Hitomi: Does the Blade Slice All the Way Through?

Samurai revenge: a great formula is a great formula.

Hitomi by HS TakIsabella MazzantiNicoletta BeaValentina NapolitanoRob JonesIan Chalgren, and Chris Ryall is a story set during Japan’s Feudal era, about a young girl named Hitomi and her quest for revenge on the samurai that killed her family.

Hitomi is broken up into five issues, each having a complete story while the ending sets up the next. It makes for a reading experience that is well paced, allowing the reader to take breaks between issues comfortably, like watching a regular TV show instead of feeling like all of this is one long continuous story where a break would feel out of place – such as a movie with no intermission.

When you open the book, the gorgeous art style of this comic will instantly catch your eye. It’s reminiscent of the Japanese Emakimono style, with colours that emulate the textures of the hand scrolls they were painted on.

Hitomi TP

The first issue introduces us to our two protagonists: Hitomi, the orphan of a massacred family who is fuelled by revenge, and Yasuke, a man who’s disillusioned by the life of the samurai and has left it behind. Right from the beginning, we are introduced to Hitomi and her motivations, while Yasuke’s are left ambiguous, slowly unraveling as the story progresses. Throughout the story their bond grows in subtle ways while still maintaining a sense of respect for one another as student and teacher. We see how they both interpret the code of the Samurai, as well as the lengths one goes to obtain what they seek.

The structure and pacing are fantastic, where none of it truly feels like it’s using too much or too little page space. It helps that each issue focuses on a singular tale rather than stringing together multiple while leaving the only common line through it all as the character progresses from the previous issue(s). There’s also a neat flow, where the last page of an issue sets up the next, so when you pick up the next issue, it’s simply a few moments ahead of where the last left off. With the cover and chapter title acting as a break between the two, it sets up the illusion of time passing, so none of it ever feels out of place.

My big gripe with the story comes at the end, where Hitomi finally confronts the killer of her family. It’s a confrontation I expected to be longer, more fuelled by emotion, but it concludes too soon and feels anti-climactic. Maybe if Hitomi’s arc took a direction of her slowly giving up the thirst for revenge, the confrontation would work, but as it stands, it’s the low point in an otherwise fantastic series.

As I said at the beginning, I love the art style, and that’s all in part to the wonderful work of Isabella MazzantiNicoletta Bea, and Valentina Napolitano. Mazzanti’s art style involves a lot of vertical lines across points of focus on a panel, similar to cross-hatching, which allows Napolitano’s limited colour palette to pop. The combination of both helps form that Emakimono texture and it makes for a unique reading experience artistically. Bea’s layouts are also good. Instead of leaving everything in boxes with borders, they opt to use white lines to break up panels, which allows for the panels to be more fluid. My favourite sequence by them is at in issue 5, where Hitomi goes through a psychedelic trip with the anger she already holds within her. Instead of straight lines, the panels are now sometimes broken with curvy ones, colours that contrast rather than complement, as well as facial expressions that perfectly capture the horror on Hitomi’s face.

Hitomi TP

Rob Jones’ lettering is also awesome. I love how they do sound effects, always complementing the art rather than interrupting them. The narration boxes having a different font and visual style than the rest of the dialogue captures the feeling of you reading a recollection of historical events made back then. The speech bubbles never break the art or take away from it, rather always placed just right to make sure you can appreciate everything in a panel.

As a collection, for $15.99, you get all five issues, as well as a variant cover gallery at the very end. The covers between issues aren’t always the covers of the issue right next to it. For example, issue 1’s cover is used to signal the start of chapter 5, but the art on the cover itself fits the issue following it, so it was never a bother to me.

Overall, this is a fantastic comic book. If you’re into samurai stories or tales of revenge, you should definitely consider checking out this collection. It’s well worth it.

By Zero

Big fan of storytelling through the B-Theory of time.

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