- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: Dark Horse (March 16, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1569712395
- ISBN-13: 978-1569712399
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 57 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 1: Blood of a Thousand Paperback – March 11, 1997
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
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Blade of the Immortal is a pure, unadulterated samurai epic told in a very moody black-and-white comic book. Artist Hiroaki Samura uses pencil drawings combined with pen-and-ink work to create this punk samurai feast. We don't know much about Manji except that he has been given the gift of immortality by an old witch in the form of the "blood worms." He makes a deal with her to end his immortality if he can kill 1,000 criminals. Soon everyone wants to hire him as an assassin, but it becomes increasingly difficult to tell who the real criminals are. Another interesting aspect of this book is the integrity of the "translation" of the art: because Japanese is read right to left and English is read left to right, most Japanese comics that are translated into English first have the art photo-reversed or mirror-imaged. Hiroaki Samura requested that this not be done. And so, for the most part, all of the panels were arranged in reverse order. Additionally, some of the dialogue and sound effects were left in their original Japanese calligraphy (with translations provided in caption boxes).
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For a long time I didn't present you a comics series, so today I'll tell you about a true Japanese manga. It's about Blade of the Immortal. This is the American title of the story, the Japanese one is Mugen no Juunin 無限 の 住人 which means Inhabitant of Infinity. Sounds more poetic, more Japanese, but I think that shouldn't have a very strong resonance among western readers. Hiroaki Samura is the writer and illustrator of this manga series.
The plot? The main character of the series is Manji, a former samurai who has on his conscience the killing of a hundred warriors. The 100th was his own brother-in-law, a police officer who believed that he could bring Manji to answer for his crimes. While Manji is tormented by remorse, he meets a mysterious nun that gives him a fair chance to redeem his deeds and to be saved: immortality until he kills a thousand evil men. But the old woman will arrange everything so he'll become the bodyguard for a girl who is in search of revenge for hers murdered family.
Manji and Rin will go looking for the members of Itto-ryu group and for their chief Anotsu Kagehisa, to clean and rehabilitate hers family honor, but also for Manji to score up more villains.
Our heroes will learn in the hard way that the distance from saying it to make it it's quite big. The gangs start growing, the authorities become also interested in both of them and slowly, Manji and Rin will find themselves trapped in a vortex from which will hardly be able to survive. Alliances and enmities are intertwined, who appear to be friends today, tomorrow will want to put their lives at stake and vice versa, and no one can be considered reliable. Trust can be very expensive and the two of them will feel the full price. Manji will find that the gift received is not a godsend and that many will want to taste from his immortality. Swords will spark everywhere, not just the usual samurai swords because the author came up with a range of imaginary weapons. The fights are currently, pretty brutal and typically Japanese: not to much choreography, but with devastating effects. The tension builds from volume to volume and how the last one is not published yet, the denouement is still to be expected.
The series has 29 volumes published so far and is divided into five parts. The story is interesting and well drawn, and your attention will be captured from the beginning. Hiroaki Samura's drawings are very expressive and realistic executed. The backgrounds and the landscapes go very well together with the story and they back up the characters' emotional experiences. All these are forming a whole that is express with the characteristic clarity and simplicity of the Japanese style.
It is a welcome series for those that are enthusiast about manga and samurai stories, but I must point out that some scenes are quite violent so for the most sensitive of you or under age 15-17 would not be recommended.
Another detail about I would like to remind you, because I don't want that you get a wrong idea, is the main character's name and the symbol that he is wearing on his kimono: Manji - which in Japanese means swastika. This has NOTHING to do with anti-Semitism. The swastika is the Sanskrit name of this symbol and means to be good, to be one with the higher self, and is found in all Asian religions and even more, this symbol was found in all ancient cultures across the globe. The symbol was perverted by the Nazis, but as we find here, in the Buddhist culture the arms of the cross are in the anti-clockwise directions, so opposite with what you are used to. However, this manga story takes place in 1700, so long before the Nazi doctrine of the twentieth century. I repeat, DO NOT make any comparison because there isn't!
So many flavors, so many point plots are alluded in the first 5 pages of the story. To even give hint to the eccentricities of the plots and subplot risks taking away form the pure enjoyment value of this manga.
Should an immortal samurai have a conscience? The concept of "immortality is not invincibility" plays so well in this first book. Along with the struggle between Western Ideals and Japanese tradition, this broadens the flavor of concepts in a cultural mix.
"Blade of the Immortal" starts off as a fairly typical samurai revenge story, with some unusual horror movie twists. We meet Manji, a guilt-ridden outlaw and expert swordsman, who is cursed with an odd form of immortality. No matter how grievously he is injured, he cannot die. Manji makes a deal with a magical buddhist nun. He will gain the release of death, if he slays 1000 evil men. Soon we meet Rin, a young girl, the daughter of a swordsmanship teacher who witnessed the horrific murder of her parents at the hands of the Itto-Ryu, a renegade sword school. Tortured by nightmares, she seeks revenge, but realizing she has no hope of surviving a direct confrontation with even one Itto-Ryu swordsman, she convinces Manji to serve as her bodyguard and stand in. Taking up Rin's quest seems a perfect confluence of both of their desires: her need to put her parents memory to rest, his to earn his redemption.
The stories take you through dramatic encounters with various members of the sword school. All are dangerous swordsmen with unique styles of combat. Some are quite literally monsters. Each has a unique story, an unique reason for having become a renegade, and this becomes the source of much thought provoking drama before, during and after the battles. All are memorable characters, in particular Shimuzu (Book Two: "Cry of the Worm"), a fellow immortal and Maki, a swordswoman forced into prostitution who fights like the wind (Book 3: "Dreamsong").
Harioki Samura has great timing, the panel layouts make the fight scenes breathtaking and exciting. Also wonderful is the developing relationship between Manji and Rin, a kind of older brother, little sister dynamic that lends the book much humor and necessary warmth (given the bloodiness of the battles).
Beginning with "Rins Bane" (Book 4) Rin's internal debate about the morality and human costs of her quest, takes center stage, and make this one of the deepest and most interesting books to cross the Pacific in years. There's still plenty of action, and the relationship between Rin and Manji continues to deepen, but it's the debates about the sanity of the bushido code, about memory, about filial duty, and hints of political intrigue to come, that make this book an thought provoking and engrossing read.
If you have any taste for the high drama and action, as well as the deeper issues running through comic books like "The Authority: Relentless", you have to give "Blade" a try. This is the best dramatic manga translation I've read, and it compares favorably with "Lone Wolf & Cub" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion". I really don't think you will be disappointed.
Most recent customer reviews
and a young girl, but with much more energy , better story line, and not afraid to true to its culture. Excellent Book
I love how humanly cynical is all about it.Read more