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A manga series based on part of Nanjou Norio's historical novel Suruga-Jō Gozen Jiai; the manga itself is illustrated and co-written by Yamuguchi Takayuki, and made into a 12-episode anime in 2007.
The story starts with a fight between the blind, lame samurai Irako Seigen and the one-armed samurai Fujiki Gennosuke in a tournament for the daimyo Tokugawa Tadanaga. Both samurai are accompanied by women; Irako is led by a woman named Iku, and Fujiki is aided by a young woman named Iwamoto Mie who seems to bear a grudge against Irako. The fight is about to begin - and then we cut to a Flash Back which lasts the rest of the series (so far). The series tells the story of the two samurai who once belonged to the same school and how they got to this point, both maimed and determined to kill each other.
The artwork is incredible. Yamaguchi seems to have a medical knowledge of the human body and likes to show it by giving us flash views of what the organs, or nervous system, or bones, or muscles of a particular person are doing - usually in the midst of a fight or strenuous activity. The gore is almost overwhelming; he devotes exactly as much attention to the guts when they're outside as when they're inside.
The series contains very little dialogue, instead using its stunning artwork to get the message across. Thanks to the stunning artwork, though, the series seems all the more brutal. It is very realistic, and there is quite a lot of sex and violence and, as mentioned above, gore.
Character sheet is here.
- Animal Motifs: See Tiger Versus Dragon below.
- Anyone Can Die - Several characters had backgrounds, flashbacks, and exposition about their various physical feats, only to die with one sword slash, or even one punch, during a fight.
- Armor Is Useless - Mostly averted. One of the characters is saved when the light chain mail woven into his clothes prevents a blow from cutting deep enough to kill him. Played straight, though, by two minor characters whose special skill is the ability to chop through helmets.
- Artifact of Doom - Kogan's sword is said to be this.
- Attempted Rape - Mie has to deal with this a couple times - once from her crazy father, and again when her crazy father orders all his students to hold her down so Irako can impregnate her. Irako declines.
- Backstory - Basically the whole thing
- Back-to-Back Badasses - the helmet-chopping twins.
- Badass Normal - Irako, Fujiki, Ushimata, Kogan
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Female breasts are drawn in great detail, but genitalia are drawn as just a blank
- Berserk Button: You will not disparage Iwamoto Kogen or praise Irako Seigen front of Fujiki, not if you want to remain whole anyway.
- BFS - Ushimata's wooden practice swords
- Black and Black Morality - the closest thing to a genuinely good guy is a minor character who only appears in a couple chapters.
- Brain Bleach - If Kogen, Yamazaki, and/or the Funaki Brothers don't make you lunge for a bottle, you have no soul.
- Break the Cutie - Irako, though he doesn't stay broken for long, and Mie. Subverted by Iku, who has horrible, horrible things happen to her and her breasts but stays fairly constant throughout. She's a tough lady.
- Irako doesn't fit the cutie archetype too well
- Broken Ace - Irako.
- Bury Your Gays - Yamazaki
- Combat Pragmatist: Irako, who instinctively makes the move necessary to save his own life, going so far as to stab through the bones in his right foot to use his ultimate technique and then using the cut to remove the restriction on said attack. Also Fujiki does not give a damn about political and court etiquette, will throw away his daito if it no longer proves useful, and will draw his opponent's blade and slit his throat with it.
- Crapsack World - Between executions and bandits, people did not live very long, whether they were samurai or not.
- And let's not forget Tokugawa Tadanaga, the man responsible for the tournament being fought with real weapons. He's been shown killing or torturing somebody in every scene he was in.
- Special mention goes to apparently serene Fujiki Gennosuke, who scares a man to death by hitting him once then staring at him.
- Deconstruction: It could be argued that the series is a deconstruction of the romanticized image of feudal Japan found in modern media.
- Depraved Bisexual: Tadanaga will not let something so trivial as a rape victim having the wrong equipment stop him.
- Despair Event Horizon - Supposedly the cause of Iwamoto Kogan's madness after his betrayal by Yagyu.
- Diagonal Cut - used, but not as often as you might think.
- Dissonant Serenity - Fujiki as he helped maim Irako.
- Downer Ending - Fujiki finally got his revenge, he killed Irako in a very morally questionable way, this resulted in the shogunate not respecting the showdown in any form instead it was seen as two handicaped fools trying to kill each other; with Fujiki losing his pride Mie couldn't take the pressure and killed herself, in the end Fujiki lost everything to his quest for vengeance, his pride is dead, his wife is dead, and most important to him the Koganryuu school is dead as well. What is left to him is to live as a puppet for the Lord, attained the highest honor as a samurai but cannot enjoy any of it as he apparently ended completely mind-broken.
- Made worse by the fact that in the very first chapter of manga, Tokugawa Tadanaga is executed for treason and planning a coup, so Fujiki's brief moment of glory, even if it's uniportant to him, will fall sooner than anyone expects.
- Eye Scream: how Irako was blinded
- Finishing Move -
Irako. Every main character. The Kogan-ryu is basically nothing but this.
- George Lucas Throwback: This series, both visually and story-wise, brings to mind old Jidai Geki manga like Lone Wolf and Cub.
- Handicapped Badass: both main characters
- Hard Gay: Yamazaki. Also the Funaki Brothers. Though they drop hints to being Depraved Bisexuals.
- Kogan's corpse and Ushimata's massacre after Fujiki loses his arm.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown - Fujiki a couple times. Also Yamazaki.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: the entire series.
- Slasher Smile: Ushimata.
- The Ace: Irako Seigen initially appeared to be this.
- The Caligula: Tokugawa Tadanaga
- The Grotesque: Gannosuke Kutsuki
- Anyone dumb enough to challenge the Kogan-ryu. "Give him a new look and send him home", indeed.
- Tiger Versus Dragon: Kogan Iwamoto and after him Gennosuke Fujiki symbolise the Tiger while Seigen Irako symbolises the Dragon.
- The Pesci: Tadanaga Tokugawa is described as having a "temper like a natural disaster" and anything could set him off and there's no controlling him.
- The Stoic: Fujiki. Ushimata (who also counts) even lampshades it at one point.
- The Un-Reveal: We never see how Fujiki lost his arm, what happened to Ushimata, or the fight between Fujiki and Irako in the anime.
- Villain Protagonist: sort of. It's open to debate whether any of the characters are technically a hero.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Fujiki are you really just going to sit there as Mie is about to be raped? Yes, yes you are. Resident jerkass Irako Seigen is the only one to oppose this.
- Yandere: In a rare deformed male example, Gannosuke.