Rendered immortal by an infusion of mystical worms that can repair any wound, the masterless samurai Manji wanders the hillsides of feudal Japan, his quest to slay one thousand evil men to atone for his past sins. By his side is the young woman Rin, an orphan who seeks vengeance for the murders of her parents.
Driven in a quest for absolution, the two have faced many deadly challenges, both natural and supernatural. But can they survive their greatest battle, against the all-powerful Inugami?
Hiroaki Samura's groundbreaking tale of redemption and magic finds new life in this first prose novel, featuring six all new illustrations by Samura.
The novel is written by Hiroaki Samura himself, but it is written by Junichi Ohsako, which makes it basically glorified fanfiction.
This is like an alternate timeline of the first few volumes with a new character thrown in, namely the rabid mutant "sword demon" who's killing the Itto-Ryu. Out of familiar characters, the novel has Manji & Rin (duh), Taito, Anotsu, Makie, Shira and the other Mugai-ryu. At the end, several Itto-Ryu teamed up against one guy, which is breaking the Itto-Ryu code but, to be fair, it was a crazed rabid mutant thing. The really bizarre thing for me about the English translation was that
there are no real paragraph. Each sentence is its own paragraph. Doesn't take too long to get used to that, and it makes for a fast, fun read though it lacks the depth of any story arc in the manga.
This is essentially an officially licensed fanfiction. Considering this story was not written by mangaka Hiroaki Samura, the author Junichi Ohsako was able to take some artistic liberties. I'm not sure if this was simply due to the English translation or was actually something Ohsako did intentionally, but I felt that some of the characters lost their "voices." For example, Shira seemed a bit too...formal in his speech at times and wordy, as well. Manji had these moments for me, too. The regular Dark Horse translation team seems to capture the various speech characteristics of each character in the manga, which isn't quite as strong
Also, the monster character, which was apparently an original creation, seemed rather reminiscent of an opponent faced during the Prison Arc. Upon finishing this novel, I view it in a similar manner to the anime: incomplete, not particularly in-depth, but a nice addendum to the manga storyline. New fans shouldn't start off with this novel as an intro to the manga. However, I think it's a decent little retelling of the beginnings of the Blade of the Immortal Saga. Plus, there is some new art included by Samura, which is always a plus.