A lightweight, nonsensical action manga, Yoshitsugu Katagiri’s Red Hot Chili Samurai (Tokyopop) is about Kokaku Sentu, a pepper-holic swordsman who takes on assignments for his father, defending the weak from the scumwads who exploit them. In the first tale, for instance, our hero (aided by two bickering cohorts) tackles a crooked gambler who’s been cheating a patsy stable man; in the second, Kokaku amusingly dons drag to infiltrate a brothel where the girls are being drugged and ill-used. In both pieces, our heroes basically infiltrate then trash the place — no time for any subtleties — after Kokaku flashes his black crane tattoo at the baddies and announces, “I’m the hero!”
We’re a long way here from the pulpish complexities of a samurai manga epic like Lone Wolf and Cub; if anything, Kokaku comes closer to Popeye as a hero, especially after we learn that our hero’s affinity for red peppers is more than just a matter of taste. When a dry goods merchant tears up our hero’s favorite pepper plot to build a new warehouse, the young samurai weakens without his favorite chilis. It isn’t until a rival samurai provides him with a taste of one that he’s able to bolster his strength and once more righteously whoop ass. “You’ll get hemorrhoids, you know,” the rival warns Kokaku about his pepper-noshing ways. “A hero with hemorrhoids would be pretty pitiful.” That’s one thing the spinach-chomping sailor man never had to worry about.
Katagiri illustrates this silliness with a bright cleanness that’s stronger on the comic reactions than it is on the violent action. This is the kind of comic where a silent ninja has access to an endless array of complicatedly worded signs and nobody ever stops to think when he had the time to produce the things. Like Bugs Bunny holding up a jackass sign, he just has ‘em. Pure cartoon, in other words, for those who are bored with the relentlessly grim…Powered by Sidelines