Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2014 – 31 volumes

Ah, yes.  This is about what I expected, except for the fact that Manji’s fight took up most of the volume, rather than Anotsu v. Kagimura.

And Manji is fighting a monster, of course.  It’s what he does.  His opponents always have to be unbeatable, so that he can just keep throwing his mangled body at them over and over again.  In this case, he’s fighting a huge colossus that’s wearing impenetrable armor.  He’s got no points for Manji to strike him to break his guards, and a shower of darts from Rin targeting his head were thrown off by his… uh, dreadlocks, I guess.

Manji gets closer to death than we’ve ever seen him.  At one point, he’s so dead that a feint works, and that’s the only way they win the fight.  But man.  It was long, it was brutal, and it was awesome.  Just as you’d expect from Blade of the Immortal.

Anotsu v. Kagimura is mostly fast, and we don’t see very much of it.  They’re evenly matched, and evenly monstrous.  That’s saying something, because Kagimura only has one eye.  I always wonder how that would affect a fight (Manji has only one as well), something tells me it’s more of a handicap than Blade of the Immortal suggests.

Makie’s battle takes up a good part of the volume too, and she fends off no less than 3-5 men during her fight.  She’s just as monstrous as Kagimura, Manji, or Anotsu, but she’s a whole lot more stylish and a lot more frightening.  Again, she’s probably the scariest one in the series.  I also suspect tuberculosis is more of a handicap in a fight than Makie makes it seem.

Next, it looks like Makie is fighting… Hyakurin’s man, for some reason.  A shame, as I quite liked him.  Next is also the end, which suggests a Manji/Anotsu fight, or perhaps a Rin/Anotsu fight, but neither Rin nor Anotsu are much in shape for it right now.

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2014 – 31 volumes

Okay… so some of the ties between the Itto-Ryu make more sense in this volume.  We get some backstory about Anotsu, Abayama, and Anotsu’s grandfather.  Hilariously, in this flashback, Anotsu is a ridiculous badass even at 10 years old.

Just in case that wasn’t hardcore enough for you, most of the story here is about Kagimura raiding a port he thinks the Itto-Ryu will use.  Because he needs to suspect everybody, he decides to slaughter every person on every boat in the port.  While doing this, his underlings find some insane foreign fighters, who are of course Itto-Ryu, and Makie, Anotsu’s girlfriend.  This volume doesn’t change my opinion of the fact that Makie may be the best fighter in the series.  With TB, she manages to kill about 15 people who… well, are dead before they even realize it.

Aside from Makie, who does brutally slaughter people with a bizarre weapon, Kagimura is slicing heads and torsos apart here in comical ways.  My favorite page is one where three men are talking to Kagimura, and in the next panel, their torsos are floating out over the water while their legs are standing up in front of Kagimura.  One man is even looking back to the side towards Kagimura, like he can’t even believe that happened.

Anyway, the boring stuff managed to keep me entertained this volume, even before Manji showed up in the last third.  Kagimura points out that all the characters are bloodthirsty killers, including Rin (who killed a bunch of guards and started a riot below the castle when Manji was locked up), and are thus “beyond good and evil,” beyond redemption or salvation.  Kagimura condemns everyone to death, and a big brawl starts since all the characters are all in one place.  Well, except for Magatsu and the Shinobi girls.  Maybe they’ll come later.  My favorite “evil” justification was for Manji, who did kill a bunch of people (100, as the story goes), but he was also evil because his immortality was “self-serving” and could not be exploited by the shogun.  Excellent.

If we’re lucky, this brawl will last through the next volume, and we won’t have to hear many more sob stories about side characters.  I’ll be so happy when we finish with that.

Another highlight in this volume is the reunion between Anotsu and Rin.  It was AWESOME. Also good was the reunion between Manji and Kagimura, since I hadn’t thought about the fact they hadn’t seen each other since just after the halfway point in the series.

Two more volumes!  So excited to read the end.

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2014 – 31 volumes

Ugh, this volume was ROUGH.  Again, I am not that interested in side characters.  But side characters are what we get here.  Most of the volume is a fight that Giichi is having.  It is intense in a way that few series other than Blade of the Immortal can pull off.  His opponent is missing an arm, and instead has two weighted chains.  The way he swings these around makes it impossible for Giichi to go in at close range.  Body parts go flying, et cetera.  In the first half of the book, we also get to see Hyakurin fight and nearly violated again.

In the middle… there’s another fight.  It’s suitably epic, and at one point involves a giant man with a giant sword wiping out a whole group of people, after a bunch of build-up from the members along the lines of “we’ve trained hard enough, we can do it!”  And that was cool.  But man.  I don’t care who the giant man was, nor did I care about the people he was wiping out.  I also didn’t care about any of the other people in the middle of the book, because they were not Rin or Manji.

Better luck next time, I guess.  Maybe Rin and Manji will be back on the trail of Anotsu.  I… really don’t care about the rest of the plot at this point.

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2013 – 31 volumes

Aaaand… here’s where we get into stories that involve the side conflicts, and not the main characters.  Again, I have no real interest in the conflict between the Itto-Ryu and the Rokki-dan, yet here I am, probably reading another 4 volumes about them.

To be fair, the first story arc in this volume is awesome.  Kagimura’s daughter goes into the woods with one of the Rokki-dan leaders and some footsoldiers, and get snared in an incredibly complicated and clever trap laid down by one of the Itto-Ryu and his posse of locals.  I don’t want to spoil the trap at all, because they kept hinting at this fatal situation on the mountain, and I was expecting trip wires and the usual kind of wooded mountain traps.  This one was much, much better.  More science was involved.

That doesn’t mean I warmed up to Kagimura’s daughter, the soldiers she fought with, or the Itto-Ryu baddie.  But it was still an awesome story, and quite frankly, that’s why I’m sticking with Blade of the Immortal until the end.

