Vagabond Vol. #05 (

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Release Date: Saturday, March 01, 2003

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

What They Say
Musashi has traveled far and wide on a pilgrimage to improve his swordsmanship. He has dominated the strongest opponents he can find, but Inshun, the second-generation master of the Hozoin spear technique, remains his nemesis. Inshun provides Musashi the ultimate challenge: to overcome an emotion he has never truly experienced - his own fear.

The Review
The cover artwork is the same as the original Japanese release, featuring quite an intense illustration of a headshot of Musashi, screaming while covered in blood. The back cover has a little illustration of Gion Toji. The Japanese logo is replaced by Viz’s translated logo. It has a calligraphy font style like the original Japanese logo. The colors on the cover are just gorgeous and bright.

The volume size is an A5 that reads right-to-left. There are 12 color pages that are at the beginning of chapters 41, 43, and 49. 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 supplemental pages that include glossary and background information about some of the people and places, as well as info on Musashi and Inoue. There is also a couple pages of comments from critics praising this title.

Since the entire book is essentially one battle, this volume focuses heavily on action artwork. The artwork during these sequences is extremely clean and well laid out. It is really easy to follow every move and strike, to the point where I found myself twitching my body along with the characters. Inoue’s artwork really draws you in and makes you a part of the story.

Being action heavy, there is a less of an emphasis on the background detail as there was in previous volumes. It still looks great when it is there, but the focus is primarily on the battle between Inshun and Musashi. I also noticed a few of the background characters got a little sloppy at times, with a few misshapen heads and less detail. Even so, the artwork overall is notches above most, if not all, English translated manga out on the market today.

SFX are translated and retouched, and a nice retouch job it is by the Viz team. Since Inoue’s strength is his artwork, I would have liked to see the original SFX, but flipping to a glossary or cluttering the panels with subs might have been worse. The retouch is solid and I have no complaints.

The names are presented in traditional Japanese order, with family name first and given name last, although there are no honorifics. The text is really easy to read with a nice, strong font. The dialogue continues to flow very smoothly, while also capturing the personalities of the characters. What I noticed in this volume is that Inshun definitely has a much more playful style of speech, compared to the gruff, more straight-forward dialog of Musashi. Solid job.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Musashi continues his pilgrimage to be invincible under the sun as he challenges Hozoin Temple, a group of monks who are experts with the spear technique. After defeating Agon, Mushashi is approached by the Yoshioka assassin, Gion Toji, who challenges him to a fight. Their brief encounter is interrupted by the second generation master of the Hozoin spear technique, Inshun, who immediately challenges Musashi to a match. However it is not Inshun’s genius or skillful spear technique that is his nemesis, but his own fear that keeps him restrained from fighting properly. Musashi must overcome this fear, otherwise he will lose his own life at the hands of Inshun.

Inshun is an interesting character that can quite simply be called a genius, as his spear technique is masterful and considered by his peers to be the next great master. What he lacks though is real combat experience, the type where your life is put into your weapon against your opponent’s. He thirsts for a great battle, which is why he takes on Musashi, and wants to get to that point where life and death are on the line. He dominates his opponents with his spear technique, but his lack of a killer instinct might keep him from becoming a great master.

Musashi on the other hand is an animal fighting on instinct and survival. When an animal is threatened, that animal will channel that fear into an attack for its own survival. However, if that fear is not properly controlled it becomes a liability and will restrain that animal. This is what Musashi must learn during this battle. The overwhelming fear from standing in front of such a grand opponent gets the better of Musashi, and he is not able to attack with his full strength. If Musashi is not able to get control of his fear, his life will end at the hands of Inshun.

For those craving more action sequences in this manga, this volume will more than deliver. Each battle sequence with Inshun is breathtaking and exciting. Each move is cleanly laid out and illustrated, it is as if I can almost hear the WHOOSH of Inshun’s spear or the THUD it makes when it hits Musashi. The battle between Musashi and Inshun is interesting, a extremely powerful fighter with animal instincts for survival up against one skillful enough to cut that power down but lacking that killer instinct. It’s both brutal and beautiful at the same time.

Even with lots of action, there is also character development that happens with both Musashi and Inshun. This match is about Musashi learning about true fear and how that fear can restrain a fighters abilities making them useless. Inshun is a genius lacking that life and death battle experience, and this death match with Musashi gives him a taste of putting his soul on the line with his spear. Neither will come out of this match the same.

With color pages, gorgeous artwork, great action, character development, and now a $9.95 price tag, this series is impossible to pass up. Most definitely the highest recommendation.

Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 208
ISBN: 1-56931-893-X
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left