Kurogane Vol. 2 (Del Rey)

The untwisting of a man on a lonely journey through a landscape of regret in this muddled, yet sometimes enjoyable, world.

 

 

256 pgs. B&W; $10.95

(W/A: Kei Toume)

Vendettas and haunted pasts surround the curious Jintetsu in this tale of one man's lonely journey through a landscape of regret. Trapped in a new body, this amalgamated steel assassin encounters Renji, a man he shares a violent past with, and Ryujiro the childhood friend that wishes to have Renji killed. Tension between the three occupies the bulk of the story, while flashbacks and the repercussions of past actions punctuate the in-between moments.

 

The cover to Kurogane Vol. 2 by Kei Toume. Click thumbnail for a larger image Amid portentous crows wheeling ominously around the pages and sentient swords, Toume manages to slip in a general tale of honor and betrayal. Unfortunately, and this might simply be a result of the story's target audience, Toume gets a bit mallety with the language, beating readers over the head with opinions and feelings that could be shown more than stated. Countless times throughout the book, Toume blatantly relays characters' thoughts and feelings, deflating much of the dramatic strength of the narrative. To make matters worse, the shady translation, poor printing, and numerous typos will assure readers a jarring ride, if they don't boot the readers out of the story altogether.

 

The book does have some impressive artwork going for it (when it's not cut off the page). Character expressions are clear and loaded, toning is rich, and the splash pages have a carefully charcoaled appearance. Action sequences are typically easy to follow–sometimes muddled, but usually clear after a panel or two–and there is enough variety to the layouts that it never feels monotonous. Busy maybe, but not boring.

 

The intensity increases in this page from Kurogane Vol. 2. Click thumbnail for a larger image. This series is perhaps better read from the beginning to fully understand the scope of Jintetsu's struggle. Abandonment and confrontations with the past are such major thematic devices for the story, yet somehow Toume never really instills that in the reader. Maybe it's a flaw in the translation, but it's just too difficult to buy into Jintetsu's angst when it's delivered in such flat and hackneyed dialogue.

 

Excusing that, the story is generally interesting, highlighting at times poignant human moments. Toume even manages to bring up gender-bending and the roles of women in society, which might be a bit heavy for thirteen-year-olds, but no less merit worthy. Definitely a reasonable glimpse of Japan's Edo period and at the least, worth a general browse in the store.

 

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