Vagabond Vol. #16 -

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: 9.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-59116-454-0
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Vagabond Vol. #16

By Jarred Pine     March 04, 2006
Release Date: November 01, 2004

Vagabond Vol.#16
© Viz Media

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

What They Say
Sasaki Kojiro, renowned for his deadly "swallow-cut," is the man destined to be sword-saint Miyamoto Musashi's greatest rival and opponent in the most well known duel in the annals Japanese history. This volume further explores the background of the abandoned deaf orphan Kojiro as he comes of age and develops into a bloodthirsty swordsman with sublime skills.

The Review
It doesn’t get much better in manga than this story arc right here. If you haven’t experienced Vagabond, you haven’t experienced manga.

The production values continue to be of a really high quality here. The title is presented in the larger A5 trim size, which is nice for a title with such detailed artwork as this, and there is no loss of quality with the different resolution. The cover features the original JP artwork, with Inoue’s painted illustration of Kojiro looking fabulous. The English logo is stylishly done to match the feel of the original.

The print reproduction is stunning; very sharp and clean on a nice heavy paper. Color plates are also used for 7 pages throughout 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 continues to be 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--and there are a variety of expressions here that bring the characters to life.

There is also just so much detail put into every panel. The backgrounds are lush and plentiful; action art is dynamic and clear. 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 a must for this title. I also like how the Kanji in the panels are kept intact with translations subbed with small text in the margins.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Kanemaki Jisai did not want to awaken the tiger inside of Kojiro. Even though Jisai is now instructing young disciples on sword techniques, he still refuses to teach Kojiro anything out of fear of awakening that beast inside of Kojiro and setting him on the path of death that is the Way of the Sword. But what Jisai does not realize is that Kojiro’s heightened observational skills, due to his deafness, and natural sword handling talent have already sent Kojiro down that path. It is only a matter of time before that tiger awakens.

Almost everyday, either on his way home from sword teaching or picking up food, Jisai is attacked by Kojiro in a friendly manner to try and learn more about the sword. Everyday, Jisai tells him that he will teach him nothing, whacking him with a quick swipe of his wooden practice sword or setting up some trap that will put Kojiro on his back. However, these little duels are actually helping Kojiro learn, contrary to what Jisai believes. And it’s not like Jisai isn’t putting any effort into these mock battles, using a variety of decoys, traps, and tricks to “teach” Kojiro that he must be prepared for anything. Jisai may tell himself that he is not teaching Kojiro anything, but at the age of seventeen, Kojiro is already one of the stronger swordsmen in Japan.

Jisai has done his best to protect his “son” for these past seventeen years. By telling himself that he is not teaching Kojiro, he feels as though he his protecting him from a path that will only lead to certain death. Kojiro is Jisai’s savior, and Jisai will do anything to keep safe the one thing that allowed him to live his life a new. But when his former disciple, Ito Ittosai, comes back for a visit, Kojiro’s inner tiger is awakened by a man who is considered to be one of the top swordsmen in history. Ittosai will also expose the truth to Jisai regarding their so-called non-training, as Kojiro is not even fighting with his full strength. Is this life on repeat for Jisai, as another “disciple” becomes stronger than his master? And what will happen to that slumbering tiger once a group of young samurai seeking out a battle from Ittosai show up at the village?

Going back and reading this story arc again just further solidifies why this is my favorite title in the English market today. In fact, this could be the best story arc in the entire series so far. The human emotions and relationships here are so strong and portrayed so honestly by Takehiko Inoue; featuring a sword master trying to protect the one thing that gave him a new lease on life and a son wanting to become as strong as his father, who in fact becomes stronger and tries to protect his “master’s” feelings. It is just fascinating to read this historical biopic of sorts about one of Japan’s finest swordsmen, and greatest rival to Musashi, grow up as a deaf child (which is fictionalized) into a tiger in a tiny little village by the ocean. What Inoue also does so well is allows the reader to feel the fear that Jisai has regarding Kojiro heading down the path of the sword, especially as Kojiro gets his first taste of blood. You recognize his strength, but also fear for his life actually more than you do for his opponents’.

With high production values and a $9.99 price tag, this is a lot of value for your manga buying dollar. Vagabond is just a wonderful character drama presented here by Inoue. Highest Recommendation!


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