Hiroaki Samura's BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is easily the most accessible manga series that I've ever read. His characters are intriguing, if not shady. His action sequences are breathtaking, if not disturbing. And his stories are those that will stick with you for days, if not forever.
Manji is a character that sometimes I love, and sometimes I absolutely loathe. He has been cursed with "blood worms" by an old witch woman, which grants him the curse/gift of immortality until he has slain 1,000 evil men. Rin is the young damsel in distress who hires Manji to help her claim her revenge by killing the men who murdered her parents. She's the character that we root for, but at the same time she's also the one that can be oh so unbelievably stupid at times. To execute Rin's plans of revenge, this unlikely pair embarks on a quest to find her parents' murderers.
The first volume begins with what I would call "the most shocking opening of a graphic novel, ever." The reader is quickly introduced to Manji, who mutilates a priest in a church confessional. Without spoiling any details, we learn from this scene Manji's true intention, and also get a small glimpse of Samura's incredibly graphic artwork in the process.
Even with a story so compelling, Samura's unique style of art is the biggest draw to his work. He combines a complex mixture of pencil and ink to create some of the more breathtaking pages I've seen in comics. His action sequences may very well be unparalleled by any other artist in the industry and, after finishing this book, you just may find your mouth hanging wide open in amazement.
Ian Shaughnessy is a writer living in Dallas, TX. He is a former editorial assistant for Oni Press, and now writes the monthly column, Squeal Like A Pig, for www.onipress.com. He reads far too many comics for his own good.