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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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12/17/2004 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Vagabond, No. 17"

Vagabond, No. 17
By Takehiko Inoue
Publisher: VIZ

Review by Tom Good

Vagabond, based on the book Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, tells the story of Miyamoto Musashi, one of the most famous swordsmen in Japanese history. But this episode concerns the deaf but highly talented swordsman Sasaki Kojiro, who will one day fight a duel against Musashi.

Comics have no predetermined pace, so a sequence of panels can represent a few seconds or many years. In the case of Vagabond, No. 17, most of the book takes place during a single swordfight between Sasaki Kojiro and Yoshioka Denshichiro. This gives the book a slow-motion quality, but this is well balanced by an intensity that keeps it from ever becoming boring. As the two men battle on a moonlit beach, Denshichiro questions his own weaknesses as a fighter, and Kojiro learns that fear can be more useful than indifference.

The art here is much more detailed and realistic than that found in most manga. Waves, rocks, and trees seem full of life, and are nearly as carefully drawn as the main characters. The drawings have a dark, haunting look, often shaded with a style that reminds me of wood grain, and the compositions are excellent. Because Vagabond is quite violent, it may not be for everyone, but I would definitely recommend it for adult readers.

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