Tag Archives: Satsuma Gishiden

Satsuma Gishiden volume 2

Satsuma Gishiden volume 2Satsuma Gishiden volume 2
Dark Horse Comics
by Hiroshi Hirata

BW, 280 pgs, $14.95 US / Higher in Canada

In my review of volume 1, I neglected to mention Hiroshi Hirata’s artwork. It is┬ádetailed and always ferocious, with strong inks, haggard characters, harsh landscapes, lived in locales and brutal bouts of violence.

It does indeed remind me of the artwork from other samurai epics of the era, specifically Samurai Executioner and Lone Wolf and Cub and thus I have to wonder if the style is a product of the 1970s, and if so, which artists were influencing whom. Where Satsuma Gishiden differs, however, is in Hirata’s use of calligraphy to highlight and isolate key moments of dialogue. This is used to dramatic effect, and thankfully Dark Horse has left the calligraphy untouched, opting instead to provide a translation in a smaller word balloon below. Continue reading Satsuma Gishiden volume 2

Satsuma Gishiden volume 1

Satsuma Gishiden volume 1Satsuma Gishiden volume 1
Dark Horse Comics
by Hiroshi Hirata
BW, 264 pgs $14.95 US / Higher in Canada

Satsuma Gishiden volume 1 opens with an action sequence that grows in both intensity and violence as it progresses, a fight between a convicted criminal and samurai of the Shimazu clan, the criminal as good as naked on a horse and the samurai in full combat attire, armed to the teeth and lusting for blood in this traditional contest. This bloody action introduces the overarching topic of Satsuma Gishiden, which isn’t bold samurai in bloody battles. No, the topic is what do warriors do when there is no war.

Manga-ka Hiroshi Hirata puts the brakes on in a big way after that first visceral tale. What follows is a historical introduction to different societal classes of samurai, the sanpin and the goshi, the latter low-born samurai who scratched out a living as farmers and laborers between military engagements. I will admit it is dull reading in comparison to that slam bam opening, with a very textbook presentation of the material, but once you get past the initial shock the information engages with its historical accuracy and relevancy. It is a side of samurai you rarely see in popular culture, and though it is not nearly as sexy as the warrior side of samurai life, it does make samurai feel a lot more “real” and a lot less archetypal. Continue reading Satsuma Gishiden volume 1