It takes a special Mangaka to be able to make a deaf/mute man one of the most interesting characters in a story that spans as long as the award winning Vagabond. Takehiko Inoue is one of those special Mangakas. So special, in fact, that I can literally only think of one other who has attempted to write such a character and has succeeded; Kohske, who you’d know is the brains and talent behind the neo crime series Gangsta.
Spanning all of volume six and continuing long into volume seven is the story of Sasaki Kojiro; an incredibly skilled master of the blade who has now taken a huge step into his adulthood and towards that same immortality Miyamoto Musashi himself longs for so dearly. The readers continue to take leave from the story of Takezo (Musashi) so as to remain with Kojiro as he’s taken to the battle of Sekigahara and left to fend for himself, a deaf man in a war zone. Later on in the story we return to Musashi’s side as he continues to train and begins facing off against his latest opponent, who is someone we’ve all seen before but who has returned more honed than ever.
Story-wise, a lot of good was shown throughout volume seven but none more than the huge development in character Sasaki Kojiro received thanks to a small but pivotal engagement with survivors of the war only looking to make their way back home to Osaka. This short but heavy arc confirmed to the readers that Sasaki Kojiro may be even more an animal than Miyamoto Musashi himself who was literally raised in the wilds of rural Japan, and it comes down to more than just his inability to hear and therefor inability to understand reason.
Sasaki Kojiro transcends the level of skill he had attained up until this point and does so by mercilessly slaughtering a group of Samurai. The difference between this time and the last is that these men made it very much known that they meant no trouble, even going as far as to dress up as peasants. You, the reader, feel sorry for this small group who defend themselves against Kojiro but simply don’t have what it takes to survive. It’s a massacre and by the end of it…you simply can’t look at Kojiro the same way again. To see the young man dance in excitement over the development of a new technique but only meters away from the dead body of the man he just cut down is, in a subtle way…horrifying, but it was an incredible thing to experience and it really says a lot about both Kojiro himself and the writing of Vagabond as a whole.
As per usual, Takehiko Inoue’s illustrations are breathtaking. I’ve loved his art style ever since the first page of the first chapter of the first volume of the series and it has only gotten better and better. With every volume I’m overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of his art that gracefully walks the fine line between extreme realism and the type of hyper exaggeration you can only find in a good Manga series. At times it is almost like looking at still frames from an Akira Kurosawa film and at others it is like you’ve been sent into a realm of absolute Samurai mayhem. It features incredible visuals that make me question how it was that Inoue ever reached his deadlines.
Vagabond is a Manga that is so addictive, I’m sure it is illegal in some countries around the world. I crave, like an addict, for the release of the next volume. I even begin to lament as I notice how little I have left of the current volume to read every month. It’s borderline insanity but that’s the life of being a fan of Vagabond; it’s a commitment you’d never break and I’m more than happy admitting so. Vagabond mixes incredibly intricate writing with an illustration style that will absolutely blow your mind, it’s not hard to see why it has won so many awards and it’s not hard to see why this is a Manga for the truest fans of the medium. It doesn’t get much finer than this!
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The Distant Ocean: In the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Sekigahara, Sasaki Kojirō, the man destined to be Musashi’s opponent in the most famous duel in Japanese history, finds himself alone amidst desperate refugees and vicious hunters. Despite being pushed to his limits, Kojirō is far from daunted by his peril and instead thrives with an almost supernatural serenity. Driven by his macabre thirst for battle, Kojirō is transformed into the ultimate swordsman. – Madman Entertainment