Vagabond 1 (Big ed.)Posted: December 15, 2008
With all the Takehiko Inoue love lately, I felt compelled to try something of his out. Vagabond has been getting rave reviews for years, and I thought I’d try it in the VizBig edition that just started coming out. I don’t really read this type of story, but I thought it might be good to read along with my roommate.
Actually, the reason I don’t like samurai-type stories is because I’m under the impression that they often incorporate a lot of Japanese history in their plots (or, at least, the movies I’ve seen on the subject have). Not knowing anything about this period of Japanese history, that type of thing would fly over my head, and the stories just become copious and boring. Vagabond is different, because it somehow omits almost every aspect of history it should contain and instead focuses on the characters. The total lack of history is also kind of awesome considering the fact that it’s a series based on the life of an actual famous person.
The volume starts off after a battle. Doesn’t matter what battle it is, because Takezo and his friend live, and they get up from the battle to go home. Along the way, they fight off some enemy soldiers meant to kill survivors, encounter a pair of women robbing dead bodies on the battlefield, and slay a band of thieves. This is all within the first couple chapters. Despite the fact that so much happens at once, the pace doesn’t feel rushed, and it’s always extremely clear what’s going on.
The bulk of the story takes place in Takezo’s villiage. He’s hunted down by guards there, and manages to evade both the guards and the townspeople who are stirred up to chase him. A possible love interest is introduced with his friend’s spurned fiancee, and a lesson is beat into Takezo about the value of life when he’s eventually caught by a monk. These parts weren’t all that interesting to me since my eyes glaze over when philosophy comes out, but I have to approve of the monks teaching techniques, which include stringing Takezo up on a tree and also making him think he will be killed at any moment.
Towards the end of the volume, we start to see the swordfights I was expecting. Takezo takes on a whole school of badasses with just a wooden sword, and I have to say… as long as that part was, and even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, it was still an amazing fight to look at. The art really shines during the fight scenes, which is unusual since fight artwork is often muddled and confusing in other series.
I don’t really care where the plot is going at this point (it’s pretty clear that Takezo plans on becoming the greatest swordsman EVER, I guess that’s all that matters), but I did really enjoy everything that was going on in this huge volume, and I’m very much looking forward to volume 2.
I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention how awesome the VizBig editions are. The paper quality is great, and I absolutely adored the inclusion of color pages. There were a lot of them in this volume, and they were very pretty. I also like the larger size and huge format. I hope more series are released this way, because it’s pretty handy.