This graphic novel version of The Book of Five Rings, the iconic book of confrontation and victory by the famed seventeenth-century duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi, illuminates this brilliant manifesto, which has long inspired martial artists and anyone interested in cultivating a strategic mind. With evocative drawings and a distilled but faithful text adapted by acclaimed manga writer Sean Michael Wilson, The Book of Five Rings comes alive both as a guide to swordsmanship and strategy, and as a view into Musashi’s world.
This graphic adaptation of Musashi s 17th-centurytreatise on the martial arts makes careful, effective use of imagery to emphasize both the narrative and instructional aspects of the original text. Musashi s work is divided into five books, which address each aspect of battle: Earth, Fire, Water, Wind, and Emptiness. That structure is retained here, with scripter Wilson and artist Kutsuwada finding terrific visual and dramatic hooks as background for Musashi s alternately anecdotal and didactic text. Musashi takes a rational, pragmatic approach to his subject. In discussing his two-sword fighting style, he advocates practice, not mere reading. As a practical guide, the book has limited usefulness today, but Musashi s lessons, in their focus on preparation and mindfulness, can easily be applied to most areas of life. The final chapter, Emptiness, is particularly intriguing, with its Zen-like call for awareness of what we do not know as a way to avoid detrimental confusion. Kutsuwada s art is delicate and clean, balancing the physiological dynamics of swordplay with a clear-eyed appreciation of Musashi s natural environment. An engaging, thoughtful update of what could be esoteric.