Ketsueki is a graphic novel published by Markosia Enterprises.
Written by Richmond Clements
Art by Inko
Lettered by Bolt-01.
The story is set in an alternative history of feudal Japan. The main character is Lady Tsuji, bearer of the titular Ketsueki, a sword with magical abilities, a Demon Killer. Raised by her father, the Shogun, Tsuji is a sorceress, a warrior and her father’s champion.
We open in a training sequence that is clearly introducing the lead character so it is little surprise to find it is a young woman. Though her teacher is also a woman, which was not expected.
The Shogun has kept the Witch Queen Rorien and her demonic army from his lands by regular tributes to his gods. He dispatches Tsuji to a nearby monastery to entreat the monks to intercede further on his behalf with the gods.
Tsuji is accompanied by three companions, the strong and loyal warrior Captain Marukomo and her servants Jimu and Bubo. Here we are introduced to a group that could be from a Akira Kurosawa film. The beautiful princess, the loyal Samurai and the comedy side-kicks. The sort of grouping that led from the Hidden Fortress to Star Wars.
The journey is interrupted briefly by a group of bandits. The sequence shows the strength of resolve of Tsuji and how her retinue place every ounce of trust in her.
All is not as they expect in the Monastery, which they reach in the evening of the day they left home. Ketsueki is revealed to have a hunger for demon’s life-force.
The friends have to reverse their steps and rush back to the Shogun’s castle only to find it under siege by the demon army, led by the bestial Batsu.
The Shogun lays murdered and Tsuji has been charge with finding her mother who left her when she was very young. It was her mother that gave her Ketsueki.
The story is a journey of discovery where knowledge will be gained and loved ones lost. We see the trials of Tsuji and the manipulations of Rorien. While seeming predictable the plot manages to be a step ahead of the reader and doesn’t unfold exactly as I expected. Over all it is a very satisfying script and well paced over four parts.
Characters, whilst generic in design, are well presented and have enough depth to assist in surprises along the way. And to say the characters are generic is in no way intended as a criticism, it worked for Kurosawa well enough. The demons in particular are varied and well thought out.I particularly enjoyed the twins Hanta and Hana.
The art is grey-scale and tones are utilised to show different settings and flashbacks apart. The general style is manga in origin, perhaps predictably for the setting. Panel numbers and shape vary throughout and generally the more even the panel shape the more exposition or elapsing of time. Angular panels accompany action or surprise. Interestingly all anatomical variances in the art are consistent per character, revealing a chosen style; this is familiar with manga.
The lettering is easily read and mostly follows the left to right flow. I don’t know if the sound effects are part of the art or lettering, not knowing this shows they are well placed.
All in all this was a very pleasurable read and will be read again.