Vagabond Vol. #04 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A+

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  • Art Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 1-56931-854-9
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Vagabond Vol. #04

By Jarred Pine     April 26, 2005
Release Date: December 01, 2002

Vagabond Vol.#04
© Viz Media

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

What They Say
Amidst a new powerful government in Japan, a young man sets out on a journey seeking spiritual enlightenment by the way of the sword, prepared to slay anyone who might get in his way.

After Musashi single-handedly takes on the Yoshioka School, Gion Toji, one of the school's strongest fighters, is out for revenge. Meanwhile, Musashi and his wild young disciple set out for Nara to face the challenges presented by the ferocious spear technique of the monks of Hozoin Temple. All the while, Musashi is struggling between his growing feelings of love for Otsu and his devotion to the way of the sword.

The Review
The cover artwork is the same as the original Japanese release, featuring a profile shot of Musashi, once again another gorgeous color illustration from Inoue. The back cover has a little illustration of Jotaro and In’ei sleeping. The Japanese logo is replaced by Viz’s translated logo. It 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 32 and 39. 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.

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

Is there really any more praise that I could add about Inoue’s amazing artwork? It’s stunning and gorgeous. There’s plenty of lush landscapes, detailed buildings and backgrounds, clean and attractive character designs, this is the total package.

There are a few more duels here in the latter half of the book, so another chance for Inoue to show off his action artwork. It’s very clean and intense, with each move carefully planned out making it easy to follow along with every swipe and cut of the sword. The violence level is pretty high, with flying limbs drawn in great detail, but for some reason Inoue makes the violence feel so poetic while still making me grimace in pain. It is quite captivating.

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. The text is really easy to read with a nice, strong font. The dialogue continues to flow very smoothly while capturing the personalities of the characters. Takuan comes across as the wise monk one moment, and the humorous trickster the next. When we get to meet In’ei at the end of the book, his dialogue really reflects his vague, yet wise old man personality. Solid job.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
After meeting his match with Denshichiro at the Yoshioka School, Musashi must now rediscover himself and figure out what it truly means to become strong by the way of the sword. Nursed back to health by a young boy named Jotaro, Musashi awakens to the familiar face of Takuan, who has more words of wisdom for Musashi as the two playfully banter back and forth while playing small pranks on each other. It is always great to see Takuan, as he is such a warm character and the way he interacts with Musashi is both informative and humorous. Musashi decides to head to Nara, the home of two legendary swordsmen named Yagyu Sekishusai and Hozoin In’ei. Musashi finds a part of his young self in Jotaro, who pleads to come along, and Musashi allows Jotaro to follow. The introduction of Jotaro is much quicker than the novel, but his effect on Musashi remains the same as it sort of humanizes Musashi a little more and gives him a small sense of responsibility.

As the Yoshioka members tear down the burned remains of their school, Denshichiro decides to leave to go to Nara, invigorated by his battle with Musashi to become stronger and learn from the legendary Yagyu. Gion Toji becomes infuriated with what Musashi has done and decides that he will become an assassin for the Yoshioka clan and go after Musashi. Already Musashi is making a name for himself by creating enemies and those impressed by his strength. Toji and Denshichiro are both formidable opponents and I can’t wait for Musashi to meet these two during his travels.

Musashi also learns that he holds a special place in his heart for Otsu, and his repression of those feelings are keeping him from becoming a strong fighter. During a hilarious mock-battle with Takuan, Musashi starts to think that his thoughts of Otsu are “wicked” and they must stop. Some very wise words from Takuan makes Musashi see the whole picture of himself, and that Otsu is one special part of that whole. It’s a nice little romantic touch that I hope will flush out in later volumes.

The road to Hozoin temple becomes a very informative one for Musashi, and a moment for him to do some more inner reflection. In order to become stronger, he most widen his focus and not become entirely fixated on one thing. He receives a lot of wisdom from his friends and strangers, but he must also begin testing his strength once again as he reaches Hozoin Temple, home of the spear technique currently lead by Agon and Inshun. Musashi also has a opponents waiting for him in the shadows and tracking him down. Not only just Gion Toji, but Granny and Gon Hon’iden also as they refuse to believe that their missing Matahachi is really the wanted criminal for burning down the Yoshioka School. Their pride is strong and they pass the blame onto Musashi. Musashi has his work cut out for him and his strength will truly be tested in the volumes to come.

Inoue is truly becoming the master artist and storyteller. His lush artwork and gorgeous backgrounds and characters suck me right in and make me feel as if I am living amongst these characters in the story. The first half of the volume slows the pace down as Musashi reflects on his goals and purpose, as well as receiving some great words of advice from Takuan, a character whose charm and warmth are instantly enjoyable. The second half has Musashi going back into way of the sword as he reaches Hozoin Temple, the home of master In’ei who teaches the spear technique. Not only will Musashi take on Hozoin, but he also has others following him that always want a piece of the action. Musashi must battle the feelings inside himself as well as his opponents.

It’s quite a treat each time I open up a volume of Vagabond. The artwork is spectacular, the storytelling is engaging, the character enjoyable, and the historical aspect interests me greatly. Add in the solid production values by Viz and you have the equation for a highly successful manga. If you aren’t picking up Vagabond, you are truly missing out. The highest recommendation.


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