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The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel

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This graphic novel version of The Book of Five Rings, the iconic book of confrontation and victory by the famed seventeenth-century duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi, illuminates this brilliant manifesto, which has long inspired martial artists and anyone interested in cultivating a strategic mind. With evocative drawings and a distilled but faithful text ada This graphic novel version of The Book of Five Rings, the iconic book of confrontation and victory by the famed seventeenth-century duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi, illuminates this brilliant manifesto, which has long inspired martial artists and anyone interested in cultivating a strategic mind. With evocative drawings and a distilled but faithful text adapted by acclaimed manga writer Sean Michael Wilson, The Book of Five Rings comes alive both as a guide to swordsmanship and strategy, and as a view into Musashi’s world. 


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This graphic novel version of The Book of Five Rings, the iconic book of confrontation and victory by the famed seventeenth-century duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi, illuminates this brilliant manifesto, which has long inspired martial artists and anyone interested in cultivating a strategic mind. With evocative drawings and a distilled but faithful text ada This graphic novel version of The Book of Five Rings, the iconic book of confrontation and victory by the famed seventeenth-century duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi, illuminates this brilliant manifesto, which has long inspired martial artists and anyone interested in cultivating a strategic mind. With evocative drawings and a distilled but faithful text adapted by acclaimed manga writer Sean Michael Wilson, The Book of Five Rings comes alive both as a guide to swordsmanship and strategy, and as a view into Musashi’s world. 

30 review for The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicolo

    I was expecting a lot of samurai sword-fighting action but this is really more of a treatise on how Miyamoto Musashi became the legend that he is. My disappointment notwithstanding, this graphic novel adaptation gives a good insight on how Musashi developed his outlook on life and sword skills.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Maurer

    I love reading ancient texts of martial arts, warriors, and the like because I find in their articulately crafted words such great wisdom about life in general. When it all comes down to it life is about that balance and realizing that everything comes full circle. Reading this book I was reminded that we must not focus all efforts into only one thing and to clear the mind of anything that could cause confusion. The illustrations were excellent to help shape the story. Perhaps things can be said I love reading ancient texts of martial arts, warriors, and the like because I find in their articulately crafted words such great wisdom about life in general. When it all comes down to it life is about that balance and realizing that everything comes full circle. Reading this book I was reminded that we must not focus all efforts into only one thing and to clear the mind of anything that could cause confusion. The illustrations were excellent to help shape the story. Perhaps things can be said best by text from the latter part of the book. In emptiness exists Good but no evil Wisdom is existence Principle is existence The Way is existence The mind is emptiness

