Crossing Borders: The Snowman & The Samurai
Posted by Bart Croonenborghs on Jan 15, 2013
CB goes Buddhist with part 2 of Peter Rogier’s The Hunger and The Book Of Five Rings manga by Miyamoto Musashi.
“To study the Buddhist way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by everything in the universe. Then, your mind and body, and the minds and bodies of all other selves drop away.”
― Genjo Koan
The Hunger: Promiscuity
Part one of Peter Rogiers’ The Hunger trilogy ended with the copulation of ‘superheroes’ Snowman and Squid. This copulation culminated (pun intended) into an absolutely stunning five page collage piece by Rogiers. Apparently though, the orgasmatic heights our two anti-heroes reached ripped apart space and time and part two ‘Promiscuity’ starts with the two of them stranded on another planet in a strangely earthlike house. Strange visitors on a stranger planet.
Where volume one was obtuse and more often than not asking the reader to ‘go with the flow’, ‘Promiscuity’ is a bit more straightforward. We follow the Snowman as he explores the strange planet and the Squid as she … relaxes in bath and due to mysterious manipulations by our all knowing aviary narrators becomes impregnated with the newborn popping out rather quickly. In the meantime the Snowman is tripping out on alien sentient corn. It’s not because the story is more straightforward that it is no less alienating and weird than volume one, apparently and it certainly takes a Buddhist mindset to accept the self of this comic series.
But once more, Peter Rogiers pulls it off and absolutely ensnares you in the misadventures of our mysterious duo. Once more mixing media to this reader’s delight, The Hunger certainly looks like nothing else produced on the comics scene right now. Rogier’s rough brushwork is thrown on the page and mixed up with photography, clippings and lot’s of whiteout to breed a comics hyperlanguage of art meets pulp. Printed on a matte slightly textured paper stock referencing old newspaper comics, The Hunger as an art object certainly succeeds in mixing high and low art.
The Book Of Five Rings
Samurai swordsmaster Miyamoto Musashi is probably best known in popular culture as portrayed by Toshiro Mifune in Samurai or in the popular manga Vagabond by Eiji Yoshikawa both of which are fictional retellings of this grandmaster’s life. Written by Musashi himself in 1612, the set of scrolls known as The Book Of Five Rings details his martial arts style with the swords that he developed while roaming the Japanese country side. It is a manifesto that outlines not only the physical and psycholigical path to swordmanship and strategy but also to a life attuned to the universe.
So... deep breath... drawn by Chie Kutsuwada, Sean Michael Wilson adapted this manga based on the book by Miyamoto Musashi as translated by William Scott Wilson. And even though it is a manifesto, free from dialogue, containing large blocks of text, it is an excellent introduction to Musashi’s life’ work. Michael Wilson expertly puzzled a graphic novel together from text fragments and thematic and symbolic visualisations of Musahi’s detailed overview of his view on martial arts, the philosophy of his own Niten Ichi-Ryu, the strategies of other martial arts and swordmanship schools and his frame of meditation.
It took me some getting used to but all is drawn in a traditional adventure manga style by Chie Kutsuwada. At first glance, there’s nothing really exceptional in the drawings that are overly simple and almost entirely devoid of backgrounds. It seemed to me that such a weigthy and historically important document should be illustrated by an artist more versed in the graphic approach that comics can take and with a more stand out style. Up to a degree, this is still true but it is also true that the art immensely illeviates the weight from the text. It serves its function perfectly by providing light and airy storytelling to sit side by side with a canon with lofty but corpulent text. And while Kutsuwada is an accomplished artist, it also looks a bit bland with characters looking alike, one dimensional backgrounds and speedlines being used in a less than spectacular manner. Compared with the artwork of its fictional counterpart Vagabond, Kutsuwada is a lot less than spectacular though.
A classic in its own right, The Book Of Five Rings is now available in an easily digestible manga graphic novel form, making it accessible for all ages and serving as the perfect starting point for anyone interested in the samurai way of living.
The Book Of Five Rings by Sean Michael Wilson and Chie Kutsuwada is published by Shambala. It is a black and white softcover counting 160 pages and retails for $14.95
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