From the pages of history comes the legend of the Samurai Jubei and the book he was pledged to protect. Now that book has been stolen and Jubei must retrieve it before Japan descends into bloody civil war. A tale of blood, swords and political intrigue!
Samurai Legend combines historical fact and fiction to create a compelling story. It revolves around well-known historical figure Yagyu Jubei and is set early in the Tokugawa shogunate. Jubei is the oldest son of Munenori Yagyu, the katana instructor to the Shogunate, watcher of feudal lords, and leader of the secret organization of Shadow Yagyu. When the book, “The Yagyu Secret Chronicles” is stolen, Jubei is called upon to find it before retired Emperor Gomino can use it to try to bring down the shogunate. The story is told by Kaishu Katsu, another historical figure, this time from the end of the Tokugawa era. He is the man who turned over the Shogunate to the forces of the Meji Restoration.
I really liked this volume. The story is tightly written, almost like a movie script, which should come at little surprise since Furuyama is a screen writer. The blend of action and intrigue was well-balanced, with the action complimenting the story instead of over-running it, as some Samurai stories can do. I also really enjoyed how Furuyama created his own spin on history. The historical Jubei was said to have lost an eye, but no one knows how it happened. Furuyama used this story to explain that. He also used the story to defend Katsu and his decision to turn over the Bakufu to the Meiji forces. Jubei’s story is almost a mirror image of the Bakumatsu, with the Shogunate being shown as the good guys and wanting to preserve peace rather than going back to the feudal wars of 50 years previously. The juxtaposition of Jubei and Katsu’s actions while both fulfilling Ieyasu Tokugawa’s final wish was very nicely done.
Taniguchi’s art is a perfect fit for this story. His realistic renderings make the story all that more believable. The fight scenes are well done, and the action is easy to follow. His artwork is very expressive, especially when it comes to Jubei. You learn just as much about his through the art as through the story. You really can really see what Jubei is feeling without having to be told because Taniguchi makes it obvious in his every look and stance. Even though he is a warrior, you can see it’s really peace that he cares about. Everything he does is for the sake of keeping the peace and protecting people’s lives. Even his last fighting move is meant to disable rather than kill. His downfall comes not from lack of skill, but from underestimating the desperation of his opponent.
Samurai Legend is a great title filled with action and intrigue. Its strong story and historical elements make it an entertaining read, even with Furuyama adding some of his own personal political views. I have to admit though, I do like this position, even if it may be somewhat romanticized. Sadly this title is out of print, but anyone interested in Japanese history or a good samurai action story should seriously search this title out. It’s totally worth it.