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Chronin, Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back

(Chronin #1)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Samurai Jack meets Back to the Future in Alison Wilgus’s full-length debut Chronin Vol. 1, first in a duology that begins an action-packed time travel adventure.

2042, New York City: A day in the life of college student Mirai Yoshida means studying Japanese history, learning swordmanship, flirting with her TA, and preparing to go back in time to Japan in 1864.

But everything
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 19th 2019 by Tor Books (first published February 17th 2019)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  254 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Start your review of Chronin, Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back (Chronin, #1)
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019, netgalley-2019
This started out as a historical Japanese graphic novel that I was completely uninterested in. Then three-quarters of the way through the book, I heard a record scratch in my head as the story went in a direction completely out of left field. I think you're better off not knowing where the story is ultimately headed to fully enjoy it so I suggest not reading the blurb as it spoils everything. The black and white art seems a bit amateurish. To do black and white comics well, they need to be well ...more
I received an ARC copy of this book from NetGalley

actual rating: 2.5

I think this might just be a case of a series having a really slow start, because it definitely got more interesting towards the end of the volume, but overall I just don't feel like there's enough information presented here to really make me want to read more. The layout is kind of manga style, with only a few panels on each page and everything in black and white. There are also several pages with absolutely no dialogue so it d
Jan 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: comics
I said to myself that premise is kind of interesting, I like time-travel stories, but as I started reading, I already knew this is not going to be okay. Art is just not nice at all, no, the proportions are weird and faces are.. I just, can't. I had no idea who is who, characters were plain, not funny, boring, not interesting, even Kristen Stewart has more facial expressions than all of the characters had in this together. This seemed to be like any other story a child in pre-school could write a ...more
Lea | That_Bookdragon
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc-received
1.5/5 stars

Arc received through Netgalley by the publisher. All opinions are my own

I think this one sadly just wasn't for me. I didn't really like the plot nor the drawing style. The pace of this graphic novel is slow, maybe too slow for me and the characters felt a little bit blank.
nova ☼
Jan 03, 2020 marked it as dnf

i tried, i really tried. but the art is just... not good. and the story is hard to follow and not interesting enough to keep my attention.
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Disappointment of the year? Might be! What I thought would be an amazing fantasy/science-fiction story about samurai finally end up being a contemporary book about sexually diversity with a slight touch of science-fiction. Not what I was going in for. Maybe I was badly inform. I mostly goes in book that pick my curiosity not knowing too much to not get spoiled in any way but I should have background check this one a bit deeper. I won't continue and regret buying it... I should't forget to mentio ...more
Rod Brown
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
The art and writing are a bit awkward, but I found myself drawn into this time travel saga as the book progressed. It helped that it was set in a place and time with which I do not have a lot of familiarity -- Japan in the 1860s -- instead of some overused time and place. Interesting characters dealing with an interesting scenario make for a good book.

But the art was distracting. All the backgrounds were toned with a gray wash containing white speckles, making it look like the all-white figures
So we have a time travel story about a college student posing as a samurai and all things are going to heck in a hand basket because people are messing with the space-time continuum.

It's an interesting premise, but for some reason, it comes across as a little... flat for me, and I'm not sure why. The art is so-so, the characters are okay, the pacing is decent enough, but it just doesn't speak to me at all.
Blue Milker
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chronin's story plays in a familiar sandbox: the time travel misadventure. The bulk of the story takes place during a dramatic turning point in Japanese history, and we follow a handful of characters, both contemporary and from the "future", as they navigate and (inevitably) affect that history.

Adding to that, the main viewpoint character for the book is a woman who goes disguised as a male samurai. Within the larger context of the story, this is presented as a mostly practical matter: it is eas
Lois Young
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The volume of this new series about the cautions surrounding time travel should not be missed by readers and fans of both graphic novels and manga. Alison Wilgus presents an excellent story in "Chronin: Volume 1: The Knife at Your Back." Anyone who enjoys reading about anything Japanese should read this book.

After the introduction, the story goes on to follow a samurai who doesn't behave like a samurai. Given the era and the circumstances, Minoru Yoshida manages to blend into Edo, Japan in 1864.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Time traveling to Edo Japan...that’s all I needed to hear to want to pick this up and I wasn’t disappointed. The sci fi is light, but sets the stage for an otherwise historically set story where two women travel through turbulent times in 1864 Japan, both with secrets and a need to get somewhere which brings them together and forms a tenuous friendship. But when does time travel ever go according to plan? Their journey isn’t action packed, but the story is well written and the characters realist ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it

It's an interesting story of Japan just before the Meiji Restoration, with a woman from 2042 masquerading as a samurai and a time-travel screw-up potentially erasing our version of history. The plot is intriguing enough, and has some good gender-bending twists, but I'm afraid I found the art (also by the author) rather deficient; it was difficult to tell several of the key characters apart, and they sometimes seemed rather awkwardly posed, which rather
David H.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for time travel and for puns, so the title "Chronin" was perfect in that sense. The premise and setting of this book is really fun, and I'm enjoying the characters so far. I'm looking forward to the second volume. Unfortunately, I didn't like the art as much. I don't know if I'd like it better if it was either in color or with less emphasis on gray-shading, but it put me off a bit (most people would probably be fine, especially with the great story so far).
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, so good! I loved the drawing style. I had a bit of difficulty keeping the Japanese history straight, and there were a lot of names (besides the main characters’ names) to keep track of, but the story was good and worth the effort. The characters are great, especially Hatsu, and I really liked the friendship that developed between Mirai and her. I can’t wait for September when the sequel comes out!
Macklin R
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
3.5 stars, rounded up. Loved the concept of this, and the character designs were fantastic. The action sequences were difficult to follow, but some of the art was stunning
Kristina Feeney
I have no idea where I heard about this book but I'm glad it showed up at the library with my name on it.

