Vagabond 6 (VizBig ed.)Posted: April 18, 2010
Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2010 – 33+ volumes
This VizBig volume includes volumes 16-18 of the regular series
I was happy to see a lot more of Kojiro in this volume, because I think he’s an incredibly interesting character, but I think I’ll be happy to go back to Musashi in the next volume I read.
Since we have the youth of Kojiro out of the way, this volume takes an indepth look at his life as a swordsman, and how he got started on his path. His deafness makes it impossible to communicate with people normally, so I think the fact he has a guide (first Jiai, his adoptive father, then Ito Ittosai) is important. It’s interesting that neither of these men claim to understand him, they simply accompany him on his life’s journey and occasionally help out. Jiai shelters him in his youth, but it’s Ittosai that identifies his fighting instincts and takes him out in the world. But even Ittosai does little to provoke or otherwise lead opponents to Kojiro. Kojiro has his own way of doing battle, and Ittosai simply watches.
One of his first serious opponents is Denshichiro Yoshioka, and the battle with him and his men takes up most of what I think is volume 17. The way Kojiro steps naturally into battle and shows no mercy, and the way that Den and the others project feelings onto him, is interesting. Ittosai identifies a weakness in Kojiro, the fact he knows no fear, but from there, Kojiro seems to have a knack for deciding which opponents will put up the best fight, dismissing those who he has no wish to spar with. After the amazing fight with Yoshioka, Denshichiro has a dream about a conversation with Kojiro where he just wouldn’t stop talking about how much he loved the sword. It’s an interesting way to show insight into a character who literally does not share his thoughts.
The fact that Kojiro is deaf is probably one of my favorite plot devices of all time and makes Vagabond about a hundred times more interesting from here on out. There is a brief confrontation between Musashi and Kojiro at the very end of the volume, but it’s nothing serious, and I loved the way it was handled in the context of the story. I’m very much looking forward to future meetings between the two.
With all the good stuff, I was a little disappointed in the fact that most character’s motivations for fighting were simply “a love of the sword” and “wanting to get stronger.” I think I didn’t notice it so much with the Musashi stories up to this point because there’s more of an emphasis on his raw emotions and the fact that he’s like a force of nature rather than someone who wants to learn the sword. That’s true of Kojiro too, and has to be, since we are given no other reason for Kojiro’s love of swordfighting. But the emphasis on Kojiro wanting to learn the sword, and other characters discussing his lifestyle in this way, and all of Yoshioka’s talk about the art of the sword and wanting to get stronger and challenging other strong opponents and… whatever. I know these are all perfectly valid reasons for wanting to live the life these men lead, and I know there are plenty of people that get really into that and love this kind of stuff… but I just wasn’t buying it. It wasn’t working for me. That’s probably one of the reasons I tend to avoid these types of series, but I’m glad Vagabond has a lot more to offer.
I love these VizBig editions of this series, because I think reading it a volume at a time would drive me crazy and really put a hurt on my wallet. It doesn’t take me long at all to breeze through these, with the beautiful artwork and the well-orchestrated and ponderous fights, but a three-volume chunk seems adequate, and I don’t mind the wait between VizBig volumes. Plus, with all the color artwork included and the fancy packaging, this really is the perfect way to read this series. I couldn’t be happier.