Vagabond review

Apr 16, 2021
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter." -Miyamoto, Musashi

When I first started reading this manga is was way back in 2015 or 2016. I didn't expect much of it except "cool samurai fight scenes" as I would've described it then. However, upon reading it and rereading it countless times already, I've come to accept this manga for what it is: an unfinished masterpiece.

If it were only completed this would make the second manga/anime I have ever ranked a solid 10. It follows the real life story of the wondering vagrant swordsman MIyamoto Musashi in his journey to become the strongest swordsman who has ever lived. It doesn't start off slow and pick start picking up later on. It is consistent in its story telling and masterful in its conveying of the plot.

Personally I think many of its negative reviews are due to the viewer being unable to relate to the characters leaving them with a sense of lack of depth from the overall story. I don't want to say they are wrong. But perhaps they are looking at it the least productive way. Vagabond is a biography. The characters were different people not fictional relatable protagonists. Much of the manga might be seen as unnecessary drawn out action, but that is simply what Musashi's life boiled down to during his earlier years before he retired. It's like trying to relate to Elon Musk's autobiography when you really can't. You're supposed to take some ideas from it and try to better yourself as a person using them.

Sun Tzu's art of war is no relatable because it's about warfare. That is simply not true at all, people still use it predominantly in business tactics. If I might say: most negative reviews of this manga are/might be unjustified.

You are not supposed to relate to the characters or Musashi at all.
I believe that is the true intention of the author.

Story: 40% / 43%
Vagabond is the epic story of wondering swordsman Musashi Miyamoto later in life titled "The Sword Saint". The manga closely follows his early years in life from when he leaves to war and returns with a different name. He starts to steadily build up his legend but at times seems unsure of himself striking deep philosophical thought, not from the author, but from the person himself. I love how the story follows his life as accurately as possible while still maintaining a sense of, well, epicness. The only reason it doesn't have full points is because of the fact that the manga remains unfinished to this date.

Characters: 33% / 33%

Miyamoto Musashi or Musashi Miyamoto. He is practically the only character as far as it goes because it is basically a biography of him. (Other characters like Sasaki Kojiro were not taken into consideration whilst writing the rating for this section). The Sword Saint. It is not an exaggeration, that is his actual title. This is a man that actually lived in Japan and the tales of his journey are well recorded so I can say firmly (after actually doing a lot of research) that the manga stays true to the nature and reality of the character. Musashi was and is the greatest swordsman to have ever lived, but he wasn't born that way. His life was full of hardship, struggle, and challenge. Everything from when he was thirteen and on was battle. But that was not all there was to Musashi. He had a strong sense of philosophy and was extremely intelligent. He theorized about things such as psychology that weren't even invented in his era. A character this brilliantly and accurately represented on manga is something you won't find anywhere else. Truly masterful work done to recreate his person.

Art: 21% / 23%
This manga has perhaps some of the best illustrations I have ever had the privilege of setting eyes upon. At least in book the art this manga handles is second only to Berserk. The fight scenes are spectacles unfolding right before your eyes and everything in between is equally as exquisite. The quality does not waver during the whole length of the manga and if anything it gets even better as it progresses. The reason it does not have full points, though, is just that. The art does get better, but in turn that means that the earlier chapters could've been better as well. This may come off as overly critical or analytical, but it is the undeniable truth. In spite of this, the art still gets one of the best ratings I've given to art in manga.

Overall: 94% / 100% or 9.4/10
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Auteur Inoue, Takehiko