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Manji is a samurai who's gone bad. For this reason, he's been afflicted with an odd form of immortality: although he can be killed any number of times, with all the accompanying agonies, he'll never actually die. His body, infested with odd symbiotic parasites called kessen chu (usually translated in the story as "sacred bloodworms"), will be knitted back together again each time. He's already started to see this for the curse it's meant to be.

Rin is a scrawny, passionate 16-year-old girl who's seen her father - an artist of the sword and master of a martial arts school - slaughtered and her mother raped and carried off. She's sworn vengeance on the perpetrators, the young master of a rival martial arts school and his followers. Although she's trained for two years to this end, her skills are still only basic, and in the meantime, her opponent's power has grown even greater. Her quest seems doomed to failure.

Manji comes to see Rin's mission as his salvation. If he can kill enough true villains while in service as her bodyguard, he will be free to die like anyone else. The result is a strangely satisfying partnership, and a story that I'm enjoying quite a bit.

I must note here that although the artwork is really great in this series - like that of Vagabond, it's more like conventional illustration than it is like manga - Samura presents rather more anatomical detail in his depictions of the bloody results of combat than do most mangaka whose work I've seen so far. This isn't a series for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach!

Blade of the Immortal, vols. 1-3 (review)

The first volume basically gives Manji and Rin's background stories, details their meeting, and then gives them a couple of hostile encounters with which to cement their alliance. I have to say that I found the encounter with Sabato just penny-dreadful vile, but Manji does get off some great lines, both during the fight itself and afterward, when Rin first comes face to face with the bizarre and rather sordid miracle than is the healing power of the kessen chu. The second encounter, which wraps up the book, involves Rin's attempt to persuade an old ally of her father to join her cause against the Itto Ryu school. Once a ninja, he's now a distinctly eccentric artist. Eventually a really wonderful battle erupts just outside his studio, wherein he sits peacefully, contemplating the gorgeous shade of red in the bloodstains that are being spattered on the walls and cogitating on how he can achieve that color in his painting. It's a priceless scene.

The second volume brings Manji into conflict with two swordsmen of the Itto Ryu: the surprisingly fair-minded commoner Magatsu and the creepy Shizuma ... whose affliction matches Manji's. The third volume, much longer than the other two, involves an Itto Ryu swordswoman/geisha named Makie - but interwoven with her own background tale and the story of her dealings with Manji and Rin is a lot of history about the head of the Itto Ryu school, Kagehisa Anotsu, which does a lot to explain how he became the somewhat psycho bastard he is.

Thus far, Rin and Manji are the only continuing "good guys," but what great characters they are! Manji is, of course, the star: earthy, deadpan, fatalistic, oddly sentimental about the damndest things, he's armed to the teeth and beyond with an array of exotic and fatal ironmongery large enough to put any would-be teenaged ninja into a fangasm of delight - and somehow, all of it fits up his sleeves! Rin is a genuine hormonally challenged teenaged girl: sometimes snotty, sometimes tearful, emotionally needy, and unsure about the way the world really works, but nevertheless facing it all with attitude, a sword, and a handful of throwing knives.

Rin is very much the junior partner, but to me, she comes across as being put in that role by her age and lack of experience and a teacher rather by her sex. Her fighting attempts almost invariably end with Manji's having to take over, but she can create a valuable distraction - in one case buying Manji crucial time - with her throwing knives. At this point, the situation regarding their comparative skill levels seems very reasonable.

I think this one's a keeper.

Comments

( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
telophase
Jun. 22nd, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
Manji and Rin's relationship reads very brother-sister to me, and I love that, because it's so rare that you get a non-romantic relationship between a man and a woman in ... well, in popular media in general.

And Samura is great at character, especially the way that most of his major characters end up unfolding and changing your viewpoint or deepening your understanding of them. Characters I started off hating, I end up loving (any more detail would be spoilery). *And* the characters change as a result of maturing or experience or the events that have effects on them.


The next volume is on its way to me now from Amazon.com! Wheeee!
telophase
Jun. 22nd, 2007 12:06 am (UTC)
* Although Samura has one particular fetish in his drawing (as I read in a translated interview with him somewhere on the intarwebs) that will become quite, quite clear in volume 8. It does become redeemed for me for reasons I'll expound on after you read volume 8. :)
b3nitora
Jun. 22nd, 2007 09:13 am (UTC)
Love the icon...and stuff. ^____^
chomiji
Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC)


I'll look forward to the [expounding/expoundment/exposition/WTF?], then!


