The Book of Five Rings

Musashi Miyamoto, Author, Chie Kutsuwada, Illustrator, William Scott Wilson, Translator, Sean Michael Wilson, Adapted by
Miyamoto Musashi, adapted by Sean Michael Wilson and Chie Kutsuwada. Shambhala, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-61180-012-8
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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. (Nov.)
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