Satsuma Gishiden Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Translated by:Naomi Kokubo with assistance by Jeff Carlson
What They Say
Japan's samurai past is riddled with stories of great fighting prowess and deeply ingrained systems of honor and discipline. But behind the stern demeanor was a society coming apart at the seams. Clashes in class systems and the need for a nation to come together threaten to break up the old ways of warring samurai - these are tales of such struggles. This is the story of Japan's history, and the beginning of the end of the samurai era.
For many generations after Ieyasu's ascension as Shogun, the powerful Satsuma clan has been relatively unmolested by the Tokugawa government. However, as time passes the Satsuma become very wealthy and may eventually threaten the government. To remedy the situation, the Shogun arranges many marriages between the Satsuma and other clans, which forces clans to behave themselves. This also creates great financial difficulties for the Satsuma because of immense wedding costs and the building expenses of new palaces. However, the ninth Shogun decides to do away with any leniency towards the Satsuma and orders the clan to send money and workers to an area that is badly in need of levee work to control the yearly floods. The astronomical cost of the project will surely bankrupt the Satsuma clan.
The leader of the Satsuma clan knows if he refuses the Shogun they will all be killed, and if he agrees to the water project the clan will be destroyed financially. Against his heart, the leader orders all the samurai classes of the Satsuma clan to sell their possessions and denigrate themselves for money to pay for the water project. Not surprisingly, this order creates a lot of tension among the Satsuma to the point of a near uprising against the Satsuma clan chief.
Eventually, the Satsuma samurai accept their fate and travel over 700 miles to the water project. Along the way, the Shogun attempts every type of insult against the Satsuma he can think of in hopes of goading them into a fight. This makes it even more difficult for the Satsuma leaders to keep their vassals in check. When the Satsuma men begin to interact with the people affected by the flooding, they begin to see how desperate the situation has become. Will this make it easier for the Satsuma samurai to swallow their pride and complete the flood control project that may take as much as a year to finish? Or will their patience break, sending the country back into a civil war?
Hirata's fight scenes and horse depictions are amazing and powerful. However, everyday scenes are depicted with such a different art style that I almost feel as if I'm reading a story by two different artists. Much like Hirata's art, his story telling continues to be all over the place. The timeline jumps back and forth and there doesn't seem to be a single protagonist for the reader to follow. This book is almost like a collection of short stories following different characters around the Satsuma clan and never settling long enough for the reader to identify with any one character. I personally find this style of storytelling difficult to enjoy. However, from the historical and cultural point of view I really enjoy the interplay between social classes and opposing clans. Overall, I'm still up in the air over how much I like this title.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Right to Left