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Lindberg

    It reads like an instruction manual, pulling directly from Mushashi’s The Book of Five Rings. Wilson stays pretty close to the book he’s adapting and adds some interesting details about Mushashi’s life, that I appreciated reading. His afterward thoughtfully breaks down each section of the book and includes more information about Mushashi and his influence posthumous. The art isn’t bad but leaves a bit to be desired for more swordplay. Kutsuwada could have chosen more dynamic angles and balanced It reads like an instruction manual, pulling directly from Mushashi’s The Book of Five Rings. Wilson stays pretty close to the book he’s adapting and adds some interesting details about Mushashi’s life, that I appreciated reading. His afterward thoughtfully breaks down each section of the book and includes more information about Mushashi and his influence posthumous. The art isn’t bad but leaves a bit to be desired for more swordplay. Kutsuwada could have chosen more dynamic angles and balanced panels to be more emotional and interesting. The characters are a bit stationary, usually listening to Mushashi preach or Mushashi standing in a pose. The art is closely accurate to how a lesson was given, but when adapted into a comic/manga, there should be more drama in the illustration. I appreciate the illustrations looking instructional at certain parts, because it helps to visualize the points Mushashi is trying to convey in his lectures. Overall, it’s a good adaption and the visuals help detail Mushashi’s lessons.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I really liked the artwork and the organization of the book. The 3 star review has more to do with the subject matter not really hitting home for me. Some of it, yes, but being a part of a Mennonite community as I am, using a warrior metaphor to talk about how one should approach life doesn't resonate. There are certainly principles one could draw from the warrior metaphor that don't involve seeing life as a kind of battle where you're trying to one-up your opponent, but you kinda have to work t I really liked the artwork and the organization of the book. The 3 star review has more to do with the subject matter not really hitting home for me. Some of it, yes, but being a part of a Mennonite community as I am, using a warrior metaphor to talk about how one should approach life doesn't resonate. There are certainly principles one could draw from the warrior metaphor that don't involve seeing life as a kind of battle where you're trying to one-up your opponent, but you kinda have to work to get there.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    It's hard to explain whether this is fiction or non-fiction, in graphic form. It's a graphic version of how a real person wrote a book of philosophy and martial arts, with the text itself illustrated by scenes which may or may not be fictional. Got that? Musashi's Book of Five Rings was something that was a must-read for people a number of years ago, with fans from the worlds of history, martial arts and business all claiming it as a manual for their lives. It's that kind of book. The explanatory It's hard to explain whether this is fiction or non-fiction, in graphic form. It's a graphic version of how a real person wrote a book of philosophy and martial arts, with the text itself illustrated by scenes which may or may not be fictional. Got that? Musashi's Book of Five Rings was something that was a must-read for people a number of years ago, with fans from the worlds of history, martial arts and business all claiming it as a manual for their lives. It's that kind of book. The explanatory material in this book, brief as it is, puts some of the work into an excellent context for understanding some of the things that Mushashi mentioned in passing, but fails in certain other ways. For instance, the text keeps saying that Buddhism is NOT within the Way of the Warrior, but the explanatory notes puts the whole book into a context involving esoteric Buddhism. So, which is it? Still, ignoring such apparent conflicts will not reduce the value of this work. By illustrating the combat examples described by Musashi, those who are not skilled with a sword can still understand his points. Those who have never even picked up a sword can still learn from his basic principles, which have to do with ANY form of competition [which is why businessmen like to claim it as a book for them, too]. A very good adaptation, but the explanations could have used a little explaining, to clarify the apparent conceptual conflicts.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Considering how un-adaptable the source material must have been, this is actually pretty impressive. That said, it just wasn't my thing. Reminds me a bit of some zen texts I've read, only not as interesting as some of those can be. Reminds me of the old story about the talking dog in that the fact of its existence is more interesting than the actual content. Considering how un-adaptable the source material must have been, this is actually pretty impressive. That said, it just wasn't my thing. Reminds me a bit of some zen texts I've read, only not as interesting as some of those can be. Reminds me of the old story about the talking dog in that the fact of its existence is more interesting than the actual content.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Marie

    Really beautifully done graphic representation of Miyamoto's Book Of the Five Rings. I read the original many years ago when I was obsessed with old Japan and this is a great adaptation. The art is almost classic manga style --the non-flashy stuff, which distinguishes it from other historical graphic novels. Really beautifully done graphic representation of Miyamoto's Book Of the Five Rings. I read the original many years ago when I was obsessed with old Japan and this is a great adaptation. The art is almost classic manga style --the non-flashy stuff, which distinguishes it from other historical graphic novels.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lionkhan-sama

    Absolutely loved this book. The concept of taking an ancient treatise and producing it in the style of a manga is just brilliant. The artwork is very captivating, and suits the message that was embodied in the original Book of Five Rings. Although the amount of reading content is very small, it is definitely valuable. Great work. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Mcmillen

    A quick, well-done version of Miyamoto Musashi's Book of 5 Rings. The graphic novel form illustrates the tenets,(especially Emptiness), that can seem too etherial. "You should investigate this thoroughly". A quick, well-done version of Miyamoto Musashi's Book of 5 Rings. The graphic novel form illustrates the tenets,(especially Emptiness), that can seem too etherial. "You should investigate this thoroughly".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emmaj

