Inspired by the classic historical novel ‘Musashi’. Vagabond Vol 1 brings the tale of Miyamoto Musashi alive with superb art!
Legends aren’t born in one day, neither are great samurai whose teachings echo down the ages. Vagabond Vol 1 by Takehiko Inoue is a fictional introduction to the life of Shinmen Takezo. Also known to the world as Miyamoto Musashi the ‘Sword Saint’!
If you’re looking for a fast, action-packed read based on a legendary ⚔️ [email protected]$$ ⚔️ from feudal Japan, this review will help you find out if Vagabond is for you!
Musashi is one of the baddest samurai who ever lived! He’s the author of The Book of 5 Rings, a classic treaty on martial arts and sword fighting still popular today.
Inoue shows us how Takezo begins his journey into legend. And he pulls no punches! Takezo’s world is brutal, unfair and hard –but beautiful.
A blood-thirsty youth lost in anger and hate. Pursued by relentless enemies. Will Takezo rise up and become something more than a violent thug?
Read on to see why Takehiko Inoue is one of Japans bestselling graphic novel creators.
From Basketball to Samurai: Meet Takehiko Inoue
Japanese manga creator (i.e. mangaka) Takehiko Inoue is a real heavy hitter in the world of graphic fiction.
He created the basketball manga (i.e. Japanese graphic novel) ‘Slam Dunk’ which became a big hit. Some credit him with inspiring an entire generation of East Asian kids to take up basketball as a sport!
You’d think that would be enough success for most authors… and you’d be wrong!
Because Inoue went on to create Vagabond and wheelchair basketball drama REAL. Both of which sold millions of copies in Japan and worldwide!
Ok enough geeking out about how awesome Takehiko Inoue is. Let’s get back to our review …
Vagabond Vol 1: Ancient Battlefields and Young Thugs
We meet the 17-year old Takezo half dead, lying on the battlefield after the Battle of Sekigahara.
Takezo fought for the losing side. Now he lies among the corpses of his dead comrades. All while enemy samurai search the battlefield to kill off survivors like him. So he plays dead until they move on.
Once the ‘refugee [survivor] hunters’ are gone Takezo gets up. Sneaking away he runs into his childhood friend Matahachi, another survivor. Injured and without provisions the two young men flee.
Hungry and hurt our two companions take a break. Matahachi has to answer the call of nature and is discovered by one of the enemy samurai.
It is here that we see Takzezo’s rage and bloodlust for the first time. Unarmed and weakened he kills the samurai with savage strength and ruthless brutality. It’s a very brutal scene and set the tone for the series.
Takezo’s and Matahachi’s have a burning desire to survive, to make it, to be somebody.
Almost dead, the two friends are saved and taken in by the strange girl Akemi and her mother Oko. Living alone in the mountains, the two women shelter the fugitives and invite them to stay.
It soon turns out that mother and daughter are thieves who plunder battlefields for loot. When a local gang of robbers hears about this they are very far from happy.
Needless to say, this story won’t end well. Matahachi is infatuated with the sultry Oko. Will he betray his fiancé Otsuu, who’s waiting for him back in their home village of Miyamoto?
Can Takezo standalone against a gang of armed and ruthless bandits? Will he ever go back to Miyamoto? How does Takezo become Musashi?
You’ll have to read the amazing Vagabond Vol 1 to find out!
Why I Love Vagabond (And Why You Might Like It Too)
Wow, where to start?
I’m blown away by Takehiko Inoue’s take on the legend of Miyamoto Musashi!
His plot is fast paced and you get a real feel for each character, their personality, and attitude to life.
Matahachi is a happy go lucky bum and Takezo is… intense and raw. Obsessed with being the strongest swordsman who ever lived and very, very angry at the world.
Sometimes you look into his eyes and what you see staring back at you isn’t completely human. It feels like you’ve locked eyes with a dangerous predator. A predator who has caught sight of you and is deciding whether you are easy prey or not.
Takezo is the protagonist of the story, but he’s no hero. He’s a talented but raw swordsman who loves the thrill of fighting an killing. Nothing more, and nothing less.
But his destiny has other plans for him. And watching it unfold is fascinating.
The Art and Writing of Vagabond Vol 1
Vagabond Vol 1 introduces us to feudal Japan and sets the stage for the broader story.
We get to see Takezo as he is, a violent and brutal young man with zero compassion and empathy for others. Aside from the few people he loves and respects that is.
We get to meet the people who will shape the life of the ‘Sword Saint’ and help him on his path to glory/infamy.
Like with all mangaka, sometimes the pacing of Inoues’ story slows down a bit.
Manga’s tend to use a lot of filler, fluff and plain time wasting we don’t see in Western graphic fiction.
But this isn’t an issue with Inoue. Every panel he draws contributes to the story. He gets to the point quickly and doesn’t play around with clever plot devices.
And it’s this art that is sharp, clear and gorgeous. Inoue draws realistic characters in the manga tradition. His work isn’t as gritty as that of Lone Wolf and Cub.
The level of detail Inoue puts into his illustrations is simply amazing!
But he doesn’t use any of the stylized exaggerations that make people either love or hate manga.
Getting Vagabond Vol 1 for its beautiful black and white art alone totally worth it!
But an action-packed take on a classic and very satisfying story makes this a must-read graphic novel!
Vagabond Vol 1 is an awesome and bloody introduction to the legend of Miyamoto Musashi.
This story is a fictionalized account based on a 1930 historical novel. So don’t read this expecting great historical accuracy.
Vagabond Vol 1 is an entertaining take on the greatest Japanese swordsman who ever lived!
If you like Samurais, ⚔️, ‘coming-of-age’ stories and amazing fight scenes with a little bit of history thrown in, get Vagabond Vol 1 today!
The Verdict: 👍 👍 👍 (Must Read!)
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BTW: Miyamoto Musashi wasn’t just a genius with the sword, he was a philosopher who wrote one of the most defining text on marshall arts called The Book of Five Rings. Check it out if you’re interested in the fighting arts, it’s a great read.