Ninja Sarutobi Sasuke

New York Review Comics. Sept. 2024. 250p. ISBN 9781681377858. pap. $24.95. F
Eye-popping images rendered in styles both hyperrealistic and playfully childish abound across virtually every panel of this long overdue collection of classic comics from the 1960s, created by legendary Japanese artist Shigeru, famed as a pioneer of surrealism and pop art in Japan as well as a progenitor of avant-garde comics around the world. Here, Shigeru, who died in 2000, reimagines Sarutobi Sasuke, a heroic ninja from Japanese folklore, as an anarchic, shape-shifting prankster set loose in feudal Japan to bedevil whoever crosses his path. Shigeru’s sense of humor emphasizes rapid-fire sight gags, slapstick, and non sequiturs, causing the average story to unfold with thrilling unpredictability. A tale that begins with Sasuke chasing a thief through the forest is less likely to end with the thief apprehended than with an alien invasion, or a group of time- and space-displaced cowboys from the American Wild West wandering by, or Sasuke deciding to experiment with life as a cow in a pasture.
VERDICT Shigeru’s sense of design and bold use of collage and montage effects result in an enjoyably silly and absurd masterpiece of early psychedelic art.
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