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.
It’s quite funny: People constantly complain about the monotony of repetition. It’s usually a huge issue with video games but you come across this time and time again when it comes to things like Anime and Manga too. Every volume of “Vagabond” is, at its most basic, about Miyamoto Musashi going to fight another school. It’s seemingly very simple but what’s amazing is that it is actually anything but simple.
On the surface what you’re reading is just a repeat of what happened when Musashi was at the last school which, if you choose not to look into it, is true but when you realise the amount of growth and development that he’s gone through between story arc to story arc, “Vagabond” becomes the greatest Manga of all time. Volume four, out of all the volumes I’ve read so far, has made me realise that the way Miyamoto holds himself both during an altercation and in everyday life is so different to when the Manga first began. He’s grown, he’s learned, he’s honed his skills and he’s in a constant cycle of death and rebirth that, like the phoenix, only makes him stronger upon return to the land of the living. Figuratively speaking.
Musashi endeavors to take on sword master Yagyū Sekishūsai, a man recognized by many to be the greatest swordsman of his time. But with Sekishūsai far past his prime, does Musashi truly believe that killing a seemingly helpless old man in his sleep will take him further along the path? – Madman Entertainment
A younger Musashi would never have thought twice about cutting down a sick old man but this Musashi, well…this Musashi just wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Even better is that it’s not his sense of good will that stops him from killing the man, it’s his sense of pride. What would it prove? Would it make him seem strong? I love the subtltly of Miyamoto Musashi’s character, that he can restrain himself and almost seem like a good person but the reasons behind it are selfish and almost arrogant.
It still shows that, while always growing, he still has a long way to go. Volume four, once again, re-introduces us to the coward Matahachi, Miyamoto’s childhood friend, who has still not changed from when he was a young boy. Written this way entirely on purpose, it works so well to show the difference between two people who lived seemingly similar lives and walked seemingly similar paths. One has chosen to grit his teeth and work his way to the very top and the other has chosen to live the life of a liar, a thief, and a con man.
It really makes you question which of the two is the worse human being; the one who kills for a living or the one who steals the identity of a man he saw killed before him. It’s amazing how Takehiko Inoue can write a murderer like Miyamoto Musashi in a way that makes him seem like a hero. What’s even more amazing is that it is how he writes all the other characters that makes Miyamoto Musashi seem like a hero even though usually the person on the sharp edge of Miyamoto’s blade is only there in defence.
Nothing has changed at all visually between volume three and volume for which, so to not ignite a fire of miscommunication, is fantastic because, from volume one, this has been one of the best looking Mangas I’ve ever seen. Takahiko Inoue has a very firm grasp on realistic drawing but also has enough of a unique style to assure you this is not a Manga just anyone could illustrate. Like always, panels are detailed and without fault. Everything you see is crisp and clean despite the crosshatching and sometimes sketchy style that Inoue enjoys implementing so much. Despite how fast-paced the action is, it’s always easy to follow. Inoue seems to have mastered the art of flowing imagery so you’re basically forced into properly understanding just what the heck is happening.
There’s little more that can be said about “Vagabond”. From the very first chapter I ever read to the last chapter of the latest volume on my shelf I’ve been gripped by the wonderfully romanticised story of Miyamoto Musashi and I can’t help but think that if it were anyone else other than Takehiko Inoue creating this masterpiece than it simply would be, well…a masterpiece! He’s got a visual style that would make most illustrators cry and his writing is so well-rounded and thought out that you simply cannot fault anything he produces. I’m very happy that this Manga is long because it just means I’ll be able to keep experiencing it for a long time to come.
Experience the journey of Miyamoto Musashi for yourself by purchasing “Vagabond” from Madman Entertainment’s official store: Click Here