“If you wish to control others you must first control yourself”, an excerpt from Miyamoto Musashi’s “The Book Of Five Rings”. With every new volume of “Vagabond” comes another lesson about combat and about life, as well as a very happy Frank Inglese because recently “Vagabond” has quickly become one of my favorite Manga titles of all time.
Based on the true-to-life story of Miyamoto Musashi, “Vagabond” follows the young warrior on his way to worldwide supremacy as history’s greatest master of the sword. From the battle of Sekigahara all the way up until his death, famed Mangaka Takehiko Inoue takes us on a visual journey through the blood-filled times of an ancient Japan and thanks to Madman Entertainment I’ve, once again, been given the chance to review the latest volume.
Musashi suffers a humiliating defeat against Inshun, the second-generation master of Hozoin Temple. To prepare for a rematch, Musashi undertakes an intense spiritual and physical training regimen with a most unlikely teacher – Inshun’s predecessor, the founder of the Hozoin Spear Technique. To attain the focus necessary to take on the most technically proficient and deadliest fighter he has ever faced, Musashi will first have to confront his own deep-seated personal demons. – Madman Entertainment
A master of writing AND illustrating intensity, Takehiko Inoue populated most of this volume with frames of non-movement. Instead the story called for more “reflective” moments wherein which you, the reader, are expected to sit back and take your time, rather than speeding through. In volume three, Musashi learns to master his more mental and spiritual side, eventually using a piercing gaze to fight his battles for him rather than just his sword. Despite the lack of action panels in this volume, it still kept an air of “mortality”. Samurai locked eyes, they used their “spirits” to duke it out before coming to physical blows yet the whole time you’re forced to sit in high anticipation all the while knowing that with the flick of a page somebody is going down. The dialogue to action ratio is a little one-sided this volume with a great deal of the focus being on conversation rather than violence. We’re given a look back in time to see just where these older characters developed their weapon skills and we’re also given a small glimpse into what the future of Musashi entails. I believe, with a Manga that is seemingly so combat-heavy, you absolutely need volumes like this to properly portray who Miyamoto Musashi really is. If you’ve read “The Book Of Five Rings” you’d know that Miyamoto Musashi doesn’t believe the path to becoming a true master swordsman is paved only with blood. It is instead traveled using a mix of philosophy, art, poetry, conversation, as well as so much more. We’re now seeing that side of Musashi…though he does revert back near the end thanks to his naivety and animal instincts. To me, this is the sign of a well-rounded and believable character.
As usual, Takehiko Inoue continues to prove that he is the most talented, contemporary Mangaka. Nothing he does, visually or otherwise, is ever a mistake. A new character was introduced in this volume and the first thing I thought was “he looks a great deal like Musashi”. Immediately, despite how much I love this Manga, I started thinking worse of it simply because I thought there was a bit of a lack of care for character design. I was dead wrong because, within a chapter or two, other characters were commenting on the likeness between the two, meaning that the similarities between the man were completely on purpose. I felt very silly doubting Mr Inoue and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon. As mentioned above; there wasn’t a great deal of combat in volume three but, Mr Inoue being the master, still made every single panel as detailed and exciting as the last. In fact, I’m pretty sure volume three had more two page layout panels than either of the first two and what they depicted was intense conversation. I’d sell my soul for the ability to illustrate as well as Takehiko Inoue and every time I read another volume of “Vagabond” I find myself in a mix of emotions. Impressed but envious. Happy but in distress. Not because his drawings are bad but because I’m far too jealous of his talents
There will come a time when my reviews for “Vagabond” won’t be as long as they have been. Instead I think I may employ a “one word” style of writing. In the future you’ll click on a review for “Vagabond” and all that you’ll see is the word “perfect” because, from what I’ve read up until now, that is exactly what it has been. Despite how huge these volumes are, you somehow don’t feel as though you’re tackling a huge graphic novel. The story is long at at volume three we’re not even close to getting near the end, but that doesn’t even come to mind when reading because you’re so involved in what is happening right in that moment. The story, while simple, is real and even though it’s highly romanticized, it’s somehow entirely believable. “Vagabond” is an award-winning Manga. Usually I don’t let that influence me at all. In fact, I choose to disregard things like that, only believing my own opinion but I can one hundred percent see exactly why it is that :Vagabond” is so critically acclaimed. It’s a Manga that truly is “invincible under the sun”.
Experience the journey of Miyamoto Musashi for yourself by purchasing “Vagabond” from Madman Entertainment’s official store: Click Here