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Akai Tsurugi 緋色あかつるぎ (1986~93) [--] [manga comic]


For the Japanese manga comic author Azumi Ryo (あずみ椋), who has long specialized in Norse-related material, the Akai Tsurgui 緋色あかつるぎ, "The Scarlet Sword", was her seminal work.

    An original tale of a viking clan inspired by the Icelandic sagas and Norse mythology, with ample references to saga and Eddaic material (One example, the protagonist, Rydleikr undergoes the ordeal of fetching the jarknasteinar "white holy stones" from a vessel of scalding hot water).

I picked up the "Special" volume*1 put out by the SG-Kikaku publishers, so I have some inkling of what it is about.
Cover of Akai Tsurugi, vol. 1

(Summary of Initial Plot)

    Sigmundr, a godi of the Grásiða, rather than to celebrate the birth of his son Rydleikr, suddenly grabs the infant child and casts the newborn into the raging waterfall -- or is about to, but decides again to leave the child exposed in the snowfields. This child is discovered by Loki, who by Odin's behest makes Rydleikr his fosterling.

    When the child turns thirteen, he is returned to his household, but only in the aftermath of his mother Svanhild's funeral. Not surprisingly, the father and son have a chilly relationship. Sigmundr bears a scar on his forehead, left by Rydleikr's brandishing blade.

    The return of the godi's son, and an exceptionally gifted one at that, has also engendered jealousy and enmity in Teitr, a cousin who up to then was the expectant heir to the godiship and farmstead, and who himself was a man of uncommon gifts as leader, but was only second-best compared to the boy raised by the gods.
    During a viking raid on their ships, Teitr quarrels with Kjartan, an Irish captive enthralled by the clan, and cuts him down. Kjartan was a dear friend of Rydleikr, in spite of circumstances, and the slayer's words of "a tidy sum for a thrall's wergild should take care of things" so angers Rydleikr that he winds up killing his own cousin.

    The slaying of a kinsman is a grave crime, and his father Sigmundr, presiding as godi, gouges out one of his eyes as punishment and sentences him to outlawry. This action partly had to do with a prophecy told of Sigmundr that he will one day be slain by a one-eyed man drenched in blood. Sigmundr felt that if his opponent was Odin himself in human guise he had no chance, but if his adversary was Rydleikr he might overcome his fate..

(Samples)
    Short excerpts are available for viewing at the author's site, starting from: Browse - Akai Tsurugi.

    Okay, it's in Japanese. I'll scanlate [or, just translate rather] what it says. Apologies in advance since I don't own the hard copy so I might not correctly make out the fine print.
   
(Note: Although this is not an official translation of her sample page, I have obtained the author's consent. It was communicated to me on her Guest Book, posted 2006/04/29(Sat) 20:11 No.383 )
(page 1)
[Prologue]

VOICE:   "Ymir..      
        . . the giant Ymir [I call upon you]."

VOICE:   "Oh creature who makes abode of the Ginnungagap, the primaeval gorge,
Forefather to all the rime-giants' race:

YMIR:   "Who bids me —
Who calls Ymir's name?"

Odin appears

YMIR:   "Who are you all? . . "
"Oh I remember, . . Yes.
Children of those puny ones, born from a clod of ice.
The Aesir race. And you, O-Odin.. was your name.

(page 2)

ODIN:   Ymir, oldest being given rise in this world . .
Time has come now for you to revert."

YMIR:   Die?.. Me?..
How could that be?

ODIN:   To transform this world into harmorious order--
For that, we will require your corpse, I'm afraid.

ODIN:   From out you flesh the Great Earth
From out of your blood, the billowing sea.
From your bones, mountains,
From your hair, trees,
From your skull the heaven above,

YMIR:   ARRGGH! Why must I be slain?
All I ever did was exist, that was all.
From time immemorial, long before you rabble were ever born.
I, Ymir ..

ODIN:   And thus shall everything begin..

(page 3)

YMIR:   Odin!
And you bloodthirsty Aesir gods!
Remember this!
Ymir may die, but this hatred will linger on for all eternity.

The wicked giant race shall forever and beyond be the nemesis of you gods! [Part I: In Ultima Thule]

NARRATOR:   The end of tenth century --

MAN:   Yes lord,
The Grasida party, we scattered them away quite easily.
What else could they do, givne the ironclad defence of this fort ?
We have their ringleader as captive here with us.

THE JARL:   Splendid.

THE JARL:   Hmph! Those vikings.
I suppose they meant to avenge me for one of their kindred I killed in that scuffle once upon a time.
Classic case of predator turned prey.

(page 4)

THE JARL:   What's he like, the ringleader.

MAN: Quite a young lad.
Golden-haired except for this ruddy streak -- I should say bright red.

THE JARL: What?

THE JARL: Really HIM?
You let that man in the mansion? You fool! Another room. A pointing finger

MAN:   Off with his head.

MAN:   You have anything to say before you die, heathen?

RYDLEIKR (RYU):   I was taking my sweet time getting back, and now you've caught me.
But I haven't claimed my prize yet you see.

MAN:   Insolent fool. Get him!

RYU is forcibly made to kneel. Thre is a thud.

MAN:   Get a good grip on his head.

RYU makes a sudden move and tugs on his executioners' arms.

MEN:   Hey, the bastard's...

MAN:   Argh, my arm.

RYU robs a sword and thrusts the man. An audible gashing sound.
(page 5)
Swashbuckling. RYU grabs a javelin and casts it through one of the men.
THE JARL opens the door and enters. RYU steps near.

