SOUTEN NO KOUMORI
Souten No Koumori is a one off manga that was written and drawn by full metal alchemist creator Hiromu Arakawa. It’s also known as A Bat In The Blue Sky in English. The story focuses on a rogue Shinobi Shinobi Henpukumaru who is found after she was left for dead near the home of a young lord. He treats her wounds and nurses her back to health and then he allows her to stay with him.
She later works for a future young lord who treats her with kindness and like a person, unlike her previous clan who saw her as a nothing more than a tool. Eventually, she learns that there is more to life than what she was destined for. Despite her new line of work, she is lethal and can kill anybody at any given moment should she choose to. Henpukumaru is initially emotionless and quiet for the most part as she is in an unfamiliar environment but finally lets her emotions show as she responds to the kindness of the lord.
The story is pretty tragic the reason why she refused to kill was because she could not bring herself to kill a young child.
She was considered to be one of the best killers in her former Shinobi clan. She finds out that her former clan wants to go after her current master and she reluctantly returns to action.
The character development and pacing was pretty good. The story took its time unfolding the events. Nothing is rushed or feels unfinished.
Henpukumaru becomes more human and more emotional kind and caring person and consequently develops a more optimistic outlook on life. One moment in particular where she and her master help an injured bird fly again, she was surprised and moved by such an action. In her previous life, she would have killed the bird out of mercy. It was quite a touching moment in the story and there are numerous moments like it. There is some romantic interest between her and her new master but it is never really developed fully.
The story themes were pretty well thought out and its main focus is on how one should be able to take control of his/her own life rather than to be someone else’s pawn. Redemption is another theme as Henpukumaru is really ashamed of her past as she tries so hard to escape it. Her birth mark is a reference to the bat of the same name. It is a noticeable aspect of her past and a reminder that she is a highly skilled assassin.
Characters in the story are faced with different kinds of problems in their lives with no easy solutions. The atmosphere and world design are authentic to the Edo era of Japan. The morality of the story is not really black and white there is many different shades of grey to the characters with the young master being the most idealistic. The way it handles the subject matter of the story is excellent.
Each of the scenes in the panels felt seamless and quick and the lack of any filler or padding meant for a more smoother reading experience. The trademark art style and character drawings of Hiromu Arakawa were impressive. It has pretty violent but quick action sequences. The action sequences are pretty good and the Shinobis were very stealthy instead of operating out of the open.
While the story has its fair share of drama and tragedy, it also has some humor to add some levity to a serious and dark story. The story ending was satisfying and not feeling empty or left out.
There were some flaws to Souten No Koumori. The characters personalities, backstories and the background story of the lore could have been explored more detail especially since this was a single story and not a series. The characters were simple instead of being multi-dimensional but its forgivable considering the genre. Villains are really evil just for the sake of being evil.
Overall, Souten No Koumori was an excellent read and fans of Hiromu Arakawa will not be disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed the manga.
This is getting 4 out of 5 stars.
Fans of Full Metal Alchemist and Shinobi anime stories would really enjoy this story. It could work on its own as a 45 minute ova adaptation.