    Read my review at http://noflyingnotights.com/2013/05/0... Read my review at http://noflyingnotights.com/2013/05/0...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Excellent adaptation of a timeless classic, to which I'll be returning before long, I hope. I hope to update this "review" with more thoughts after I've sat on this for a bit. Excellent adaptation of a timeless classic, to which I'll be returning before long, I hope. I hope to update this "review" with more thoughts after I've sat on this for a bit.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Subhadeep Bose

    a very nice book Should read this book

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    Okay, I’ll admit this is one of those foreign books that people think should read, like Machiavelli’s “The Prince” or Sun Tzu’s “The Art of Warfare”. It’s in graphic novel form too, which should make it easy to digest for contemporary readers. But I found some of the language opaque and hard to apply to contemporary affairs. The references to the elements left me scratching my head. Also, reading about a warrior who’d never been bested in battle was a trifle…boring. Who wants to read about someon Okay, I’ll admit this is one of those foreign books that people think should read, like Machiavelli’s “The Prince” or Sun Tzu’s “The Art of Warfare”. It’s in graphic novel form too, which should make it easy to digest for contemporary readers. But I found some of the language opaque and hard to apply to contemporary affairs. The references to the elements left me scratching my head. Also, reading about a warrior who’d never been bested in battle was a trifle…boring. Who wants to read about someone who wins all the time? It’d be like watching any chess or tennis champion never lose a match. No matter how great their skill, an unbeatable champion is as boring to observe as a computer. The character of Miyamoto Musashi is as bland as a computer too. He rarely shows expression. He expresses loyalty towards his lord but never joy, excitement, anger, rage or satisfaction. He teaches how to fight but writes about his technique only at the behest of his lord. I suppose such detachment is to be expected after many years of living and teaching. I wasn’t upset at finding quiet wisdom in Yoda, after all. But, screw it, Yoda occasionally showed signs of temper! What do we get from Musashi but his trouncing his students time and again? If you can get something out of this novel, fine. But I certainly won’t be looking for the original any time soon.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eli Poteet

    I picked this off the shelf because I was not familiar with the phrase Five Rings, I am glad there was a blurb about that phrase in Japanese culture in the afterword. The manga style was flawlessly classic and was presented very appropriately by the artist. The translation was superb although I personally struggle with following along with a lot of Zen esoteric tales. I am not a Vulcan so I can only suspend my disbelief for so long before I find myself skeptical and dissatisfied. My favorite par I picked this off the shelf because I was not familiar with the phrase Five Rings, I am glad there was a blurb about that phrase in Japanese culture in the afterword. The manga style was flawlessly classic and was presented very appropriately by the artist. The translation was superb although I personally struggle with following along with a lot of Zen esoteric tales. I am not a Vulcan so I can only suspend my disbelief for so long before I find myself skeptical and dissatisfied. My favorite part is where the translation addresses multiple expression of arts besides different disciplines of martial arts. This creation has brought me even deeper senses of appreciation to personal favorite movies/literature, my main example being the Kill Bill volumes. There were more than a handful of moments when I could picture a scene from the cult classic films in which I could relate to this graphic novel. I literally want to re-watch those movies now for an intimidate reflection and contrast.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mihai

    Honestly was expecting a little bit more. The ilustrations are nice and the excerpts from Musashi's book appropriate. Maybe it's meant to act as a hook for someone unfamiliar with the subject, otherwise it feels like under delivering on both the graphic side and on Musashi's writings. Honestly was expecting a little bit more. The ilustrations are nice and the excerpts from Musashi's book appropriate. Maybe it's meant to act as a hook for someone unfamiliar with the subject, otherwise it feels like under delivering on both the graphic side and on Musashi's writings.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Basten Sinaga

    Full of spiritual

  17. 4 out of 5

    David G.

