Story/Art: Hiroaki Samura
Translation: Stephen Paul
What They Say
Wergelder: in Germanic law, the money paid by a murderer or his family to the victim’s family in atonement.
A mysterious deal goes down on a remote island known as a red-light pleasure district. An insane fight between a blonde sniper and an assassin in a Chinese dress brings up questions about who the players are in this deal. A group of misfit yakuza gets caught in the crossfire while trying to get in on the deal, or at least find out what’s being dealt. At the center of it all is a woman who has been wronged in the worst imaginable ways. She will have her revenge.
Eisner award-winning creator of Blade of the Immortal Hiroaki Samura presents a new badass thriller with some very bad ladies!
The Review! (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Nudity and strong sexual situations.
This is a big book, containing volumes one and two from the Japanese edition. The front and back cover art have a rough pixelated appearance that mimics the poor quality of films from the 1970’s. This is a cool look because it matches the time frame for the story and a big part of the style Samura wanted to mimic with the sex and violence B-films of that era. Anyone familiar with Blade of the Immortal knows how raw Samura’s art style is, and his attention to human anatomy is right up there with the best. This attention to detail and his use of shading lines during bone-crunching battle scenes borders on gruesome at times.
Kodansha’s release for this title has solid page alignment and printing throughout. This was great to see as some books from this publisher have alignment problems with the text getting pulled into the spine, making it difficult to read. This release of Die Wergelder takes advantage of a larger trim size, but I was disappointed to see the lack of any color pages. One of Samura’s signatures to his style are his color choices when he does a cover. Samura usually chooses a small number of colors giving the image an overall muted feel like the scene is cloudy or at night.
The translation reads very well, especially considering the characters are switching between Japanese, Chinese, German, and Korean. The original Japanese SFX and sign text remains with smaller English translations nearby or notes in the panel gutters. Because of the number of languages being spoken, some instances the translator leaves the original word and then translates it in a nearby gutter. This method is great because it keeps the reader in the moment versus changing the word to English outright.
This volume kicks off with both a sex scene in a whorehouse and an assassination. That pretty much sets the tone for this series, and I love it. Samura’s art style lends itself to the gritty content of Die Wergelder as well as anyone could.
From this initial scene and an odd scene with unknown characters in Germany, the story switches its focus to Shinobu, a girl living on the street, and her dumbass boyfriend, Ro. He is just a low-level Yakuza, but he steals some money and convinces Shinobu to run away with him. Bad idea, not surprisingly. It doesn’t take long before his Yakuza outfit captures them and starts beating them stupid. Things go poorly for Ro when it is discovered he spent half the money he stole. For atonement, the crazy former street girl, Soli, starts torturing him all the way to finishing with cutting off a few fingers. But all this was a pre-formulated plan by the leader of this Yakuza gang to find someone like Shinobu, a girl with no family and one that won’t be missed by anyone.
This actually sets the tone for the clandestine parts of this story. Between the various Yakuza groups and the foreign drug company, everyone has secrets they are trying to keep from each other while exploiting any advantage they can get. It all creates an entertaining mystery fueled by sex and violence along the way.
But they aren’t the only ones involved, as the appearance of a female assassin with a missing eye and a mechanical arm threatens anyone that gets in the way of her vengeance. While working for the Yakuza at an offshore island to clear her debt, Shinobu finds herself in the middle of a deadly battle between two Yakuza gangs, a mysterious group of Germans, an assassin in a Chinese dress and the one-eyed assassin. Needless to say, she barely makes it out by the skin of her teeth.
Eventually, Shinobu pays off her debt to the Yakuza and she hightails it out of there after refusing an offer to work for them. Unfortunately, she ends up in the clutches of the one-eyed assassin. Forced to work for her, Shinobu finds her way back to the island of the turf war. Things get more complicated when they team up with her old Yakuza gang to infiltrate the island’s prostitute rings in hopes of learning what the German pharmaceutical company is doing behind the scenes. Will Shinobu make it out of this next bind alive and in one piece? Will she learn the secret
This book is a double-volume containing the first two volumes in this series by the well known Hiroaki Samura. The first half (volume 1) of this omnibus was a little confusing as it had to introduce a lot of characters and establish the story, which I probably would have given a B on its own. However, the second half of this omnibus really hits its stride with the story laying out groups and establishing Shinobu as the main character for readers to connect with. I would give the second part of the book an A- on its own. The start of the second book also has a much-needed breakdown of the “story thus far” and a character line-up to help the reader keep track of the main and secondary characters across the various factions.
It is interesting to read the bonus discussion with Samura about how he and an editor friend came up with the idea for Die Wergelder and the themes and style he wanted to accomplish. I would say that Samura succeeded in creating the 1970’s style story with a “black-clad character on a quest for vengeance…”. But the best part of his setup is the mysterious reasons for Nami’s quest for vengeance and the lead up to her history. It is definitely dark and makes it easy to see why Nami both wants revenge and why she uses her particular methods to get it.
If you are over 18, get this book and enjoy a slice of raw bad guy turf war violence sprinkled with sex!
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: Mature (18+)
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: December 29th, 2015