The Complexity of Sword Fighting and Children

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In my opinion, there are certain story-types that are more difficult to do in comics than other types of media. Usually these stories have been overdone in movies and books, but there’s certain elements that just work better in those mediums than they do in comics. Take for instance, Westerns, which you hardly ever see in comics. It’s a tough archetype to convey the feeling and tone of the old west through panel to panel storytelling. You can’t control how long a reader’s eye lingers on a panel, which is needed to develop that intensity western’s often have. However, when someone takes an age old canvas on which to paint their new masterpiece, and does it well, what you find is a melding of classic and innovation that’s both endearing and refreshing. Grassblades, by Anna Landin is one such comic.

Grassblades is a fight and fantasy story set in a Japan-esque world. We follow a swordsman, Masahiro, who’s life is thrown off kilter when he crosses paths with a young girl, Akane, wandering through a very dangerous forest. This helpless girl won’t speak, is covered in blood, and needs his help. However, our sword fighter has his own worries to focus on, and this young nuisance will do nothing but distract him from his present task.

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While that may be the premise of the comic, there is definitely far more going on here than a good old sword fighting comic. The mixture of Akane’s innocence, and the hard nature of Masahiro becomes so complex that I became wildly attached to them both. There’s a complimentary nature to this relationship that’s seemingly forged from the worst of circumstances. It was this melding of two different characters that drew me into this world and has delighted me ever since.

I might also add that our swordsman goes to work on some baddies fairly early on, in which he takes the whole group down, one handed, like it was nothing for him. There’s also a moment when he fights a demon that’s taken over a temple, to which he subsequently removes it’s head.

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My childhood obsession with swords rose from the depths as I watched Masahiro do his thing. My first instinct was to scour the internet for all things point and throw dollars into the air until I had one in my hands. Sure, swords are dangerous but this comic has pictures, I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Plus, it’s no big deal, all I want to do is hang Masahiro’s sword on my wall. Of course, by “wall” I mean strap to my side, and by “hang,” I mean go out into the world in order to thwart evil.

Getting back to the point, there’s a very interesting cross section between Masahiro and Akane that plays out wonderfully. While it’s true she almost never speaks, she also doesn’t scream or run away during any of the fighting. Whatever Akane’s past, there’s been a horrific event that has desensitized her to the violent world in which she lives. She’s far stronger and possibly more jaded than we realize. On the other hand, Masahiro is this very stern, cold swordsman who’s seen his share of death. I mentioned already how he slays a group of robbers, but he does so without an ounce of remorse. They draw their weapons, demand his goods, and he just mows them down. Yet, for some reason, he finds a need to care for this young girl demonstrating that his heartlessness is coming from a far more sensitive place than he wants anyone to know.

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The parallel I’m drawing here, and it’s what makes this story such an interesting read, is that Akane’s innocence appears to be surface level with a coldness seeping down into her core. While Masahiro’s appearance of heartlessness is seen through his fighting, but a glimmer of warmth is found in his protection of Akane. This complimentary relationship builds depth, allowed me to become immersed in their story quickly, and created something far more enjoyable than a simple sword fighting world. I don’t want to over think it, and I admit I may have already fallen down that rabbit hole, but it feels as though the two characters, separate, are broken, but together are made whole.

What started out for me as a fairly typical Samurai-like comic, quickly developed into a complex weaving of characters, living in a crazy world, full of magic and mayhem. Masahiro and Akane’s need for each other becomes truly endearing to the reader, and adds a depth a story like this desperately needs. My attachment to both Masahiro and Akana is attribute to Landin’s wonderfully pace and storytelling ability. Overall, this is a gorgeous comic with a great cast, and a deep woven story that more than delivered for this reader.

You can read Grassblades HERE.

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