This final volume forces Hanzo to decide between his morals and Ieyasu’s orders.
Writer/Artist: Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Translation: Naomi Kokubo
Adaptation: Naomi Kokubo
What They Say
Koike and Kojima's tale of how the ninja Hattori Hanzo helped Tokugawa Ieyasu become the shogun who united Japan is in its fifteenth and final volume. All of the action, suspense, political intrigue, and love will come to an end. But, before Ieyasu can claim his position, there will be much misery, murder, and tragedy on this already blood-soaked road. The path to the shogunate is a long and arduous journey, made easier by such a vassal as Hattori Hanzo, but in this last volume of Path of the Assassin, Koike and Kojima will tell us just how difficult that journey can be.
Contains nudity and sex.
Hanzo may be crafty and a superior ninja, but even he can fall to a woman’s treachery. Ieyasu’s wife has created a rift between her son and his wife, the daughter of Nobunaga. This is a bad idea anyway you look at it, especially when Nobunaga could squash Ieyasu and his people. Throw in Hanzo’s arch ninja enemy, who wants to destroy Ieyasu, and it takes no time before Nobunaga hears how his daughter is being treated.
Being a man of little patience or forgiveness, Nobunaga demands Ieyasu kill both his wife and son for their transgressions against his daughter. I don’t have kids, but even I can imagine how horrible an order this would be. Then again, he is Ieyasu, stone cold and willing to do what it takes to protect his clan and further his political career. Actually, the way Ieyasu acts to this news surprises me. He has hated his wife for a long time, and has always suspected his son was from another man. I would think with the exception of having his sole heir killed, Ieyasu wouldn’t have a problem with Nobunaga’s order. While Ieyasu would not spend too much time considering disobeying Nobunaga, he does truly feel remorse for killing his family. Even Hanzo refuses to kill them, begging Ieyasu to order someone else to carry out the grisly deed.
After all this goes down, Ieyasu’s feelings for Nobunaga are difficult to read. Ieyasu doesn’t openly discuss hatred, but his attitude around Nobunaga does seem strained.
From here, the story begins to feel rushed as the series nears its end. The Takeda Clan continues to fall on hard times with sudden deaths and in fighting. This gives Nobunaga and Ieyasu the chance to rush into Takeda territory and capture one castle after another. The book quickly wraps up with Nobunaga’s death and the perceived bright future for Ieyasu and Hanzo. Overall, I think it is a good way to end this 15 volume series.
The Path of the Assassin series is an impressive work of art based on historical characters and events in probably the most famous Japanese era. This series begins with Ieyasu as a young boy and his initial introduction to Hanzo. Together the two boys experience life together, presented in a way only masters of fiction like Koike and Kojima can pull off. Learning how to fight, finding their first love, having children, escaping death on the battlefield, traversing the political strife of the court, and maintaining the power of their clan; this series gives readers a taste of it all.
I highly recommend this series for its intricacies and Dark Horse’s fine presentation. Each volume has definitions of various Japanese weapons or items, how certain feudal aspects of life worked, and short biographies for the major characters introduced. My only real complaint is the lack of a character guide or breakdown for every volume. At times this series becomes confusing with all the characters popping in and out of the story, especially since a good number of them change their names as the years go by. I think a couple pages at the beginning of each volume depicting the main characters and how they are related to each other would make it a much easier read. Nonetheless, I recommend every fan of historical or well-told manga give this series a chance.