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ETA: Sorry, folks, I have had to disable comments on this post because it's turned into a comment spam magnet. LJ has been pretty good about this stuff in the past, but these twits selling what I presume are knock-off designer bags and purses are damn aggressive and apparently hard to block. I've been getting about three spam ads per day in the past week.

If you're an actual manga reader who wants to discuss this series, find one of my other posts on it by using my tags and comment there.


Rin has decided that she needs to beef up her martial arts skills so that she can be less of a liability to her bodyguard Manji in their quest to avenge her parents' death and have his curse removed. However, no matter how hard she trains, she doesn't seem to be getting any better, and she's getting despondent. Then a chance encounter causes her to begin doubting the wisdom and ethics of her entire quest. Her ambivalence leads her to make a very dangerous choice in handling the next Itto-Ryu swordsman she encounters, and Manji has his hands full trying to rescue her.

I should once again note that this isn't a series for the squeamish. In addition to a lot of general bloodshed during a fight scene, there's another flashback, in more detail this time, to the deaths of Rin's parents. Samura is a very talented storyteller, which makes this scene extremely unpleasant. His artwork remains stellar.

Blade of the Immortal, vols. 4-5 (review)

Samura also proves, once again, that he knows teenaged girls. Rin's despair over her lack of skill in the martial arts, plus the existential doubts aroused by her bizarre encounter with Anotsu Kagehisa, are very plausible. It's hard to see a girl of this age, so much like any other teen, in these excruciating circumstances: the decisions she makes are entirely understandable, given her age, but the consequences are, of course, appalling in this high-stakes game. Anotsu's reaction to her is also intriguing - he's a very interesting villain - but his extreme coolness doesn't make me feel that I need to waste any sympathy on him.

Araya, the maskmaker, is a genuine artist and a truly horrifying person - a real psychopath. I'm not sure yet whether I feel that his affection for his son was realistic, given his complete lack of empathy for anyone else. Once again, Manji's earthy decency and deadpan humor are what saves this from becoming a medieval Japanese version of American Psycho (no, I didn't read that - the excerpt that Newsweek had in its review haunted my unguarded thoughts for literally years afterward, and that was quite enough). When Araya unexpectedly discovers Manji holding the unconscious Rin - her face beautifully but bizarrely decorated by Araya, using blood as paint - and Manji comments, quite calmly, "It's beautiful work. You got weird taste, but I like it. Not bad," it was just what I needed to cut my freak-out at the direction the story was taking. Manji knows that there are all kinds of people in the world, some horribly twisted, but there's nothing supernatural about any of it. And he's made his decision: to be part of what counteracts those people. As he explains when Araya asks him why he's a swordsman, "If it was just my problem, I could grit my teeth and bear it. But sons, friends, parents, brothers ... once they get mixed up in it, I can't keep my blade sheathed."

I find myself wondering what was going through Araya's head when he asked Rin to kill him, after Manji mortally wounded him. Did he feel at last, now that his own life was leaking away, that she deserved the chance to take her vengeance? Or was he enjoying a final grim joke, knowing that she wouldn't be able to do it, and taking satisfaction in watching her struggle with the dilemma?

Manji and Rin's ghoulish but effective subterfuge to prevent Araya's son Renzo from taking vengeance was wonderful, and the fact that Manji was willing to go through it ... ai yi yi ... !

There's a lot of unpleasantness here ... not just Araya's murderous wackiness, past and present, but also the scene with the samurai who threatens to kill Renzo early on, and then takes pleasure in humiliating Rin when she intercedes (and I think she probably shouldn't have been quite so quick to reveal who she was, either, but again, she's very young). I feel that it does a lot to reinforce our view of Manji's basic decency as a human being. Magatsu's actions during the flashback gave me a similar feeling.

