Comics, Reviews

Hitomi Review: Uncovering the True Way of the Warrior

Dive into this beautifully told story about a young girl fueled by revenge discovering her greater purpose from an old samurai seeking his atonement.

Hitomi #1
Image: Image Comics
By: Javier ReyesFeb 23, 2024, 2:06 AM

Hitomi

Review
Rating
9
Good
Hitomi

Writer: HS Tak

Artist: Isabella Mazzanti

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: May 23, 2023

Format: Comic

Hitomi is a beautifully made tale about a young girl's growth as a warrior and an old samurai's journey to restore his honor.

There’s always an air of mysticism regarding the samurai. Known as the stoic warrior class during the Feudal period of Japan, samurai famously followed a strict moral code centered on loyalty and honor. While many modern portrayals depict samurais as symbols of absolute good, that could not be further from the truth. The reality about the samurai is that they were death dealers, often used by lords to commit heinous and violent acts throughout Japan.

In the graphic novel Hitomi, writer HS Tak does not shy away from the darkness behind the life of a samurai. But it’s from that darkness that comes a story about hope and redemption. In this review, I will dive into the aspects of the book that make it a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

Hitomi looking over the mountainsImage: Image Comics

Diving in the Unique World of Hitomi

The titular character Hitomi is a young girl who dreams of taking revenge on the man who ruined her life. During the time of war in Feudal Japan, Hitomi’s village was brutally cut down by the Oda Nobunaga’s samurai forces led by Yasuke, the legendary African samurai. The sight of fearsome samurai murdering her parents in cold blood was forever burned into her memory. Since then, she’s traveled far and wide searching for any information about the samurai, going as far as climbing up a dangerous mountain just for a nudge in the right direction. She learns that if she wants to exact her revenge, she must first become Yasuke’s equal in the ways of the samurai. But little does she know, the man she searches for is just a shell of his former self.

The story takes place years after Nobunaga’s downfall. As a former member of the daimyō’s inner circle, Yasuke has long put down his blade to live a more secluded life. His days of bloodshed are far behind him, as all he wants to do is earn enough money to buy a boat ticket that will take him back home.

Hitomi meets her masterImage: Image Comics

In an odd twist of fate, Hitomi and Yasuke eventually cross paths in a way the young girl never imagined. After Hitomi finds herself in trouble with other samurai, Yasuke saves her life without knowing who she is. By seeing that side of the African samurai, Hitomi realizes that there’s no better person to teach her the ways of bushido than Yasuke himself. From there, the journey of teacher and pupil begins. But deep down, Hitomi still holds on to the hate for Yasuke within her heart.

Well-rounded Characters

The characterization of both Hitomi and Yasuke are the centerpieces of this beautiful graphic novel. Writer HS Tak plays with the contrasts of his two leads to build a dynamic that feels authentic. Hitomi is a hot-blooded drifter who’s more than willing to jump headfirst into danger without second-guessing her decisions. She can be reckless but has the skills and street smarts to back it up. Meanwhile, Yasuke is a stoic samurai master who views life from a tactical perspective. To others, Yasuke may seem cold and heartless. But to him, he’s only doing what he believes needs to be done. That’s simply what the life of war has taught him. Yet despite their drastic differences, Hitomi and Yasuke grow and learn a thing or two from one another throughout their journey. These are two characters who, in very different ways, have been broken down by the nightmares caused by war and conflict. Their story together builds up to an emotional finale that leaves you satisfied with how their tumultuous tale ends. What starts as a cold-blooded revenge story turns into one about discovering the true meaning of honor, atonement, and forgiveness.

Hitomi trainingImage: Image Comics

Art That Transports You to a Different Time

With the pages I’ve shown so far in this review, it goes without saying that the art by Isabella Mazzanti is absolutely breathtaking. The half-Italian and half-Polish artist and illustrator perfectly captured the whimsy of traditional Japanese paintings. The fluidity in the lines of environments and characters makes it easy to imagine any panel of this graphic novel belongs on a hanging silk scroll. As refreshing as it is already to see a graphic novel set within this specific period, Mazzanti’s art creates a world that feels grounded and also very magical at the same time. 

In a story that stretches across different regions of Japan, Mazzanti showcases her ability in bringing different kinds of scenes to life. There are plenty of stoic scenes of Hitomi and Yasuke sharing meaningful conversations as master and student, whether in training or around a campfire. The book is also teeming with calming scenes of beautifully illustrated environments. But when the time is right, Mazzanti can also masterfully craft dramatic fight scenes filled with blood and intense violence. These drastic shifts in tone all fit perfectly within a story that’s deeply entwined with the culture of samurais and wartime conflicts.

Art of HitomiImage: Image Comics

Final thoughts

In just 5-issues, Hitomi delivers a heartfelt story about two characters who grow into much stronger versions of themselves. The heartfelt storytelling of HS Tak with the eye-catching artwork of Isabella Mazzanti is a match made in comic book heaven, as their strengths as creators perfectly complement each other. But as tightly wrapped as the story of Hitomi already is, I only wish the series was one or two more issues longer. The bond between Hitomi and Yasuke could have been developed through more events that showcase the young girl’s growth as a budding samurai warrior. Regardless of that, Hitomi is still a great graphic novel for readers who want to dive right into a quick and engaging story filled with well-written characters and amazing artwork.

TAGGED: Image Comics, Reviews
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