Nothing to do with MTV: Samurai Cat in the Real World, by Mark E. Rogers
They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year– and it can be, giving friends and families time to get together and celebrate. But, this comes with a downside, too. Family drama, end of the year stress, and worse. I’m lucky, in that the worst I’ve really had to deal with over the years is … boredom.
This was especially acute many, many years ago, while I was still in high school. My family and I were up in St. Louis for the holiday … which left me internet-less, car-less, and otherwise at loose ends for a good week or so. I might’ve had a Super Nintendo available, at least, but a guy can only play Super Star Wars for so long. But! There happened to be a library within walking distance (one I still had a card to, no less) and so I seized the opportunity to get out of the house. And, it was during one of these trips to the library, I stumbled across Mark E. Rogers’ Samurai Cat books. The covers were bizzare enough to catch my attention, and the books were silly enough to hold it. I quickly tore through the two or three Samurai Cat books the library had in stock, and then made it a point over the next few years to collect all six in the series (a task easier said than done).
And so, in the vaguest of nods to holiday programming, I figured I’d re-read and review Samurai Cat In the Real World. It’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmasy media, but in the second chapter, the titular Samurai Cat teams up with Santa Claus to fight Hitler’s army of Nazi Tyrannosaurs. That’s seasonal, right?
I should probably explain.
Mark E. Rogers’ Samurai Cat books are violent, unhinged, pun-filled parodies of various works of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. They center on Miowara Tomokato, the titular Samurai Cat, who has sworn to avenge the death of his master, Lord Nobunaga. On this loose framework, Tomokato and his gun toting nephew Shiro meander from one ridiculous parody to the next, riffing on everyone from Tolkien to Lovecraft to Dante himself in Samurai Cat Goes to Hell. It’s basically chanbara by way of Looney Tunes. Adding to the silliness is the fact that Rogers illustrates the series as well, adding an extra flair to the mayhem.
Samurai Cat in the Real World consists of three interconnected short stories– the middle one, “Christmas Eve, Berlin, 1944” I’ve mentioned already. It’s preceded by “A Fistful of Scars,” in which Tomokato takes on Al Capone in gangster-era Chicago, and “The Kremlin Litter” in which he fights Stalin, who happens to be a werewolf with a prehensile moustache.
Like I said, the books are pretty silly.
So, after all these years, how does Samurai Cat in the Real World stack up? Well, it’s not exactly high comedy on the level of, say, Pratchett, but I can’t help but admire how brazen Rogers is with his surreal gags and shameless puns. Some of the jokes and references are a little dated, and thus fall flat, but on the other hand, there are plenty of ones that land well (in particular, there’s a running gag about Abbot & Costello that’s referenced in a couple of different ways). It was enough to make me smile, so there’s that. Plus, the book’s not preachy like The Dead, or sleazy like Blood + Pearls, so I’ll probably return to the series in the future.
None of the rest are seasonal, though, so I’ll just have to scatter them throughout the year.