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Vagabond (Vizbig Edition): Volume One – Review

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“You shall be called Miyamoto Musashi

There’s something within each and every single human being that drives us forward. We set ourselves goals we aim only to achieve despite the odds that may or may not be stacked against us. We enter into a state much like that of a boxer’s ‘tunnel vision’ where all we see is future success and no matter what, we believe that we will succeed. This is why the world continues to evolve day by day, but why exactly do we do this? In a way, being the greatest in your own field is somewhat of a selfish act. Think, just for a moment, the true reason why we do what we do. Is it for self satisfaction? Perhaps. Is it for the fame and glory? Quite possibly. Is it to be immortalized in the history of life itself? In my opinion, that’s exactly why we reach for higher ground day after day.

As humans we long to live forever! Infinity is something we each wish to achieve whether it is through your career or through having a family, in one way or another you will be remembered by someone somewhere and THAT is true immortality! Miyamoto Musashi is history’s famous Samurai and possibly one of the most talented sword fighters to have ever graced the Earth. He’s a killer but he’s also a philosopher, an animal but a brilliant tactician, a demon but a man looked up to by many people. He’s a historical figure that will be remembered up until the end of time and the man who was truly, in his own words, ‘invincible under the sun’. ‘Vagabond’ began back in 1998 and is an on-going series of which Viz Media/Madman Entertainment have been releasing for years. The series has recently begun being re-released as a part of the ‘Vizbig’ line of Manga series’ wherein which multiple volumes of a series are compiled into one huge volume.

The Manga ‘Vagabond’ tells the real-life tale of Miyamoto Musashi early life until near death and details each of his most defining moments along the way. Written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue (most famous for the Shonen Jump series ‘Slam Dunk’) and based off of the book ‘Musashi’ by Eiji Yoshikawa, ‘Vagabond’ has readers follows young Takezo, a survivor of the ‘Battle of Sekigahara’ which unified Japan under one leader for many years, who journeys around the great country with the goal of becoming the greatest Samurai and, as mentioned above, ‘invincible under the sun’. Laced with solid truths, the Manga does a great job at being just exaggerated enough to keep a reader’s attention but not too over-the-top to have readers no longer consider the story told to be entirely fiction.

Considering it is a Manga based upon a true story, it does a fantastic job at seeming ‘down to Earth’ which does grant the story another layer of believability. Obviously a Shinobi-type character dashing through the trees and striking without even being seen isn’t too realistic but, as of the first volume, that is as ‘crazy’ as it gets. Pairing my read-through of the Manga with quick Wikipedia searches allowed me to truly understand just what it was I was reading. It was not that the book called for me to research names or places but the fact that I did it helped me to realize that the author clearly did HIS research seeing as the story within the Manga was almost perfectly in line with the story passed down throughout history.

‘Vagabond’ was easy to read and, despite it’s size, didn’t take me too long to get through this. I don’t believe it has anything to do with my reading ability but instead the way it was laid out. Chapters were short and sweet but had enough information to keep you glued to the pages. Dialogue was easy to read as it wasn’t excessively placed but the more important factor was that it was easy to understand. While traditional names did confuse me at times I believe that’s more of my fault than the fault of the book. Each of the characters were introduced with enough time in between so the reader could fully absorb the information and store it away. This is something many Mangas fall victim too; they introduce too many character too close to each other and the reader is only left with confusion. ‘Vagabond’ is far too good a fighter to be cut down by something minor like that. Fantastically, for anyone that does indeed find themselves in a state of confusion, the very back of the book features an explanatory glossary of words or terms you may not know.

To say the illustrations through ‘Vagabond’ are ‘good’ would be a massive understatement. When it comes to artistic talent, Takehiko Inoue may be the best of the very best. Despite the fact that it is indeed a Manga, ‘Vagabond’ feels almost real. it features a sense of naturalism I’ve yet to see in any other piece of illustrated media. What blew me away was not only the drawings but the fact that each and every single panel looked as though as much attention was payed to it than the rest. Even the smallest panels had no dip in illustration quality but, for the most part, the manga was filled with large booming panels full of highly detailed images.

On occasion, Inoue-sensei would use what looked to be a paintbrush and thick ink on top of pencil/ink pen illustrations to accentuate certain panel figures. It makes certain panels look dark and gritty which played well into the story and simply made for some stunning images. Every so often in the book, at the start of a new chapter or volume, there are pages which are fully coloured…beautifully, may I add. They looked as though to be done with water colours and were quite soft, this in contrast to the thick dark lines of the ink pen Inoue used for the rest of the book made for some striking page turns.

What makes a fantastic release is simply that it leaves you satisfied. Once you finish it you no longer look for any more out of it because it has delivered everything it had and that was more than enough to pleased. ‘Vagabond’ gives you something on one page and stacks even more on top of it with the next, you’re never left wanting, instead you’re given things you didn’t even know you were looking for. It also happens to tell a true-to-life story of a man on an existential mission to become the best he can truly be.

It not only has you look up to this man but it has you wanting to be this man, not in the way that he kills people but more in the way that you wish your determination was like his. Reading ‘Vagabond’ also seems like the most engaging way to learn about a historical figure but I wouldn’t suggest reading it just for that. The art, the story, the impact of each and every single panel…what else is there to say? ‘Vagabond’ volume one perfectly kicked of the series and it’s final pages left me feeling envigorated and ready for more. This is perfection. This is truly being ‘invincible under the sun’. This is ‘Vagabond’, the story of Miyamoto Musashi.

You can pick up a copy of ‘Vagabond – Vizbig Edition: Volume One’ at Madman’s Online Store.

Grade: A+

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