Manji is an immortal swordsman, who has been cursed with eternal life. He has grown tired of living with all the death he has created. He has no skills other than those of killing, thus he forms a plan to regain his mortality: he shall kill one hundred evil men for each good one he has killed. The old witch who afflicted Manji with immortality agrees to Manji's proposition and Manji is set on his path to kill one thousand evil men. On his journey he meets a young girl, Rin, who has her own vengeance to seek against the sword school whose members slaughtered Rin's family. Rin and Manji journey together, each hoping to find some kind of peace. In their way are many varied enemies. Rin and Manji are almost constantly under attack and must learn to live their lives, avoiding being consumed by revenge.
Note: Originally published with 219 chapters, which were then recollected into 207 chapters in the tankoubons. Please do not change the chapter count.
Mugen no Juunin won the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 1997.
The series was published in English by Dark Horse Comics as Blade of the Immortal in 31 volumes from March 1, 1997 to April 1, 2015. The release featured the unusual method of cutting out and rearranging panels, which was done so to have the series read left to right while still appealing to Hiroaki Samura's request of not flipping the pages. The series was first released in monthly comics issues from June 1, 1996 to November 14, 2007 but was stopped after 131 issues. Dark Horse has been republishing the series in 3-in-1 omnibuses since January 10, 2017. The final omnibus will contain the novel Blade of the Immortal: Legend of the Sword Demon. The series has also been published in Brazilian Portuguese by Jbc in a 2-in-1 edition since December 2015.
“I just want you to know one thing...I may be the one facing them. I may be the one cutting them down. The one who stands on their graves. But you will be the one that kills them.”
There are a great many stories that revolve around the concept of revenge. A great many writers have written a great many tales about revenge, each expressing their own sentiments towards the topic. Some glorify it, others ridicule it as a fool’s quest and others tell a more sympathetic story. Blade of the Immortal however simply tells it how it is, at no point is the author
ever forcing his beliefs onto the story. The writer prefers to allow the reader to reflect on the story themselves and come to their own conclusions. An engaging, exhilarating yet quietly contemplative quest for vengeance, Blade of the Immortal is one of the greatest seinen manga ever created. Allow me to explain to you why I believe this is the case...
The story of Blade of the Immortal centres around the young Rin Asano’s journey to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of a sword school whose influence is growing within Japan: the Itto-ryu. Unable to deny her own powerlessness in the face of her powerful foe she seeks out the skills of a swordsman who has been cursed with immortality. A man known as Manji. He has his own aims and beliefs that make him more than just a simple bodyguard. Throughout the series we watch as Manji acts as a sort of mentor to Rin and we also watch as the relationship between the two changes and develops.
The premise is quite simple, chances are you can think up some series with similar plots, and the mention of immortality may seem a little silly to some but you shouldn’t write this series of just because of that. The story is an amazing journey for both characters and readers; it’s a grim tale of blood, violence and complex yet savage emotions, a story filled with political intrigue and numerous rival factions all gunning at one another. The premise may be basic but it is simply a backdrop for a deep, emotive, memorable and epic quest.
The only criticism I have with the story is that the pacing was a little bad. Initially the story didn’t really grab me and I took a little break from reading. In my opinion the story doesn’t really get into its stride until around about chapter 30, but once the story gets going it is a nonstop rollercoaster of pure awesomeness. Similarly at later parts of the story I feel that certain events were dragged on for a little longer than I would have liked, but this is a very small criticism it must be said.
The thing that really makes the story of Blade of the Immortal so captivating is without a doubt the characters. The cast of Blade of the Immortal is simply amazing. I would go as far as to say that this series has the best cast of characters I have ever come across. Over the course of the series the two main characters, Manji and Rin, go through a tremendous amount of development but that’s only to be expected really. While the development of the two main characters is exquisite, it is the side characters that really make this series extraordinary. With most series you can consider yourself fortunate if even a single character receives a good amount of development but in this series there are about are around 5 or 6 characters that receive just as much development and characterisation as you would expect of a main character. Ironically, on a personal level I was more interested in some of the side characters and their struggles than I was in the main characters (and the two main characters are really amazing). This is really a testament to how well written the characters in this series are.
All of the significant characters in this series receive a great deal of development and with this there is no clear divide between which characters are the ‘good guys’ and which are the ‘bad guys’. They all have their own circumstances, ideals, determination and reasons for fighting and because the author shares the limelight equally between all of the significant players there is truly no telling who will come out on top and during some of the fight sequences it becomes near impossible to determine whether a particular character may win or lose which really makes things genuinely tense.
Personally, I always like to see those badass female characters who know how to hold their own as in anime especially female characters are more often than not just waifu bait. So I just wanted to give this series props for having some of the most awesome female characters I have ever seen in Makie and Hyakurin, that being said I did feel that Rin sometimes came across as being a typical damsel in distress but this was really only in the earlier parts of the story.
