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Reviewed by Nicholus Schroeder for Readers' Favorite
Shadow Shinjuku: Volume 1 by Ryu Takeshi has the bustling city of Tokyo as its setting. We follow the life of one Sato, an orphan taken in by Yamaguchi, the head of a criminal organization. Sato met the boss (Yamaguchi) in Shinjuku at the age of ten, and the boss saw so much potential in him that he gave Sato a job. He performed exceedingly well, and ever since that fateful day, Sato has been indebted to the boss. Even 27 years later, he still works and lives solely for the boss. Sato’s entire life is one of careful routine. He’s not known for being spontaneous, but his ability in assassinations and other similar tasks is unparalleled. Sato’s wash, rinse, and repeat cycle of living is broken once he begins caring about those around him, and he burdens himself with their problems. With each good deed, he finds purpose and a sense of belonging. However, one of these good deeds involves defying his new “family” and the boss, his mentor, and, more importantly, the father he never had.
Shadow Shinjuku struggles to find its direction in the opening chapters but does develop into a worthwhile and coherent plot. Once you're settled into the opening pages and get a sense of who Sato is, the book is enjoyable and intriguing. Our main character Sato was incredibly well-developed. His transition from being a loner to a more cheerful person as the story progresses was entirely organic and didn’t feel rushed. His “ritual of transition” as he enters or leaves a building also showed his vulnerable side, along with his habit of rubbing his memento: a hundred-yen coin, his first payment from the boss. Those actions show that he’s not some invincible sword-wielding killing machine but that he’s human and that, just like us, he’s got his problems. Another thing I liked about the book was the recurring theme of despair. Throughout the book, Sato battles with his conflicting thoughts and hopelessness. All in all, author Ryu Takeshi has crafted an excellent read, and I’d recommend Shadow Shinjuku to readers interested in books with a refreshing and exciting story.