Sometimes, it takes a well-paced story and some mad swishes of a brush to make me feel excited over an age old feudal tale. Eifuku Issei and Taiyou Matsumoto’s has a masterpiece with Takemitsu Zamurai.
It reminds me of…
Well… a lot of things really. And that’s never a good thing when you’re finding for something ‘new’ to read. But strangely there’s comfort in the familiarity of Takemitsu Zamurai.
The story of Senou Soichirou’s arrival in Edo’s tenements is something we’ve seen before. The mysterious ronin appears and puts his neighbors on their toes. Day by day they’re convinced he’s a blood lust ronin only to discover his eccentric ways and even righteous behavior. People eventually warm up to him as he involves himself with the community until he becomes a fixture in town. Yeah… that’s quite familiar, isn’t it? We’ve read that somewhere before. We’ve probably even seen that in film.
And there’s nothing really bad with that premise and it sets a very relaxed tone for the first part of the series. In fact, the story continues to be quite straightforward in terms of feudal mysteries that you can probably guess a little about Senou Soichirou’s story.
You can also say the same with the ink work done on this title. Taiyou Matsumoto did sumi-e for this piece which is… similar to what Inoue Takehiko does with Vagabond.
So you can wonder… with all these similarities, what else can Takemitsu Zamurai offer?
For me, it offered a story with an art that captured its heart and its spirit.
In ways I hadn’t imagined, it offered perfection.
Everything is in its right place
I don’t know if I’ve said this enough but manga nowadays have a tendency to ‘sell’ itself to hype. Put the dramatic wide panoramic shot here. Put the plot twist in there. And while that’s good, there are some titles who feels that it’s something that they can throw in at anytime to keep reader’s attention. And I don’t think that should be the case.
Like with every story, there are proper words and proper images to tell a story the way it should be told. Takemitsu Zamurai had a collected and cohesive story with a style that captured the almost ethereal fleeting world of Edo. Nothing was done in excess and every image and every panel only lead towards the next and eventually, the end of the story.
If anything, it read like a good samurai film. It’s as if Akira Kurosawa took Eifuku and Matsumoto by the collar and directed them, with absolute precision, how Soichirou’s story should pan out.
And to say that Matsumoto’s style is similar to Inoue’s sumi-e could be further from the truth. Sumi-e will always have base techniques that all artists using that method will be using. However, Matsumoto has kept his edge by keeping a far less realistic face to his characters. He maintains his odd proportions and his grotesque yet endearing faces while using a style unfamiliar to most of his readers. If anything, his technique served its purpose: it brings readers back to a fleeting world. Even his colored art is reminiscent of ukiyo-e which definitely takes you back to Souichiro’s time.
On his own, Matsumoto might not have been able to pull off the care that came with the story. Matsumoto’s known for his excess, his ability to drown his readers and immerse them in his world. Nothing of his brashness was seen in this title except in those careful moments where Soichirou’s madness slips. Much like the hero, this title was an exercise for control and precision for Matsumoto.
The result was a splendid story, both ghastly and vibrant, haunting and endearing.
I was glued to this book, refusing to not leave the pages not until after I’ve read everything. 8 volumes honestly felt like two. As such, I ended reading the set deeply satisfied and filled with feels over Takemitsu Zamurai. Someone told me once that manga has become boring but I think, with gems like this still being created, it remains as my favorite medium.