is a well-known gekiga or manga created by the writer Kazuo Koike and the artist Goseki Kojima. Its story led to the creation of six films starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, four plays, a television series starring Kinnosuke Yorozuya, and much more.
Lone Wolf and Cub chronicles the story of Ogami Ittō, the Shogun's executioner who uses the Dotanuki battle sword. He was disgraced by false accusations from the Yagyu clan and has been forced to take the path of the assassin. Along with his three-year-old son, Daigoro, they seek revenge on the Yagyū clan and are known as "Lone Wolf and Cub".
Shortly after Ogami Ittō's wife's childbirth with Ogami Daigorō (拝 大五郎), Ogami Ittō returned to find his wife Azami and all of their household brutally murdered, with only the newborn Daigorō surviving. They were ostensibly murdered by three former retainers of an abolished clan to avenge their lord who had been executed by Ogami Ittō. However, the entire matter was designed to disgrace Ogami Ittō by placing and then revealing an ihai (funeral tablet) with the shogun's crest on it in Ittō's family shrine (representing Ogami's wish for the shogun's death). This would make Ittō a criminal and thus forfeit his post. The set up was planned by Ura-Yagyū (Shadow Yagyu) Yagyū Retsudō (柳生 烈堂), leader of the Yagyū clan, in order to seize Ogami's post for the Yagyū clan.
The 1-year-old Daigorō was given a choice by his father: a ball or a sword. Had Daigorō chosen the ball, his father would have killed him, sending him to be with his mother; however, the child crawled toward the sword, and reached for its hilt. This signified that he would take the path of a rōnin, living with his father as "demons" – the assassin-for-hire team that would become known as Lone Wolf and Cub, vowing to eventually destroy the Yagyū clan to avenge his wife and his disgrace.
On meifumadō ("The Road to Hell"), the cursed journey for vengeance, Ogami Ittō and his son, Daigorō, encounter numerous adventures, encountering (and slaying) all of Yagyū Retsudō's children and eventually facing Retsudō himself. The first duel between Ogami Ittō and Yagyū Retsudō ran 178 panels -- one of the longest single fight-scenes ever published in comics.
Before his final duel with Yagyū Retsudō, Ittō was attacked by the last of the elite ninja of the Yagyū clan, the "Grass". His sword was tampered with earlier by a visit from a member of the Grass disguised as a sword polisher, causing Ittō's longtime dōtanuki sword to finally wear down and break during the Grass's final assault. He was inflicted with wounds that would ultimately be his demise against his battle with Retsudō. After eliminating each and every ninja, Ittō and his shattered dōtanuki were finally met with Retsudō and his spear. His will to end the Yagyū flowed through his soul, but his wounded and exhausted body would eventually leave Ittō to his fate. In the middle of the battle Ittō's spirit left his body after a lifetime of fatigue and bloodshed. Ittō was unable to destroy his longtime enemy and his walking of meifumadō had ended. The story finishes with Ittō's son, Daigorō, taking up Retsudo's spear and charging in fury. Retsudō opens his arms, disregarding all defense, and allows Daigorō to drive the spear into his body. Embracing Daigorō with tears, Yagyū Retsudō names him, "Grandson of my heart", closing the cycle of vengeance and hatred between the clans, and concluding the epic.
Lone Wolf and Cub was initially released in North America by First Comics in 1987, as a series of monthly, square-bound prestige-format black-and-white comics containing between 64 and 128 pages, with covers by Frank Miller, and later by Bill Sienkiewicz and Matt Wagner. Sales were initially strong, but fell sharply as the company went into a general decline. First Comics shut down in 1991 without completing the series, publishing less than a third of the total series in 45 prestige-format issues. However, in 2000, Dark Horse Comics began to release the full series in 28 smaller-sized trade paperback volumes, completing the series with the 28th volume in 2002. Dark Horse reused all of Miller's covers from the First Comics edition, as well as several done by Sienkiewicz, and commissioned Wagner and Guy Davis to produce new covers for several volumes of the collections. Mike Ploog, Ray Lago and Vince Locke also contributed covers to the English translations of the series.
In 2002, a "reimagined" version of the story, Lone Wolf 2100 was created by writer Mike Kennedy and artist Francisco Ruiz Velasco with Koike's indirect involvement. The story, a post-apocalyptic take on the tale featured a few differences, such as a female cub and the setting, which ranged across the whole world. The story of Daisy Ogami, daughter of a renowned scientist; and Itto, her father's bodyguard and subsequent protector as they attempted to escape from the Cygnat Owari Corporation's schemes was not received as well as the original stories.
Dark Horse announced at the New York Comic Con that they have licensed Shin Lone Wolf & Cub, Kazuo Koike and Hideki Mori's follow-up to Lone Wolf and Cub, starring the famous child in the baby cart after the original revenge epic.
