When Genkichi stumbles upon the bloody remains of the legendary young assassin Jintetsu, he does what any other gifted inventor would do: he constructs a creature of Frankensteinian machinations with which he plans to exact his revenge. But before Genkichi can achieve his goals, he finds himself at the wrong end of a sword, and Jintetsu is left to create his own meaning in the world in his new cyborg body. With just a talking telepathic sword to help him, Jintetsu must decide what sort of life he will live.
His first course of action sends him to his hometown, where he seeks revenge upon the local gang that dominates the town and killed his family. But he balances on a thin line, for he must also protect his childhood sweetheart, Otsuki, and her family from the thugs that seem to be everywhere.
The first book in this series starts of with a great pace, effortlessly blending action and exposition, intrigue and humor. Toume takes a the typical “revenge” plot and adds a great twist with Jintetsu’s mechanical identity. The relationship between him and his sword invokes the legacy of Vampire Hunter D, but with a bit more complexity due to Jintetsu’s inability to speak.
By the end of the first volume, Jintestu has left his hometown and began the quintessential soul-searching nomadic wandering so endemic to lost warriors. In volume two, his wandering leads him through several towns, resolving inequalities and rivalries, as well as bringing him face to face with rival assassin, Renji the Firewalker. This second volume loses some of the series’ initial edge, falling into a cadence of cliché where the hero continually butts heads with evildoers.
Yet, just like the first volume, this one maintains a great pace and energy within its black and white panels. The action grabs hold of the readers and keeps pushing them page after page. Toume balances his books so that the flow of reading moves smoothly from panel to panel. He does wonders in presenting the complexity of Jintetsu through body language and facial expressions despite the lack of voice and missing eye.
Like any good American manga publisher, Del Rey spends several pages explaining Japanese honorifics to the reader so that the complex power relations represented throughout the books can be better understood. What’s more, these books also provide translation notes at the end of the book for readers to further understand certain cultural references within the story.
Like most manga (or entertainment of any sort), Kurogane is not the pinnacle of the medium. It has its share of clichés and drab plot devices. However, these two volumes do engage the “wandering samurai” subgenre with great zeal, using both new and old tricks to produce a rather enjoyable serial.