cover image The Worst Ronin

The Worst Ronin

Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illus. by Faith Schaffer. HarperAlley, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-358-46493-8

Female samurai with cell phones and Wi-Fi turn feudal Japan upside down in this humorous, genre-bending graphic novel by Tokuda-Hall (The Siren, the Song, and the Spy) and animator Schaffer. Nineteen-year-old Tatsuo Nakano’s status as the first female samurai results in awe and scorn from peers and strangers alike. When she’s unable to protect her best friend, she denounces her duties and becomes a ronin. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Chihiro Ito, who must undergo a military mission when her disabled father cannot, seeks a ronin to help successfully complete the task. A big fan of Tatsuo and hoping to learn the way of the samurai from her, Chihiro seizes the opportunity to hire Tatsuo when she encounters her during a brawl. Tokuda-Hall deftly balances serious examinations of gender roles and melancholy atmosphere with smart dialogue and toilet humor, and cynical Tatsuo and naive Chihiro’s oddball pairing results in witty exchanges and heartfelt scenes of personal reflection. Schaffer’s expressive figures adeptly convey emotionally heavy moments while flashbacks in dramatic b&w juxtapose vibrant present-day occurrences. Characters are portrayed with varying skin tones. Ages 14–up. (May)