Sakamoto Days

[Taken from my August 5th Newsletter and expanded upon]

At NWI Comic Con earlier this year, they were giving out gift bags that included a couple VIZ Manga Samplers. One of the samplers had a chapter from the manga Sakamoto Days. I enjoyed it and thought it had a good hook but never really followed up on it due to life’s distractions. Last week, I remembered I’ve paying for a Shonen Jump subscription on the VIZ website and barely using it. Seeing that Sakamoto Days was one of the books they were offering, I decided to give it a shot.

I’m glad that I did.

The Premise: Taro Sakamoto was once one of the greatest assassins in Japan. A ruthless and efficient killer whose name became legend among his peers. Then one day, he vanished. His former protégé Shin goes looking for him only to find him living peacefully with a wife, a daughter, and a few extra pounds. When asked to come back into the fold, he refuses and tells his protégé that he’s given up killing and just wants to live with his family. Unfortunately, his protégé was told to either get him to rejoin or take him out.

Hilarity ensues.

Seriously, it isn’t as heavy and dark as that set up makes it out to be. It does get dark and violent but the story manages to have over-the-top action as well as injecting humor at the right moment to diffuse any tense standoffs. While we start with Sakamoto and Shin, we are slowly introduced to a wide array of characters that could probably lead their own series. There are more than a few chapters that focus exclusively on side characters outside of the main cast.

But it’s Sakamoto constantly shows why it’s his name in the title.

Sakamoto is a man of few words but it doesn’t make him any less interesting. He’s basically John Wick’s good ending. His wife is still alive, he has a daughter, and would prefer nothing more than to spend his days with them in their little mom and pop shop. And in order to preserve that life, he’s willing to go to ridiculous (non-lethal) lengths. Fortunately, he’s like a chubby Saitama in terms of the insane things that he can do. But he’s not the only one.

My only knock on it is that as the story really ramps up and the stakes get bigger, we get less and less of the fun/goofiness when the characters are in the store. It’s still great but I actually enjoy the more comedic ‘lower stakes’ stuff like him trying to get a backpack for his daughter or trying not to ruin his family’s day at the amusement park while assassins attack them.

And I haven’t even talked about the art. When the story first starts, it seems good but no amazing because we only see a couple of venues and the action is pretty grounded. But once things start ramping up, Yuto Suzuki really gets to flex and creates some outrageously cool imagery while showing out wild some of the characters can get when they cut loose.

Overall, this is very much in my wheelhouse and I’ve been tearing through the series this past week. It’s been really helping refresh my brain in terms of the type of stuff I want to make and what I liked about comics and manga to begin with. Because the funny thing to me is that the story that was supposed to come after Professionalism had a similar premise where the two hit men worked at a convenience store that would come under siege. Sakamoto Days ramps up and goes in a way different direction but I just thought that was funny and a reminder that you shouldn’t get discouraged if another book has a similar premise. They will be nothing alike.

While I’m not someone who thinks every manga needs an anime adaptation, I feel like the action and some of the later scenes would lend itself well to animation. Either way, I’m enjoying it so far.

If retired/out of shape John Wick running a convenience store while fending off assassins sounds interesting, then consider checking it out. A Shonen Jump subscription is 2.99 and you can read 100 chapters a day. If you’re into physical print, there are nine collected volumes out that you can buy pretty much everywhere with the 10th volume hitting shelves in December.

Also: An honorable mention to Kaiju No. 8 which I also started reading and really came to enjoy. I only found out afterwards that an anime adaptation is coming out next year from Production I.G. I’ve enjoyed it as well.

I’d kind of been slacking on checking out new manga but I’ve been getting back into it and man, there’s a lot of great stuff out there.

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