Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Death at Koten

Before I move on to The Lion I'm going to side track trought Death at the Koten, the 2009 L5R graphic novel.

The novel follows the exploits of magistrate Seppun Tashime, while investigating a suicide, across Rokugan.

Art wise, while in a style I don't particularly like, it is a solid work, coloring is crisp and clear, clothing and armour is generally well done, with some loving detail like family rather than generic clan mon and avoiding some of the worst excesses of comic book artists.

There were a few problems, female faces showed a disturbing lack of variety (three basic types mixed with 3 hairstyles), I suspect the artist never saw a male with well defined abs, because I'm pretty sure they don't look like the bony plates on turtle's abdomen, and I find the absence of nipples... awkward...  I can understand it on Kyoso no Oni, but on the Yoritomo captain...

Maybe he is indeed half turtle...

The worst art offense though was the constant milking of the cow. I don't think I've ever seen it happen in comic books before, but, boy, do those Rokugani milk the invisible cow. Seppun Tashime is a particular offender, made all the worst  because this is something we are told Rokugani frown upon socially.

However is the story itself that loses the comic.

The overaching device moving the plot forward is that of a talk between master and pupil which also serves as expository tool.

So far so good.

The problem is that there is alot of exposition going on on this story. In fact the enire novel feels like an expository tool for the setting of Rokugan. I suspect the writer's intent was to provide a window upon the world for those that might otherwise be unfamiliar with L5R, or it might have been a straight out guideline from AEG, which I can understand. However my own stance on such matters is that if you write a compelling enough story and characters the reader will be inevitably drawn to the setting, and, in this case, I feel that this atempt to shed a spotlight in as much of Rokugan as possible, harmstrings character and plot development.

For instance the titular Death at the Koten is only marginally related to the main plot, if at all, there are a  few leaps of logic from Tashime that would make a bad writer of detective stories blush, and every clan must have a cameo no matter how unnecessary, but of course everything was materminded by the Scorpion .

Basically the story is incredibly disconnected, the plot feeling constructed as hell instead of arising naturally from the setup. The student sometimes lampshades some of the unlikely twists, or at least I hope those are intentional lampshades, but just because the writer is aware of the inplausibilities it does not make them more acceptable.

Ultimately, this is a readable book, just not a very satisfactory one. For someone unfamiliar with Rokugan it doesn't provide much reason to try and find out more, for those familiar with the setting it doesn't add anything new if at all.

Overall I would only recomend it to the die hard or completist fan.

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