The end of the volume sets up another story arc that drags Hyakurin and her man back into the story.  On one hand, I really liked her, but on the other, I was also done with her, and it’s sad to see her drug back into the thick of things.  She had a semi-peaceful ending.  I want her to rest.

Her and her man are going up against one of the main Itto-Ryu generals, as (allegedly) some of the only people that could stop him and his people.  Elsewhere, Mugai-Ryu are squaring off against this Itto-Ryu’s disciples in a fight that I really, truly care deeply about.

Next volume will likely be the Hyakurin story… and I’ll probably like it, but I don’t know that I’m necessarily looking forward to it.

Also, the two shinobi girls are Tanpopo and Meguro.  I asked Google, and it referred me to one of my old reviews where I called them the two shinobi girls.  Their names are rarely used, but they’re in a gag comic at the back, so I thought I would record them for posterity.  I do really like those two.

Blade of the Immortal 26

April 12, 2015

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2013 – 31 volumes

Okay, this volume was awesome.  This is the sort of thing I miss when the fighting switches over to the other warring factions.  I miss Manji going one-on-one with crazy people.

Admittedly, the spotlight was stolen by the two shinobi girls and Magatsu.  Well, the spotlight goes all around here, technically.  One of the shinobi girls works on freeing Rin from a boulder strapped around her legs in a freezing lake, and the other fights Shin.

The lake thing is made more sadistic by the fact that Shin apparently also wove wires into the ropes, so that knives would break when rescuers struggled to free her underwater.  This guy is… remarkable.

The fighting is pretty violent.  The shinobi girl’s fight is pretty awesome, though she doesn’t realize he’s immortal, and Magatsu’s commentary makes her sound like an exceptional fighter without a chance.  I liked some of her clever rigged stuff.

Magatsu is in bad shape after his initial fight with Shin, but he manages.  As does Manji, who is potentially not immortal due to the blizzard and his blood worms freezing.

Shin… something really insane happens to him.  I don’t think his end is quite as awful as some of the girls he tortured, but it’s still pretty bad.

His sidekick points out that Shin has probably killed far less people than Manji, yet he’s dying on the street and everyone is helping Manji live.  The sidekick has a beef against Manji for killing his father, who was an Itto-Ryu swordsman.  Rin fails to explain to the boy’s satisfaction why his father had to die, but Magatsu does.

Now… admittedly, I’m not looking forward to the rest of the series.  We have to settle the fighting between the Itto-Ryu and the Rokki-Dan.  I don’t really care about any of them except Anotsu and Magatsu, but there are a million characters who all have grudges to settle.  Most of it has nothing to do with Rin and Manji.  Buckle up.

I seriously doubt there really will be a showdown between Anotsu and Rin.  It’s almost pointless now.

Blade of the Immortal 25

March 18, 2015

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2012 – 31 volumes

Okay, so you know how I was complaining that there wasn’t enough Rin and Manji in the last review?  This volume heard me, and delivered.  This is the beginning (or most of?) the confrontation between Rin, Manji, and Shira.  I’ve been waiting for this.  I thought this would be closer to the conclusion of the series.

Shira is batshit insane, and does evil things to women that I won’t be able to unsee.  He also has Manji’s arm, which has been bugging me.  The shinobi girls finally realize who Manji and Rin are, and when confronted by Shira, self-preservation and recognition of a psychopath causes them to cough up the info.

The fight with Shira isn’t nearly as depraved as I imagined, although what he does to Rin is pretty messed up.  We get some backstory where we learn how the kessen-chu work, and why the experiments at the castle failed.  Shira also knows all the ways to kill a kessen-chu immortal, and of course since he has Manji’s arm, he is also currently benefiting from kessen-chu worms.  So this fight is pretty ridiculous.

Manji rightly points out that there’s only one pair of eyes and one pair of arms between them, so there’s only so crazy it can get.  But still, the slow reveals of what’s going on are crazy, as is the fact Manji seems to have no problem with putting Shira down.  Until he figures out what’s up with Rin.

This continues into the next volume, so YES.  I’m very excited.

Blade of the Immortal 24

February 13, 2015

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2011 – 31 volumes

I decided to read the end of this series.  The last volume won’t be out until March/April, but I’m going to read the rest of them in the meantime, and snatch that one up when it comes out.

At this point, I need to heave a heavy sigh.  Blade of the Immortal… has its ups and downs.  One of my big problems right now is that there are way, WAY too many characters.  It’s been some time since I’ve read it, but this volume spends very little time with Manji and Rin, which is what I want to read about.  I have a feeling the story is headed into Itto-Ryu territory, and isn’t really going to be about them for awhile.  Which is a shame, because I really, really don’t care about most of the other characters.

Having said that, the meat of this volume was the Itto-Ryu breaking into Edo Castle.  With only four members, they take out almost all the guards in the outer gates, and penetrated almost all the way to the Shogun.  Then, they got tired, told the head of security that they wanted him to remember that he failed so miserably so that it would never happen again, and left.

It was excessive, crazy violent, and very badass.  You’d have to see this section of story to believe it.  One would think that most of the crazy excessive members of the Itto-Ryu were beaten by Manji at the beginning of the story, but there’s three, in addition to Anotsu, that have made it this far.  While I hate giving nods to characters that appear for a second, I do think that Ozuhan is a badass.  Magatsu is also a member of this raid, and he’s regular enough that I’ve grown fond of him.

I’m… still not really sure where the main plot is going from here.  Retaliation for this strike, and Itto-Ryu centric?  Is anyone even chasing Rin and Manji anymore?  What about Shira?  Do I even want to know?  He appears briefly here, and does something appalling, as usual.

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