Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s I watched cartoons religiously, even the bad ones. One of the more interesting cartoons I remembered watching and actually becoming enamored with was Disney’s American Legends. It portrayed fictional and sometimes true-life heroes as first normal humans, but their actions are what propelled them to legendary proportions. Their stories became the ideals Americans aspire to and what an “American hero” was.
This inflated patriotism would give children living in other countries an often-dreamlike vision of what Americans were. I remember growing up for a time in Trinidad and many of my classmates looking to me because I was American. They perceived I possessed some of those idealistic traits. It was not until I joined the military and saw that every country had their own versions of Johnny Appleseed and John Henry. In Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa’s Musashi we are introduced to one of Japan’s greatest mythical heroes.
We meet Iori, his adopted son, who tells his story through a series of flashbacks. As we meet him at a tender age, where we see he has an affinity for fighting , as he takes on to swordsmanship quickly, as he joins the Toyotomi Clan in a war against the Tokugawa Shogunate, one where he stood out from the crowd because of his military prowess., but labeled a rebel because of his belonging to the Western forces at the Insurrection at Sekigahara. He would go wondering around Japan, refining his skills, which included his clash with the Yoshioka Clan in 1604 who his father had bested in a “comparison of Technique” competition, and who he bested several times, using psychology as his secondary weapon, would include crippling the master, a story that added to his legend. Through these encounters and fights, he would start developing his own tactics, ones would become the basis of his acclaimed book, The Book Of Five Rings, as he would move to Edo, and write the first inklings of the book, with his first pamphlet, “The Mirror Of The Way Of The War”. As every swordsman in Japan came to challenge him, he found his stay in Edo to be untenable, so in 1612, so he went south, where his most famous fight took place, against Sasaki Kojiro, who practiced the “No Sword” technique, as their skirmish was bloody and swift, as Musashi defeated Kojiro almost effortlessly. As Tokugawa Ieyasu continued his destruction of the various clans, many masterless swordsman would join the Toyotomi Clan in defiance, which would include Musashi , as he rejoined them in their Osaka stronghold, which despites their numbers and allegiance to the Samurai Code, was eventually defeated. He would become less interested in fights and more in passing on his knowledge to students, as this is when he would adopt Iori, then a homeless child and raised him as his own. He would always find the call to battle as part of public service to various clans, where they would retain his talents, and which would only make him even more diverse in his skill set. By book’s end, he would create the tome most connected to his legacy, and though his body would eventually become frail, his mind would still be sharp, as he would live a life that would be more fabled and more fulfilled than most men.
Overall, an excellent graphic novel that gives a thorough look at Japan’s most famous swordsman and the stories that would make him the legend he would become. The story by Wilson is well researched, enigmatic, relatable, and very entertaining. The art by Morikawa is very detailed and contains incredible line work. Altogether, a story that is as mysterious as Spartacus, but even more famous and through Wilson’s and Morikawa’s storytelling readers will see exactly why.
Story: Sean Michael Wilson Art: Michiru Morikawa
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy