AFRO SAMURAI • Seven Seas • Takashi Okazaki (story and art), Gonzo (anime version) • 16+
The basis for the popular Spike TV anime series (a Japanese-American coproduction), Afro Samurai began life in the humble form of a 1998 dojinshi, a sort of Lone Wolf and Cub crossed with the Japanese hip-hop/Afro obsession. The plot: a joint-smoking ronin with a huge afro wanders through a bizarre feudal Japan where period costumes mix with cyborgs and cellphones, silently killing everyone in his way, as well as a few innocent bystanders. What’s surprising about Afro Samurai is just how American-influenced it is–the twisted, exaggerated artwork looks like Sam Keith (The Max) with grotesque drybrush inking like Graham Ingels (Tales from the Crypt). Two-color printing, to make the red blood stand out, makes things even more garish and ugly. On the downside, when you get down to it, the plot reads like some bad self-published comic from the ’90s–which it basically is. It’s impossible to take the story seriously, and there’s no reason to care about any of the characters. But in the manga medium, where 95% of art falls into a half-dozen recognizable styles, a cultural salad bowl like this is at least interesting. Review by Jason Thompson; originally printed in Otaku USA.)
** (two stars)
Today’s winner is Michael B. of Florida. Congratulations, Michael!