Vagabond Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Monday, March 28, 2005
Release Date: Saturday, June 01, 2002



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Takehiko Inoue
Translated by:Yuji Oniki
Adapted by:

What They Say
HUNTED LIKE A WOLF
Takezo finds himself a hunted man after escaping from a village, and the samurai authorities, and their posse, are hot on his heels. Among them is the great swordsman, Tsujikaze Kohei, who would like nothing better than to put the fugitive to the test. But even if Takezo can elude his stalkers, he may find that the forest holds perils he does not even suspect! Will bold young Takezo fight his way to freedom?

The Review
Packaging:
The cover artwork is the same as the original Japanese release, featuring Takezo sitting cross-legged holding his wooden sword. The back cover has a little illustration of Otsu and Takuan. More gorgeous illustrations from Inoue and it is great that Viz carried it over. The Japanese logo is replaced by Viz’s translated logo. It has a calligraphy-esque font style like the original Japanese logo.

The volume size is an A5 that reads right-to-left. There are 4 color pages that are at the beginning of chapter 12. Also still in place are the little sketches by Inoue at the end of chapters. The print job is fantastic and the paper is of very high quality. There are 2 supplemental pages that include glossary and background information about some of the people and places, as well as info on Musashi and Inoue. My one minor complaint is that I wish the glossary had information that was relevant to the current volume. Most of the people and clans mentioned haven’t shown up yet, and I would have liked to have known more about some of the places and people mentioned in this volume.

NOTE: Volumes 1-4 were originally not a part of the Editor’s Choice label, so there is no logo on the spine. They also were priced at $12.95.


Art:
Inoue is already really hitting his stride in this volume. The background vegetation and mountain village setting is so finely detailed and clean that it makes my hand hurt just by looking at it. I can feel Inoue’s throbbing arm!! A lot of work went into creating this wonderful artwork. The character designs are also very strong, bringing them to life right in front of my eyes. There are many moments with characters crying in this volume, and it was so well drawn that I couldn’t help myself feeling their emotions and pain.

There isn’t a lot of action scenes in this volume, but what ones are present explode off the page and are quite intense. I really enjoyed the surreal artwork during Takezo’s hallucinations. The simple, distorted sketch work made me feel the personal hell that Takezo was going through inside of his head. The artwork is some of the best I’ve seen in translated manga. Gorgeous stuff.


Text/SFX:
SFX are translated and retouched. Like I have said previously, it would have been nice to keep the original SFX intact given the high quality artwork, but the SFX are minimal and Viz does a great job at keeping them small and clean. A really good retouch job.

The names are presented in traditional Japanese order, with family name first and given name last. The text is really easy to read with a nice, strong font. The dialogue also flows very nicely and with ease. I really enjoyed the dialogue by Takuan. He is the type of person whose words have more meaning in what is not being said, with a sarcastic hint to those who deserve it, and that wise-beyond-his-years personality really shines through. The translation all around is solid and done very well.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
What happens to a child that is abandoned by his mother and shunned by his father, left to fend for himself and looked down upon by the other villagers? What happens to that child who is never taught how to respect human life? In this volume, it becomes quite clear as to why Takezo is the wild beast that he is at this young age of 17. Having been pushed away by just about everyone he’s ever known in his life, Takezo has become one who fears others. It’s this fear that festers and turns into rage, creating that monster who kills without emotion or consequence.

There has been only two people who have accepted Takezo. One is his friend Matahachi, who has now deserted him and ran off with a another woman. The other is Otsu, Matahachi’s ex-fiancée and Takezo’s other childhood friend. Otsu is a sweet, caring young woman who sees the person that Takezo is inside. It is Otsu who actually captures Takezo, a job that Captain Aoki and all his soldiers with the help of the entire village could not do.

The introduction of Takuan in this volume makes for both an entertaining and enlightening read. He is a monk that speaks a lot of riddles and hidden truths, but also is equipped with a sarcastic tongue that he uses when necessary. When the search for Takezo begins to spin out of control, it is Takuan and Otsu that go out into the woods and capture Takezo, not with swords but with open arms and a kind heart. But Takuan understands that a kind heart is not going to change this beast, and if nothing is done Takezo will end up dead before he turns 20. Takuan hangs Takezo up in a tree, where Takezo begins to see that he is not a strong swordsman, but a weak demon who has murdered many people. I really enjoyed the whole sequence where Takezo was hung up in the tree. The story progresses as though the reader was behind Takezo’s eyes, getting a glimpse here and there of what is going on below him during his brief moments where he is awake with open eyes.

Comments
With Takuan and Otsu having more of a central role in this volume, the story becomes much more of an emotional drama that is really a treat to watch unfold. Takuan is a wonderful character, the monk of many words and a sharp tongue. It is through his words that I really begin to understand the background and history of Takezo, and why he is the misunderstood beast. It really makes me feel sorry for Takezo and he is now a character that I can connect with, instead of the murdering monster from the previous volume.

Otsu adds a nice warm touch and really compliments the iron-fist tactics of Takuan. Otsu also adds a lot of humor, especially the scenes with her trying to feed Takezo rice balls on the end of a long bamboo pole. Otsu is a real lovable character, and it is also through her that we get a better understanding of Takezo.

The character drama between Otsu, Takuan, and Takezo is really strong and I felt really attached to these three by the end of the volume and made me care about what will happen to them in future volumes. EXTREMELY recommended.



Mania Grade: A+
Art Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 240
ISBN: 1-59116-035-9
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left