A story of pure vengeance, Shurayuki-hime tells the tale of a daughter born of a singular purpose, to avenge the death of her family at the hands of a gang of thugs, a purpose woven into her soul from the time of her gestation.
I first bought this after reading a bunch of critiques for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. I bought it and read it out of anger and spite, to be able to say "I saw what Tarantino ripped off from and it was a MILLION times better than that terrible excuse for a film." Well.....It is a lot better than Kill Bill, but not for the reasons I expected.
Story: A woman, a very beautiful woman, is given the task of vengeance given to her by her mother who died giving birth to her. She must kill 4 people. One is already dead,
so Oyuki (Lady Snowblood) must kill the 3 other people. That is the initial basis of the story. However the 4 volumes contain many seperate chapters that have absolutely nothing to do with the main storyline. These alternative storylines always seem to take the main seat and the actual storyline is pushed to the side. I was confused for a large portion of the story, there didn't seem to be a clear, definitive drive for most of the story. This was a little dissapointing, but many of the side-stories are awesome. Many of these storylines involve Oyuki stripping nude or to almost no clothes. While this might be taken as a certain form of fanservice the way she uses it doesn't seem to be a "fanservice" tactic.
Art: This was drawn in 1972. Over thirty years later.....and some might think that the art is outdated or bad. I can't find any other link to the artist of this series, but he is quite talented. The art really stands apart from more modern manga, but the feeling isn't diminished. The art isn't dated, it's still quite detailed and is quite a nice feeling if you're tired of viewing more modern manga art. I don't want to say that the artists' forte is drawing Oyuki nude....but she certainly gets naked enough times that I wouldn't be suprised if it really was.
Character: Here is where the manga feels old and quite corny. Oyuki's is not the problem. She's a female assassin. Very cold, deadly, but also quite compassionate. She shows it in a certain storyarc, one of the more...raunchy storyarcs, but the feeling comes off quite well. All the antagonists are quite nicely done. The female antagonist, Okono, was my absolute favourite of these, as she's dealt with in the most fun way. The bad subordinates are pretty much all the same scummy yakuza, but that's not a bad thing. The problem is really with the supporting characters. Some are introduced out of absolutely nowhere. Oyuki's aunt for instance, really bugged me, I just never really saw her point except for one instance for a storyarc and another for the main storyline. She's an unnecessary character that really doesn't move the manga forward, in my opinion at least. There is a writer, Miyanara. He is, by far, the most pointless of all the supporting characters. He's used to lure out the final antagonist from hiding. I enjoyed it at first, but after reading it a second time I kept asking myself "what did he contribute to the storyline asides from adding pages to the story?"
Enjoyment: I really enjoyed it, I really...really did. As much as I bought and read it just for the Kill Bill reference, I still greatly enjoyed it. I'm not saying that it has a lot to do with Kill Bill, or that if you liked Kill Bill you'll like this. They have certain storylines and certain artistic choices in common. The female protagonist is very similar as well, although I MUCH preferred Oyuki to The Bride. But I found myself really enjoying it. And even if you don't enjoy it all that much, just remember that it's only 4 volumes...so it's a relatively short read.
There is A LOT of nudity and violence in this. It's explicit violence but it's not drawn as if to gross the audience out. This manga is definitely worth reading, especially if you enjoy anything with action. If you can push the storyline to the side and just let the action guide you, this manga can be incredibly enjoyable.
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