I could go on about the work in these adventures, but as with the last two reviews, I still cannot hold a candle to the others who’ve lauded his work before me, especially in this issue: Paul Dini; Greg Rucka; and Scott Shaw! All lend their accolades in the introductions, and if you’ve not been convinced by me yet, then please, for all that is good, listen to these masters lay it out. Sakai is a one of a kind artist and revered by everyone who’s been touched by his work. His dedication and respect for the culture and history of the times he’s writing about is evident on every page, and he crafts each tale in such a deeply personal and affecting way.
Every story in this collection is amazing, and the continuation of the Grasscutter’s tale . . . epic does not begin to cover the vast scope that Sakai has woven for us in the story of this fabled sword. It’s amazing how the myriad of threads and storylines sync into this magnificent work. One character who’s continued to grow is Gen, who we get to see take more of a stand and hold standards a little more than we’ve seen in him before. He’s still the brash bounty hunter we’ve come to know, but the shades of his character become more clear in the stories in this collection.
There are so many parallels in this series that one can draw to; Cowboy Bebop readily pops to mind, as do Samurai Champloo and the works of Kurosawa - specifically in the story of "Showdown," which is Sakai’s version of the film, Yojimbo, sharing its name with our titular character. Two rival gangs control and terrorize a small town, and it’s up to one man (or a rabbit and rhino) to free them from the tyranny. This shows what makes a storyteller great. Stories are all the same, broken down far enough, and the great stories will be replayed endlessly throughout time in various guises: Pyramus and Thisby become Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night becomes All Shook Up, even current sitcoms borrow from classic tales that are retold through the ages. What matters most to the story is how its told. The master work behind it is what will determine if it rises to our consciousness or fades to the annals of history. Sakai weaves the same tale as Kurosawa, and yet each feels like the “perfect” telling of the story. That’s the sign of mastery and just goes to enhance the brilliant work he has done.
Another story I’d love to call out is Kitsune’s tale, the final story in this collection. Touching and endearing, it brings a depth to this trickster that we’ve not been permitted to see prior and mixes tragedy and joy in wonderful symphony. These two affected me the most of this hefty tome, but they’re certainly not the only brilliant moments. I may never again read something so thoroughly entertaining as "The Kami of the Pond." Short and packed with an incredible lesson and potency, it’s in itself a masterclass on short form storytelling and had me laughing loudly on a crowded train.
If you are like me and want to continue diving into this amazing series, this third volume is a welcome addition for your shelf, and I’ll be excited to put my copy in when it comes out.
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