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‘Afro Samurai Vol.1’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Takashi Okazaki
Published by Titan Manga

 

Buried deep down within the culture of Hip Hop one can see the burning embers of Asian influences. It’s really not surprising, the culture is a mosaic of many inspirations that are in dialogue with each other.

Hip Hop groups like the WuTang Clan model that dialogue by incorporating popularized Kung-Fu themes into their musical pathos.

Yet, the cultural connection date back even further.

A book like Afro Samurai Vol. 1 by Takashi Okazaki also fits into that dialogue.

Okazaki takes art and creativity to new levels. He masterfully melds elements of Hip Hop culture into the well-worn tale of a Ronin bent on bloody revenge.

The story is relatively straightforward.

A boy witnesses his father’s demise in a deadly duel. The boy grows, maturing into samurai with one goal in mind, vengeance.

The Okazaki gets high marks for the revenge mythology he creates. For our hero it is not as simple as tracking down his father’s murderer, also known as the gunslinger.

In the world Okazaki creates, the only person who can challenge the gunslinger is the samurai that holds the Number 2 headband. While anyone can challenge the holder of the Number 2 headband.

As the holder of the Number 2 headband, Afro Samurai must face many deadly challenges while the gunslinger who holds the Number 1 headband can wait and rest.

What’s in it for the holder of the Number 1 headband? Nothing much, just the power of a god.

Okazaki’s mythology is easy to follow.

Using feudal Japan as a backdrop, he creates a weird almost Afro futuristic world were characters merge technologies we would use in the here and now. One minor nitpick is that Vol. 1 covers only the first four issues.

Perhaps it is good marketing because after reading these chapters you will want to see if Afro makes it to the gunslinger. It would be a hollow story if he didn’t.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how this book stands against the highly popular animated version of the same title. I would recommend both. The Afro Samauri soundtrack alone produced by RZA was also an instant classic upon release and only added to the legacy.

Afro Samauri is a rich text and is definitely worth exploring in print media.

 

 

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