Lone Wolf & Cub: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger

June 7th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , ,

Lone Wolf and Cub volume 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger
Writer: Kazuo Koike
Artist: Goseki Kojima
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 1569715041
319 pages

All told, it took me about an hour to read Lone Wolf & Cub volume 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger. I was surprised when I realized it, but there are a lot of wordless pages in this volume. Koike backs off the scripting some and lets Kojima really work his storytelling and show off some solid swordfighting. It works out for the better, as this volume moves along much faster than the previous one, due in part to the variety of stories inside.

The Flute of the Fallen Tiger keeps up the 60 page story. This time, we get five stories, chapters fifteen through nineteen. In order, we’ve got “The Flute of the Fallen Tiger,” “Half Mat, One Mat, a Fistful of Rice,” “The White Path Between the Rivers,” “The Virgin and the Whore,” and “Close Quarters.” “Half Mat” is definitely my favorite of the five, though “Flute” is a great story, as well.

“Flute” is a story I recognize, since it is essentially the ending of Shogun AssassinShogun Assassin. I was surprised at how faithful the movie was to the book, since my understanding was that it was a hatchet job. I’ve uploaded the relevant portion of the film and the ending of the chapter for comparison’s sake. The sequence from the film is one of my favorite martial arts flick quotes, so it was definitely cool to see it in action.


The jewel of the book, for my money, is “Half Mat, One Mat, a Fistful of Rice.” The title is a reference to a philosophy that a character espouses during the story. He says that when you sit, you take up half a tatami mat. When you sleep, you take up a full mat. Finally, your stomach holds a mere fistful of rice. That, in essence, is what life means. Everything else is artifice, simply words that actually mean nothing.

The man is urging Ogami to leave the assassin’s road and give his son a simple life, rather than one of death. Like Ogami, he’s a ronin. Rather than join the assassin’s way, he chose to walk the way of the human beggar. He uses his skills to entertain others and eke out a simple living. He’s found a life he enjoys, and it is a life that has value. However, for the sake of Ogami’s son, he is going to put Ogami to the test.

Their sword duel was exactly the kind of thing I expect out of one of the longest running manga ever. We get two dozen wordless pages of simulated fights between the two of them. They are imaginary, simply Ogami running scenarios in his head, and in every single one, both of them die. When they finally get down to fighting, Ogami wins due to his lack of loyalty to a portion of the samurai code. Rather than his sword being his soul, something to never leave his side, his sword is simply a tool. He throws it and kills his foe.

I really, really dug this story. It was nice to see someone outright call Ogami on his way of life, echoing more than a few of my concerns, and even nicer to see Koike and Kojima really dig into the story. The other tales in the book are good, but this is easily the best.


“Close Quarters” is your standard Lone Wolf & Cub tale, and a good one. Ogami is hired, the setting is established, and then he murders several people. This story is notable because he straight up chops off a horses front legs as a distraction while infiltrating an enemy camp, and then apologizes to the horse before putting it out of its misery. Way to go, Ogami. You actually surprised me.

“The Virgin and The Whore” is a pretty good one. The Virgin and the Whore in the title are the same person. A young girl has been sold to a brothel by her family in order to pay their debts, what was apparently a fairly common thing back in the Edo period. When the man who procured her attempts to rape her, she bites off his tongue and he chokes to death on his own blood. Ogami shields her from inspectors and yakuza alike due to her situation, and even undergoes torture for her. By the end of it, she’s escaped unscathed and returned to her home.

Her relationship with her family is the tipping point here, as she carries an ihai, a Buddhist mortuary tablet, on her person. Rather than symbolizing the death of a person, it symbolizes the death of her relationship with her parents, and the fact that they love her, though they had to sell her. The ihai is used to make a point on how Ogami and Daigoro’s path in life is much different from hers due to the choices they, and she, have made.

lw-c-03-10The final story deals with Ogami’s family in a big way, and sheds more light on what caused him to set foot on the way of the assassin. The Yagyu clan killed his wife, nearly killing a freshly-born Daigoro as well, and framed Ogami for plotting against the shogun. Ninja planted an ihai with the shogun’s hollyhock crest in the Ogami family temple. This is a traitorous act, since it is essentially commemorating the shogun’s death.

It is a setup, and at first it seems that Ogami can do nothing about it. However, he slaughters the Yagyu soldiers, revealing that he knows about the secret behind their clan. He threatens them, and swears vengeance before the chapter ends.

I like the way the story is being slowly built up over the course of a few volumes. They provide a nice change of pace from the usual story, and even serve as a bit of a history lesson at the same time. This flashback actually takes place before the one in the first volume, and serves to illuminate what went on to set up that conflict.

Next week, Lone Wolf and Cub 4: The Bell Warden. I hope so, anyway– I’m still waiting on a shipment of the next three volumes.

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3 comments to “Lone Wolf & Cub: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger”

  1. […] Connie on vol. 23 of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Slightly Biased Manga) David Brothers on Lone Wolf and Cub: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger (4thletter!) Kate Dacey on vols. 1-6 of Night of the Beasts (The Manga Critic) Dave Ferraro on […]

  2. In the story of “The Virgin and The Whore” , Itto Ogami and Daigoro run into the Bohachi clan, those who have given up the eight virtues and deal in the business of procurring girls for the brothels.

    Koike and Kojima also created and published a manga centered around this group, which has never been translated into English, but which has been made into a movie entitled “Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight” directed by Teruo Ishii and starring Tetsuro Tamba.

    If you have enjoyed the Lone Wolf & Cub films based on Koike and Kojima’s manga work, then you should definitely check this one out.

    Here are some scans from the manga which are part of a feature on the DVD.

  3. @steve hubbell: Wow, that looks great. I’m definitely interested, and will probably have to add that to my Amazon list soon.