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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

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.
chomiji
Jun. 26th, 2007 04:26 pm (UTC)

We talked about it with him the other night, when we were talking about "Life, the Universe, and Everything." I have a feeling that a lot of it is striking him as a little too realistic, from the artwork to the general set-up of the story, minus the blood worms. He wants something fantastical that will take him right out of real life entirely. He has to do a lot of nitty gritty real life planning in his job. He's enjoying Bleach a lot at the moment (we all are, actually).

meganbmoore
Jun. 26th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
hmmm...I've always thought the "modern rock" approach to designs and some character attitudes kept it from being too realistic, myself. But then, I don't have to do real life nitty gritty planning type stuff in my job(i sit, listen, read and do paperwork)

How far into Bleach are you? My favorites are Ichigo, Ishida and Renji(in no real order...that's generally determined by which is up to what) but I have a feeling that you may like Rukia's brother best.
chomiji
Jun. 26th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC)

He does planning for data communications stuff that affects many thousands of young men and women dressed in more-or-less identical mottled-sand-colored outfits far away in a place with a really short name that begins with "I". I wouldn't think it had much to do with Blade either, but I'm not him ... .

>> I have a feeling that you may like Rukia's brother best <<

Oh, now, that was just scary! If you'd been here, you'd have seen my eyes get big and bugged-out like L's, and my eyebrows go way up. Yes, at the moment I like Byakuya best! You're very sharp ... . I also like Ichigo's goth-y little sister Karin, and Orihime's tough little karateka friend Tatsuki, and Urahara ("Mr. Hat-and-Clogs"). And I do like Ichigo, but I have a feeling everyone else does too, so he doesn't need my vote.   ;-)

meganbmoore
Jun. 27th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
lol...it was just a hunch...he seems to be your type of character. I like pretty much all the characters, and there are some really awesome ones who will show up in the rescue-Rukia mission. There are a couple who show up then and in the subsequent arc that i'm not big on, but no major "eeew...not THIS character" stuff.

Ichigo is one of those guys you kinda have to like, in a way. What do you think of Ishida and Renji so far?
chomiji
Jun. 27th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)

(I need to make me a Bleach icon ... and then I'll be just about out of icon space ... I need to buy more, I guess!)

Ishida is all too easy for me to understand - I've sorta been there, personality-wise - and so for that reason I feel a bit tough about him. It's like, I'd want to tell him "OK, already, I know where you're coming from, but loosen up already!"

I'm liking Renji more as I find out about him. Does the mangaka ever explain the deal with his tattoos?

I zipped through two more volumes (OK, one and a half - I'd started one the previous night) last night. I like the bald-headed guy. He's funny and he has integrity.

The male Soul Reapers and their hair ... just hysterical! Did I ever show you this thing that telophase drew about them?

meganbmoore
Jun. 27th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
I need bleach icons myself...its all too easy to use up icon space...i'm using all 105 of mine right now.

Ishida, like Shinrei, needs to have someone come along and pull the stick out of his butt. When I go distracted from scanslations, though, he was in the middle of getting all his issues sorted out(his father is a serious piece of work)

I barely noticed Renji at first...really, the only reason I DID notice him initially is that he set off my "Magatsu-like character" radar, then around vol 15-16 or so, I realized I was nuts about him.

I like all the guys in the bald-headed guy's division...they're rather like the SDK cast in that they're all battle crazed nuts, but they have their honor and integrity and stick by each other even as they're spouting "every man for himself" style speeches.

The cartoon is priceless.
chomiji
Jun. 28th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)

I only have the 35-icon deal you get with the lowest level of paid account, so they're almost gone.

Well, a good deal of Shinrei's problem was his father, so there's a lot in common there! Heh, Shinrei even gets glasses in the postscript ... .

Yeah, lots of this is reminding me of SDK! I rather thought it would push some of the same buttons for me ... I'm glad to see that I guessed right!

meganbmoore
Jun. 28th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
I've always rather liked Ishida's shyness...helped offset his superiority complex(which, as we learn when his father shows up, really isnt what it seems) I've always thought the pushing his glasses up was his way of going "eep! personal! might reveal i'm not a jerk! hide!"

Bleach reminded me a lot of SDK when I first started it, too(which is why it's one of the first things i always thought of anytime the subject of reccing something to you came up) the characters are just more obviously nice from the start.
chomiji
Jun. 29th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)

I'm going to have have to link to this thread when I get around to blogging Bleach!

Having to go to my dentist has been really bad for my manga restraint resolve. I went this afternoon to get the permanent crown put in (the one that I've been whining about), and one of the routes to the Metro station from his office goes right past a big Borders ... I ended up with 3 more Bleach. So I've met the father. I guess in a way he's worse than Shinrei's dad - honor and clan pride seem a bit more admirable than the financial bottom line. On the other hand, Ishida's dad doesn't seem to have beaten up on him.

meganbmoore
Jun. 29th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
not physically, no, but emotionally, yes. where exactly are you events-wise(they tend to blur together for me as far as volume numbers go)
chomiji
Jun. 29th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)

Ishida's (temporarily) blown away the R&D guy, the confrontation with Byakuya on the bridge has occurred, we've met some more normal-looking Soul Reapers (what, did the mangaka run out of silly hairstyles?), and Yoruichi is training Ichigo about how to do the second release of his zanpakuto.

I like Yoruichi!

(I bought myself more icon space ... I've started bases for a couple of Ichigo icons but I'm not sure what I want them to say.)

(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
chomiji
Jun. 26th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)

(Oh, and I'm in the middle of vol. 10, and we have vol. 11 too.)

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