cover image Issunboshi


Ryan Lang. Oni, $34.99 (200p) ISBN 978-1-63715-081-8

Lang retells Issunboshi, a Japanese folktale about the titular one-inch samurai, in this impressively illustrated b&w debut. According to the tale, the world was first created by the gods using Ame No Nuhoko, or Heavenly Spear. Fearing that its power would be too great for any one person to wield, the gods split the spear into four parts and hid them throughout Japan: the hilt became a tree, the mount was turned into a flower, and the blade was rendered as stone. The final piece—the sword’s spirit—was reborn as Issunboshi, “a baby boy no bigger than a thumb.” After an incident reveals his true heritage, Issunboshi, now grown, leaves home to find and defeat the oni who has been gathering the pieces in order to become the king of all demons. The author’s bio describes his connection to the source material but omits details regarding further research. Though quick pacing is occasionally prioritized over character development, Lang’s Pixar background is evident in the animated facial expressions and intensely choreographed battle scenes, and overarching lessons regarding inner strength and sacrifice culminate in a satisfying, if somewhat pat, resolution. Ages 13–up. (Oct.)