    An interesting read, but will likely have to read another translation. Didn’t quite understand why it’s so popular as model for various operations.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anant Nath Sharma

    ‘you must investigate this thoroughly’

  19. 5 out of 5

    Teckera

    Really nice book, wth lots of lessons about discipline in it. Visually quite pleasing too.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sean Wilson

    Hi all, I am the writer of this visual version, thanks for your nice reviews here. Some other reviews I've noticed for the book: "Writer Sean Michael Wilson and artist Chie Kutsuwada deliver a stately and respectful adaptation of this classic work that is a truly a tribute to the original... complex themes to be conveyed in fascinating ways...Kutsuwada's style is wonderfully resonant of Japanese art and design, and is often tremendously creative. That's particularly true in the end section that d Hi all, I am the writer of this visual version, thanks for your nice reviews here. Some other reviews I've noticed for the book: "Writer Sean Michael Wilson and artist Chie Kutsuwada deliver a stately and respectful adaptation of this classic work that is a truly a tribute to the original... complex themes to be conveyed in fascinating ways...Kutsuwada's style is wonderfully resonant of Japanese art and design, and is often tremendously creative. That's particularly true in the end section that discusses the theme of nothingness in a cleverly symbolic and oblique way that made me smile hard at its matter-of-fact cleverness... Interesting, almost playful scenes like those show that this book isn't dry." - Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin "I have read, listened to, and otherwise studied many versions of Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings of the past 20 years. And to be honest, I'm frequently very picky about the way the Book of Five Rings is presented. But as of right now, Wilson's translation is my favorite, and I absolutely love the Manga/Graphic Novel style of this book. I feel the integrity of the original work has been maintained, and the art is excellent! If you have wanted to study the classic in a more visual medium... this is the book for you. If you have never read the Book of Five Rings because it seemed too dense or inaccessible... this is the book for you. If my wife would let me... I would get a poster sized version of the page with Musashi's 9 rules (from the Earth chapter) and put it on our living room wall. I am very happy to see Musashi in visual form. Each time a student comes back to valuable teachings... new and deeper understanding can arise... but this book was something special. It has completely reignited my interest in martial arts and Musashi." - Benjamin Langley, five star review. Please check out some of our other adaptions of Japanese classics and history - we have done 13 now! Such as our book ‘Musashi’ - about his life story in general, or the book about to come out in March 2018, ’The Satsuma Rebellion’ You can see more pages from the book on my web site: https://seanmichaelwilson.weebly.com/... Thanks, Sean

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

    I picked this up as one of those recommendations for "those who liked Musashi" after finishing my second read of that novel by Eiji Yoshikawa. This book is an abridged version of Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings, with a little bit added from other sources, and, of course, illustrated. The Book of Five Rings is a mix of advice that is generally practical to mastering anything and advice that is extremely specific to fighting with the weapons of 17th Century Japan. Most of the abridgment is fr I picked this up as one of those recommendations for "those who liked Musashi" after finishing my second read of that novel by Eiji Yoshikawa. This book is an abridged version of Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings, with a little bit added from other sources, and, of course, illustrated. The Book of Five Rings is a mix of advice that is generally practical to mastering anything and advice that is extremely specific to fighting with the weapons of 17th Century Japan. Most of the abridgment is from the latter, which makes this a good introduction to the Book of Five Rings for those not interested in the minutiae of 17th Century fighting, even if the full text wouldn't take that much longer to read. The afterword by William Scott Wilson, whose translation of the Book of Five Rings was used for this adaptation, is interesting for the insight it gives into the Buddhist teachings upon which Musashi probably based the philosophy he presents. It alone was just about worth the price of the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    - Despite manga being Japanese, I would have much preferred a colour graphic novel format. I also would have chosen different things to depict in several of the subjectively-drawn scenes shown here. Then again, the black and white simplicity kind of fits with Musashi's Buddhist teachings. - Either way, a graphic treatment makes a lot of sense, given Musashi himself was a great artist too. - This makes what seems to be a fairly readable and digestible work even more so. - I didn't find The Book it - Despite manga being Japanese, I would have much preferred a colour graphic novel format. I also would have chosen different things to depict in several of the subjectively-drawn scenes shown here. Then again, the black and white simplicity kind of fits with Musashi's Buddhist teachings. - Either way, a graphic treatment makes a lot of sense, given Musashi himself was a great artist too. - This makes what seems to be a fairly readable and digestible work even more so. - I didn't find The Book itself as philosophically-inspirational as I'd hoped. While there are deep teachings on patience, strategy, tactics, combat and so forth in here, much of the focus is really just Musashi selling his style of swordsmanship -- kick-ass and arguably simplistic (two swords better than one) as it may be! The book is also a fairly shallow manual on Musashi's martial art style and techniques. True Rating:3.2 Stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sean Goh

