Volume 5: In which we begin to really see that Ogami Itto is a flesh and blood man.
I’m not trying to be sarcastic or condescending here. I’m serious. For 4 volumes we have watched Itto slay countless men in the name of meifunmado. Once he is hired to complete a job he completes it. We’ve watched him push aside human feelings in many situations to do what he has to do, and we’ve listened to people he’s encountered and other ronin lecture him about it. But we’ve never seen that he is more than an assassin with a son. Well, barely.
We also get to explore more about Diagoro. While he is only three years old, he is still an integral character to this story. And, perhaps, the only one who will survive. (Just a theory. Being ronin and invested in meifunmado and all.)
As with the previous volumes, we get to see 5 vignettes in Ogami and Daigoro Itto’s lives, each one granting us more insight to Itto as a father, and Daigoro as a true ronin:
In Trail Markers, we learn how people have been locating Itto and hiring him. Throughout these stories, we’ve only ever met Itto as he approaches someone who wants to hire him, after he has been hired, or mid-negotiations. Never have we learned how people have located the infamous kogi kaishakunin. In retrospect, this is odd since no one seems to recognize his face out in the world. We learn the rikudo gofu talisman is posted with instructions for Itto to follow once he sees it. Using this, the Yagyu clan lure Itto into a trap. We can all imagine how that ends for the Yagyu….
Executioner’s Hill is where we start to see Itto’s passion for his son. Six down-on-their-luck bounty hunters learn who Itto is during a pass through a town. Upon this discovery they (stupidly) decide they will lure Diagoro to them and threaten the boy’s life in exchange for the apparent extreme wealth Itto is carrying around with him (seriously, where does all that gold go?! I hope we learn for real soon enough…). Here we see Itto panic, but little do we know or expect how he will respond.
Thus, we reach the title story, Black Wind. This, unlike the previous volume, truly deserves to be called to attention. In this story, we learn more of Daigoro and his perspective on life. He has only known his father as a warrior, and this story opens with Itto working in a rice field. Daigoro waxes eloquent (for a three-year-old) on what his life could have been like without following meifunmado. This story also sheds more light about Itto, but not through dialogue. We get to relive some memories with him and start to understand the Way of the Warrior much better. This is a beautiful tale told with minimal dialogue, but it expresses quite a bit to the reader about Daigoro and Itto’s familial relationship.
Decapitator Asaemon was the most disappointing of the stories for me. Asaemon is featured as the main character in a different graphic novel series by Koike which ran parallel to Lone Wolf and Cub, starting 2 years after the publication of Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1. I haven’t read the series yet, but I know enough to have preconceived notions of his character.
The last story was fairly fascinating. The Guns of Sakai explores both bushido and the origins of gunsmithing in Edo-era Japan. We learn a little bit about how guns arrived in Japan and get to see how the Way of the Warrior is truly beginning to change. It certainly explores ideals along the Way of the Warrior, but in a different way. Instead, we explore more about what it truly means to be a man in feudal Japan.
All in all, another gripping collection. I wish there had been a bit more on politics, history, or culture. However, I appreciate the glimpses we saw of Itto’s fragility and humanity. I hope we see more of this in future volumes soon.