This is “Vagabond” (バガボンド), a manga (Japanese comic) about the life of Musashi Miyamoto.
I’m writing about it here because it’s by far the best manga, if not one of the best stories and artwork, I’ve ever found.
After all of my searching, that means a lot.
I may be a bit biased, but if you like stories of adventure, life, warriors, budo, and great comic art … then you’d probably feel the same as me about this work.
So basically the story follows the life of the famous warrior Musashi Miyamoto. It is very much based on the legend himself, yet it shouldn’t be taken as a biography. I’ve read Musashi’s, “the Book of Five Rings,” a couple biographies about him, and have been familiar with him for as long as I’ve practiced martial arts. If you’re looking for exact facts about the man, you should stick to his biographies (though I have never been much satisfied by the lack of concrete details of his life to be honest.)
The manga follows a lot of the main facts and battles of his life, but of course takes a lot of liberties in creating a story .
When I first got interested in the manga seeing it on the shelf of a bookstore, I didn’t even know it was about Musashi. I read the first bit until I realized it was actually about him. I read on judgingly about how accurate it would be to his life, but before I knew it I was so engrossed by the story and art that I didn’t really care any more.
The thing about Musashi, is that we really don’t know all that much about him. Despite that, there are tons of recreated novels, mangas, movies, and TV series about him. Anyone concerned about the accuracies of the man’s life would be shocked at such liberal interpretations, but I think this stems from people’s interest in his story.
Not just his life, but his story.
What we get with each interpretation is a different view of the story of a man striving to be the greatest swordsman of his time. Each interpretation is a brushstroke on the giant canvas that is the influence of Miyamoto Musashi.
What we get with “Vagabond”, is an incredibly beautiful and honest story.
The story is about a man striving to be the greatest swordsman of his time. This isn’t a one-sided hero story, but a very complicated journey of one man interacting with a myriad of people and experiences. While the manga is about Musashi, it is equally about all of the opponents and teachers and loved-ones he met along the way. The story is not a bland lay-out of details with intermittent battles, but a path through unknown forests of the human experience, plumbing the depths of dark despair as well as soaring hopes.
To me this manga is about the human experience.
And it is told beautifully. The art is amazing, and as the episodes go on, the author begins putting in the first few pages in watercolor … which are amazing.
I’d actually call it genius.
I read the series in Japanese, much as a study. With that, the language it uses can be very difficult at times, but there were also times were I would glaze over the words and submerge myself in the art. The art alone can tell a great story. But of course the story-telling is impressive too. Unmatched in other manga/comics I’ve read.
With that, I’m not sure how good the English translation is. In my experience, bad translations can ruin the best of manga or anime, or anything Japanese for that matter. But I highly recommend you try reading this comic if you’re into this kind of stuff.
The series is actually still incomplete at the moment. There are 39 issues now, and the story is far from finished, however each one is coming out at such a slow rate lately, I wonder if it will ever be finished.
So yeah, read it, cause it’s awesome. Comment to let me know what you think … or if you have another manga recommendation!