Indie Comic Review: Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories

Hiroaki Samura's Emerald and Other Stories - Dark Horse - $12.99

Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories – Dark Horse – $12.99

People often have a fear of commitment.  Whether it is with relationships or technology, taking the plunge is a scary and daunting plunge.  Mostly there is the uncertainty that something better will come along, that it will be too expensive,  or that they will be stuck in a seemingly endless string of status updates and downloaded patches.

The same can be said for choosing Manga.  Some manga series stretch on for 50 or more volumes.   Some do not “really get going” until the third or fourth volume.  Some are abruptly canceled in the US when the publisher goes under.  So how is someone to decide if a series is worth taking the plunge?  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to try out a creator before making the big plunge?

Specifically, how could one determine whether or not it is worth taking the plunge into the 25-volume Blade of the Immortal?

Dark Horse has a solution: Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories.

Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories collects seven powerful short pieces from the manga maestro that have appeared in various Japanese magazines. In “Emerald,” Samura tells his first explosive adventure set in the Wild West, and a series of humorous vignettes about two motor-mouthed teen girls is woven through several other riveting tales. A masterful storyteller bounces around genres and time periods in this unique collection!

Now, to be fair, Emerald and Other Stories is not part of the Blade of the Immortal series.  But, it is a fair sampling of Samura’s skill as an artist and storyteller.  And, with this sampler in hand, it is clear that Blade of the Immortal (and anything else by Samura) should be jumped into with glee and abandon.

Emerald begins with the story of deceit and redemption in the Old West.  This is the strongest story in the group, boasting the most complex storyline and the most interesting characters.  The art intensifies the scenario by giving each character enough attention and detail that any one of the characters who show up could be the focus.  In addition, the story doubles back and jumps over itself so many times that it is all the reader can do to keep up.  It is breathless action at its finest.

While Emerald may boast the most complex plot, other stories in the book boast complex moral issues.  Whether it is the complex relationship between a daughter, her father, and their housekeeper in the story The Kusein Family’s Grandest Show, or the dueling emotions the reader feels when the young Brigitte is sold into slavery, but her life is dramatically improved as a result, each story in this collection challenges the reader’s assumptions.

The other standout piece in the book is Shizuru Cinema.  At first it appears to be a simple story about an older man and his younger muse.  But the story takes a right turn along the way and it becomes a far more complex story (in both plot and morality) than the initial pages indicate.   It serves as the perfect counterpoint to the first story which relied entirely on plot complexity and the middle stories which relied on moral complexity.

The only part of the book which fell a little flat was The Uniforms Stay On.  It is  a series of short, four-page stories featuring school-age girls chatting about odd topics and current events.  Samura himself notes in the afterword that these stories never really rang true for him and he abandoned them after only eight installments.

Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories is the perfect entry point for people curious about Samura’s work.  The stories contained in this volume offer a glimpse at Samura’s gorgeous art as well as his ability to craft complex stories.  After reading Emerald, I predict that many readers will decide to take the plunge on Samura’s other, longer pieces, including Blade of the Immortal.

Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories is available tomorrow from Dark Horse.  You can order a copy of Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories for yourself.

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