Chronin vol 1

Chronin, Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back

by Alison Wilgus

Tor, 2019

Adult Graphic Novel with Historical and Science Fiction elements

3 cups of tea out of 11

Summary: Mirai goes back in time to 1860’s Japan, a time of great upheaval in the country. But then she gets stuck there without a way to get home.

Likes: I loved following Mirai in the futuristic timeline, preparing for the time travel jumps, and when she gets stuck in the past. I also appreciated the historical detail we got. The plot is slow at first but it does pick up as we move towards the end of the volume.

Dislikes: This graphic novel does assume that the reader is pretty familiar with Japanese history before going in. Significant historical figures and events are mentioned in passing with little to no explanation. The art style is clean and straightforward but often there isn’t any shading. Light seems to be coming from everywhere at once including the characters’ skin. So it’s difficult to tell what time of day it is and also gives it an ethereal feel that is at odds with the message of not romanticizing history. There were also multiple characters that looked too similar to differentiate easily, including two of the main characters. I also felt like I was being talked down to multiple times which also left me a bit confused about the intended audience. If you’re familiar with Japanese history you know that things are complicated and that one side wasn’t “good” while the other is “evil.” And that there was interference in the conflict by foreign powers for their own interests.

Overall I was excited to read this one because of the country and time period but I feel a bit let down and unsure how to react. I’m not sure I can recommend this to anyone and that makes me sad.


Language – Medium, swear words liberally sprinkled throughout

Violence – Medium, multiple violent incidents with blood; also severed heads

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