Miyamoto Musashi, revered as a “sword-saint,” is perhaps the most celebrated samurai of all time. He lived from the late 16th century to the mid-17th century and was a swordsman, duelist, and author (The Book of Five Rings). Vagabond is a historical manga from acclaimed creator, Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk), and is based on the 1935 novel, Musashi, by Eiji Yoshikawa. Both the novel and the manga present a fictionalized account of the life of Miyamoto Musashi. In Vagabond, Musashi strives for enlightenment by way of the sword and is prepared to cut down anyone who stands in his way.
Wounded and low in spirit, Musashi had takes up residence in an impoverished rural village of subsistence rice farmers. Eventually, famine ravages the village, and everyone is starving, including Iori, the young orphan who lives with Musashi. As Vagabond, Vol. 37 (Chapters 316 to 322) opens, Musashi begs Nagaoka Sadonokami Okinaga, Chief Retainer of the Hosokawa Kokura Clan, for food for his adopted village.
He gets that help, but the cost for this help means that Musashi must leave the village. How can he leave when something strong ties him to this land? Meanwhile, Iori tries to learn the sword so that he can be like Musashi.
THE LOWDOWN: Only seven months have passed since the previous volume of the Vagabond manga appeared in North American book stores and comic book shops. And yes, I still think of Vagabond as a sanctified work brought down from the comic book holy mountain.
Vagabond Volume 37 contains seven chapters that form a narrative that is both joyous and sad. As a reader, I have become attached to Musashi's time in the village of poor farmers. I felt as if I had starved with them and had struggled to turn the fields fertile. There was joy in that. Just as seasons change, however, Musashi's must face change. It is indeed sad that he must leave. I can take comfort in the fact that this transcendent work has taught me to love Musashi the farmer as much as I had loved Musashi the killer.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of all things samurai must read the VIZ Signature edition of Vagabond.