Comics/Graphic Novels

A Samurai Comes of Age in This Graphic Novel

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle

Contributing Editor

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle is a writer, podcaster, librarian, and information fanatic who appreciates potatoes in every single one of their beautiful iterations. Patricia earned a B.A. in Creative Writing and Musical Theatre from the University of Southern California and an MLIS from San Jose State University. Her weekly newsletter, Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice offers self-improvement and mental health advice, essays, and resources that pull from her experience as a queer, Black, & Filipina person existing in the world. She is also doing the same on the Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice Podcast. More of her written work can also be found in Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy edited by Kelly Jensen, and, if you’re feeling spicy, in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Patricia has been a Book Riot contributor since 2016 and is currently co-host of the All the Books! podcast and one of the weekly writers of the Read This Book newsletter. She lives in Oakland, CA on unceded Ohlone land with her wife and a positively alarming amount of books. Find her on her Instagram, Bluesky, and LinkTree.

Today’s pick is a newly released young adult graphic novel with a big heart.

Book cover of The Worst Ronin by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and art by Faith Schaffer

The Worst Ronin by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Art by Faith Schaffer

Chihiro Ito is sixteen and has big dreams about being a samurai. She is obsessed with Tatsuo Nakano, a well-known samurai who was the first girl to be accepted to the renowned samurai school known as Keisi Academy. Keisi Academy is notorious for only allowing boys, but Tatsuo’s fierce talent could not be ignored. Tatsuo is glorified in movies and television and on posters (and probably other merch), and Chihiro might just be her biggest fan. Chihiro has been training with her father who himself is an esteemed samurai, though in retirement from serving Daimyo Teshima. Chihiro’s father has an existing injury from his samurai days which makes the fact that he has been called out of retirement and back into service even more worrisome. A large, terrible creature called a yamauba has been kidnapping children in a town in the mountains.

Chihiro is eager to prove herself and volunteers to go in her father’s place. Her parents only allow it if she finds a rōnin to accompany her and fight the monster as a team. Chihiro decides that she is not going to hire just any rōnin. She wants to hire her idol, Tatsuo Nakano. When she finally catches up to Tatsuo and convinces her to join her, Chihiro finds that her idol is not at all who she imagined. Tatsuo is fighting her own demons. She is doing everything she can to escape from grief, which often involves a lot of drinking and a lot of being rude to people so she doesn’t form any kind of attachments.

Amidst the snarky dialogue and plenty of humor, this graphic novel is absolutely about the ways in which grief can tear us apart and bring us together. Content warnings for violence and death of friends and family members.

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