More on swords, and this time its back to feudal Japan. By this time I’m sure some of you would have noticed my unhealthy obsession with all things chanbara. Yes, indeed a Samurai is one of the many career choices that I was certain I was gonna choose when I was young. As a result, as I grew up and slowly realized that society in general would not be too pleased if I chose to live out the Bushido code and always wore a badass katana, my interests gravitated more and more towards learning what I could of this fascinating subculture.
First off, a warning. If you are the kind of reader who prefers the more comedic and lighter note of Shonen manga then read no further. This manga is not for you. This is as adult a manga as it gets. Nothing is left to be faded, nothing left to the imagination. Death is alive in this comic, and it stalks each character with a force that is generally lacking in comics. The most surprising find for me in this manga was that I could not rightly predict who among the characters would live, who would die. Just as it is in real life, and this worried me immensely. For the characters themselves do little to alleviate your concerns jumping from one dangerous situation into the next.
The story itself is deceptively simple and yet immensely complex. Two brothers of questionable descent are charged by their dying mother to gain strength in this cruel world or die. Grow strong. The simple theme which is echoed in so many manga today. But how does one grow strong? That is the hero’s journey the brothers must undertake. For as is the case in real life, there is no shortcut to growing strong. No thousand year jinseng that gives you superpowers, no witchdoctor who will suddenly and inexplicably open your ki channels. The pacing of the story is very unlike a comic, which makes the growth in the respective characters to appear very natural. But while the underlying goals of the brothers remains constant. The journey itself is as vivid and ever changing as the seasons.
Adventures abound as the two brothers quest on. Rising from humble origins to dizzying heights on the basis of their martial prowess and determination. They meet mentors, some wise, some twisted beyond measure. They also gain companions as their journey progresses. And the series gets more and more addictive with each turned page. There are many reasons that can be listed down to justify reading this manga. The artwork alone is enthralling and revolutionary. The storyline is deep and rich with a multitude of intersecting currents and arcs. The setting is period Japan, there be Samurai present. But these will not be your reasons, and ultimately you will have to find your own reason to read this manga.
I read it because I see in it a tale of two Samurai and how they come to be. And I know that is the kind of tale I dreamed about as a child.
Sidooh. A spiralling story of death and destruction and swordplay. Not for the faint hearted.