RYU:   About time you showed up -- Jarl.

(page 6)

THE JARL:   You're that...

RYU:   I am son of Sigmund the Godi. ... Rydleik

THE JARL:   So it is you, Ryu of the Grasida.

RYU:   Jarl, your murder of my uncle Snorri,
you shall pay with your head.

The shore. The crew aboard the longship.

CREWMAN:   Look. The mansion's been set aflame.

CREWMEN TALKING:   Looks like all went well.
The Jarl got what he deserved, underestimating our leader.

CREWMEN:   Alright. Every man at his station.
Get ready to set sail

(page 7)

CREWMEN:   Ryu...
      Ryu, you did it.       Ryu.

RYU:   Here's the booty we were after. Take good care of it.
Passes the severed head wrapped in cloth.

KJARTAN:   Did you come away unscathed m'lord?

RYU:   I'm fine, Kjartan.
Another longship approaches

TEITR:   Looks like you've beaten me to it, Ryu.

RYU:   Tey..

RYU:   Nothing doing. Just fullfilling my obligation as heir to Grasida, my cousin.

TEITR:   The heir, huh. Damn.

MEN ABOARD SHIP:   We've got wind. Hoist your sails!

[JUMP TO A LATER EPISODE (SG-Kikaku VOL.6 = Kodansha Vol. 5)]
(page 8)
Odin contemplatively stroking his beard.

ODIN:   Will you cosole Frigg for me, Freyja
Baldur was her pride and joy.

FREYJA:   How could the sightless Hod accurately aim at Baldur?
With a mistletoe, moreover.

FREYJA:   My thoughts have led to a terrible conlusion.
Odin, had you forseen this calamity?

ODIN:   To some extent.

ODIN:   But the wounded viper has struck straightway struck where we were most vulnerable.

FREYJA:   Then it's just as I feared.

ODIN:   The funerary casket should be ready.
You will grieve for Baldur with us, won't you?

THE GODS:   To whom did this deal the heaviest blow?
None other than Odin, I'm sure.

(page 9)

THE GODS:   Hod's punishment is a done deal,
but I don't think that will settle the matter.

THE GODS:   Somone's pulling the string in the backdrop?
Who other than giant-kind dares harm Allfather's seed?
Then.

ODIN:   It goes without saying who it is.

ODIN:   All of us have the same one in mind.
There's no proof. But that loathsome traitor.

THE GODS:   Hey, look.
LOKI appears. The crowd hushes.

LOKI:   Haha. What's the matter, everyone?
I've come all this far, and my throat aches from thirst.
I would not mind a cup of your famous mead.

(page 10)

LOKI:   Haha. Why the glum face, everyone?
And mum, like that. Not a peep or squeak from the lot of you.

LOKI:   Show me to a seat or .. something [* partly illegible]
So, what will it be?

HEIMDALL(?):   There is no seat here for you. This is a funeral service for Baldur.

LOKI:   Odin.

LOKI:   Odin, You must surely recall the time when the two of us exchanged blood.

LOKI:   You vowed never to drink mead unless there were cups laid out for the both of us.

ODIN:   Vidar. Provide him a makeshift seat somewhere.
LOKI receives a drinking-horn.

LOKI:   Here's to..

[END OF SAMPLER MANGA PAGES]



*1 Akai Ken Special (SG-Kikaku 1987, ¥980). Not in print, I bought this copy at a used book store; it's not easy to describe what type of book this is (It probably falls under what the Japanese call the "mook", a cross between magazine and book). It opens up to a series of color spreads featureing the principal characters. Then there's a section summarizing the story so far (the series was on-going when this mook was printed). An encyclopedia section where the author explained various viking and Norse terminology, interspersed with her doodling. A two-way dialogue with her many-time collaborator Ms. Kei Shimizu (A two-way taidan is a common format in Japan. Somewhat like an interview.) An inclusion of an episode where Rydleikr assists a woman in labor about to be sold as slave. Space is given to reader feedback, and this is also typical of Japan, where fans send postcards on which they often draw their own renditions of the manga characters, and in some cases even a short story-piece; noteworthy ones are routinely reprinted in the weekly serialized manga periodicals.

(Purchasing Information)

    I am not really the one to ask, since I am by no means anyone who can give guidance on attempting online purchases from Japan, since I usually buy from retailers (Kinokuniya) or used book stores (Book-Off) which have outlets in the U.S.
    But I have read from postings in manga-forums, etc. that some U.S residents have braved purchasing from Amazon Japan, which does ship overseas. It's probably best to get coaching from some such person who is experienced with purchases. Here is the Amazon Japan URL listing all books under her name as author: Ryo Azumi titles (at www.amazon.co.jp)
    The original Akai Tsurugi appeared in 10 volumes (publisher:SG Kikaku) of the usual size, which is 6,200 yen retail, but when I checked a couple of vendors offered the set for 3,800 yen ish.




* As for electonic (downloadable) versions that can be purchased, a repertoire of titles is at the eBook Japan: Azumi Ryo page. I haven't bought anything of this type as of this writing so I can't really speak with authority. The files are predictably many MBs over, you need to download a proprietary EBook reader on which the printing capability is disabled, and these are not yet Mac-compatible apparently.

* An alternate vendor that accepts Diner's and AMEX is Rakuten Download: Azumi Ryo (e.g. Akai Ken - Vol.1 free trial)


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