Afro Samurai by Takashi Okazaki

Afro Samurai Vol 1 (v. 1)

Manga continues to grow in popularity, with new series premiering in our country seemingly every day. One of the most talked-about additions to their ranks is Afro Samurai, which also has made a splash in the anime community, with Samuel L. Jackson voicing the main character.

But how good is the source material?

The boy who would come to be known as the Afro Samurai watched his father, the No. 1 warrior in the world, die at the hands of a man called Justice. Now an adult, Afro Samurai wears the No. 2 headband and has vowed to challenge and kill Justice in revenge.

But since only the No. 2 warrior can challenge No. 1, and because the only way to become No. 2 is to defeat the man who currently wears that headband, Afro Samurai constantly has scores of assassins on his trail. As he draws closer to the man he seeks, survival becomes more and more unlikely.

Much of the story can be gleaned from the teaser text on the back cover, which probably is for the best, because the background is given in bits and pieces throughout the story. I also found the art to be very dark, with details difficult to discern. At times, it’s hard to figure out what’s happening in any given panel.

This definitely isn’t a story for kids. Brutal violence and callous killings are ubiquitous in this volume. It’s hard to imagine what we’re supposed to see as likable in the main character, when he’s shown to kill an innocent, disabled girl for no good reason.

Having seen some of the anime series, I can state that the story translates better to that medium than to a printed format. The graphic novel of Afro Samurai probably is best left to die-hard manga enthusiasts.

This review appeared in the Davis Enterprise on September 18, 2008.

Series: Afro Samurai
ISBN: 9780765321237
Publisher: Tor
Page Count: 176
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Read an excerpt