by Nobuhiro Watsuki; adaptation by Gerard Jones
published by Viz; $7.95 US
Kenshin, the former assassin who’s vowed never again to kill, sets out to rescue Megumi. She’s a former doctor’s assistant being held hostage by Kanryu because of her knowledge of opium creation. Now, Kenshin has to fight past members of Kanryu’s private army of spies and freaks.
Superhero fans who’ve been wondering about manga will find this a great starter volume. For one thing, it’s very reasonably priced, cheaper than even the standard manga price but of high quality and format. But more significantly, the bad guys, given different art styles, could fit right in as supervillains.
Han’nya wears a devil’s face with curving fangs, and his arms seem to stretch farther than they should. It’s all a trick, but a deceptively simple one that shows a devious knowledge of human nature. More disturbing is the reason for his mask and the extent to which he mutilated himself for his calling.
Kenshin’s got some tricks of his own, making him exceptional as well. He demonstrates an unknown sword stance, one that allows him to respond almost instantly. It also cleverly outwits his opponent. Then Han’nya pops Wolverine-like claws, and the full-on battle begins.
He’s only the first obstacle that must be fought past, though. In between the strikes and blows comes dialogue. The combatants cover fighting techniques; the meaning of battle; appropriate uses for strength; and what defines honor and sacrifice. They’re re-fighting historical battles that they lost without the first chance to win. Their personal and political struggles to do the right thing and defend the weak attract the reader’s attention and address one’s sense of justice regardless of the cultural setting.
More information is available at the publisher’s website. I previously reviewed Book 1.