Path's opening line suggests the newfound maturity of the leads: "Now that I've disclosed my thoughts...you're dead. But I change my mind".
Manga Description It's not easy being Hattori Hanzo. If he's not teaching the young and upcoming shogun how to love the ladies, then he's either behind the scenes teaching Ieyasu how not to die in case of a momentary lapse of protection. Or he might be in the shadows making sure Ieyasu's leadership is effective by any means necessary. If you thought you had a tough job, try taking a pudgy, protected youngster, and making him into the leader who would unite Japan under his singular rule.
For the creators of Lone Wolf & Cub comes a series about two young men bound by a nation's potential future at a time when Japan was Japan was in transition from its warlike fuedal state into an era of bureaucracy and infighting. A quasi-historical tale from the masters of Japanese samurai culture, Path of the Assassin shows a side of feudal Japan that entertains with action as well as political drama.
Content: (This section may include spoilers)
Continuing the adventure from Volume 1, Volume 2 first wraps up the "Chapter on Relinquishing Pain" storyline with three sub-chapters: "Neyasu Samehan", Crisis--The Tree at Risk" and "Complete Absence". Motonobu and Hanzo are still learning lessons about life and love. Recently married, Motonobu bristles to learn that his appointed wife holds no preference for him and is only living her duty. He also must discover the worth of worth of the nation and the importance of each within it, as he'll rely on this experience when he becomes Ieyasu, Uniter of Japan.
All the while, Hanzo sneaks in and out of hiding and shares a view of his ninja skills with Motonobu, explaining the finer points of hiding on horseback and other tricks. Hanzo becomes touched as he watches Motonobu's feelings and thoughts develop into characterstics that will oneday lead the nation.
The action quickly segues into "Chapter on Relinquishing Factions" where Motonobu launches his first campaign of battle. The five-chapter story show's Motonobu taking advantage of his enemy's perception of his inexperience, He attacks with fire arrows in a rainstorm. His own troops are confused by the action, until Hanzo uses his ninja knowledge to light a fire inside the enemy's encampment. Motonobu proves himself to be a savvy general and is rewarded by elders with the privilege to change his name in tribute to his grandfather.
Motonobu also instructs Hanzo to learn the technique of his wife's former lover, so that he may please her as well.
Path of the Assassin Vol. #2 compliments the first and plays off many of it's themes. We see our two protagonist's learn more about each other, but they've also earned their first real responsibilities and prove to be adaptive and compassionate in their hearts. Vol. #2 is a wonderful continuation, and only increases the anticipation for future volumes. Rarely are "coming-of-age" stories handled with the levity and bonding displayed in Path
Art: Kojima lights his pages on fire during the rainy battle sequences towards the end of Vol. #2. His pen is steady and assured, allowing Motonobu and Hanzo to emote quite well. This is key, as much of the story is told in their faces as we watch them age and encounter new situations.
Dark Horse's cover art shows shows Hattori gazing into adulthood over the image of a palace and tree.
Translation: See my review of Vol. #1 for the particular's of Dark Horse's translation job. Vol. #2's glossery again provides all sorts of insights into feudal life, explaining locations of battlefields, historical figures, and even the origins of Buddhist goddess Marichi, a deity of the warrior class.
Overall: You can do a lot worse with your $10 than Path of the Assassin. This historical drama is just getting warmed up and promises to bring lots of insight into ninja technique, philosophy of leadership, and the all-important handling of relations with the ladies. Come for the action and lovingly rendered female forms, stay for the history lesson and discussions about life.
A bastian of historical drama and political intrigue peppered with ninja secrets.
Kojima's dark shading and brooding love scenes are a nice departure from his standard hard-nose action.
Dark Horse's great effort make these Koike books a joy to read. They provide all of the tidbits of info you'll need to follow along.
Path of the Assassin's is beginning to come into it's own. The ambitious storyline will continue to develop over time.
[not an average]
+ Characters are growing up so fast!
+ Ninja Secrets are just plain cool.
+ Lots of shaded and dark pages really reflect plot.