Vagabond 31Posted: January 7, 2010
Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2009 – 32+ volumes
Holy crap, I didn’t realize the English volume releases were only a couple months behind the Japanese for this series! That’s pretty amazing. I guess it’s technically four months behind, but that’s still pretty good, even for a popular series.
Anyway, I wanted to see what it would be like to read the volumes out of order. I started this one, then realized it is not the nature of this series to spoil itself, that the joy of reading it comes from the vignettes and the fights, which don’t really lead into one another. I thought I would be coming in during a complicated relationship between Musashi and Kojiro, but that’s not the case. The only difference seemed to be a calm that Musashi had here that he doesn’t have where I’m at. I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything in the 15 volumes between this and where I’m at, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s pretty incredible, actually, that it’s so consistently good that any volume can be picked up and enjoyed by itself. It’s not a very common thing in manga.
I actually decided to pick this up when the cartoony drawing of Matahachi’s mom on the back cover made me smile. She’s annoying, but a pretty funny character, and I was surprised that she’d stuck around the story for so long. Little did I suspect what happened, and it was the best story for both her and Matahachi, and I like Matahachi even less than her. Matahachi is forced to come to terms with his own nature and admit to her outright what has happened, which doesn’t change much of anything. Still, the scene was sad, stark, and touching, especially when he failed to do something that finally made him snap and declare himself weak. It was pretty incredible.
Otherwise… we still have Musashi prowling around, being challenged by errant swordsman who are struck down. He seems to have more of a strategy, and talks out loud, something he usually doesn’t do where I’m at. And as I said, he’s much calmer here, which is also interesting. I wasn’t surprised to see him working his way back to the Yagyuu clan, which really is more of the same, but also not. The opponent he meets on the way is amazing in a way that only Vagabond can make repeated encounters with swordsman, and the artwork helps to enhance the confrontation and drag it into the realm of the dark and fanciful. I was also happy to see the Yagyuu master and Otsu still hanging around, though it’s a shame to see she isn’t more a part of the story at this point. I pray I never see a cartoon drawing of her on the back of a volume.
As always, excellent stuff. I was also surprised that the single volume didn’t leave me wanting more like I thought it would, since I’ve been spoiled on the 3-volume doses of the VizBig editions. I guess that’s just the magic of Vagabond, it always satisfies.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.