Lone Wolf and Cub (Vol. 7): Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger by Kazuo Koike
The Lone Wolf & Cub series by Kazuo Koike is well-known for the amount of research that went into allowing a lifelike picture of the Japanese historical era to be faithfully presented. This definitely adds to my enjoyment of the series, but added to this is the fact that while each individual story is generally self-contained, there is a wider story arc that informs each of them both within and across volumes. Best of all is when specific details from previous tales make their way into later installments and not only add to the full picture we see, but show how Ogami Itto and Daigoro are growing and changing as they follow their bloody quest.
“Dragnet:” Despairing due to the fact that even his greatest warriors cannot overcome the seemingly undefeatable Ogami Itto, Retsudo Yagyu, leader of the shadowy Yagyu clan that framed and disgraced Ogami, hatches a plan to make use of the laws against vagrancy to compel the police to bring in Lone Wolf & Cub. We know Lone Wolf can defeat many foes at once, but can even his sword take down the police force en masse? Could Ogami’s inherent (though admittedly ronin) samurai pride possibly save him from capture or death? If even this tactic fails him, what means can Ogami resort to in order to save his life and retain his freedom?
“Night Stalker:” Once again left to his own devices as his father takes care of his shadowy business, Daigoro witnesses preparations being taken by a mysterious figure which ultimately lead to the assassination of a noble lady. Discovered by the murderer, Daigoro must evade capture long enough to have the man brought to justice.
“Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger:” A ronin samurai is attacked by angry retainers of the local lord, but handily dispatches them with his enviable skill. Desiring only to be left alone to guard a river crossing of special significance, his life is changed when Ogami Itto crosses his path and the actions of his past that led him to this solitary state are brought jarringly back to the present. It appears that fate wants to step in and once again take a hand in the contracts offered to Lone Wolf in order to resolve a loose end from his former life as Kogi Kaishakunin. We also see how those committed to the life of bushido may follow the path of honour to the point of personal disaster as they walk the fine line between obligation to one’s lord and obligation to one’s honour.
“Inn of the Last Chrysanthemum:” In Tokugawa Japan many inns made use of female greeters to attract clientele. Of course they weren’t just luring in custom with their pretty faces; these ‘greeters’ were also expected to warm the beds of those they brought to the inn at night as an extra ‘bonus’. One such woman happens to attract both a venal travelling businessman and the stoic Ogami Itto. While she is repulsed by the former she finds the quiet dignity of the latter attractive. Ultimately we find that her reasons for selling herself to this inn have a motive far beyond keeping body and soul together. When a visiting noblewoman comes to see the last of the season’s chrysanthemums flower in the inn’s famous garden, a plot of betrayal thought long dead is reawakened, and the paths of the serving girl and assassin converge on the road to vengeance.
“Penal Code Article Seventy-Nine:” Tokugawa law allowed minors to be treated as adults in certain cases and Daigoro, once again left alone by his father, runs afoul of this when he unwittingly aids a sharp grifter in her pick-pocketing schemes at a local festival. Will the strange lad who has learned to emulate his father’s stoicism suffer the worst the law can dish out to a three year-old or will the con artist find her conscience in time to save him?