Zilla and the Comics Junkies

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road and Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (DVD)

Ogami Ito & Daigoro (Lone Wolf & Cub)Considering my love for Samurai movies, it's a surprise it took reading The Assassin's Road to get me to finally put LW&C: Sword of Vengeance (the first in a series of highly rated DVDs) into my Netflix queue. I'd heard about the films long before i was even reading comics again (the series pops up on most all "best samurai fliks" lists like this one by Sailor J) or even recognized that they were based on an acclaimed series of manga GNs by Kasuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.

I've got some thoughts about both the GN and the film, both of which i enjoyed (and hooked me for the respective #2's):

Lone Wolf and Cub is essentially the story of a Samurai named Ogami Itto his toddler son Daigoro. Itto serves Japan's Shogun (who handled day-to-day and military affairs for the Emperor back feudal Japan) officially as Kogi Kaishakunin, or highest ranking executioner. The Kogi Kaishakunin's primary responsibility is to aid those Daimyo's (lords or land owners) ordered by the Shogunate to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) by acting as their "second" and taking off their head after they've disemboweled themselves.

One fateful day (shortly after the birth of their only son Daigoro), Itto's wife and servants are murdered by a group of assassin's seeking revenge for the death of their Daimyo, who Itto has recently served second to in his role as the Shogun's executioner. Unbeknownst to him, Itto's wife's assassination is part of a rival (Yagyu) clan's plot to frame him for crimes against the Shogun and usurp his position as Kogi Kaishakunin.

Disgraced, dishonored, and on the lam, Itto gathers up his son Daigoro (who amazingly survived the assassins who killed his mother) and sets off with a vow to destroy the Yagyu clan, revenging his wife's death and clearing his name. Father and son form an "assassin(s) for hire" tandem (complete with now famous wooden wheeled baby carriage) and set off on a long series of adventures.

More at wikepedia ;)

Ok now that we've got the story down, what did i think of the GN and DVD?

The GN is well paced and entertaining w/ great B&W artwork. As w/ all manga, there's some stuff in here that's hard to relate to/understand unless you're Japanese, but never enough to really disappoint or derail/stall the story (though a couple trips to Wikepedia helped me appreciate certain parts of the story even more). In the end it's suprising how well LW&C has translated and I still can't believe there are 28 (?) of these GNs in the series. Lots of good LW&C reading in my future it seems.

The film compliments the GN nicely (approaching the beginning of the same story from a different angle) and sports some seriously cool "bad ass" moments for Ogami Itto. The film actually does a great job summarizing the story (a lot fell in to place watching the film that i missed or hadn't gotten to yet in the GN). The lead actor, a guy named Tomisaburo Wakayama (veteran beast actor of asian cinema), does a great job as Itto, though he's considerably older than he appears in the GNs IMO.

The directing kicks ass IMO; I found myself grinning at the "coolness factor" of this movie on more than one occasion (don't forget i'm a huge Kung Fu/Samurai/etc. fan). Keep in mind though that this was released back in the 70s and so has that very "old kung fu" style to it, complete w/ subtitles and oft hilarious "spraying blood" and chopped limbs. Works though. Well.

Overall i give both the GN and the film B+'s. After just reading the first GN and watching the first DVD in the series, I can already spot the influence LW&C has had (from Usagi Yojimbo to Wu Tang Clan) I'm looking forward to reading (and watching) a lot more LW&C. Cheers.

PS - I appreciate that the LW&C GN's only cost about $7 on instocktrades.com ($8-ish elsewhere) but man who was behind Dark Horse's idea to print them so damn small?? It's pretty cool that they're pocketable but i think digest size (like the Usagi Yojimbo books for example) would have worked better... it's generally uncomfortable to read the print (esp late at night when eyes are already tired and/or light is at a premium) and slows down the experience - not to mention you have to bend the book near flat to read talking/thought bubbles in the crease.

PPS - Sorry i couldn't sprinkle in some scanned panels but these books are too small and unwieldy to scan really w/o destroying (and even then i'm not sure the quality i'd get).


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In no particular order:

Criminal, The Goon, Daredevil, Exterminators, Punisher, Hellboy/B.P.R.D (All), Powers, Godland, Usagi Yojimbo, The Walking Dead, Invincible, Conan, Ex Machina, DMZ, Desolation Jones, Fell, 100 Bullets, All-Star Superman, Ultimates 2, Loveless, and Fear Agent.

I'm recently back reading after a 15 year comics hiatus.

Zilla is not my real name.

I'm from Tejas living in VA. I'm married w/ 2 dogs. I'm an IT security consultant cranking the wheel for a big consulting firm in "real" life.

I watch the History Channel, Nat'l Geo, TLC, Mil Channel, ESPN and NFL Network, CourtTV (forensic files, etc.) and the Cartoon Network (love Genndy T's Samurai Jack and Clone Wars Adventures). My taste in movies: Gladiator, Last Samurai, Braveheart, Godfather, Tarantino (whatever), Kung-Fu (whatever), Westerns, Top Gun, Big Lebowski.

I love the outdoors and bs'ing around w/ my dogs.

In addition to being a comics junkie, i'm also a sports junkie especially when it comes to the Texas Longhorns and the Dallas Cowboys.

Blog contents copyright © 2005 Rod Wetsel