"Samurai Executioner" comes from Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, the creators of "Lone Wolf and Cub." However, this precursor to the legendary manga saga is not as well known. The title character is Yoshitsugu, known to "Lone Wolf" readers as Decapitator Asaemon, bearer of the sword "Onibocho" and the man who was charged with the duty of testing the shogun's swords. Volume 1, "When the Demon Knife Weeps," begins with becoming the third Yamada Asaemon and represents the same carefully researched re-creation of Japan's Edo Period as "Lone Wolf and Cub." The biggest difference between the two works is that main character is not on a quest that provides a larger story arc in which each story fits. The stories are more about those that he has to executes, and are similar to those in which other characters have fatal meetings with Ogami Itto: (1) "When the Demon Knife Weeps" begins with Yoshitsugu's father requesting that his son be made the third Yamada Asaemon. To do so, the son must pass one final test ordered by his father. (2) "Yoshitsugu: Yamada Asaemon the Third" is given his chance to be O-Tameshiyaku and show the essence of Yamada-Ryu. This requires him to test a sword on the body and head of a commoner sentenced to death. But then a decapitation of a life subject is required and it turns out he knows the young woman who is brought forward quite intimately. (3) "Monkey Fire Song" begins with Izuichi, blind masseur of Kanda Nishki-Cho, killing his divorced wife, Otatsu, and her lover, apothecary clerk Izoro. Before he can pay for his crime, Izuichi takes a woman hostage and is hold her in a storehouse. Decapitator Asaemon is called in by the authorities to help end the situation.Read more ›
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Unless you're familiar with some aspects of the Samurai, swordsmanship and Japanese history and culture, some of this may be a little confusing, but its doesn't take much to Google things and the very brief glossary of terms is helpful. The only thing that irritated me was that the drawings may have been reversed somewhere along the line: all the Samurai were wearing their swords on the incorrect right side and drawing and cutting with their left hands!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Samurai Executioner25 Aug. 2005
2 comic fans
- Published on Amazon.com
Dark Horse Manga, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics, has recently begun publishing English translations of Samurai Executioner, written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima ($9.95 US, available in the UK). Koike and Kojima are best known as the creators of the critically acclaimed and wildly popular Lone Wolf and Cub series (also published by Dark Horse). Available for the first time in America in the Japanese format, these individual volumes look nothing like regular comics. The Samurai Executioner books are 4x6 inches, soft cover, and average around 300 pages with approximately 3 complete stories per book.
Fans of Lone Wolf and Cub and manga generally will want to pick up this book, slated to run for 10 issues, in order to see the formal origins of an extremely successful manga which spawned a veritable pop culture industry in Japan. Samurai Executioner, set in Edo Period (Feudal) Japan, was the precursor to the Lone Wolf and Cub characters and series. Because of its close connections to Lone Wolf and Cub, it's hard to judge Samurai Executioner based solely on its own merits. Every evaluations feels like an implicit comparison. If that is how it is being marketed, though, then perhaps comparisons are warranted.
Like Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner presents its readers with meandering, but poetic, narratives punctuated by graphic, sometimes gratuitous, violence and sex (it is labeled "Mature Readers"), as well as samurai philosophy illustrated through a simple yet strong pen and ink style artwork. The titular character, Kubikiri Asa, is not so much an executioner as a "sword tester." It just so happens that he tests the swords on the bodies, sometimes living and sometimes dead, of criminals. Lone Wolf and Cub gave its readers a view into Samurai high culture as that period was drawing to an end. It is a world populated by nobles and ronin. Samurai Executioner's strength lies in its differences. Asa's role as sword tester is one of the few places where high and low, rich and poor, condemned criminal and judge all meet and interact. This is what makes the book so interesting- not the samurai, but the peasants, and the gangsters, and the prostitutes, and the police who try to keep Edo functioning as smoothly as possible and come in and out of Asa's world.
