Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibus 3

by Kazuo KoikeGoseki Kojima

So, here I am on volume 3 of the Omnibus, having read a dozen of these stories about this assassin who chops people up while pushing his son around in an increasingly aggressively armed baby carriage, and you’d think maybe this stuff would start to get stale.

If a Westerner did this, it would end up schlocky. Or worse, campy.

But the sincerity of this, where the authors’ earnest passion for the topic neither blinds them to the harsh realities of the time (as one might see, e.g., in a child’s tale about knights) nor drives them to exaggerate the harshness (as one might see, e.g., in a modern Batman or Superman movie), is matched by the artistic skill of its execution.

It’s as if, for every episode, the authors realize that they must bring something new: A new take on the rolling hills or the rice paddies or the brutal battle, sure, but also some new view on a point-of-view, or a historical event, or a character.

For example, this volume features a law that allows a child to be beaten for a crime. I doubt, historically, it was ever used on a toddler like Daigoro, but this story sets up the tension between a thief and lawman, and Daigoro’s sense of honor (as modeled by his father) to create a starkly dramatic moral dilemma. The very exaggeratedness of the situation creates genuine high drama.

In retrospect, I suppose the amazing thing is that you don’t fear for the toddler—Daigoro’s fate was sealed a long time ago—but for everyone else’s soul who would allow something like this to happen.

I’m eager to read the next volume!

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