A graphic novel series created by French artist Hub. Set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Medieval Japan, it follows the journeys of Okko, a ronin dedicated to hunting down the demons that plague the wartorn Empire of Pajan. He's accompanied by Noburo, a gigantic fighter who hides his face behind a mask, Noshin, a drunken monk who is actually a rather capable spellcaster, and Noshin's young apprentice Tikku, who is indebted to Okko after the ronin attempted to help him rescue his sister from kidnappers. They travel from place to place, rooting out evil wherever they find it.
The series has been praised for its immensely detailed artwork and well-researched setting. It's divided into several volumes or "cycles", each named after one of the classical elements of Water, Earth, Air, and Fire, and the titles somewhat reflect the setting of each story: the Cycle of Water takes place on a chain of small islands, the Cycle of Earth occurs in a mountain range, the Cycle of Air in a valley tormented by yearly cyclones.
Has nothing to do with OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes.
This comic series contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Setzuka and Windreaper.
- Annoying Arrows: Noburo doesn't even feel 'em.
- Badass Boast: Okko pulls one after killing the Satorro swordmaster in the Cycle of Water.Okko: In all my many duels those who chose to strike me from behind lived to draw but one breath of regret.
- Blade on a Stick: Noburo's naginata.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Windreaper is loud and cheerful, but will happily beat you into the floor if you cross her.
- Body Horror: The vampires in the Cycle of Water. They remove the heads of their victims and root their bodies in the corpse's neck, appearing as the head of the corpse and controlling the body from there.
- Brawn Hilda: Justified with Windreaper who wields a heavy Japanese Tetsubo◊, a weapon that only a taller-than-average, unusually musucular woman could use in Real Life.
- Carry a Big Stick: Windreaper's weapon of choice is a massive tetsubo mace.
- Chekhov's Gun: The haunted shamisen in the Cycle of Air. Turns out, when you break it over someone's head, it creates a tornado on the spot!
- Cool Mask: Noburo's red oni mask.
- Determinator: Noburo, again—in the very first fight scene in the series, he gets smashed through a wall of a burning building. It takes him all of ten seconds to get back onto his feet and leap towards the escaping pirate ship. The pirates shoot him several times with arrows, and he falls into the ocean—only to angrily climb out of the water the next morning, rip the arrows out and attempt to set off after the ship again. It only gets better from there.
- Downer Ending: In the very last cycle, Okko realizes he's too old to continue his errant life after he accidentally kills a man (a noodle merchant running after them because they forgot their chopsticks), retiring to a monastery. Along the way, we learn more about his childhood, including the fact that he once killed another child in a swordfight (the son of one of his father's retainers) and that Noburo is his brother. And after the group parts ways, the mother of the boy he killed finally gets her revenge (after years of sleeping with random ronin so they'd kill Okko) when she's rescued by a poet to whom she recounts (her version of) the events, completely destroying Okko's reputation (not that it matters to him, since he's in a monastery).
- Drunken Master: Noshin. They don't call him "The Sake Monk" for nothing.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Japan, natch. Might a bit Wutai as well, with some definite Tibetan and Chinese influences.
- Oddly played with as well—Pajan's main religion is regular, real-world Buddhism, despite the fantasy setting.
- The Faceless: Noburo is never seen without his mask.
- Gratuitous Japanese: Characters are prone to replacing a word with its Japanese translation.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Nuuk the nezumi blows himself up to kill the necromancer controlling the zombie army at the end of the Cycle of Earth.
- Handicapped Badass: Setzuka is quite a capable fighter despite missing an arm. Eventually she loses the other, though, and has to retire.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Okko's not actually the nicest guy around, and tends to be aloof and dismissive, even with members of his own group. Nonetheless, he's a very capable leader, and cares for his companions greatly. He just doesn't show it much.
- Kill Steal: When Kubban kills Okko, Magato screams that he's "stolen my duel". Subverted in that Okko survives, and Magato does everything he can to keep him alive so that they can fight their own duel.
- Knight Templar: Kubban the demon hunter. He'll happily murder anyone who stands in the way of his job, and his philosophy boils down to "If it's not human, it's my job to kill it". Needless to say this doesn't go over very well with Noburo.
- Large Ham: Windreaper.
- Made of Iron: One of Noburo's many strengths.
- Narrator All Along: Tikku, although this becomes obvious by the end of the first volume, so it's not much of a spoiler.
- Not So Different: Before Tikku kills them, the Satorro vampires inform him that they don't understand how their actions are any worse than the atrocities committed by humans on a daily basis. It doesn't stop him from killing them.
- Our Vampires Are Different: The main villains of the Cycle of Water are actually a couple (literally) of penanggalan vampires from southeast asian folklore.
- Powered Armor: The Combat Bunraku, huge wooden puppets controlled by a pilot inside via a series of ropes and pulleys.
- Scenery Porn: Hub is a brilliant artist, and nowhere is this reflected better than in scenes like the floating Satorro Castle or the mountain vistas in the Roof of the World.
- Significant Anagram: The country is named Pajan, an anagram of Japan, after which is culture is modeled.
- Walking the Earth: The protagonists.
- Where Are They Now: The Cycle of Earth spends a page or two explaining what happened to Windreaper and Setzuka after they left the group.
- You Killed My Father: Inverted with Magato—Okko killed his father fifteen years before, and he attempts to avenge him by challenging Okko to a duel.