This story begins on a peaceful island off the coast of Japan, where two young people compete against each other to be stronger, faster, better. One is the Kenichi, the son of a great samurai, and the other is Hana, a Korean refugee and outcast. When a  strange Shogun lands on their shores and demands fealty in return for protecting the island from the oncoming horrors, the villagers try to refuse. It becomes clear that the horrors are forces that they are not prepared to face. A strange plague has created a zombie-like horde bent on destroying the living. Hana and Kenichi go with the Shogun and quickly realize the young man has very sinister ambitions for an army of byonin, the plague infected humans. At the end of Volume 1, Hana and Kenichi take different paths to combating the mutants, Hana alongside the Shogun, trying to be the voice of reason, and Kenichi, cast out of the Shogun’s forces and protection.

Volume 2 opens with the two on separate paths back to the Island. Hana is traveling with the young, arrogant Shogun, and she tries to reason with the samurai Sato. Sato reveals why he is so loyal to the Shogun, despite the foolishness of most of the Shogun’s plans. The Shogun travels with his army of mutant byonin and humans to the island, where he believes he will be able to live in a paradise-on-earth after he’s bent the villagers to his will. Meanwhile, in exile, Kenichi is captured by bandits and has to fight his way out of a pit full of infected byonin. Both are fighting to protect their island from the monsters, both human and plague-ridden. Interspersed in the narrative is a series of flashbacks that provide insight into the childhood and training of Hana and Kenichi, and we see how their rivalry developed by the way each was treated. Kenichi, being born to privilege, was given more luxuries, but forced to learn difficult lessons and undergo taxing training from a young age. Hana was taken in by their sword master and often used as a training partner for Kenichi, but the villagers distain for Hana as a Korean and orphan motivated her to absorb the training that was meant for Kenichi.

Volume 2 provides some much needed backstory to our lead characters, and we get some insight into the Shogun and Sato, but the ancillary characters still have very little depth to them.  In the first volume, villagers, and even the duos master, are given little depth or space in the narrative. In volume two, Hana inspires others to break off from the Shogun and fight with her to protect against the byonin, but they are little more than page filler. Hana and Kenichi are the singular focus and tend to steal the page any time they are there. After two volumes, we still don’t know much about the Shogun’s motivations other than he’s a spoiled, immature ruler who doesn’t understand how to keep people loyal to him. Rather, most of the narrative focuses on the admirable dedication Hana and Kenichi show to the island, both for very different reasons.  

The first volume was published just as COVID-19 was becoming worldwide news. Now, this second volume hit shelves in the height of the pandemic. The publishing business plans out storylines years in advance, but this is another one of those coincidences of storylines hitting just at the moment they are most topical. The hysteria, lack of solutions to the byonin, the evolving nature of the plague, and the character’s evolving understanding of it  is extremely similar to the events of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. 

Milonogiannis’s illustrations are reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series with a little less finite detail in the facial features of characters. The action sequences are enjoyable and easy to follow, and her use of a different color palette to indicate flashbacks is helpful for keeping track of the narrative shifts.

Overall, this is an interesting story to draw parallels, but there needs to be a bit more depth and development of more than just the main characters for this series to be worthwhile.


Ronin Island Vol 1
By Greg Pak
Art by Giannis Milonogiannis
ISBN: 9781684154593
Boom, 2019
Publisher Age Rating:

Ronin Island Vol 2 
By Greg Pak
Art by Giannis Milonogiannis
ISBN: 9781684155576
Boom, 2020
Publisher Age Rating:
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Japanese, Korean
Creator Highlights: Korean-American

  • Sara

    | She/Her Teacher Librarian

    Sara is the Teacher Librarian at a high school in a small, rural town in California. Previously, she taught for 6 years in the English department at the same school. Her passion for manga began early in life when a friend introduced her to Sailor Moon. She jumped on the comics bandwagon with the popularity of comic-inspired movies, and she has recently come to enjoy publishers outside of the superhero genre. Graphic novels are a big hit at Sara's school, so she has carefully collected thousands of volumes that frequently fly off the shelves and into students' hands.

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