurai work as common laborers, though they spend free time in rituals involving the horseback pursuit and slaughter of criminals. A recurring plot thread includes the fate of one such criminal, a disgraced samurai, who stages a dramatic escape. Hirata's painstakingly rendered figures possess enough realism to mimic a film by Kurosawa. The only disappointment here is the format. Hirata's excellent pen-and-ink drawings deserve pages larger than the short-mass-market-paperback-size leaves of this book. Still, with at least two further volumes in process, a promising selection for samurai fans. Carl Hays
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Book Description Dark Horse, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX1593075170
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