* Prices may differ from that shown
Yo Hinomura has a problem. Well, it is more like a complication of the problem that plagues his daily life as it is. You see, he was sent to assassinate this guy, and he managed to complete the task, but an unexpected hitch came up. The target managed to escape the wooded copse and the hit was completed in front of a young woman painting a landscape. Needless to say she is startled, but instead of running, she is transfixed. For Yo, satisfied that his assigned hit has been accomplished, does not then turn his gun upon her, but wraps it in plastic explosives and tosses it away. All the while, his impassive face is coursing with tears from eyes filled with remorse and pain. She is enthralled as he accepts a handkerchief to dry his eyes, and tells him her name, Emu Hino. He replies he is Yo, then turns and disappears from sight. She knows that he will come back for her though. Regardless of why he was crying, and why he spared her then, she knows either he or another like him will appear to ensure she stays permanently silent.
But her artist's heart is captured by the poignant beauty of his tearful face and the incongruity of the act he committed. She finds herself painting his portrait, and having it keep her silent company in her family's home. Despite her silence, Yo is indeed sent to kill her, but not before a second chance encounter on the pavement outside of a police station has her witness another of his hits. Involuntarily, she says his name in surprise, and is overheard. Questioned, she admits nothing, but neither the police nor the yakuza whose boss was just killed are going to give up. She just has one request before she dies, that Yo love her at least once. Equally enthralled by her presence, he too reaches out, and before they know it, Yo and Emu find their destinies entwined as the yakuza seek revenge, the police to capture a feared assassin, and the Chinese mafia seek to not only make Yo their assassin, but the Dragon to lead them all, with Emu his Tiger...
This is the first time I have read a work by the legendary mangaka Kazuo Koike and it is also the first time I have encountered the art work of Ryoichi Ikegami. The storytelling alone is high calibre. With prose that flows like honey, Koike has the gift to know when to say absolutely nothing, instead allowing the art work to do the speaking, giving the manga an almost cinematic quality. Ikegami's art is astounding in its scope. Filled with frame after frame of drawings that look more like pencilled stills of photographs and beautifully realised fine art landscape and portrait sketches one might see for sale at a gallery. Comic art? Make no mistake about it, this may be set into frames to tell a story pictorially, but this is as far from your typical graphic novel that you can get. This is obviously a serious attempt at presenting a novel aimed at a mature audience, both visually and contextually, and it succeeds beyond expectation.
Yo and Emu's story is complex and is revealed to us as he shares himself with Emu. His past adds a depth and pending sense of foreboding as to what will happen next, tinted with the pathos of what has been and now he has all but lost. Iconic character types litter this work, from the agile, ninja like crone of the 108 Dragons who handles Yo, to the morally suspect police detective easily led astray by desires of the flesh, to the yakuza family members who seek their revenge. They fail to displease however, as each and every one of them is as fully fleshed out character wise in prose as they are in their extraordinarily detailed and emotive portraits that leap across the pages.
The situations themselves are as grittily realistic as the characters, filled with sex, blood, and deep emotion. The pages fairly ring aloud with anger, remorse, passion, and pathos that infects the reader. Each faction has a mission, and the inner workings behind each one is revealed naturally, as paths cross, and fates merge. It is a story filled with erotically charged darkness that doesn't fail to enthral. Just as Yo cannot escape his fate of being psychologically programmed to kill all the while shedding his tears of deep remorse, I found it impossible to escape the 404 pages until I had turned the very last one.