"They'll sacrifice anything to further the clan—even their reputation! That's why they're so dangerous!"
It's well-established that Ogami Ittō is a man of action and few words. Kazuo Koike takes that trait to extremes in the first half of Volume Four. I'm guessing the ratio of words spoken to people killed is almost balanced. The land is covered in snow, so even the normal ambient sound effects are muted, but it works because Goseki Kojima is as good a storyteller with his kinetic art style as Koike is with his minimal text. As in life, sometimes words just get in the way.
Retsudō, the head of the Yagyū clan, is a key player this time. It's all well and good to have a nemesis, but unless they have a suitably dramatic reason for wanting to kill the hero, then they're a walking cliché. Fortunately, Retsudō has a reason. We get to see the beginnings of his hatred for Ogami and better understand the fire that fuels his obsession. Drip-feeding info over an extended period of time can backfire if it's not done properly, but Koike has mastered it.
In desperation, Retsudō hires shinobi (ninja) to kill Ogami. The shinobi use tactics that an honourable swordsman wouldn't, tactics both direct and indirect.
No space left to expand upon how Ogami gets handy with the Nagamaki; the bitter-sweet way Koike explores a woman's anguish and the mechanics of personal sacrifice; or Daigoro’s determined countenance.
The book ends with a multipart story that delivered everything I'd hoped for, and more. It became my favourite part of the entire series so far.
The book collects together chapters 41 - 52 of the original Lone Wolf and Cub manga (the remainder of Volume 8: Chains of Death; all of Volume 9: Echo of the Assassin; and the first part of the stories from Volume 10: Hostage Child).
5 weaves out of 5