Itto Ogami, the main character of Lone Wolf and Cub, lived and breathed Bushido, the warrior code or philosophy of the samurai class, often imparting wisdom to those that he was about to cut to pieces. Asa, on the other hand, is trapped by his role in society. It is his awareness of his role that gives him a complexity that Ogami was lacking. Forced to kill his own father, having vowed never to have children, Asa is man who is waiting for the end. Itto Ogami attempted to rebuild his family clan, whereas Asa is counting the days until his can end. Bushido, family, responsibility: for Asa, these are a chore, not a joy or path to enlightenment. If there is any character development in the traditional sense, it is about how Asa feels about being inextricably stuck in this role as sword tester.
Samurai Executioner is being market on the strength of Koike and Kojima's previous work, but it can and does stand up on its own and serves as a good introduction to manga culture.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Onibocho...broken?!10 Aug. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
So...this is the second series of the wonderteam Kazuo Koike and Gojima Goseki, prior to the LONE WOLF AND CUB Series...so i guess, many here want to know if it's up to the other series, and strangely, the answer to that question is not as easily given as somebody would believe.
Iam not quite sure myself. When i finished SAMURAI EXECUTIONER: WHEN THE DEMON BLADE WEEPS, i was a little bit speechless, because this book contains two of the most shocking stories i ever read in a comic book...and perhaps easily four to five brutal and sinister scenes, which are not easily to stomach.
LONE WOLF AND CUB wasn't a children's tale either, but i think Samurai Executioner is something for an even older audience...in WHEN THE DEMON BLADE WEEPS there is for example a story about a child murderer/rapist, who is dying very brutally and the last story stars a woman, whose job is to wash the heads of the condemned Asaemon Yamada (The "Hero" of the Series) killed. That's the structure of the series up to date: Episodic tales about Asaemon Yamada dealing punishment to lawbreakers, whose tragic stories you're experiencing prior to their meeting with the Decapitator.
It lacks in an overall story like LONE WOLF AND CUB, and Asaemon Yamada himself is not really the determined hero pledging himself to achieve some quest, but more a working joe who is fulfilling the shoguns will.
A kind of Ogami Itto, who didn't lost his honour and standing.
The first two Stories - the first about the killing of his father...three little guesses, who is delivering the kindly coup de grace and the second are about Asaemon himself and attempt to round up his personality and character.
He is - essentially - an archetyp samurai like Ogami Itto, dedicated to the shogun and his duty, a master swordsman and full of bushido and honour.
I look forward in seeing him fleshed out more, but this isn't primarily a problem, because Ogami Itto too was in LONE WOLF AND CUB pretty stereotypical and distant and it worked there too...the anti-heroes of the little stories were the heart and the soul of LONE WOLF and supposedly you can find that in SAMURAI EXECUTIONER too and more so, i believe.
The only problem is that a kind of overall story of Asaemon like Ogami had in LONE WOLF AND CUB lacks and i hope Koike implemented some later on. Because we know full well how Asaemons LIFE will end...and i sure hope he experienced a nice little story with meaning before his fateful duell with the invincible One, when he stuttered dying:
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Samurai classic15 April 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the first installment of the series, I was quite impressed with the character and storyline(s). So much so, I went and ordered the rest of the series. If you are looking for action, then this series may not appeal to you. However, if you are looking for something that will make you think and try and get into the head of the main character.....then this may just be to your taste. More than often in the stories told, there is a problem or mystery that needs to be solved. Our man Yamada sama must resolve them. Sometimes before execution sometimes after, only for his understanding, reasoning, and discipline that the pieces come together. I also should mention the graphic content and what not, but I somehow thought, given a title Samurai Executioner, would be self explanatory to that extent. Do you know of any Samurai stories that the characters are not carrying swords and welding them with bloody intent? And despite some peoples belief, Executioners are not Executive Auctioners, they are people who kill people, simple as that. I did not want to give anything away and spoil the experience for those diving into the series. Some of the stories may shock you, but that is the objective the author wanted to impress upon you. On how deplorable and twisted the element that the Samurai Executioner has to deal with. I hope you find the first book in the series entertaining and thought provoking as I have.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Another legendary book24 Nov. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Before these two creative powerhouses brought forth "Lone Wolf and Cub," there was this, a tale of a man who decapitated criminals and tested swords. ("Lone Wolf and Cub" readers will recognize him from that series, too.)
