365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice is a fat little book by J.P. Kalonji that took practically no time to read. That’s because each page is a single panel and probably 90% of them are wordless. You don’t need a lot of words when your story is about a swordsman wearing a beast’s hide who’s on a quest to kill 365 samurai so he can discover the meaning of life.
The book is full of people being startled at their sudden demise and leaping silhouettes and blood in the snow. It’s a beautiful story of moments in black and white, and by the end it has the feeling of a parable. A bleak, filled-with-death parable of enlightenment.
I’ve been on a bit of a samurai kick recently, so Stephen Turnbull’s book Warriors of Medieval Japan was a welcome addition to the pack. It had large segments on Samurai, Ashigaru, Ninja and Warrior Monks, mostly focusing on the Warring States period. Interesting stuff I had no idea about beforehand. I wish there’d been a bit more pre-1400s stuff, but generally it was all good. Not thorough or exhaustive, but good enough to let me have an idea for stuff to use in role-playing games. I really like the idea that ninja in paintings (and all our modern conceptions of them – Storm Shadow aside) are clad in black because that was simply the convention for depicting someone who couldn’t be seen.