Vagabond 10 (VizBig ed.)

July 14, 2013

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 35+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 28-30

These are mostly caught up with the regular English release, so I haven’t read one in awhile.  I got volume 11 some time ago (which may catch things up to within less of an omnibus), and thought it was a good time to read this one.  This is the kind of series that, when I finish a volume, I want to know there’s another to pick up afterwards.  It’s a very powerful read, and I’d hate to be left hanging if I didn’t want more.  This is a particular reading quirk of mine though, and I do this with novel series as well (I want to read Dance with Dragons SO BAD but I can’t until the next one comes out, for instance).

This one’s all about Musashi recovering and trying to figure out where his path takes him.  He was severely wounded in his last fight, to the point where he may no longer be able to challenge the best fighters anymore.  So Takuan comes and advises him.  What could he possibly get out of his current lifestyle?  Doesn’t it feel good to be waited on by Otsu?

But it also seems like everyone knows this is in vein.  Otsu knows Musashi won’t settle down, and he wouldn’t be the same if he did.  Musashi reflects heavily on his path, and on Takuan’s words, and on what those he’s met along his path before this have said.  He reflects seriously on his actions, and what they mean to him.  In any other book, this much reflection would be boring, but somehow in Vagabond, the characters and Inoue’s art make it feel just as spiritual as it does for Musashi.  That’s the really incredible thing about this series.  Sometimes, there’s volumes like this where there’s not much action and nothing going on.  And yet, they are still somehow very full reading experiences.

There’s still Kojiro’s path too, and I love how this is building up to an intersection.  Kojiro is also just… such a likeable character.  His fights are also interesting.  Here, an heir to a sword school is randomly challenged to a match by Kojiro idling with a stick.  The heir, a powerful swordsman, sees his death come at Kojiro’s hands just as if they had actually fought, and as if he had a real sword in his hands.  Kojiro apparently just has that much presence, and again, it’s conveyed amazingly well in the comic.  Far better than it has any right to be, in fact.

I read this some time ago (it was at the bottom of my to-review stack, and I’m just now getting to it, which is a shame), so a lot of the details are hazy.  All three of the volumes within are mostly in-between volumes though, while Musashi recovers from his fight, Matahatchi still tries to find his place, Kojiro continuing on to great things, et cetera.  But again, the presence these books have, the experience you get reading them, is incredible.  I would highly recommend the omnibus format as well, because one volume of this series just isn’t enough.  And it’s an amazing enough series that I’m heavily addicted, despite having not much interest in Japanese period stories or samurai.  It’s likely one of the best manga out there, and I’m delighted to be able to experience it.  I think he’s going to wrap it up soon as well, so I’ll be curious to see how that will be done over the course of the next several volumes.

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