(no subject) - telophase - Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
meganbmoore
Jun. 22nd, 2007 06:18 am (UTC)
I am in shiny, sparkly-eyed love with your icon.

*no, i really don't have anything pertinent to say, but that thing is perfect*
chomiji
Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC)

telophase has lots of wonderful icons and lots of wonderful things to say about manga. She is a manga goddess!

(and I am a fangirl ... oh well ... if one can't fangirl in one's own LJ, where in the world can one do such things?)

chomiji
Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I like that in a relationship too! I've always had male friends, and it makes me sad that just about every male/female couple in fiction always has to be paired up sexually. Of course, Rin keeps playing with the idea of the relationship's turning into something else, but that's because she's 16 and doesn't have any other social outlets, poor kid.

This is one manga I've had no choice but to buy online for now - I guess the first volumes came out eons ago from the viewpoint of most of the stores. Usually I try to buy locally instead (although sometimes it has to be Borders, because the little comics shop nearby isn't open nearly as many hours).

telophase
Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah - Rin's not really had much interaction with men not of her family, and not much chance to live a normal life, so when she ends up spending a lot of time with a guy who treats her nicely and, let's face it, is a total badass*, naturally she's going to start trying to figure out the whole boy/girl thing. And she's managed to luck into a situation where she's in a safe space to do so.

* Despite his tendency to not take baths.


although madam_manga does write some good Manji/Rin NC-17. XD Not sure about spoilers, though: better wait until caught up with the Dark Horse releases.
(no subject) - telophase - Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 22nd, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
artillie
Jun. 22nd, 2007 03:14 am (UTC)
Eventually a really wonderful battle erupts just outside his studio, wherein he sits peacefully, contemplating the gorgeous shade of red in the bloodstains that are being spattered on the walls and cogitating on how he can achieve that color in his painting. It's a priceless scene.

This manga sounds really, really good. I'll have to check it out.
chomiji
Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)

It's grim but fun at the same time. meganbmoore has a teaser taste of it (slightly spoiler-ish) on her LJ if you want to check it out a little more online. And telophase uses it in her examples of how action can be depicted in manga (here and here) - again, slight spoiler-ish.

(no subject) - artillie - Jun. 22nd, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 22nd, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
meganbmoore
Jun. 22nd, 2007 06:17 am (UTC)
YAY! I've been waiting for this post. This is the series that got me reading manga, and Magatsu Taito is, by far, my favorite manga character ever(though what makes him my favorite doesn't occur until he returns)
chomiji
Jun. 22nd, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)

I'm still trying to figure out why the Mr. didn't like it. I thought Manji's badass graveyard humor would be just his thing. We had a chance for dinner with just the two of us last night, so I picked his brain about it a little. I think that a lot of the problems that people are encountering in Blade are just a little too close to real life. For me, of course, that's one of its charms - the only real "McGuffin" so far is the existence of the bloodworms (and related stuff, like the bloodworm poison), so it's almost historical fiction. But he was complaining that it wasn't funny enough.

The strange thing is, he thinks Saiyuki is funny - which it is - but he also doesn't find it angsty! I just don't get it - I mean, sanada was commenting on the fact that there isn't much angst in Bleach, and then said "But that's why we have Saiyuki," and I had to agree!

Guys can be weird ... .

meganbmoore
Jun. 23rd, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
really? he doesn't think it's funny? I mean, sure, it's not "laugh out loud" cracky jokes, but some of the scenes... and reactions are great.

Saiyuki is an angstfest...I mean, comeon, Hakkai lives to angst and Kougaiji and Sanzo are right behind him(well, not for the same reason, but...)

Bleach has it's angst, but its moments of angst when the story calls for it like SDK, as opposed to a regular thing.
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 26th, 2007 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jun. 26th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 26th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jun. 27th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 27th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jun. 27th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 28th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jun. 28th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 29th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jun. 29th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 29th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jun. 30th, 2007 01:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jul. 3rd, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jul. 3rd, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 26th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
b3nitora
Jun. 22nd, 2007 09:09 am (UTC)
I've only read a wee bit of it, but I did like it!
chomiji
Jun. 22nd, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)

Well, then, b3n-chan, you must read more of it, so we can all talk about it!   :-D

(no subject) - b3nitora - Jun. 27th, 2007 06:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jun. 27th, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - b3nitora - Jun. 29th, 2007 07:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - b3nitora - Jun. 29th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC) - Expand
( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

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