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Lady Snowblood
Review by Christopher J. Shelton

Lady Snowblood

Kazuo Koike
Kazuo Kamimura
Studio Cutie

Dark Horse Comics
Softcover Original
Publish Date
September 2005
Cover Price
Lady Snowblood reminded me a little of Kill Bill with Uma Thurman. Both of the main characters share a determined drive after bad guys kill their loved ones and both of the main characters know how to handle a sword. The two differ in that Yuki grows up traveling down the road of vengeance.

I like how Koike doesn’t start his story off at the beginning with the origin of Yuki—Lady Snowblood. Instead, he throws us into the middle of Yuki’s walk down the path of vengeance. Sometimes it’s hard for readers to digest a character’s origin. It can be an upward climb, and structuring it like he does Koike goes straight to the action. After reading the first two episodes, I was eager to find out what caused Yuki to become an assassin—charging a thousand yen per job—and the answer is delivered in fine fashion. We get to find out the meaning of the “deep-seated grudge” after reading episode three. Yuki goes back to delivering her brand of justice in episodes four and five.

Another high point was how Koike focused on certain things. I found it kind of funny how he had Yuki using bloomers to get in good with some brothel baddies. Her looks probably would’ve been enough, but she needed that extra edge to get their attention. She finds out the brothel’s secret and puts a stop to their top guy. It was also cool when Koike had Yuki painting jinrickshas in episode four. At first I wondered about the significance of this, but the payoff was worth it in the end. An additional focal point in episode four was Yuki’s effort to become an expert pickpocket which helped in her lifelong struggle for revenge. She enlists the aid of her aunt to teach her the craft. I thought the training she underwent was simple, yet interesting, and I liked the way Yuki used her knowledge of pick pocketing. It was an unexpected turn in the story line. It was refreshing to not have it be all about lopping off heads. Yuki becomes the master manipulator in episode five when Koike has her hijack a horse-driven carriage at gunpoint with a driver and two lady passengers. She toys with them and uses them for her plans—which is to access and to implicate power players who are ruining her country.

Kazuo Kamimura’s art in Lady Snowblood is very stylized and very beautiful. It’s the perfect compliment to the story. In Kamimura’s art I saw a mixture of innocent girl and dangerous assassin when I saw Yuki. The bad guys are expertly drawn as either cunning or buffoonish. The scenes involving nudity and sex are handled in a professional manner—nothing overtly graphic in nature is drawn. The art is explicit at times, but it’s not porn. Many might dismiss Manga as being all alike. The art in Lady Snowblood quashes that notion. It is a cut above of the rest.
Bonus Features
The only bonus feature in Lady Snowblood is a glossary of certain Japanese names and words used in the story.
Final Words

I don’t think I’d be wrong to say that killer women or stronger-willed women are more in vogue today than in any other time. Lady Snowblood has a very strong female lead in Yuki, and a character who I would love to see in future stories. Manga will continue to grow and have a bright future as long as books like Lady Snowblood continue to be produced. Dark Horse has a winner with this one.

Highly Recommended

Once nicknamed Richie Rich, Christopher Shelton (email) nowadays wishes he had gotten Richie’s money, instead of the nickname, so he could support his comic buying habit. Born under the Year of the Monkey, his favorite B—list comic book characters include Iron Fist, Paladin, and the Human Fly. Christopher has worked as a movie extra in Spider-Man and Renaissance Man. He’s been a radio disc jockey who has spun tunes in the alternative format among others. He’s also tackled the production side of radio, working in sports talk and in news talk. He’s currently climbing the copyediting/writing ladder in San Diego.
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