Sakamoto Days GN 1 – Review

Taro Sakamoto was once the most feared assassin in Japan…until he fell in love. Now he’s an overweight convenience store owner, married with a young daughter, and he’s very happy to keep it that way. Sadly, the crime world isn’t all that keen on letting him retire in peace, so it’s a good thing that Sakamoto kept all his old skills in working order, even if his wife has to divorce him if he ever threatened anyone again.

If SPY x FAMILY was told exclusively through Yor’s point of view, it might be a bit like this. Sakamoto Days is of the same ilk of goofy crime parody, albeit with more of a The Way of the Househusband flair due to Sakamoto being officially retired. For the most part, he’s actually very happy with his new domestic life, so much so that he’s happy to bring in other former assassins to work at the convenience store, like psychic assassin Shin and former Chinese syndicate member Xiaotan. But just because his wife Aoi has made him promise not to kill anymore doesn’t mean that he can truly put the past behind him, and that’s largely where the humor of the premise comes in. Naturally Sakamoto still has all of his old skills in perfect working order, to say nothing of a secret arsenal hidden behind the façade of his otherwise unremarkable convenience store, which comes in handier than anyone ever imagined.

Not that he actually needs Guns, knives, or any other form of traditional weaponry. The first member of his old profession to find him (in the book, at any rate) is Shin, Sakamoto’s former partner in the underworld, who has a very special gift: clairvoyance and telepathy. Shin can read any mind within a certain distance, and through his powers we see that although Sakamoto is retired, he still has his share of thoughts about the way things used to be – and most of those involve taking someone out with a pen or a quick twist of the neck. He doesn’t seem to have any real longing to return to his violent ways; it’s presented as more of a habit, much in the same way we might say something like, “I’m gonna kill him” about someone who annoys us without any intention to actually commit murder. Not that that makes Shin feel any better about catching a glimpse of Sakamoto stabbing him in the neck with a pen, but the disconnect between the blank-faced expression (or non-expression) Sakamoto typically wears and his violent visions makes for some pretty good comedy, especially when you throw in Shin’s reaction to it.

Once Sakamoto takes Shin in, convincing him of the joys of domesticity with Shin basically becoming Sakamoto’s brother in the way he fits into the larger family, Shin becomes just as cozy as his old partner in his new life, and by the end of the volume , his devotion to keeping this new life has become his new way of living. Most of the time he’s just doing the convenience store clerk thing, but every so often he and Sakamoto (and Xiaotan, the Chinese girl Sakamoto takes in later in the volume) have to whip out the old skills in order to keep things comfy and peaceful. Luckily both of them have kept their instincts honed, enabling them to save Sakamoto’s wife when her bus is hijacked and defend against a variety of killers, among other feats. The bus incident is one of the highlights of the volume, with Sakamoto donning an anime mask to keep his identity hidden and accidentally catching the eye of zealous young beat cop Nakase (who is convinced he must be bad despite the evidence to the contrary) and Aoi just sort of hanging out on the bus during the attack, positive that her husband will rescue her before anything bad happens. Later, a trip to take Hana, the Sakamotos’ young daughter, to a theme park necessitates that Shin and Xiaotan defend the family against janitor assassins and pizza guy assassins, which is every bit as funny as it sounds.

The only real fly in the ointment here is that Sakamoto’s weight is used for a few less-than-excellent jokes. Not that the book is under any obligations to be in good taste at all points (and the reverse may be true, given the premise), but it doesn’t actually need gags about Sakamoto’s doughy body to be funny, making it an unappealingly low blow in an otherwise entertaining volume. There’s the obligatory joke about him rapidly losing weight and then quickly gaining it all back that just isn’t as clever or amusing as the rest of the book, and all in all the fact that Sakamoto appears out of shape while still clearly being a top -tier assassin is more than enough commentary on his appearance. It may not help that the art is pretty middle of the road, good enough to give us a sense of movement and the ridiculous nature of Shin and Sakamoto’s feats (like the very good rollercoaster fight) but nothing remarkable otherwise.

Sakamoto Days‘ first volume is, for the most part, a lot of fun, and even the unnecessary weight jokes can’t really bring it down. It establishes a good cast of characters (I very much doubt we’ve seen the last of Nakase the enthusiastic policewoman), has an entertaining premise, and it’s executed well. If you’re in the mood for a domestic assassin comedy, this is worth picking up.

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