Vagabond Vol. #23 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Release Date: Monday, October 16, 2006
What They Say
When the elder disciples of the Yoshioka Dojo realize that their leader, Yoshioka Denshichiro, is no match for Musashi, they come up with a dishonorable plan: to hire Sasaki Kojiro, a deaf-mute swordsman with a reputation as fierce as Musashi's, to fight their battle for them. Thus begins the saga of the greatest duel in Japanese history.
It has been three volumes now since Viz Media resumed publication of Vagabond after a 15-month hiatus due to Takehiko Inoue taking much needed R&R from his critically acclaimed title. With the deluge of new titles that come across my desk each day, I found myself putting off returning to the story of Miyamoto Musashi; a decision that I'm now kicking myself over. Is it possible that during that hiatus I had forgotten not just how incredible this manga is? Not just with both story and artwork, but Vagabond continues to be the best looking title in Viz's entire catalog.
If you have read the fictionalized novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, you'll remember the two big events from that book: the ambush against the entire Yoshioka school and the famed duel with Sasaki Kojiro. Inoue has masterfully decided not to let the reader wait for these events successively, but rather spin their webs at the same time. Historians be damned! The Yoshioka School realizes that Denshichiro is unable to take on Musashi. Rather than risk losing the head of their school, the remaining Ten Swords of Yoshioka have put together a plan to have Sasaki Kojiro duel against Musashi in their place. However, how does one cage a free bird like Kojiro? The Yoshioka School will find out it is much harder, and deadlier, than they had ever perceived.
While this volume is essentially a setup for bigger things to come, Inoue gracefully paces his story that pulls you in to the webs of his complex and multi-dimensional characters. There is also a strong theme of "field of vision" when applied to one's place in the world. If you focus solely on your sword, you cannot become an "invincible" swordsman; it is only one aspect of achieving spiritual clarity. The Yoshioka School is so focused on their pride that they can't see the destruction of their heritage at hand. And then there's Matahachi, a man stuck behind the shadow of this friend because he can only see his friend's back. His madness really adds an element of surprise to the story. So while the plot is spinning and the characters are developing, there is plenty of other substance to chew on that at times can become quite introspective. It's poetry in violence.
As I mentioned earlier, this release continues to be unquestionably the best-looking release out of Viz's entire library. Color pages, sharp matte covers, gorgeous printing (outsides of a couple muddy issues), strong English script with translated SFX, and a slightly bigger A5 size all make for some great reading.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left