by Hiroaki Samura
Dark Horse Comics
BW, 248 pgs w/ ads
$12.95 US / More in Canada
Blade of the Immortal was the first manga I read. It was my introduction to manga, showing me Japanese comics weren’t all big hair, big eyes, and big robots. It took me three volumes before I really got into the samurai / punk storytelling, but Hiroaki Samura’s artwork had me hooked from the very beginning. I knew going into Ohikkoshi that the stories within were going to be very different from Blade of the Immortal. This is a collection of early Samura creations, each told in “modern” Japan.
The first is the longest of the bunch and it gives this collection its name. It’s the story of several twenty-something university students as they fall in love, in lust, play in rock bands, get drunk and basically try to avoid entering adulthood while they still have the energy to do so. The core of the story– the lust affair the main character, Sachi, has with the sexy Akagi – didn’t do it for me. I found Sachi annoyingly hopeless and loud, and while Akagi had her charms, she is too mature and worldly for Sachi. I didn’t stop reading, however. What kept me going was waifish Kobarukawa. This young woman is the quietest of the group, and yet she’s a star performer on the local rock and roll scene. She’s a real cutie, and she harbors strong, unspoken feelings for Sachi. They’ve been friends forever, but he’s too wrapped up in his own personal lust for Akagi to notice little Kobarukawa, although I feel Kobarukawa has dodged a bullet there. Sachi is no catch. Another strength of note is Samura’s art. Even though the subject matter differes greatly from Blade of the Immortal, Samura employs some of the same art techniques, but they don’t have the same dramatic effect because Ohikkoshi is a romantic comedy.
What follows this story of friendships is a crazy tale about an aspiring manga creator who also happens to be a virgin, and a female one at that. There’s a disgustingly lusty editor, mahjong addiction, gang warfare and life lessons wrapped into this nutty adventure. The story wasn’t my cup of tea and Samura’s signature art style has taken a vacation.
This collection ends with something even crazier and less accessible: “Kyoto Super Barhopping Journal: Bloodbath at Midorogaike”. It’s an autobiographical travel piece about clubs and boozing. Perhaps it would be more appealing to me if I was familiar with the locations being mentioned.
Ohikkoshi the collection isn’t a bad compilation of stories. It’s actually an interesting look at the early career of Hiroaki Samura if you’re a fan of his work. For me, Ohikkoshi was simply an eye opener. It made me realize I don’t want to read romantic comedies and silly autobiographical adventures from Samura, even if they offer insight into his evolution as a manga-ka. I want Blade of the Immortal. Period. (Chad Boudreau)