Most people associate “manga” with cutesy girls with big eyes fighting vampires or maybe cute little robots or…whatever.
I’m here today to advocate the work of Kazuo Koike. He’s the writer behind Lone Wolf and Cub. Rumoured to be the inspiration for the Road to Perdition, Lone Wolf and Cub is a 28-part series detailing the adventures of Ogami Itto and his son, Daigoro. No mere hobos, Ogami and Daigoro work as assassins-for-hire while wending their way toward an inevitable encounter with their arch-enemies, the politically shrewd Yagyu clan.
Lone Wolf and Cub is perhaps the best of the chanbara genre of swashbuckling Japanese literature, generally set in the Tokugawa era (1603-1868.) Once you’ve made it through the magnum opus, you might also be interested in Samurai Executioner and Path of the Assassin.
The art is beautiful, rendered in black-and-white with the intricacy of Japanese ink painting. The only caveat in this recommendation is the occasional perviness of the some of the content. You learn, for example, that any good samurai can make love to a woman in a room full of bandits because of his samurai fortitude. They show it, big time, in addition to many other interesting scenes throughout the epic. Not for kids!