Vagabond Vol. #06 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, May 29, 2005
Release Date: Sunday, June 01, 2003
Translated by:Yuji Oniki
What They Say
In this installment, Musashi recovers from his duel with Inshun, struggles to overcome the fact that he has met an opponent stronger than he is, and turns to his opponent's own master for guidance. Meanwhile, Matahachi struggles for survival, barely getting by until a twist of fate allows him to steal the identity of a powerful new samurai.
The cover artwork is the same as the original Japanese release, featuring a bare-chested Musashi reaching up into the sky. The back cover has a little illustration of Otsu writing a letter to Musashi. The Japanese logo is replaced by Viz’s translated logo, which has a calligraphy font style like the original Japanese logo.
The volume size is an A5 that reads right-to-left. There are 8 color pages that are at the beginning of chapters 50 and 54. 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. Once again the colors look great and the presentation is gorgeous.
With a much more relaxing pace in this volume, Inoue is able to fill in the background with more lush vegetation and mountain scenery that are just breathtaking. There are also some great illustrations of villages and castles, everything very clean and finely detailed. Character designs continue to be consistent and fantastic looking. The artwork of Vagabond is one of the best, if not THE best, I’ve seen in English translated manga. Wonderful stuff.
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 have seen 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 dialogue continues to flow very smoothly, while also capturing the personalities of the characters. Matahachi’s insecurities and weasel-like attitude really come across very well, as does In’ei’s poignant offerings.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
The story picks up an undisclosed amount of time after the battle with Inshun, as Musashi is recovering under the care of Hozoin In’ei. As Musashi drifts in and out of consciousness, pieces of the end of the battle start to fall into place, and as they do Musashi then is hit with the reality of defeat and disappointment. I found this storytelling technique to work really well here. Alternating between Musashi’s recovery and the recollections of battle put me in the mindset of Musashi himself as he dealt with the aftermath of losing to Inshun.
Master In’ei is an especially interesting character and I love his “old wise man” type of role. By looking at the wounds on Musashi’s body, he is able to see the weakness in Inshun’s soul and fighting, as there are so many blows but none of them lethal. In’ei recognizes Musashi’s strength in that his soul has been battle tested, has fought through difficulties and risking his life, something that Inshun has never experienced. Inshun lacks fear. Musashi knows all about fear, he is just unable to control it properly. In’ei wants Musashi to teach Inshun about fear in order for Inshun to become a stronger fighter. Knowing what In’ei wants from him, Musashi then asks the spear master to train him, so that he may be able to “see” Inshun. In’ei takes Musashi back up into the mountains and leaves him there in order to reconnect with Musashi’s true master, the mountains themselves. This little training and power-up arc is inevitable, but it is pulled with some great humor from In’ei as well as a feeling of tranquility and soul-searching, which makes this quite enjoyable to read.
The other majority of this volume follows Matahachi, as he is now working on Fushimi castle hauling dirt and stone. He is still quite weak and is a very depressing character, the complete opposite of Musashi. Matahachi has given up the drink, the lying, and left Oko. He seems to be turning his life around. However, this doesn’t last long as once again Matahachi’s lack of self-esteem and confidence does him in and he steals the identity of a famous swordsman named Sasaki Kojiro. This is a name to remember, as it will come back into the story much later on. Matahachi is so concerned about being stronger than Musashi, that he will compromise himself and cheat his way to get there. He is truly a sad character, one who crumbled under pressure of expectations during a time where everyone is trying to make a name for themselves.
There is also a minor story building in the background following Otsu. She is now living with the Shinkage Sword Style master, Yagyu Sakishusei Munenori. Munenori comes off a lot like In’ei, a retired master that now enjoys the simple moments in life. This story should build into something later on, and seeing Otsu coming back into the fray is a welcomed one.
After an action packed previous volume, the story slows down and allows for some moments of recollection and introspection. Musashi must now deal with the aftermath of his battle with Inshun and reconnect with himself while training in the mountains. The training storyline doesn’t become tedious, and offers some moments of humor and tranquility. Also back into the storyline are Musashi’s childhood friends, Matahachi and Otsu, as they continue down their own paths which ultimately will end up crossing with Musashi’s again someday.
Overall, this is a much more relaxing volume that previous ones, although watching Matahachi get himself into more and more trouble can be frustrating, which is the point. It is interesting though seeing two characters try to live up to expectations in completely different ways. Another great volume, and with more color pages, outstanding production, and a $9.95 price tag, this is an easy purchase.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left