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Review: The Satsuma Rebellion

When it comes to beacons of bravery the most used comparison is “knight.” These men usually were considered some the bravest men in the world. Though this comparison, seems one dimensional, it is far from complete, as other parts of the world also featured men and sometimes women who exemplified this momentous attribute. They were not called knights. In Africa, the Dahomey Warriors were an all women army in the kingdom of Dahomey which now sits between he countries of Benin and Togo. In the movie and comic book, Black Panther the Dora Milaje were based on these warriors. In Japan they had Samurai who some may some are even more romanticized than the European concept of “the knight.”

These men of valor, much like knights, belonged to individual lords and barons and served their families for the rest of their days. Though they were in service to these houses they commanded respect wherever they went as they represented their masters and carried themselves with honor. As all things must come to an end so did their presence by forced modernization. In Sean Michael Wilson and Akiko Shimojima’s The Satsuma Rebellion, their final days and ultimate defeat is chronicled in an epic sweeping bow of a story.

During Meiji Era in Japan, the modernization and treaties with foreign powers lead to changing of Japanese culture, one which made Japanese residents do away with most traditions, including the class system which propelled the Samurai as an honorable and well-paid profession. Saigo Takamuri, one of the leaders in Satsuma, a key figure in the government, saw that with modernization, came corruption, thus he resigned , and started an academy which  trained all of these unemployed Samurai, and became the first version of military contractors, and made Satsuma so powerful, it seceded from the rest of Japan. This caused Meiji government concern, and lead to a warship to their artillery school, which heightened tensions and lead to open rebellion, one which lead to 50 students attacking a government arsenal and stockpiling their weapons and Saigo to come out of retirement. This lead to the siege of Kumamato Castle and a battle in Tabaruzaka, ones where Saigo and his men took heavy losses due to the sheer number of troops and weapons held by the Imperial government.In a final skirmish, The Battle of Shiroyama,  lead to the end of rebellion and the death of Saigo, as well as the end of the Samurai.

Overall, an excellent graphic novel which covers widely unknown part of history here in the West and does it masterfully. The story as told by Wilson is epic, smart, and action packed. The art by Shimojima is gorgeous. Altogether, a great graphic novel that gives the reader an excellent retelling of Japanese history in what feels like a powerfully entertaining story than real antiquity.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Art: Akiko Shimojima
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy