Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

   It only took one purchase to get me hooked on Dover's collection of graphic novels. OK, comic books, but done up in beautiful glossy pages with a semi-hardback cover. I own quite a few now and have loved every one I've read so far. This is no exception. At only 59 pages for the story, plus about twenty more on background information, this short tale can be read in one sitting. The plot is simple, but the spiritual implications are very deep.
   It is set in nineteenth-century Japan, then California. It begins with a former Samurai warrior, who was called Masanobu. Now he is a recluse in the mountains to seek peace and his soul through contemplation. But he witnesses a terrible event that changes his plans. A warrior has come up the mountain to kill the gentle and beautiful dragon who lives there. The dragon prefers not to fight, but the warrior gives it no choice, then kills it and cuts off its head as his victory prize, so that he may boast. Masanobu cries.
   Later that day, a Shinto priest from the valley comes for his beloved friend, the dragon, only to find it butchered. He at first blames Masanobu, who tells him the truth about the warrior. His name is Ho-kan.
   However, when he returns to the valley he is shocked. A deranged group of monks are training the peaceful dragons to attack—to kill. Their motive for doing that is to protect what is theirs from the encroaching civilization. A meeting is called for all the monks. Everyone who does not participate will be killed by the dragons. The dragons are then given the command to kill. Ho-kan manages to escape. He digs up a treasure given to him by his mentor—an eyelid scale of a white dragon which he must burn to learn what he must now do.
   Meanwhile we go back in time. A young boy whose name is Takashi is with his Japanese mother. Then his drunken American father comes home, who forgets the name of his son and reminds his wife that she was purchased. When Takashi turns fourteen, he runs away. He encounters a group of bandits attacking two Ninja, a brother and sister. The brother kills all but one, then he is killed. The fifth bandit starts to rape the girl, but Takashi kills him. Hanako, very grateful, takes him to her home. Her father welcomes him, and asks him to stay. He will train him to be a Ninja, which requires suffering. He becomes a very good one, and falls in love with Hanako. Now, back to the present.
   Ho-Kan approaches the Ninja for their services in dealing with the deranged monks, who are going to California to raise the warrior dragons. Most of the west coast at this point is unpopulated, except for the indigenous peoples. Ho-Kan has also approached Masanobu. But Ho-Kan is caught and tortured, then killed by a dragon. The monks have learned about the Ninja and Masanobu, so they approach him, then lie about their agenda. They want him to sail with them and protect them and the dragons from the Ninja. He thinks he is helping Ho-Kan.
   The ship can only hold one adult dragon, but there are many babies and eggs. Meanwhile Masanobu realizes he has been duped after they reach California. The Ninja have arrived also and attack him, but he triumphs. Takashi and Hanako escape, but Hanako is captured. She commits suicide. Meanwhile, one of the priests who, out of fear, has only pretended to side with the deranged ones, tells Masanobu the truth about the plot. The dragons attack and kill the crew. Then they set the ship on fire, but Masanobu and the priest escape. He is badly injured and dies.
   Meanwhile Takashi seeks the killer of his lover, not realizing they are on the same side, or that she killed herself. They both encounter the indigenous peoples, who are being slaughtered by the dragons and the monks. Eventually Takashi, Masanobu, and the natives realize they are on the same side, and team up to defeat the monks and their dragons.
   Carl Potts created this story in 1982. His maternal grandmother was Japanese, and he began research to learn more about his heritage. But, as with most of these graphic novels, it takes a whole crew of people to create the finished product. I never read comic books as a kid, but with each of these graphic novels that I read, I am gaining more and more respect for the people who created them.
   And there were so many things I loved about this book. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, and the story is so beautiful. We here in Western civilization, well, it's not all that civilized, but we are in the habit of perceiving dragons as evil monsters. The knight in shining armor must kill them and rescue the maiden. But we see that in Eastern philosophy, dragons were good and gentle creatures. No wonder they appear in so much Asian art. I certainly learned something.
   And the other part I really liked was the spiritual aspect, especially what a Ninja must endure in training to perfect body, mind and soul. That goes along with much of what I have been writing about for us here on earth now, who are working toward spiritual enlightenment and awakening. An excellent book and highly recommended. I think it is only available from Dover, which I, no doubt, got cheap during a sale!
   Here are some pages from the book.
   The first is page 11. The warrior has brutally slaughtered the peaceful dragon. Masanobu cries. The Shinto priest comes up from the valley seeking his gentle friend, only to find him butchered. He blames Masanobu.
   The second is page 21. Takashi rescues Hanako from the bandits and she takes him home. He becomes part of the family. Her father trains him to be a Ninja. There is some humor in this one. His father says, "The agony you feel is of great value, Tak. It teaches you endurance. Have you any questions? And he answers, "Why . . . did I kill that bandit?
    In the next row, page 47 depicts Takashi evading the attacks of the Natives. He finally remembers that he can speak English and asks them if they understand. They do, so he enlists their help.
   The very last one is also the last page of the story, page 59. Masanobu and Takashi, with the help of the Natives, have killed the deranged priests, and the adult dragon. Then old Masanobu also dies. Takashi takes the two baby dragons off into the wilderness where they won't be discovered and tells them of the future. The story ends on an incomplete thought. So beautiful!

Page 21

Page 11

Page 59

Page 47

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