This amazing story and these spectacular characters are all presented to us in Hiroaki Samura's fantastic artwork. It is a little difficult for me not to start gushing over his artwork because subjectively speaking this series has the best artwork that I have ever seen. I have always had a preference for old school art as opposed to the more moe art style that is prevalent in modern anime and well Blade of the Immortal is just about the least moe thing you will ever find so it gets a big thumbs up from me.
The artwork is just so perfectly styled and this series has the most well drawn action sequences you will see in any manga. Seriously, the fights in this series are absolutely brutal - blood and limbs are seen flying all over the place. There are so many great fights in this series and the flow of action in the panels makes it easy to follow the action, the fights are ridiculously intense and will have you on the edge of your seat. The scenery art in this series is also worth mentioning. The backgrounds are quite well detailed on the whole and the traditional Japanese landscapes that you will see over the course of the journey are all captured perfectly.
With all this being said, I cannot say that the art style will be to everyone’s taste. If you dislike sketchy artwork and prefer clean drawings then you may not like it. I really like it because it matches my personal preferences but that doesn’t mean everyone will think it’s as great as I do.
Also, as I have already alluded to, this series contains a lot of gore so if that is not your thing then this may not be a series for you. This series really doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to violence but unlike similarly violent manga series, such as Gantz and Akame ga Kill just to name two, this series never gave me the impression that there was just violence for the sake of it or that it was being used for shock value. While this series is very visceral I don’t think that it ever became excessive.
In my opinion this series is the pinnacle of the seinen genre. It is dark and it is brutal but it remains human. With a well constructed and deceptively complex plot, one of the most well fleshed out cast of characters you are likely to find and artwork to die for I cannot recommend this series highly enough to anyone who enjoys seinen manga. Although, if you are looking for or are expecting a story that is actually focused on samurai culture then I would point you in the direction of Lone Wolf and Cub instead. Blade of the Immortal is more focused on telling its own story than it is about what life was like in this time period and the way of the samurai and the all that sort of stuff.
Anyways, I hope you found this review helpful. Any and all feedback is welcomed (unless you are going to criticise me that is).
TL DR; If you can bear gore this one is a must read
(I would recommend listening to "sowulo - SOL (2016) album" with your reading for full experience (fits with it like key and lock) )
I won't tell anything about the story so rest assured.
A Gory samurai age story as the cover implies (as the most of this genre) but:
1- with a bit of science fiction and some medical knowledge.
2- many arcs not long few boring ones
3-many characters so you are not only following a single protagonist but multiple characters so you not get bored
(and easy to follow don't
4-Things become crazier as you read. Sometimes the roller
coaster slows a bit but then you are near a cliff edge of future excitement in the next chapters.
5-Not the typical samurai wisdom and says you won't get like other ones of this type of stories always contain but
a semi-modern modified type you will enjoy.
6-mind blow ending
Another special about this Gem is the characters..everyone has their up and downtime and None is invincible
The dialogue is impressive and it what I liked most about the series. (as much as the main story of course)
Also, they are easy to follow from their way of speech and the character art.
Every character with a motive, backstory, principles and enough screen (ehm paper) time :D .
This one is the best I have seen in art but next to Vagabond.
the manga beats Vagabond in every aspect except for the art can't deny it.
Every character is special and art gets better every chapter.
People look real Japanese and that shading is Gold quality.
To describe it in one sentence (one more chapter manga and then I will stop)
Read the manga with the album mentioned above and It's a whole new experience
Revenge is a topic a lot of philosophers have dwelled on, all with their own view on the topic. Of course not only philosophers thought about this subject: revenge is a common topic in mangas too, even readers themselves may have certainly thought on taking revenge in certain occasions; Blade of the Immortal is no different, though it certainly revolves around it, this manga has in fact much more to offer, allowing the reader to dwell on the topic of revenge, while at the same time enjoying the storyline, the engaging characters and the impressive art style. Sounds promising and well, but why was it
The story of Blade of the Immortal starts by introducing Rin Asano, whose parents were murdered by the rising sword school Itto-Ryu, led by Kagehisa Anotsu, whom she swears to take revenge on. Consequently Rin decides to hire Manji, an immortal swordsman who killed 100 "good" people, who swore an oath to kill 1000 "bad people" in order to redeem himself. From here on the story develops, but why where double apostrophes used in the good and bad? This is one splendid characteristic of this manga: Blade of the Immortal narrates and displays the story in such a way that it leaves the reader wondering what the definition of correct justice really is through the variety of characters and political means.
The story proceeds by following Rin and Manji in their quest of finding the leader of the Itto-Ryu, which is full of obstacles, whether it is the Itto-Ryu itself, economic issues or the different attempts of apprehension on Manji. This may seem generic in a way, but it is presented with sudden plot twists and new situations and characters, which keeps the manga fresh and enjoyable.
The plot does not solely revolve around Rin and Manji; in fact, there is big importance laid on the stories revolving around and the Itto-Ryu itself, in order to fully understand the meaning and motives behind the sword school. The political state of affairs of that era is not to he ignored either: these play a very important role in Rin's quest, as well as in the development of the now famous Itto-Ryu school.