As to be expected, these does not read like the typical manga. It is cinematic in scope and more like literature with a bit of a pulp twist. The dark underbelly of Japanese society is explored, deplored and dissected, and at the heart of it all is the Samurai Executioner. This first volume sets things up exceedingly well as we meet a young man who grabs his destiny by committing one horrible act. This act comes to haunt him in later volumes, but here it is merely presented.
If your only exposure to comics is Superman, or if you think all manga is like "Fruits Basket," you need to check out this series. It will change the way you look not only at manga and comic books, but also life and its many different values. It sounds like hyperbole, but it's true. We live in a time where honor has no place and where greed justifies everything. Now you can read of a time where honor is king (but slowly losing ground), and greed is the vice of the weak man.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Punished is not the man but the evil that resides in him4 Jun. 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
"Samurai Executioner" comes from Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, the creators of "Lone Wolf and Cub." However, this precursor to the legendary manga saga is not as well known. The title character is Yoshitsugu, known to "Lone Wolf" readers as Decapitator Asaemon, bearer of the sword "Onibocho" and the man who was charged with the duty of testing the shogun's swords. Volume 1, "When the Demon Knife Weeps," begins with becoming the third Yamada Asaemon and represents the same carefully researched re-creation of Japan's Edo Period as "Lone Wolf and Cub." The biggest difference between the two works is that main character is not on a quest that provides a larger story arc in which each story fits. The stories are more about those that he has to executes, and are similar to those in which other characters have fatal meetings with Ogami Itto:
(1) "When the Demon Knife Weeps" begins with Yoshitsugu's father requesting that his son be made the third Yamada Asaemon. To do so, the son must pass one final test ordered by his father.
(2) "Yoshitsugu: Yamada Asaemon the Third" is given his chance to be O-Tameshiyaku and show the essence of Yamada-Ryu. This requires him to test a sword on the body and head of a commoner sentenced to death. But then a decapitation of a life subject is required and it turns out he knows the young woman who is brought forward quite intimately.
(3) "Monkey Fire Song" begins with Izuichi, blind masseur of Kanda Nishki-Cho, killing his divorced wife, Otatsu, and her lover, apothecary clerk Izoro. Before he can pay for his crime, Izuichi takes a woman hostage and is hold her in a storehouse. Decapitator Asaemon is called in by the authorities to help end the situation.
(4) "Toshu Daigongen" starts with the strange sight of Decapitator Asaemon walking through the streets of Edo holding an umbrella on a sunny day. Then Yoshichi, a plasterer, is discovered to be a child molester who has been murdering children for years. Such a monster must be executed, but Yoshichi just laughs because he thinks he has come up with a way to beat the system: he has tattooed "Toshu Daigongen," the holy name of the first shogun, on the back of his neck. To slice through the name is unthinkable.
(5) "Asaji" are the names for the lowly female servants in the prison. They are the ones for inspect the women prisoners and who have the responsibility for washing the heads of women who have been executed. When the ronin Saisho Shinkuro, the Terror of the Eight Provinces of Kanto, is captured and brought to Tenmacho to be executed, one of the Asaji requests to speak to Yamada-Sama. She wants to be allowed to wash the head of Shinkuro and tells her story to explain her request.
These are compelling stories, but this manga is intended for mature audiences, more so for the sexual violence towards women depicted in these stories than the bloodletting. Rape and abused are common elements in most of these stories, and I want to point out that Koike and Kojima present then as inhumane acts. The degradation of women is presented as a part of the culture and is certainly not being endorsed. These stories take place in violent times and ultimately it is not the violence but the ideals represented by Yoshitsugu and a few other characters that stand out.