Vagabond Vol. #15 (

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Release Date: Friday, October 01, 2004

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

What They Say
Miyamoto Musashi is destined to be Japan's most celebrated samurai, a man revered as a sword-saint. But every great warrior needs a worthy rival and Sasaki Kojiro with his deadly "swallow cut" is destined to be Musashi's legendary opponent in the most well known duel in Japanese history. This volume depicts Kojiro as a young boy experiencing his first taste of blood and death.

The Review
If you like character-driven manga where the characters actually develop and have real emotions, this volume is probably one of your best choices in the English market.

The production qualities are some of the best I’ve seen from VIZ, and they picked the right title for with to spend the extra effort. The title is presented in the larger A5 trim size, which is nice for a title with such detailed artwork as this. The cover features the original JP artwork, with Inoue’s painted illustration looking wonderful. The English logo is stylishly done to match the feel of the original.

The print reproduction is stunning, really sharp tones and a nice heavy paper. Color plates are also used for the 4 pages at the front of the book. Chapter inserts are also present, which feature a small sketch from Inoue on each. There is a glossary as the back of the book that explains some of the historical aspects of the story, which is a nice touch.

The artwork of Vagabond is some of the best, if not THE best, I’ve seen in English translated manga. The character artwork is very realistic, using a nice hatching technique to help bring each character’s facial expressions and features to life. There is also just so much detail put into every panel. The backgrounds are lush and plentiful. Inoue also knows how to lay out a sword fight and illustrate it so every reader can experience the life-or-death action. Inoue has put a lot of hard work into this title and it shows. Wonderful stuff.

SFX are translated and retouched, and a nice retouch job it is by VIZ. 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. There are not a lot of SFX, so I found this was the right decision. 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 translation continues to be really solid, doing a great job at capturing all the dynamics and emotions between characters which is key for this title.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
For Kanemaki Jisai, his life was given a new purpose when the infant Sasaki Kojiro was thrown into his arms. Raising the deaf son of a former disciple, Jisai once again began to understand what was beautiful in this world and what was worth living for. But when the village elder comes to him with an offer to kill Fudo Yugetsusai--a swordsman who saved the village from raiders long ago but has now turned into the village cancer--Jisai struggles with whether or not a withered soul like him can rise up to the challenge. Can a man who lost his purpose in life find the meaning in carrying out a deadly task with honor in order to save the rest of the village?

While Jisai is dealing with his own personal demons, Kojiro and his new found friend Tenki are planning their own surprise attack on Fudo, who was the one responsible for Tenki’s bedridden father. These two separate events both slowly come together to a head in a bloody display of sword skills with Fudo. This battle is a real turning point in both Jisai’s and Kojiro’s lives, as neither one will come out of it the same person they once were. Jisai once again finds his confidence and purpose in life, while a beast is now awakened within Kojiro that Jisai will try his best to quell by not allowing Kojiro to practice the sword under his tutelage.

If it wasn’t plainly obvious before now, Takehiko Inoue knows how create such strong characters that are filled with real emotions and conflicts. The time spent last volume getting to know Jisai and Kojiro pays off in spades here as Inoue now develops them wonderfully. The moment when Jisai realizes that pain that the other villagers feel as their 14-year-old daughters are dragged away by Fudo is real. Jisai finding a purpose in his life thanks to the young Kojiro who he has raised as his own son and being willing to die for that purpose is real. I even found myself filled with both tears of sadness and joy as Jisai made his final preparations before entering into the duel with Fudo, happy that he was born anew but just couldn’t help but feel fearful for his life. Everything that happens on the pages and between the characters are real emotions, pain, suffering, growth, and the pacing is executed perfectly in order to maximize the effects of all of these.

The development here with Jisai is the strongest of any other characters so far in this title, with still plenty more storyline to come in future volumes with Kojiro. Takehiko Inoue just knows how to create real characters with real emotions, no matter what the time nor place is in his stories. At page #1 of this volume, Jisai is that tortured old soul who has a flicker of hope inside of him which grows into a raging flame of confidence by the last page, growth in his character that is handled so meticulously by Inoue with a real smooth pace that never rushes the reader.

When I read this volume of Vagabond, I was completely absorbed the entire time. This is character-driven manga done right. Extremely Recommended.

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: 1-59116-453-2
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left