Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Manga/Historical Fantasy
Length: 176 pages
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Stand Alone or Series: 1st volume in the Stray Cat Samurai series
Rating: 3/5 stars
In medieval Japan, it’s a hard life for a stray cat. Every day is filled with struggles and prejudice, from oppression by fellow cats working for cruel masters to extortion by catnip druglords. But being a stray also means incredible pride and independence. The wandering samurai Norachiyo has no master, though he still wears the telltale bell of a cat who has a “person.” This rogue warrior travels across Japan, protecting the weak and cutting down those who have forgotten the virtues of being a stray – all with unrivaled swordsmanship. Although Norachiyo leaves little trace but his fearsome reputation, this enigmatic warrior has made plenty of enemies who are more than willing to get their claws on his head. Will Norachiyo’s past catch up with him, or can he spend his nine lives in freedom?”
I picked up this manga at the bookstore because it looked like something my son would like. I ended up being a bit disappointed and decided that it wasn’t appropriate for him to read quite yet (he’s 10 years old). The story is very typical “roaming noble samurai” and the artwork was hard to follow.
The story follows a cat named Norachiyo who wanders from place to place helping cats in need. He has a bell on his sword (which means at one point he was a kept cat, not a stray). He violently attacks and kills those he deems to be “bad”.
A lot of the story deals with “kept” cats versus “stray” cats. The stray cats are the only truly free cats while the kept cats are looked down upon by the strays since kept cats answer to humans.
The story is appropriate for young adult and older but not really for the middle grade audience. Norachiyo has an addiction to catnip which helps to ease his injuries (this is treated like any other drug addiction) and yet he prosecutes the cats who peddle and sell catnip in the cities. The book is very bloody with Norachiyo regularly slaughtering other cats in his righteous fury at how they treat others. Although some of the mystery surrounding Norachiyo is interesting…he is generally an unlikable character.
The manga takes itself way too seriously. There are a few cute cat references, but mostly this is just another typical samurai story but in this case the lead character is a cat. I thought there would be some humor in here, but it’s pretty cut and dry.
My biggest complaint about this book is the illustration. The action scenes are impossible to follow and it’s very hard to tell what is going on. While I didn’t mind the style of illustration, I was frustrated by how difficult it was to follow the action scenes.
Overall this was okay but not great. Some of the ideas are interesting and the whole noble samurai thing is always fun to read about (if overdone). However the story took itself too seriously and the illustration was pretty hard to follow (especially the action scenes). I won’t be reading anymore of this series; there’s just nothing here that interests me. I also won’t be giving it to my son to read because of the drug abuse and excessive violence (besides he loves cats, so watching them slaughter each other to bloody bits might be a bit disturbing for him!).