After Kenichi leaves the Shogun to makes his way back to the Island, Hana finds herself unexpectedly a leader in the Shogun’s army. Find out how they fare in Ronin Island #5!

Ronin Island #5 ReviewRONIN ISLAND #5

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Eric Harburn
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: August 7, 2019

Previously in Ronin Island: the Shogun bumptiously announces Kenichi as Sato’s replacement, presents him with a golden suit of armor, invites him to dinner (where he brags about himself as the hero of the day), and sends Hana off to stay with “the rest of the menials.” Hana makes friends with people and investigates, discovering that one of the Shogun’s own men, Dr. Kuramoto, is experimenting on people, ostensibly to find a way to protect them. All he’s been able to do so far, though, is to create more Byōnin. His tainted gas escapes, rendering the castle uninhabitable. The Shogun declares he will take his people to the Island. At this, Kenichi leaves the Shogun with the intent to warn the Islanders.

A COMPLICATED AND UNCOMPROMISING WORLD

Twelve years ago, in Ronin Island #5, Kenichi and Hana were kids, friends who liked to play on the beach. Even then, racism and classism reared their ugly heads as Kenichi’s mother pulls him away, accusing Hana of having lice. Young Hana goes back to her work of gathering wood and caring for her sick mother.

In the present, on the mainland, Hana is now protecting the Shogun’s people, and doing so competently. Sato wants to help her, but the Shogun, who is both sly and petty, insists that she should prove her loyalty on her own and maybe then he’ll recognize her. And if she dies, well, it’s no great loss.

Under Hana’s leadership, the monsters are beaten back, and the Shogun claims all the credit. She is not afraid to call him on this and accuse him of making monsters himself. To her surprise, he admits it and reveals his big plan of using the Byōnin against his enemies. Hana is aghast, but some of the people are taken in by this show of strength. They fall in behind him even more after he harness the monsters to carts and goads them into pulling by having people walk in front of them so that they follow, which is horrifyingly creepy.

Kenichi’s solo journey has its own perils. A band of Byōnin attack him and after fighting many of them off, he gets away by diving off a cliff into the waters below. Along the shore, he is overpowered by a group of bandits.

Hana has a talk with Sato, and this adds so much to the story. She starts out by asking how he, as a samurai, can stay loyal to the Shogun after everything he’s done. That’s when we find out that Sato was an apprentice blacksmith when the Great Wind hit. He survived because he knew how to use a sword, and he met another survivor, a samurai who gathered an army around him and called himself Shogun. The current Shogun is this man’s son. In one fell swoop, Hana learns that the ideals she grew up with on the island are stories and survival can be a selfish business.

The brigands who captured Kenichi suspect he’s from the Island, and they want to know its location. They rig up an elaborate situation where he is menaced on all sides by Byōnin. If he wants to live, all he has to do is tell them what they want to know…

SIMPLE AND LOVELY

The art in Ronin Island #5 presents things so clearly and concisely. It has a crisp style that’s focuses on the elements that tell us exactly what we need to know. It’s economical and powerful. For example, in one deft transition from Hana as a little girl to Hana now, we know that she’s always had a strong sense of responsibility and that she is stoic when it comes to enduring problems in her life.

Hana and Kenichi both have their ideals tested, and the art does a wonderful job of portraying the people who do so. The young Shogun is confident and conniving, utterly sure of himself and perhaps not complete sane. Sato is jaded, worn out, the ultimate realist. The townsfolk are both terrified of the monsters but are so eager to believe the Shogun when he says he can control them that it’s almost heart breaking.

BOTTOM LINE: APART FOR THE FIRST TIME

Ronin Island #5 is a solid story as well as an allegory for growing up and joining the adult world. This is where ideals start falling apart, and difficult choices must be made. It’s also fascinating to see the history unfold bit by bit as we find out it is every bit as grubby as history tends to be.


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Ronin Island #5

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A Solid Story

Ideals meet the real world as Kenichi and Hana forge their separate ways, navigating a dangerous world.

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About Author

By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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