Now that Ieyasu has been pulled into Nobunaga’s full-scale war for control of the country, the assassination plots against the leaders of all the factions have begun. Should Hanzo go forth as an assassin, or stay at home to protect Ieyasu?
Story/Art: Kazuo Koike / Artist: Goseki Kojima
Translation/Adaptation: Naomi Kokubo
What They Say
The march continues as Japan’s future shogun moves to the center of Japan to claim it as his own. But along the way, he’ll have to deal with intense and complicated politics, strange and sometimes perverted fighting techniques, and a rapidly changing samurai culture in old Japan. And often the history of Japan all rests on the wiles of shogun-to-be Ieyasu’s clever and loyal ninja, Hattori Hanzo.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Aside from the intricate political and battlefield warfare, one aspect of this series that has always interested me is the slow evolution of guns throughout this series. Never has the importance of the rifle/pistol/canon been so important than in this volume. Overwhelmed armies are able to battle back to victory with the power of canons and the assassination of generals becomes an easy endeavor by well-trained snipers. One such sniper, Double Bullets Zenjubo, is introduced in the first chapter. Using two rifles, he can quickly snipe two people or fire a second shot at his target if he misses the first time. He also travels with a mother and daughter team that act as his helpers. Zenjubo’s mission is to assassinate Nobunaga when he travels through a narrow canyon. Nobunaga and Hanzo know the canyon is the perfect place for an ambush, but will knowing do any good against a sniper?
Not to bore the fans of warfare out there with nothing but sneaky ninjas, a major battle between Nobunaga and Ieyasu and two other armies culminates in a shallow river. The only way Nobunaga and Ieyasu can win this battle is if Ieyasu quickly defeats his enemy and then joins Nobunaga’s forces because Nobunaga’s opponent has a much larger army. Ieyasu’s battlefield will be a shallow river, so they cast off their armor and straw sandals to ensure they can move faster than their enemy. It makes a lot of sense, but it also seems reckless to fight without the same level of armor protection as your enemy will possess. Even if Ieyasu’s army wins, can they grasp victory soon enough to give aid to Nobunaga?
The back and forth play of assassins in this volume are impressive. In all, there are a total of four different assassination attempts against different leaders. Hanzo’s mission is the most intricate. He must kill Shingen, the Tiger of Kai, who himself sent an assassin after Ieyasu. Shingen has a massive ninja clan under his control, and one of their major strengths is the old ninja’s that sit in towers at the town gate. These old ninjas are able to see through any assassin’s disguise upon entering the city. To date, not a single ninja has even made it into Shingen’s castle. Hanzo decides to enter Shingen’s city under the guise of an old man, but even with that, the ninja in the watchtower calls Hanzo out. Questioning and little tricks to test Hanzo’s reflexes leave both sides in a stalemate. Eventually, Shingen’s ninjas take Hanzo before their leader for questioning. Will Hanzo be able to out fox Shingen’s ninja’s, or should he beat a hasty retreat? Maybe he is regretting trying to enter the city during the day?
This volume has great assassination attempts, but where this series has problems is the vast number of characters. During the open warfare chapters, the characters throw names around like they are name dropping at a club in Hollywood. It quickly becomes confusing, especially when characters change their names.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: July 2nd, 2008