Miyamoto Musashi continues his quest to become the greatest Samurai who ever lived, but finds some not-completely unwelcome diversions along the way - a reunion with his former mentor Takuan Soho, the Zen Buddhist monk who guided him to choose Life over Death, and the orphan Tojaro, who wants the reluctant Musashi to be his mentor in turn. But even this, and his slow admission of love for his childhood sweetheart Otsu doesn't stop him from seeking a duel with the monks of the Hozoin School.
Takehiko Inoue continues his ambitious chronicle of the life of Musashi at a leisurely pace, slowing down to take note of the subtle changes the main character begins to experience almost in spite of himself. It's here, in the fourth volume, that the seeds of the real themes of the series begin to take root: the conflict between self-control and giving in to your emotions, the consequences of amassing enemies, the gradual dawning of enlightenment, and the possibility of finding redemption in the act of raising a child.
As ever, it's the art that carries the day: gorgeously rendered pen-and-ink renderings so detailed it makes you feel part of the action, its keen observation of glances, gestures and nuance as emotions shift and thoughts form in the characters' faces, and the manipulation of pace and time to hype up action and sudden bursts of violence that make this one of the most realistically visceral manga out there.
VAGABOND is the Samurai story as slice-of-life drama, and it doesn't get better than this.
Adi Tantimedh is a screenwriter and filmmaker who writes comics when he has the time. He has recently completed JLA: The Age of Wonder for DC Comics, and written and directed Open House, a short film for Studio FP in Italy. His current projects include the forthcoming Blackshirt for Moonstone Books, Anna Passenger, a novel being serialised on Opi8.com, and various film and television projects.