REVIEW: ‘Issunboshi’ Delivers A Fantasy-Filled Hero’s Journey

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Issunboshi

Issunboshi is a fantasy adventure graphic novel published by Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group, written by Ryan Lang, art by Ryan Lang, and letters by Steve Wands. When the world was forged, it was the might of Ame No Nuhoko, The Heavenly Spear, that brought the first island to the surface of earth’s waters. Fearing the misuse of the spear, the gods broke it into four pieces hiding them away forever. But a fierce Oni has begun to gather the pieces so that he may shatter the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead. And the only man big enough to stop him may stand only one inch tall.

Issunboshi is a fantastic story that takes elements of Japanese folklore and blends it harmoniously with the western “hero’s journey” archetype of storytelling. Over the book’s roughly 200 pages, Lang crafts a tale of courage that reminds us that even the smallest person can change the course of the world.

At the center of the story is Issunboshi himself. From his first introduction, Boshi is a fun, likable protagonist that the reader is only too happy to cheer for. Despite being only an inch high, Lang’s writing and art never fail to let Boshi stand in the story’s center without difficulty.

Surrounding the protagonist is a strong cast of characters that fill each of their roles wonderfully. From his loving parents, who know he is meant for great things, to the wise master and allies that come to aid him in his struggles, each personality delivers its role perfectly. Despite the predictability of how these various personalities play out, Lang proves that it is ok to adhere to the classics when you can execute them this well.

Much like the writing in Issunboshi, the art does an excellent job crafting a world that draws from both east and west. The characters overflow with personality and expression, and the book’s most emotional moments land wonderfully thanks to how perfectly Lang delivers his subjects’ emotions through their faces and body language.

But it’s not just the emotion that brings this world to life. When the punches start flying, Lang ensures that Boshi, his allies, and foes deliver lands with thunderous force with every blow. While keeping the art squarely in the PG range, Lang delivers some truly impactful punches.

The final thing that sells Issunboshi‘s art is the choice to keep it in black and white. This choice gives the visuals an elegance I find hard to describe. Like someone blended a modern kids’ movie with a classic samurai flick and made it feel natural, I could gush about this art forever. The final element of this story is its lettering. Wands does a great job weaving the lettering through the panels allowing it to blend beautifully with the book’s art.

Issunboshi delivers on all fronts. It is a triumphant story of good battling evil; it tells a moving story of someone who you would think is too small to change anything proving they are the tallest of all. It combines these elements with a brilliant cast and gorgeous visual presentation. It is, in a word, flawless.

Issunboshi is available now wherever comics are sold.


Issunboshi
5

TL;DR

Issunboshi delivers on all fronts. It is a triumphant story of good battling evil; it tells a moving story of someone who you would think is too small to change anything proving they are the tallest of all. It combines these elements with a brilliant cast and gorgeous visual presentation. It is, in a word, flawless.

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