Vagabond Volume 4 by Takehiko Inoue
I’m surprised that more manga bloggers aren’t writing about Vagabond. Maybe everybody already read the series when it came out in the single volume versions? Or perhaps it is just so obvious that Inoue is great that it is redundant to talk about how awesome this series is? As this volume opens Musashi faces off with the Yagyu clan, determined to kill their master as a sign of his growing strength. One of the many things I like about Vagabond is that the fight scenes aren’t just fights. There’s a mental component as well since Musashi uses battle to come to realizations about himself in his quest to become stronger mentally as well as physically. He takes on a group of Yagyu alone but the real battle comes when he faces down the bedridden head of the clan. The old man is only armed with a backscratcher but his presence is enough to stop Musashi in his tracks.
Musashi flashes back to memories of his father as he tries to define the meaning of “invincible.” The elderly Yagyu sword master becomes an unexpected teacher. Musashi’s old companions begin to come together in unexpected ways. Otsu has been serving the Yagyu clan, and when Musashi sees her he is struck with the knowledge that she’s grown up and turned into a beautiful woman. He leaves her behind as he furthers his quest to become the strongest swordsman but Otsu is determined to track him down. Matahatchi, Musashi, and Otsu all converge from different directions at the remote mountain home of the legendary master of the chain and sickle.
Inoue’s art is just exquisite, capably rendering Musashi’s inner turmoil and dynamic battle scenes. One of the things I was struck with in this volume was the intensity of Musashi’s facial expressions. Just when you think he couldn’t look like more of an intimidating badass, Inoue draws him to look even more focused and determined. It is easy to believe that Musashi’s opponents perceive him as having an aura of fire. The larger VizBig format works well for the epic sweep of the story. It is very satisfying to read three volumes of the series at once.