Path of the Assassin (aka: Hanzou no Mon) Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 20, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Writer/Artist:Writer: Kazuo Koike / Artist: Goseki Kojima
Translated by:Naomi Kokubo
What They Say
Path of the Assassin, called Hanzo no Mon in Japan, is the story of Hattori Hanzo, the fabled master ninja whose duty it was to protect Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu was the shogun who would unite Japan into one great nation. But before he could do that, he had to grow up and learn how to love the ladies! ¨ ¨As the secret caretaker of such an influential future leader, not only does Hanzo use vast and varied ninja talents, but in living closely with Ieyasu, he forms a close friendship with the young shogun.
The top half of the front cover has a picture of Hanzo and Akuya and the bottom half is solid white with the title written in black and red. There is also a 'Parental Advisory' sticker that can be easily peeled off. The back cover has a story synopsis and a picture of Hattori hanging from a ceiling beam. Dark Horse normally has fairly high production values but something about this book seemed off. The tone and paper is good, but when compared to Lone Wolf and Cub, the print quality seems slightly out of focus or soft. Even the page numbers are a little out of focus but on the other hand the dialogue text is nice and crisp which makes the out of focus sensation more apparent. Extras include a glossary of terms, which definitely helps with all the uncommon Japanese terms and names of historical characters. There are also biographies for Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.
Fans of Lone Wolf and Cub and Samurai Executioner will be familiar with Kojima's art style. His artwork is raw and dynamic with heavy-handed strokes. He does a good job displaying the emotions of his characters by using very detailed facial expressions. Throughout the book the artist uses a combination of two-tone panels mixed with panels of a high level of solid shading and crosshatching. The backgrounds are mostly sparse but the panels depicting scenery such as buildings or landscapes are quite nicely done.
The translation reads smoothly and lacked grammatical errors. The honorifics remain and there are a plethora of Japanese terminology for characters and objects. The original Japanese SFX remains with English translations added alongside.
Contents: (Oh yes, there may be spoilers)
Hanzo belongs to the ninja, or suppa, of Iga and at the age of fifteen he receives his first mission. His job is to attend to and act as suppa for the young Lord Motonobu, who will one day become Tokugawa Ieyasu. Of course at sixteen, Motonobu isn't exactly a skilled warrior or even in very good shape for that matter. He is a samurai in training, but his true skill is his intelligence. Motonbu spends a lot of his spare time thinking about war tactics and the way people interact with at court, and he often questions Hanzo on the techniques of suppa and even every day life. Motonobu even goes as far as sending Hanzo on missions just to learn how to have sex. So needless to say, Hanzo finds himself in some delicate situations as he tries to follow his masters' orders.
Motonobu gains great pleasure at watching Hanzo display his skills as a suppa and a fighter. But when an older master suppa calling himself Kato Danzo arrives at court, Motonobu's urge to pit his suppa against the newcomer may prove disastrous. Hanzo may have some skill, but how can he hope to defeat someone with decades more experience? A pitted battle fought across a beach on a rainy day will decide Hanzo's fate and ultimately Motonbu's.
Writing fiction about popular historical figures like Hanzo Hattori and Tokugawa Ieyasu is nothing new. But what makes this title interesting is the time frame in which it takes place. In Path of the Assassin, Hanzo and Tokugawa are teenagers trying to make their way in the world. Together, the two of them grow up and learn life lessons together as master and servant. The story is well written and researched, covering ninja techniques and the intricacies of court life in feudal Japan.
This book is rated mature, as it should be for one of the more humorous topics covered in this first volume. Both characters are virgins at the start of the book, so Tokugawa orders Hanzo to have sex with someone so he can learn how its done before his upcoming wedding. The situation leads to female nudity and a small amount of censoring on two panels. The way the panels were censored makes it difficult to determine whether it was Dark Horse or the original publisher that did the censoring.
Any fans of Koike and Kojima's earlier works will enjoy this tale of a young ninja and samurai as they embark on one of the most famous tales in Japanese history.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Right to Left