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CompleteMartialArts.com - Samurai Executioner Volume 10 (Samurai Executioner)

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Manufacturer: Dark Horse
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 741.5
EAN: 9781593072797
ISBN: 1593072791
Label: Dark Horse
Manufacturer: Dark Horse
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 224
Publication Date: 2006-03-29
Publisher: Dark Horse
Studio: Dark Horse

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Editorial Reviews:

It's the final volume of Samurai Executioner and, like the previous nine volumes, the last is a combination of life's varying tides of good fortune and ill circumstance. The woman who once stole the weapons of samurai cops is becoming a cop herself. It's a story of gender struggles in a time long past. All the while criminals keep losing their heads to Asa the decapitator. But one criminal might leave something behind that could hurt our favorite protagonist.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: That's IT??
Comment: Perhaps I'm simply spoiled by "Lone Wolf and Cub", but just as the fictional Asaemon was no match for the fictional Ogami, so this final volume of "Samurai Executioner" is no match for the final volume of "Lone Wolf".

Which is not to say it isn't a marvelous work of art. As usual, this volume is a graphical feast for the eye; A lovingly detailed, beautifully rendered snapshot of Tokugawa Japan. As in the other volumes, we see a sympathetic main character, well-rendered supporting characters, and a series of fascinating vignettes of Tokugawa-era Japan.

What falls flat is the story itself. In this story the main character -- Yamada Asaemon -- has ceased to grow and mature as a character. More and more of the focus is on the supporting characters of Shinku the Kappa and her new husband, a policeman. As their marriage grows and flourishes, Yamada by contrast seems to become little more than an organic guillotine, setting up each story and concluding in the usual efficient way.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is the way this final volume ends -- in media res. The final story is no different from any of the others. There is no sense, as there is in Lone Wolf, of pacing, building drama, conflict, growth of the character, building gradually to a crescendo and finally resolving in a poignant, if tragic, end.

By contrast, Yamada's story has no ending. He simply walks off the stage in the last story ... and that's it. Nothing more. He doesn't even disappear in the last panel, if I remember correctly. There is no sense of tension, no over-arching backstory. We are merely presented with a final set of episodes and then an abrupt cutoff, in media res.

I suppose it is possible that the series was cancelled before it could be properly concluded. But in any case, this unsatisfactory finale is why I rate the book a mere three stars, rather than the customary five Kazuo Koike consistently earns ... not only from Amazon customers, but from comics authorities worldwide.

One final word of warning: There are some fairly explicit sex scenes in this volume that may not be to the taste of western readers. Unless your children are already familiar with the Kama Sutra, it would be best to save this for college-age adults.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: The last volume of Kokie and Kojima's "Samurai Executioner"
Comment: "Punished is not the man himself, but the evil that resides in him."

With Volume 10 we come to the last collection of "Samurai Executioner" manga stories from Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, the creators of "Lone Wolf and Cub." In the last story in this paperback published in the Japanese format, Decapitator Asaemon essentially walks off into the sunset. However, before the first of these fifty-four stories we knew that the executioner would die at the hands of Ogami Itto, the title character of Koike and Kojima's "Lone Wolf & Cub" epic. Consequently, "Samurai Executioner" is a prequel of sorts, and both certainly represent the same carefully researched re-creation of Japan's Edo Period. But we quickly discovered the biggest difference between the two series is that Asaemon is not on a quest that provides a massive story arc into which each story can fit. By the time we come to this final set of stories, we know that not all of them are about the people he has to execute. The title for this volume, "A Couple of Jitte," is appropriate because it refers to Kasajiro, the patrolman who was so proficient with the kaginawa (hook rope), who ended up marrying Shinko, the mysterious woman with "kappa," the turtle-like demon, tattooed on her back. She is asked to join the patrol and two of the six stories here are about them (Asaemon never even appears in the first). There are also the tales of the condemned with their usual final requests, and an interesting last story to serve as the coda for the series:

(49) "The Virtue Boat" is about a condemned woman who has let her hair grown down to the ground. Her final request is that she be allowed to hold her hair in her hands so that when Aesamon cuts off her head, he will also cut off her hair. She also asks him to take that hair to Seiji, a boat captain on the Gyotoku Riverbank. Aesamon honors her request, and thinks that he knows the reason for the request. But there is a final twist he does not foresee.

(50) "A Couple of Jitte" is the story in which the town commissioner and the head lieutenant talk to Kasajiro about Shinko taking up the jitte (the truncheon carried by street cops). Kasajiro is nervous and a bit jealous about his wife working with him, but she proves herself on their first murder case together. She tries to have him take the credit, but learns that is not what really matters to a couple of jitte.

(51) "The Chrysanthemum Head" is the story of an old man named Chrysanthemum Shigezo, who brings a beautiful Chrysanthemum cutting to his execution. He also has a two part request for Aesamon. First, he wants the executioner to cut off the head of the flower before he cuts off Shigezo's head. Then he wants Yamada-sama to grow a second cutting of the Chrysanthemum and when it blooms a year from now to cut off its head as well. Shigezo has always heard that Aesamon must understand those he executes. So there is a lesson to be learned here and along with the executioner we learn what is done month by month to crow the Chrysanthemum and come to the moment of perfect understanding.

(52) "Umbrella for Two" returns us to the couple of jitte, who have trouble keeping their hands off of each other while on a stakeout. So the commissioner of the northern town decides to pair Shinko with Hikji, the undercover patrolman. He thinks it will be interesting to see what happens and that indeed proves to be the case as Hikji tries to put the moves on Shinko, only to be caught by Kasajiro. The ending might be a surprise, but it is also nice to find that this troubled couple have become such complete partners.

(53) "Sixty Day Nails" is about a woman whose final request is to be allowed to cut her nails. She had murdered her husband and Aesamon had heard the dead man had his nails cut, so he questions the woman about what happened. Because of what he hears, he decapitates the woman when she has one nail left to cut, and then has to explain his action to the mystified witnesses.

(54) "Cough" is an odd final story in which a man, racked by coughs, is executed. But then others start coughing as well, until even the executioner himself is coughing. The point is left to someone else other than Asaemon to explain at the end, but it does provide a rather poetic viewpoint of the world in which the executioner and those he executes all live. I do not know if this was intended as the coda to the series, which ended with the death of Kojima in 2000, but it certainly becomes an appropriate tale for that position.

It was nice to have this series to turn to once I was finished with "Lone Wolf & Cub," and now I will try the four volumes of "Lady Snowblood" by Koike and Kazu Kamimura. I do not know if that will prove a suitable substitute for what I have enjoyed with "Samurai Executioner," but I am loathe to leave this world yet.

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