Manga Review: Samurai Executioner Omnibus Volume 4
Samurai Executioner Omnibus Volume 4 is set in Edo Period of Japan, and features a young ronin named Yamada Asaemon who becomes a sword-tester for the shogun. As part of his duties, Yamada is frequently called upon to perform executions.
Samurai Executioner Omnibus Volume 4
Written by: Kazuo Koike
English Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: February 11, 2015
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Many of the stories that appear in the Samurai Executioner manga series focus on the criminals that Yamada is called on to execute. Their stories are usually told as the prisoners’ final words before receiving the final stroke from Yamada’s sword. But sometimes this formula is broken by the prisoner’s story being shown to the reader before they are taken to Yamada for their beheading. It’s nice to see the format for these stories get changed from time to time, so reading the volume doesn’t simply feel like seeing one beheading after another.
There were some very interesting stories included for the backstories of the condemned criminals. While some of the crimes that were committed may have been similar, the circumstances leading up to those crimes are vastly different. The volume shows that some of these backstories make Yamada think so much that he goes out to try to find answers to help explain the backstories. Some of the stories of the condemned make the reader think as well.
Samurai Executioner Omnibus Volume 4 also includes three stories that have little to no focus on Yamada in them. Instead, these stories focus on a couple named Kasajiro Sakane and Shinko Sakane. Kasajiro is one of Edo’s best policemen, and Shinko is his wife. The Sakanes have a connection to Yamada, although in this particular volume, we only see any interactions between Yamada and the couple in one of their three stories.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the stories that focus on Kasajiro and Shinko. They’re well-written characters who have interesting interactions and a wonderful chemistry between them. I also get the impression from what I saw of Shinko in this volume that she’s more independent than women generally would have been during this era in Japan’s history, which adds to her appeal as a character for me.
Many of the stories that appear in Samurai Executioner Omnibus Volume 4 are written with historical accuracy, although the characters in the series are fictional. Even Yamada himself is based on a real-life line of sword-testers who served the Tokugawa Shogunate up to the early 19th century. The amount of research that Koike did for this series is evident by how accurately he tries to portray the events and the time period.
Artist Gosenki Kojima provides intricate and detailed art for the characters to make them look more realistic. He also has a gritty style to his art, which adds to the feel of realism that the series has. Kojima also tries to portray the beheadings realistically, which can potentially be seen as graphic by some readers. While the depictions of the beheadings bothered me at first, I became more desensitized to it as I progressed my way through Samurai Executioner Omnibus Volume 4. It should also be noted that Kojima includes female nudity in the art of the series.
Between the storytelling and the art, Samurai Executioner Omnibus Volume 4 can be an intense, yet enjoyable, read. This series will appeal the most to readers who enjoy Japanese period pieces and don’t mind art depicting decapitations, violence, and nudity.
The reviewer was provided a review copy by Dark Horse Comics