Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura
Posted November 28, 2010on:
We can’t finish out Graphic Novel November without a traditional historical Samurai tale. Ok, so maybe Blade of the Immortal isn’t super traditional. Or very historical. But it is damn good.
Manji has a problem. He can’t die. Infected with bloodworms, he recovers from injuries nearly instantly. After years of mayhem, and thieving, Manji finds himself directly responsible for his brother-in-law’s death. His little sister loses her mind in grief, and Manji vows to take care of her. When she is killed, Manji vows the only way to make up for having killed one hundred “good guys” is to kill one thousand “bad guys”, starting with the gang members responsible for killing his sister. Once he has killed one thousand bad guys, Manji will finally be able to die in peace.
But how to tell the good guys from the bad guys? Everyone suddenly wants to hire the bodyguard who can’t be killed, and Manji turns everyone away. Eventually he is approached by Rin. Rin was only fourteen when her swordsmaster father was killed right in front of her by the members of a rival dojo. She wants revenge and is a pretty good swordswoman herself, but even Manji can tell she’s no match for highway bandits that prowl the countryside. He agrees to help her, joking the whole time that he needs to protect her so she’s in good shape to sell to a Geisha house later.
Manji holds true to the vows he makes to Rin and to himself, but other than that, he’s as selfish as they come. But who better to avenge Rin’s parents and 980 other evil people, that someone who hasn’t got much of a heart himself? Rather bored and with a deathwish, Manji is truly a man with nothing to lose.
A historical Samurai story, Blade of the Immortal takes place in the late 1700’s. This was the height of the Edo period, but with successful trade came outsiders. Samurai were expected to keep to their traditional lives, protect their Lords, families, villages and others not only from other warring groups, but from outsiders as well. How long could Japan keep it’s feudal traditions? Heavily violent, but not without humor, Blade of the Immortal covers all things Samurai: honor, form, devotion to tradition, and leaving it all behind in a changing world.
A multiple award winning series, the first thing you notice about Blade of the Immortal is the artwork. Most manga I’ve read are pure inking, greys and textures denoted with dots, dashes, and long lines. Hiroaki Samura does a lot of pencil work, especially in the atmospheric country landscape scenes and the dramatic dueling scenes. Not only is pencil work in manga rare, I’m sad to say that seeing artwork of this quality is rare as well. Samura’s time spent getting a formal art education shows. Some readers may be turned off by the non stop violence, but you can’t not appreciate the artwork.
Running at about 25 issues, Blade of the Immortal is published through Darkhorse. Oddly enough, for a manga that’s full of violence and swear words, it hasn’t got Parental Advisory on it.