1. The Assassin's Road |
2. The Gateless Barrier
3. The Flute of the Fallen Tiger
4. The Bell Warden
5. Black Wind
6. Lanterns For the Dead
7. Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger
8. Chains of Death |
9. Echo of the Assassin
10. Hostage Child
11. Talisman of Hades
12. Shattered Stones
13. Moon in the East, Sun in the West
14. Day of the Demons
15. Brothers of the Grass |
16. Gateway into Winter
17. The Will of the Fang
18. Twilight of the Kurokuwa
19. The Moon In Our Hearts
20. A Taste of Poison
21. Fragrance of Death
22. Heaven & Earth |
23. Tears of Ice
24. In These Small Hands
25. Perhaps in Death
26. Struggle in the Dark
27. Battle's Eve
28. The Lotus Throne
|1||Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance||1972||子連れ狼 子を貸し腕貸しつかまつる||Kozure Ōkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru||Wolf with Child in Tow: Child and Expertise for Rent|
|2||Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx||1972||子連れ狼 三途の川の乳母車||Kozure Ōkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma||Wolf with Child in Tow: Baby Cart of the River of Sanzu|
|3||Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades aka Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death||1972||子連れ狼 死に風に向う乳母車||Kozure Ōkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma||Wolf with Child in Tow: Baby Cart Against the Winds of Death|
|4||Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril aka Shogun Assassin 3:Slashing Blades of Carnage||1972||子連れ狼 親の心子の心||Kozure Ōkami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro||Wolf with Child in Tow: The Heart of a Parent, the Heart of a Child|
|5||Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons aka Shogun Assassin 4:Five Fistfuls of Gold||1973||子連れ狼 冥府魔道||Kozure Ōkami: Meifumando||Wolf with Child in Tow: Land of Demons|
|6||Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell aka Shogun Assassin 5: Cold Road to Hell||1974||子連れ狼 地獄へ行くぞ!大五郎||Kozure Ōkami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro||Wolf with Child in Tow: Now We Go to Hell, Daigoro!|
|7||Shogun Assassin||1980||-||[English language release]||Shogun Assassin|
The films are renowned for the incredible amount of onscreen stylized violence. In fact, after the second film, each movie would climax with Ogami slaughtering an entire army single-handedly.
The films closely resemble the comics. Entire panels of the manga are recreated in perfect detail throughout the film series.
In addition to the six original films plus the seventh in 1980, Shogun Assassin, various television movies have been aired in connection with the television series as pilots, compilations or originals. These include several starring Kinnosuke Yorozuya (Nakamura) (see section Television series) but more notably the 1979 film Lone Wolf With Child: An Assassin on the Road to Hell better known as Baby Cart In Purgatory where Hideki Takahashi plays Ogami Ittō and Tomisaburo Wakayama as Retsudo Yagyu! In 1992 the story was once more made into a film, Lone Wolf and Cub: Final Conflict also known as Handful of Sand or A Child's Hand Reaches Up (Kozure Ōkami: Sono chīsaki te ni, literally In That Little Hand), directed by Akira Inoue and starring Tamura Masakazu.
The 26 episodes of the first season were released on DVD in Japan on December 20 2006, apparently without subtitles. Additionally the first twelve episodes of TV-series has been released on DVD in Germany known as Kozure Okami. Audio is in Japanese and German. In the US, Media Blasters released the original TV series on DVD on April 29 2008 under its Tokyo Shock Label. The release contained the original Japanese with subtitles only.
The latest television series, also titled Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Ōkami), was aired from 2002 to 2004 in Japan. It had Kinya Kitaoji assume the role of Ogami Ittō. This series is not available on DVD.
See also: List of Lone Wolf and Cub episodes
Lone Wolf and Cub and Kazuo Koike's style have heavily influenced other manga by creating a romanticization of the rōnin, or masterless samurai, the lone wanderer who follows his own code. Similar titles in spirit include Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack and later Nobuhiro Watsuki's Rurouni Kenshin.
Lone Wolf and Cub has also influenced American comics, most notably Frank Miller in his Sin City and Ronin series. Novelist Max Allan Collins acknowledged the influence of Lone Wolf and Cub on his graphic novel Road to Perdition in an interview to the BBC, declaring that "Road To Perdition is 'an unabashed homage' to Lone Wolf And Cub.
There are also various references to Lone Wolf and Cub in popular culture:
Par taps Aronofsky to helm 'Lone Wolf'.(Paramount and the Mutual Film Co. hire director Darren Aronofsky for 'Lone Wolf and Cub')(Brief Article)
May 22, 2003; Paramount and the Mutual Film Co. have tapped Darren Aronofsky to develop and direct a live-action adaptation of "Lone Wolf and...