A fun and interesting time travel gone wrong story. Beautifully drawn. The backgrounds and scenery 😍
Tamara Evans
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A super quick graphic novel telling the story of two college grad students from 2045 who find themselves stuck on 1846 Japan. Mirai and Kuji were classmates as well as a couple who were chosen to participate in a pilot program which allow them to travel back on history. Initially, their experience was going well until a differing of opinions between Mirai and Kuji to break up. After their break up, Kuji returns to 1864 Japan and begins a relationship with tea mistress Hatsu while Mirai disguises ...more
Jordan Stivers
Note: This review is only for an excerpt of the novel which I received via NetGalley in exchange for the honest review below. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher Tor Books, and the author Alison Wilgus for the opportunity to do so.

Between my adoration of Japanese anime, non-Western historical fiction, and all things sci-fi, the premise of an action-packed time travel story with samurai (Yay!) had me from the get-go. Unfortunately things fizzled out fast and never recovered for me. The
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Science fiction and historical Japan? Say! No! More!

This was a really well-paced, super engaging read; I devoured most of it during what could have been one of the dullest car rides of my life, and instead turned out to be a great day, because long after I got to where I was going I was thinking about Mirai. Time travelling babe of my HEART. She's pragmatic but brave but realistic but kind, and has got a GREAT jawline, so I'm pretty much in love. I adore time-travelling stories where the protags
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Another case of immediately judging the book by it's cover (which could you blame me, fellow visualists), Alison Wilgus's "Chronin, Vol. 1: The Knife at You Back" was nothing to detest, but it did not blow me away either. Instead, I felt myself feeling rather approving of the first in the series, but not enough to immediately tell everyone about it.

If it was the illustrator's goal to make everyone monotone when it comes to appearance (and even gender) I appreciate it for the equality and cohesi
Morgan Golias
In the year 2045 time travel has already been around for some time, only accessible to an elite group of scholars. Now, they have begun opening that up to students, allowing them to travel back in time to assist in their research.

Mirai and Kuji were selected to join a group that travel back to Japan in the 1800s, and their research goes smoothly until the locals begin to take notice. Now they are both stuck in a time that is not their own, and they have to try and make it back to their own time
What just happened? You know I hate cliffhangers - and since this is a duology, I should have realized there was a major to be continued .

I’ll just have to wait until the next issue to find out what happens.

The Madison Mega Marathon Goodreads Group January 2019 was to choose a book by it’s cover…so I thought I might pick up this comic from Netgalley, because the cover looked really cool - old and new; ancient samurai in the digital age?

This was interesting, if a bit hard to follow. The art
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
With graphic novels/comics, it seems like either I can't get into it and then question the point of the entire medium, or I'm drawn in and enticed to devour it all at once. This one was the latter. I'm intrigued by the plot and setting (the best way to bother with historical fiction is through time travel imo) and eager for my hold on the second one to come through. With the art, I really liked how the panels allowed time to breathe, simple and spaced out. Character expressions, however, seemed ...more
Kelly C.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
There's potential, I'll give it that. However, I almost did not finish. Why?

(view spoiler)
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I really liked how this time travel story--like the art--is essentially simple and straightforward. The implications of the events (messing with the space/time continuum!) are huge, but the story itself is nicely contained among the characters in the story, all of whom I really liked. I don't know a lot about Japanese history, so I appreciated how information was given to me in a way that felt organically sparse while still telling me what I needed to know.

Definitely on the edge of my seat for
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, netgalley
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

This graphic novel didn't connect well with me. The art wasn't my style, the story was interesting in some parts but not others, I didn't connect with the characters at all, and the ending left off on a cliff hanger so abrupt that I am too put off to read the sequel.
Elaine Nelson
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Maybe there's an extra layer that I might've gotten if I were knowledgeable about either manga or Japanese history, but a thoroughly enjoyable tale nonetheless. It unfolds in a really satisfying way, gradually revealing the connections between the characters, the way that time travel (yes, I enjoyed a time travel story!) plays out through the plot. Lots of emotional and plot tension, and of course lovely art, with expressive faces and delicate landscapes. Will definitely be getting book 2!
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I had somewhat higher hopes for this book, it was just ok. The plot is a fairly stock time travel mystery. I'm a big fan of Japanese woodblock prints so I know that's where the artist is drawing inspiration but the black and white made everything blend together in a not altogether pleasing way. I'm somewhat curious about the plot resolution so I'll probably read the next volume, but only because it's a super quick read.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting story about ancient Japan. Makes me want to read up on Japanese history. Drawings were nice, but the buildings were a little too straight and perfect. Still a beautiful looking book, despite being in B&W. Characters were intriguing. Will have to get the second book to find out what happens. ...more
Freya Marske
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you like Connie Willis's Oxford Time Travel series and want to see what happens when a similar conceit is applied to late nineteenth century Japan, in graphic novel form, with bonus crossdressing...THIS IS FOR YOU. I particularly adored the historical detail in the backgrounds, Wilgus's gift for conveying Face Journeys, and the thoroughly relatable protagonist.
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Alison Wilgus is a Brooklyn-based writer for comics and animation, and co-author of the bestselling graphic novel "The Last Airbender: Zuko's Story."

Other books in the series

Chronin (2 books)
  • Chronin, Vol. 2: The Sword in Your Hand (Chronin, #2)

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