Vagabond 4 (Big ed.)Posted: July 27, 2009
Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2009 – 30+ volumes (this big volume is 10-12)
On one hand, Vagabond has a very simple formula, which consists of Musashi drifting from opponent to opponent learning valuable spiritual-type lessons about the art of fighting. I can see how this wouldn’t be entertaining for everyone, and five years ago, it wouldn’t have been a fun read for me, either. But there’s also something very compelling about it.
I like it because I really, really like Miyamoto Musashi. Despite the fact that he’s a bloodthirsty killer, there’s something sort of innocent in his approach and simple in his way of thinking. He approaches everyone in the same way, and with the same one-track mind, and I love seeing his world expand as all the oldies offer their particular pieces of advice. Here, he has a sort of revelation while he’s trying to figure out whether or not he will kill a sword master in his sleep. I probably would have liked him less if he had, because that really accomplishes nothing except bragging rights, something he has no interest in. But instead of killing him, he sees a vision and ponders what it means to be invincible, and how the old man can be both invincible and vulnerable to a sword attack while he’s asleep and very sick.
His best moments of childishness are always about Otsu and Jotaro. Having them as part of the story is quite excellent, not only because they are both the only people on Earth that love Musashi, but because they do a good job humanizing and bringing his childish and simple nature to light. He thinks a great deal of both of them, and the promise that they will encounter each other later in the story, even if it’s something as simple as the reunion with Otsu in this volume, is a great draw for me.
I also kind of like the way the story is still about people wandering around with their paths intersecting periodically, both intentionally and unintentionally. The story mostly follows Musashi, but it also keeps tabs on Takuan, Otsu and Jotaro, and Matahachi… and Matahachi’s mom. Other characters come and go too, and I like the “it’s a small world” nature of the encounters.
The art continues to be amazing, too. There was nothing jaw-dropping like the fight last volume, but it continues to be a huge draw to this series for me.
Whenever I read something by Takehiko Inoue, I always find myself seeking more of his work. In this case, Real 5 spurred me to reading this, which is unusual since I usually let omnibuses like this sit before I read them. I had this one a matter of days and polished it off in an evening. Inoue, and Vagabond, are just that good.