Blade of the Immortal (aka: Mugen no Jyuunin) Vol. #15 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 16.95
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 1-59307-468-9
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Blade of the Immortal (aka: Mugen no Jyuunin) Vol. #15

By Jarred Pine     May 21, 2006
Release Date: February 15, 2006


Blade of the Immortal (aka: Mugen no Jyuunin) Vol.#15
© Dark Horse


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hiroaki Samura
Translated by:Dana Lewis
Adapted by:

What They Say
Kidnapped and bound by three Itto-ryu warriors, Rin is unable to warn her bodyguard Manji, the immortal swordsman, that he's heading into a trap. To make matters worse, the Itto-ryu possess a large dose of kessen-satsu, the only poison known to damage Manji's blood and severely cripple his regenerative abilities. And is Mugai-ryu assassin Giichi following Manji in order to help rescue Rin ... or will he just stick around long enough to finish off any survivors?

The Review
Coming up on its 10th year in production from Dark Horse, Blade of the Immortal still remains one of the more distinguished and enjoyable manga on the market. This is a must read for all samurai action fans.


Packaging:
For those who are unaware, Dark Horse's production of this title is definitely a little awkward, not that it's necessarily a bad thing. The title first came out 10 years ago before the manga boom in pamphlet format in order to draw in US comic book readers, with the title reading left-to-right but the panels cut and re-pasted in reverse order to avoid mirror-imaging the images. Therefore English readers unfamiliar with the Japanese right to left writing style were still able to experience the artwork somewhat unmolested. This obviously will lead to bizarre continuity issues, but nothing really distracts from the reading experience. Sure, we all want un-flipped titles nowadays, but Dark Horse's release is like your stubborn grandfather who refuses to go see the doctor no matter how severe the ailment. And you know what? He's still your lovable grandfather.

Aside from the orientation, the production values on this title are very, very high. This is some of the best print reproduction that I have seen; sharp, crisp tones with no distortion, printed on heavy paper in the A5 size format that allows Samura's artwork to really shine. The cover is absolutely gorgeous with bright colors on a matte finish.

Art:
Hiroaki Samura's artwork is one of the more distinguishable styles in all of manga. His thin pencil work is meticulous and raw, creating character designs with a lot of depth and some very kinetic action sequences. When the energy is not on display, backgrounds are nicely detailed and very clean. Samura sure knows how to compose an action sequence as well, with each strike and slash clear and concise. I also love the creativity with all the fictional weapons.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated with overlays which are very clean and well done. As stated in the front of the book, this title contains an unusual mix of linguistic styles and anachronistic dialogue. The English script does a great job at keeping this aspect true. There is also a small glossary on the inside back cover for those words which were too culturally significant to translate.

There are a couple errors--a bubble missing its text as well as a grammar mistake ("an war")--and I found a couple instances where signs or in-panel kanji text were not translated for English readers and I felt that they should have been. A solid job overall with a few hiccups.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
This year in June, Dark Horse will celebrate 10 years of Blade of the Immortal--the current longest running English translated manga. I consider the title to be one of the pillars of the manga industry here in the US; even the pamphlet releases, which were done to cater to the US comic book readers, continue to be released monthly to this day with issue #113 hitting comic shops in May. While some may bemoan the slow 1 to 2 TPB releases per year--it doesn't come out any faster in Japan--Immortal still remains one of the more distinguishable and enjoyable samurai or samurai-influenced manga out on the market today.

Volume 14, aptly named "Last Blood", hit what arguably could be considered the peak of the series, with the diverging paths of Manji, Rin, Magatsu, Anotsu, and members of the Shingenyoto-ryu and Itto-ryo, colliding together in a violent showdown. With the crescendo of events from the entire series finally hitting its climax, it's no surprise that this 15th installment serves as a transition for the surviving members of "Last Blood" to begin their new paths that will ultimately collide once again.

With Rin kidnapped once again, this time by a trio of Itto-ryu that includes Magatsu, Manji and Giichi end up in what turns out to be quite the random set of battles. I guess Hiroaki Samura wanted to make sure this new arc started off with a bang! Although haphazard, Samura definitely understands the desires of his fans and readers who are still currently involved with this story.

Let's face it. If you are still a reader at 15 volumes, then you want to see certain kenshi go at it. While the ongoing political story with the Bangashira secretly taking down the Itto-ryu provides the meat, sometimes us Immortal fans need some of that blood-covered, highly kinetic sword slashing candy. And there are not many match-ups that are better than Giichi and his hinged threshers going up against the masked Magatsu with his broad sword and short dagger. This is the type of fight that could easily have taken up an entire volume but it's kept quick and to the point, alternating with Manji's battle of his own that includes another Itto-ryu member and the kessen-satsu--the poison that renders Manji's regenerative kessen-chu worms completely useless.

Ultimately, the battles are pointless and only serve to allow Manji to trust Giichi, who was sent by Bangashira Habaki Kagimura and ordered to bring Manji in as an ally against the Itto-ryu. It is after the battle that the meat of the story begins again, with the Itto-ryu reborn with its core members and Manji present at the Bangashira's compound. Right after Samura got us readers to put our guards down after the bloody battles, he kicks up the momentum once again with a big cliffhanger ending with Rin and Manji.

Comments
For Blade of the Immortal fans, this 15th installment is good tasting gravy. After such a climatic previous volume, having some time to cool down and transition the characters is expected. Knowing what his fans want, Hiroaki Samura gives us a nice showdown between Giichi and Magatsu. Immortal is such a raw and kinetic manga, and having a battle for downtime, as random as it might seem, works very well in lieu of a long period of quite character interaction.

In the end, the stage is set and the second half the volume begins to deliver on the political and power maneuverings behind the scenes once again. The cliffhanger ending will no doubt leave fans gasping for more. Let's just hope the TPB-only readers don't commit seppuku waiting 8-10 months for that next volume.

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