    Feel like I took more away from the afterword at the end than the body of the graphic novel. Interesting point though, that he repeatedly states at the end of each lesson: "You must investigate this thoroughly." His emphasis is on learning through doing. (Iron law of Zen: issai jikan, 一切自看, everything, see for yourself) Thus the author concludes in the afterword that the book is, after reading, to be discarded like a raft after one has crossed the river. _____ All should understand that to be predi Feel like I took more away from the afterword at the end than the body of the graphic novel. Interesting point though, that he repeatedly states at the end of each lesson: "You must investigate this thoroughly." His emphasis is on learning through doing. (Iron law of Zen: issai jikan, 一切自看, everything, see for yourself) Thus the author concludes in the afterword that the book is, after reading, to be discarded like a raft after one has crossed the river. _____ All should understand that to be predisposed towards strength or weakness in rough terms or in detail are all partial ways. In my style, there is neither entrance nor depth to the sword, and no ultimate stance. There is only seeing through to its virtues with the mind. This is the essence of the martial arts.

  24. 5 out of 5

    SA

    Lovely to see this captured in graphic form. I have to say, though, Kutsuwada's skill at showing stillness and movement both aside, I found the manga style to be distracting for the gravity of Musashi's lessons. As a reader, I shouldn't be staring at the weird facial expressions and mouths when I'm trying to "investigate this thoroughly." It might be something of a cultural divide, and I acknowledge that, but translated and scripted by a Scotsman for an English-speaking audience suggested at lea Lovely to see this captured in graphic form. I have to say, though, Kutsuwada's skill at showing stillness and movement both aside, I found the manga style to be distracting for the gravity of Musashi's lessons. As a reader, I shouldn't be staring at the weird facial expressions and mouths when I'm trying to "investigate this thoroughly." It might be something of a cultural divide, and I acknowledge that, but translated and scripted by a Scotsman for an English-speaking audience suggested at least some thought be put into how to best convey the concepts. Still liked it. Always fun to read about Samurai.

  25. 5 out of 5

    J

    Art is simple. This fits for this ancient text. To the point, easy to understand. Fitting many different circumstances. The author seems mythic. Undefeated. Choosing a warriors life than that of a teacher. Conquered all foes and now instructing next generation. Just seems a different a different age. Always been one of my favorite books. I read every so often to get mind in tune.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sonic

    It has been awhile since I read the original, so it was nice to get this concise and illustrated version from the library, awkward and stiff though the art may be...

  27. 5 out of 5

    M.J. Walker

    I especially like the ending of this book - a very artistic way to use the format of a comic book to show the 'emptyness/stillness' aspect. Great stuff! I especially like the ending of this book - a very artistic way to use the format of a comic book to show the 'emptyness/stillness' aspect. Great stuff!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anosh

    It was hard for me "to investigate this [the precepts] thoroughly" so I can't rate the book. It was hard for me "to investigate this [the precepts] thoroughly" so I can't rate the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Damon

    Might be tempted to read up on this fellow.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Russ Schafer

    great artwork. first time I have read about the book of five rings.

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