Unlike in previous volumes, female characters come front and center in Volume 7: Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger. Unsurprisingly and sadly, all the stories for these female characters are tragic and violent. Also, continuing the trend from Volume 6, we get to spend more time with Diagoro. Seeing what Diagoro is up to while his father is away is fascinating. Could that really happen?
The first story of this volume is Dragnet. The Yagyu clan appeal to Retsudo, their leader, to take firm action. Unfortunately, due to the code of bushido, the Yagyu clan’s hands seem to be tied. That won’t stop the scheming, however! A plot is devised to capture Ogami Itto by exploiting the vagrancy laws. Now, all the police must round up everyone fitting the criteria of “vagrant”: including Ronin.
We’ve seen Ogami tackle small groups before, but never an entire police force at once. Watching him think through the strategy to come out the victor reminded me of reading The Princess Bride, and listening to Fezzik discuss how fighting groups is very different from fighting one on one.
Our second story, Night Stalker, featured a prominent princess who was assassinated in broad daylight. However, in this case, the protagonist of this story is not Ogami Itto (…and, now that I think of it, he isn’t often the true protagonist, just a figure in telling someone else’s story), but young Diagoro. What I love about stories featuring almost exclusively Diagoro is watching how he tries to be just like his father. He is almost completely silent, but he can still communicate so much.
Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger, our title story, followed. To be honest, I had to re-read this story to understand it. As someone who is still learning to understand bushido, I struggled to make connections around character motivation.
Lone Wolf and Cub are called to a local lord. His men have been harassed by a ronin living on the edge of their territory (obviously, his men have been harassing this ronin, but that was left out of the story). Having crossed paths with this ronin on his way into the castle, Ogami Itto knows this man.
This story revolved strongly around what it means to uphold bushido. As a bushido novice, I struggled to follow the dialogue and understand what was happening. My major takeaway is that the life of bushido can lead people down paths of personal destruction. This ronin struggled with the clashing forces of his Lord’s honor and his own personal honor. Does this mean that bushido means different things to different people? Are there different paths one can take? I must learn more.
Inn of the Last Chrysanthemum was the hardest story for me. It was brutal, violent, and tragic. This is a story I will not soon forget. We start with a subtle history lesson. Many of the inns during this era hired attractive female greeters to lure clientele to spend the night. However, these greeters did more than welcome the clientele and wash their feet. Instead, they were expected to spend the night with interested patrons. And not just for snuggles.
Enter the strong female protagonist (as this is her story): One of the greeters at this in has a very tragic backstory. As we learn about her story, she attracts Ogami and Diagoro to the inn. This seemingly innocuous intersection is fated. The greeter is obviously unhappy with her life, and as more of her tragic backstory is revealed, we understand why she works at this inn.
Our final story, Penal Code Article Seventy-Nine, explores bushido again. Diagoro was left as his father went on (presumably) a mission. A nearby town is holding a festival, so, obviously, Diagoro goes to observe. We see him lament in observing the happy families celebrating together. However, we quickly are reminded that while this is not Diagoro’s path in life, his life does have amazing qualities.
A miraculous female pickpocket is running her schemes at the festival. Her bumbling partner almost gets into trouble and they have to run. To protect herself, the pick-pocket asks a young boy along the road to “hold something for her”. Now Diagoro is wrapped up in this chaos.
Captured by the police, a plot is hatched to get the female pickpocket to come out in the open. Tokugawa law allows minors to be treated as adults in certain cases– and they plan to exact this punishment. By publically flogging the three-year-old, the police expect the female to present herself. They are banking on maternal instinct to save the boy. Little do they know that Diagoro is no ordinary boy of 3…
The exploration of bushido and Diagoro’s growth were quite compelling put together in this series of stories. I’m glad to see this, as I’m starting to wonder if Ogami Itto will ever be able to extract revenge. This is a 28 volume series, so I’m not even halfway done yet. I am astounded at the number of stories we’ve experienced thus far, but I wonder at where the limit lies. Perhaps there isn’t one? Do these stories ever feel repetitive or dull? I love the history and the culture teachings, but I am more interested in the characters.
I look forward to Volume 8.