The concept of Lone Wolf and Cub is, in a word, fascinating. A stoic Ronin wanders the countryside of ancient Japan, carting his small child in a vessel that more than meets the eye, with a banner to advertise: `son for hire, sword for hire.' Over mountains and through cities he travels, offering his unique services to those needy - and to those who can pay. The legend of Ogami Itto and his precocious son Daigoro spreads far and wide; he gives hope to the desperate, vengeance for the bereft, a chance of rogue justice in an unbalanced society. And more: LW&C walk the path of meifumado, the Buddhist hell of demons and damnation, to achieve a private vendetta: to lay rest to the tragedy that has set father and son upon the assassin's road - a dastardly deed only hinted at in this first volume.
Until Dark Horse decided to publish the entire series in 2000, Lone Wolf and Cub had existed beforehand as a manga-mythos of the Far-East - extremely popular in its Nippon homeland, where it begun serialization in 1970 and continued for many years, spawning six films and critical acclaim in its wake; but published sporadically and incomplete on western shores. Dark Horse's commitment to the series was an audacious one - the story spanned some 28 volumes, an expensive investment for publisher and readership alike - but the end result was, to me and other scholars of Eastern culture, invaluable. For LW&C not only entertains with its blend of samurai-noir and vicious sword-play, it educates on the finer points of Japanese culture, as it existed in the Tokugawa era, and displays vividly the struggle of existence, from lowly peasants to the most upright nobility. LW&C is an Epic, and one of the finest I've chanced to read.Read more ›
(Note: For reader convenience, Western nomenclature is used - given name first, family name last.)The Western world's exposure to the Samurai culture has been rather limited - the most popular venues to the mass public have been the movies *Shogun Assassin* and *The Seven Samurai*. Both are fine examples of the film genre, but because the nature of film, neither really delves into the bushido mindset as deeply as I would like.It is in the arena of the comic book that the best explorations of the samurai legend have been achieved. Two titles come to mind - Stan Sakai's *Usagi Yojimbo* and Kazuo Koike's *Lone Wolf and Cub* (*Shogun Assassin* was based on the latter's film adaptation). The title reflects the content manner - Itto Ogami, the protagonist, is a highly-skilled ronin who travels with his toddler son, taking assassin's work whenever it comes but always assuring (sometimes indirectly) that the job upholds his strict sense of bushido.Some might say that the idea of an assassin with bushido is self-contradictory. However, under the skillful pen of Koike, Ogami's methods allow him to follow his chosen path and hold on to his honor simultaneously. His requirements regarding his assignments are simple - cash money and complete disclosure about the nature of the assignment, including the often compromising details.In this first volume (~300 pages of more than 8000), we are treated to tales of Ogami's skill and prowess as a swordsman and strategist. His is an unorthodox approach to the samurai arts, and he is absolutely merciless to his victims. His son often collaborates in the assignments, usually as a set-up ploy.Read more ›
After purchasing this volume out of curiosity, I have decided that the Lone Wolf and Cub stories by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima are among the very best comic books ever created. Their mix of action, drama and history make each episode unforgettable. Each page has iconic imagery, heroism, cinematic silences, and breathtaking layouts that immediately bring Akira Kurosawa to mind. While every volume in this collection is a must own, I would suggest reading this volume first. This way, you will understand who the lead characters are-- the world weary samaurai and his son in the wooden stroller loaded with the samaurai's secret weapons. You'll also witness unforgettable moments in their lives (such as when the father realizes he must run from his fellow warriors and wordlessly demands that his son choose between a ball or a gleaming sword). The stories in this volume are well-drawn, dramatic, and timeless. This is why the they have served as the basis for a popular television series during the late 1970s, the Hollywood classic Shogun Assassin, and Frank Miller's groundbreaking graphic novel, Ronin. Once you read this first volume, you'll want to own them all.
I'm a big fan of the Lone Wolf and Cub fan movies. They are some of the bloodiest movies I've ever seen, but they're fascinating at the same time with their interesting display of the Japanese people during the Edo period. However, I was dubious when I heard about the manga series. I assumed that the manga was based on the movie series (an incorrect guess), thought it was too small (I've had bad experience with small manga books, read my review of Gundam Wing #1 to see what I mean), and while flipping through it, wasn't immediately attracted to the artwork like I was with the Blade of the Immortal series. However, when I gave it a closer inspection, I found the artwork to actually be pretty detailed and well done if you just gave it a chance. ... So I bought it. And I most certainly don't regret it. The stories are great, the art is great, the characters are cool, the dialogue is interesting, the different challenges Ogami faces are all unique and interesting...everything about it is great. Since continuity isn't a huge issue with the series the way it is with other mangas, I don't have to sweat it if I don't buy the books in proper order. Another great thing to not just this volume but to the entire series is the Buddhist mythology, beliefs, and tradtions inserted into the story. If you want to learn about Buddhism, don't pick up a "For Dummies" book. Instead read this manga and see the role Buddhism played in people's lives, as well as learning plenty about meifumado, the six paths and four ways, and other parts of everday Buddhism.Last to mention, one of my favorite things about this series, that has brought it near and dear to my heart, is that it's portable...it's the perfect size that I can still read it, but it fits in my pocket and I can carry it with me anywhere. This is a great manga, and you won't regret buying it (as long as tasteful nudity, rare and minimalistic sex scenes, and incredibly gory and violent action).