Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories is a compilation of one-shot manga written and illustrated by Hiroaki Samura, the creator of the Blade of the Immortal manga series. This compilation was published in North America by Dark Horse Manga in 2013. There is no rating printed anywhere on this volume, but I would personally recommend Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories to manga readers who are 16 or 17 years of age and older. This is due to some of the content of the stories included in this volume, as well as the fact that there are a few panels included that feature female nudity.
“Emerald” is the first story to appear in this compilation, and it’s also the longest of the one-shots in this volume. The story is set in a Wild West setting. A 14-year-old girl named Sara, who has lost both of her parents, owes a large debt to Mr. Randolph, a powerful man in the town where she lives. Mr. Randolph insists on Sara playing a game of chance; she can tell he’s rigging the game, but she knows no one in the room will believe her if she says anything. Meanwhile, a woman is trying to hire a notorious criminal to help her with a job. Initially, these two storylines don’t seem to be related, but they end up coming together in an interesting way. It should be noted that there are some sexual references made in the dialogue of this one-shot manga.
Next is “The Kusein Family’s Grandest Show.” A high school girl named Kaoru doesn’t like the housekeeper who has been serving her and her father. Kaoru thinks that something is going between her father and the help, but it turns out there’s more to the story than Kaoru realizes. I don’t want to say anything further about this story, because I don’t want to provide spoilers. However, what I will say is that I found this to be one of the more disturbing stories to be included in this compilation.
Sprinkled throughout the volume are several chapters of “The Uniforms Stay On.” There were eight chapters of this project that had been serialized in a magazine in Japan. The basic premise is that two high school girls, who are occasionally joined by a third girl, try to provide commentary about various fads and other contemporary issues. The first couple of chapters weren’t too bad, but I could tell that for the last few, Samura was really struggling to put something somewhat coherent together. This ultimately was a project that didn’t work out very well as a long-term project.
“Brigitte’s Dinner” is set in 1919. A girl and her brother are trying to survive by themselves. A man finds them on the side of the road. He takes the girl with him, and he tells her that her brother is being taken to a hospital because he is malnourished. The man takes care of her for two months, and then takes her to a place where she is auctioned off. She is taken to a luxurious home, and it’s her job to eat dinner with an extremely injured man every night at 6:00. By the time I finished reading this story, I found it be just as disturbing as “The Kusein Family’s Grandest Show” had been.
On the surface, “Shizuru Cinema” appears to be a story about a young, aspiring manga artist and his high school age girlfriend. There’s actually an interesting twist that takes place at the end of the story; I have to admit that I had no clue that this twist could have even been possible.
“Low-Grade Strategy: The Mirror Play” is a very short story about a turn in a game of mahjong. Since I don’t have a lot of knowledge about how the game is played in this manner, I had a hard time following what was going on.
The final story in this volume is “Youth Chang-Chaka-Chang.” The focus of this story is on a young man admitting his feelings to a woman, and the song that he has recorded and given to her.
I have to say that I’m very impressed with Samura’s art style. With the way he draws his characters, they almost seem to leap out from the page and come to life. I even felt this way about “Low-Grade Strategy: The Mirror Play;” while I may not have entirely understood what was happening, the look and feel of the characters kept me interested in reading the story.
Personally, I think that Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories will hold the most appeal with readers who are already familiar with Samura’s work. While readers not familiar with his work may like what they read, they may not be able to appreciate it quite as much as readers who are already fans.