OMG, IT’S A MANGA POST.
So what was intended to be a manga blog turned out not to be, and it’s like ten entries later that I finally post about a manga.
I’m still reading this, so this is just a quick review, mid series. I’m on volume 17 or thereabouts, out of 33. The series is still ongoing in Japan, curses.
Vagabond is part of Viz’s Signature line, which is their more mature, less mainstream titles. This is certainly a mature manga. It’s violent, bloody, gory (eyeballs flying, heads flying, limbs flying), has sex (rape is common) and nudity–sometimes I’m afraid to read it on the bus. It can be depressing. It’s not a pretty manga, one bit.
At least not in your stereotypical manga sense, with your dewy eyed characters, windswept hair (with no wind), and flowery background.
There are no pretty boys here. These are hard, brutal men, samurai, ronin, and peasants, struggling to survive and climb to the top, or slink along the edges, waiting for a cheap opportunity.
Inoue is a spectacular artist. He’s the second mangaka that I’ve come across where I will buy EVERYTHING he puts out. I don’t care what it’s about. The other one I do this for is Fumi Yoshinaga, who seems to just get better and better.
I love his sketches (which have usually a bit of humor in them, and sometimes lighten up a dark moment), his inked drawings (sooooo much detail, soooo much linework), and his gorgeous watercolors. I just bought an artbook of his other big series, Slam Dunk, and am drooling over it. He made basketball beautiful.
Back to Vagabond: this is a historical fiction, telling the tale of Miyamoto Musashi and his rise to fame as a samurai. It starts when he’s 17, and still known as Takezo. The story has covered five years so far, where he’s been separated from his best friend (whom I hate, slimy deceptive worm, grrrr), and his childhood friend, the beautiful Otsu, whom he secretly loves.
Musashi is learning to harness his bloodthirst and arrogance, and smoothing out his flaws to become a more seasoned, gifted warrior.
Currently, the series has shifted its focus from Musashi to his future archrival, Kojiro, who has an interesting childhood being a deaf orphan who gets reluctantly taken in by a retired ronin hermit.
It’s funny; I was given volume 1 as a gift years ago by a co-worker. I didn’t read it as I thought it was ugly (I was dumb back then). I was more interested in the aforementioned dewy-eyed, windy-haired boys. But for some reason I kept it instead of selling it when I moved. I picked up Slam Dunk this year and fell in love with it (my taste has matured since my dumb years, thank god). And then I realized that Vagabond was done by the same mangaka, so I decided why not, and gave it a try. And then immediately started buying the rest, although I had a momentary feeling of despair when I saw it was ongoing, and 30+ volumes. That’s all I need, another big gigantic manga series to collect. And then I told that silly voice to shut up, and started buying up stuff from amazon.
Definitely heading towards a Masterpiece rating.
Inoue also has a third series, Real, featuring wheelchair basketball players, that I’m also collecting.