Kurogane Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 0-345-49203-X
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Kurogane Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     July 08, 2006
Release Date: June 27, 2006

Kurogane Vol.#01
© Del Rey

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kei Toume
Translated by:Akira Tsubasa
Adapted by:

What They Say
Avenging his father's murder is a matter of honor for the young samurai Jintetsu. But it turns out that the killer is a corrupt government official "and now the powers that be are determined to hunt Jintetsu down like an animal. There's only one problem: Jintetsu is already dead.

Torn to pieces by a pack of dogs, Jintetsu's ravaged body has been found by Genkichi, outcast and master inventor. Genkichi gives the dead boy a new, indestructible steel body and a talking sword "just what he'll need to face down the gang that's terrorizing his hometown and the mobster who ordered his father's hit. But what about Otsuki, the beautiful girl he left behind? Steel armor is defense against any sword, but it can't save Jintetsu from the pain in his heart.

The Review
Cybernetic samurai!?! Like the creator's previous works, somehow Kei Toume takes a repetitive genre and tweaks it just enough to make a good first impression.

The canvas painting used for the cover art is gorgeous! Very simple logo and the other textual elements are kept to a minimum, allowing the cover art to really shine. The print reproduction is good with a few issues of either light or muddied screentones. No color plates were used. Once again the back cover contains a misleading statement about "special extras after the story", which don't exist.

Kei Toume's artwork is definitely an interesting style, and one that was a bit of an acquired taste. I actually thought the artwork started off a bit rough with the first chapter, but it steadily improved as the story progressed. The line work is not as clean as I remember in Lament of the Lamb, but there are some wonderful, eye-catching full page spreads that feature action scenes that pop off the page or surreal renderings of the "evil spirits" that haunt Jintetsu's soul.

Another solid job here by Del Rey as they really are the leaders in this area. SFX are translated with small, appropriate subtitles. Honorifics are kept intact and there are a good amount of translator's notes at the back of the book. The script reads very well and is very much appropriate for the content.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Cybernetic samurai!?! Yeah, I was a little unsure about the premise to begin with myself. However, for those who are familiar with Kei Toume's previous works, like TOKYOPOP's Lament of the Lamb, Toume has this ability to masterfully tell simple stories with complex situations that have a humanistic appeal and a touch of pathos. That's really where the strength lies with this title; the small stories of the people in the villages who are suffering from hard times, rather than the action adventures of a mechanized warrior.

While the concept may sound humorous, and there are few touches of comedy in the story, overall this title has a much more serious approach. Jintetsu, before he became the mechanized assassin, was feared by all across the land until one day he died at the hands of a bounty hunter. It is the opium dealing, pot smoking, ronin turned scientist Genkichi who finds Jintetsu's fresh corpse and is able to bring him back from death's grip and into the new mechanical body.

Jintetsu is not a technologically advance cyborg as one might want to assume. In fact, his appearance more resembles Pinocchio, with large bolts sticking out of the simple metal hinges that make up his crude and rudimentary frame, than the futuristic cyborg Major Kusangi from Ghost in the Shell. He has a metal head with one awkward left eye, which people believe to be a mask. The new body also has a few problems, like the missing right eye and vocal chords. Jintetsu is only allowed to communicate by proxy with a talking sword named Haganemaru, and in fact the sword has a mind of its own so it's not always speaking as Jintetsu would like it to be.

Similar to the long-running samurai classic Zatoichi, Jintetsu becomes a drifter who now observes humanity and the interactions between people, as opposed to fighting against them even though sometimes drawing his blade is inevitable. One of the stories in this first volume follows Jintetsu back to his hometown where he revisits the tragic event from his past that set him on his path to becoming one filled with murderous rage. During his travels he also comes into contact with a young girl who is living in the wild all alone because her family and friends were killed in an act of arson by a gruesome gang. With no voice and his own face "behind a mask", Jintetsu now drifts through his new found life with a different viewpoint of the world than when he previously wandered alone in anger.

With Kurogne, Kei Toume attempts to add a unique stamp on the overcrowded samurai genre. I really enjoyed how the stories were more about the people and their loneliness in the world, rather than an action filled shounen type of story. The manga allows for some periods of introspection that were quite rewarding and gave some nice depth to the characters, even if they were only around for a couple chapters. Kei Toume knows how to tell touching stories, and I'm very much looking forward to how this one plays out.


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