Here’s one series I haven’t seen much buzz about, although I had heard of it before reading it…
Now here’s something that’s right down my alley: a historical story based on a novel, with a lotta action and big helpings of blood to go with it (plus the occasional more mature scene to go with that).
To be honest, that sounds a lot like Jigokuraku crossed with Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service…but it has a proper name: Vagabond.
(Uh…was that name much of a surprise? I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone discuss the series before, although I do remember encountering it in some of the Viz inside covers at some point or another.)
One of my sticking points with anime/manga, as you might already know, is the treatment of women and girls. One of the reasons why Vagabond stands out is how the series treats them – although none of them are the stars much like Matahachi or Musashi are and the world still sticks to its patriarchally-inclined set of thought processes (a lot of Otsu’s thoughts in the first 3 volumes consist of her thinking about either Matahachi, the fiance who’s ditched her, or Takezo, her childhood friend), the women aren’t treated as foreign objects and they’re competent in their roles in ways that match reality (e.g. Otsu has to try a few times before she actually manages to get rice to Takezo via pole while he’s tied to a tree for punishment), which is enough for a thumbs-up from me.
Anyways, despite this, I wouldn’t call Vagabond my new love – I’ve been doing that far too much with every manga I deal with lately, even Oretachi no Party wa Machgatteiru! (Our Party is Wrong!), which I could only get a sample chapter for. It’s highly entertaining, but doesn’t deserve such a top credential since it has a rather shonen-like focus on fight scenes, occasionally a bit of sex (basically, everything that appeals to the lizard brain)…and nothing more, although I can see how a person who’s been following it for a while (I probably should put the disclaimer I’m only at the start of volume 4 as I type this) can call it their favourite and make it warranted.
Why? It’s got some gorgeous – and yet also unnerving at times – art, which really helps to sell any mood the mangaka needs. Shots of crows draw in a thick brush-like style stand out in particular, as do pans over forest. Despite this, flow is never lost betwen panels and unlike some series, you get to see characters grow over time.
Surprisingly, Vagabond is still being released to this day, despite being about 20 years old! Even if this is due to extended hiatus, that’s still impressive by itself, considering it’s a seinen and not a big seller in Weekly Shonen Jump…
I’ve been feeling out of it for blogging lately and have just been content with letting anime and manga wash over me passively. That, combined with some long-needed action on the real life side of things, is why I’ve been relying on scheduled and backlog content more lately.
So, have you read Vagabond? What do you think are its pros and cons?