Comments

( 14 comments )
meganbmoore
Jul. 29th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC)
And now the greatest mystery of BotI: What the heck happened to Renzo after that? Seriously, we never hear of him again and it drives me batty. We see someone returning from a trip in the next volume...in my world, he was depositing Renzo with some motherly relative of a random Itto Ryu member and she'll mother the emo "psycho killer in training" out of him.
madame_manga
Jul. 29th, 2007 07:01 am (UTC)
Samura may take a very long time to pick up some loose ends (such as Makie) but he does pick them up... which is about all I can say without being a big spoilerbitch. :) Ask me if you want to know more!
meganbmoore
Jul. 29th, 2007 07:08 am (UTC)
I do want to know more...but maybe you should say in my LJ to avoid spoiling anyone else?
madame_manga
Jul. 29th, 2007 07:15 am (UTC)
I wouldn't spoil BotI for my worst enemy unless given specific permission to do so. :)
meganbmoore
Jul. 29th, 2007 07:18 am (UTC)
98% of the time I WANT spoilers. I'm all over BotI spoilers when ever I come across them(esp if you have anything interesting about Magatsu to share)
chomiji
Jul. 29th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I tend to mentally write storylines to wrap up loose ends too! You could write some of them down you know ... .   ;-)

chomiji
Aug. 3rd, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)

I saw this little guy online the other day, and thought of you ... I'll be doing a more serious one soon as well, but this one is just for you, if you like (and I spelled his name wrong on the file name - how embarassing!):

meganbmoore
Aug. 4th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
EEEE!!!! It's the chibi!Magatsu!

I haven't seen it colored before...did you do that?

*takes*

*or will when i get home*

How are you liking Magatsu himself?
chomiji
Aug. 5th, 2007 04:03 am (UTC)

Yes - I colored him. Of course, he's not very colored. Samura's work seems to lend itself to that type of treatment, even the chibis. I found some good scans online, and I've been applying some of the stuff I've been learning about using the layers to enhance the lines on the small size needed for the icons.

I'm getting ready to blog 6-9. I like quite Magatsu, although his hair makes him look vaguely hedgehog-ish!

meganbmoore
Aug. 5th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC)
If you consider Magatsu(esp once you get to around vol 12) then think about my various faves, you'll notice a lot bear some resemblance to him in personality-hotheaded, hero complex, devoted to a friend first and foremost, striking up odd quasi-friendships with enemies, knight in shining armor complex, vengeance quest, etc.(and his hair and mask have spawned a few similar characters)

Similarly, a number of the heroines I latch onto the strongest have similarities to Rin(Yuya being the only one you're likely familiar with)
b3nitora
Aug. 2nd, 2007 07:30 am (UTC)
*totally jealous*
I only found the first 2 volumes of this manga at my library! The only reason the library has them...or any manga for that matter...is because there is a small group of people that donate the manga to them....whoever donated blade of the immortal needs to hurry up and read so'more! ^_________^
I love badass samurai manga...if it wasnt obvious enough...Kyo (from SDK) is my favorite afterall.
chomiji
Aug. 3rd, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)

Yeah, and the older ones are hard to get when I'm buying them, too. I've ended up having to order them from Amazon.

Have you tried Vagabond?

b3nitora
Aug. 17th, 2007 08:58 am (UTC)
that title sounds firmiliar *looks it up* oh yes! I knew it sounded firmiliar! Its the one about Miyamoto Musashi...and I didnt even have to look up the spelling...my dad is obsessed with him. I've seen just about ever Musashi movie there is. I really liked this one too but I only got to read the first volume fore my friend bought it, read it, needed the money and returned it >___________< I remember the blade of the immortal anime...that was one of my favorites when I was a youngin. They should make this one into an anime too...it would kick ass.
chomiji
Aug. 22nd, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I need to make some Vagabond icons ... it's a good series to try on people who think they don't like manga. I've got my brother-in-law the genetics research administrator (as opposed to my brother-in-law the naval engineer or my brother-in-law the minister) hooked on it!

Wait, there was an anime of Blade of the Immortal?!

( 14 comments )

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