anime & manga consideration

[Review] Vagabond: Yoshioka arc

Posted on | March 9, 2009 | No Comments

Manga: Vagabond バガボンド
Mangaka: Inoue Takehiko 井上雄彦
Volumes: 21-27
Chapters: 180-242

This arc brings us back to Musashi and his appointed duel with Denshichirou. In a nutshell, the duel to finish the battle between the two fighters started several arcs ago ends in the annihilation of the entire Yoshioka school. One of the best things about Vagabond IMO is the lack of a true villain. Instead of good and evil characters, we have very human personalities who clash due circumstances of their differing principles.

Including the Yoshioka brothers, Musashi’s recent wins haven’t brought him any more happiness than doubt and uncertainty. As with Baiken, defeating Seijuro doesn’t grant him the kind of satisfaction that was last seen in his battle with Inshun. Despite killing the greatest swordsman in Kyoto, Musashi seems a little melancholy and maintains a low profile as he recovers in the residence of a famous sword sharpener, Honami Koetsu. (Incidentally, Sasaki Kojirou is also one of Honami’s guests during that time) Although he might not know of the reason behind Seijuro’s sudden attack, it’s obvious that the latter had no intention of dueling with Musashi. Seijuro was planning to finish off Musashi instantly with an attack from behind. It becomes very clear later on that Seijuro wanted to prevent Denshichirou from losing his life unnecessarily in a duel and thus tried to kill Musashi himself.

Seijuro’s death shakes the morale of the Yoshioka school and especially that of Denshichirou’s. Fearing for his master’s life, Ueda tries to arrange for Sasaki Kojirou to fight in Denshichirou’s place. As Matahachi has been using Kojirou’s name all along he’s unexpectedly swept into the situation along with the real Sasaki Kojirou. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work as they fail to communicate their intentions to Kojirou, furthermore, Denshichirou opposes the idea and exiles Ueda from the clan.

As the day of the duel approaches, Musashi and Kojirou have another interesting encounter in which the latter’s pure swordsmanship reminds Musashi of how he used to let the ‘sword’ and his surroundings guide his skill before he was slowly misled possibly by the the issues he had with his father. There is a strange camaraderie between Musashi and Kojirou, reflective of their earlier encounter on the battlefield of Sekigahara.

On the day of the duel, Denshichirou is easily defeated and killed by Musashi. Denshichirou’s death nullifies Ueda’s exile, allowing him to return and become the new leader of the Yoshioka school as according to Denshichirou’s wishes. However, Ueda is dead-set on exacting vengeance, fueled by his anger and sadness, and decides to pitch all 70 members of the Yoshioka school against Musashi. At first, Musashi states that he will walk away from this fight, which Takuan sees as an act of generosity, however Musashi unexpectedly returns. Despite berating himself for being an idiot, his encounter with the Yoshioka was responsible for the series of events that followed after, which have strengthened him as a fighter along the way. In that respect, Musashi chose to honor the challenge put out by the Yoshioka as a gesture of gratitude.

Of course, Musashi never expected to have to really cut down all 70 men. His initial attack strategy was to target the higher ranking swordsmen to deter the others from fighting him. The fight with the Yoshioka is probably the most exhausting section of Vagabond to read and with good reason. By the end of the battle, Musashi’s experience was probably as harrowing as the feat of killing 70 men in one night.

Final rating: 9.3/10


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This blog hosts a collection of my thoughts on various anime and manga titles. The content of each post may vary from full series reviews to single-episode-based summaries to random discussions.