One thing that must be highlighted is the amount of gore, dismemberments to be more precise, takes place. There is litterly almost no chapter without a single dismemberment, or so it felt. This may bother some readers, as it becomes pretty ridiculous at some points of the story. Other thing to note is the pacing of the narration: it seems at times unnecessary slow, causing the reader to lose interest.
The cast of characters in Blade of the Immortal is by no means small: beside the two main characters, a good amount of secondary characters are presented and developed, be it the members of the Itto-Ryu, the different political factions and its leaders, the relatives of Rin, all with its unique story, while some undergo some serious character development.
Rin Asano undergoes the biggest changes: as more and more deaths gets on her count, she begins to realize that revenge will only lead to a path of death, which ultimately will end in a vicious circle. It is interesting to see how she grows more and more doubtful about her revenge, as well as how she grows more mature as time passes; she could become quite irritating at times, though it fits well with her age.
The same goes for Manji: he grows from only being a bodyguard to be caring about Rin. Manji's immortality may seem something like a letdown in the begining, though the reader will soon come to realize that the immortality isn't as "overpowered" as it may seem; in fact, Manji's suffering and issues are displayed quite well, leaving the reader to think whether immortality is desired or not.
The development of the secondary characters is satisfying as well. Each has their own conviction/motives, as well as having interesting background stories. It is also interesting to see the interactions with other characters, which often lead to their own development. I personally found myself more engaged in the secondary characters than that of the protagonists.
The art of Blade of the Immortal is impressive: though it is sketchy, all the characters are unique in their design, making it easily distinguishable between the cast of characters. The backgrounds are impressive too; it certainly manages to convey how Japan was in that time. The sketchy nature of the art style (like the manga Vagabond, which I can highly recommend) may bother some readers, though I found it quite fitting for the story.
The same could be said about the fighting scenes, very impressive and easy to follow. There is an evolution of art style visible: in the beginning it lacked good shading, but while the story progresses, it really begins to match with the dark atmosphere the manga is trying to transmit.
This manga was overall a very good read, with outstanding side stories and good narrative, matching with the fantastic art style. The manga begins slow, and really comes into its splendor later on, the reason I'd recommend reading on. The amount of gore may be ridiculous at times, but don't let this bother you, as it is a fantastic story with great characters.
"The greatest part of revenge, isn´t for the person who died. It´s for oneself"
Wow. What an intense ride "Blade of Immortal" was for me. I got interested in the manga throw the 13 episode anime, based on the first 44 chapters. But the anime adaptation didn´t get home to the viewers and the show was cancelled, so I decided to pick up the manga to see what happened to Rin, Manji and Anotsu. If you are a bit sensitive, this manga is certainly not for you. It contains a lot of detailed violence, deaths, blood, gore, torture and rape in a very realistic
way (tip see the Seinen tag). To say the least this is a very dark and non-uplifting story. Why I gave it a 10 then? Because even if the story is very dark is very, very good. It´s detailed, well thought through, and has very human and gripping characters. And the art.. WOW. I will give a more detailed version down below of why "Blade" did a such huge impression on me.
Revenge story´s isn´t new and are often used as plot base in many mediums. Some are pretty empty, some are good, and then we have the amazing ones. "Blade" definitely belongs to the latter. In a historical and very believable setting we get to follow Rin on her quest of revenge for her brutally murdered parents. To her help she has Manji, the 100-hundred-man-slayer. The ones responsible are a outlawed samurai clan named Ittu-ryu led by Anotsu Kagehisa. Ittu-ryu´s members arn´t happy about how weak and bigoted the art of the sword and war has become in that time and age. So they are on a quest to destroy all dojos that are still practicing old sword techniques and rules, to build a new era with their rules. Rin´s father and mother was murdered for that reason. And Rin´s path for revenge and pursuit of Anutso is far from straight, which makes this story so much more believable and heart gripping to me.
The best part with the story is that it isn´t one sided. We get to know all sides of this revenge and historical drama, and what´s motivates all characters. So what´s first may appear as a very black and white story, soon blurres out to a wide grey area. Actions always gets consequences. The setting, the politics, and the characters and their relationships are all very realistic. I can imagine that that era in Japan was much like the one we are shown (minus immortal humans that is). We get a lot of Japanese history, geographic´s and culture in the story - in an interesting and story filling way. It never felt boring or out of place, it just made the whole scene so much deeper and vivid. It was a hard and unforgiving climate during this era, there small crimes could be a reason for execution, and the strong ruled the weak.
I can definitively understand why it took Hiroaki Samura 19 years to finish "Blade". The art is freaking awesome - and original. Each panel are so rich in detail and shadowing, so sometimes it could have been mistaken for a black and white photo. Hiroaki has even taken his times and draw single hairstrands - that´s say something. The character designs are very realistic, characteristic and detailed (no over sized boobs, eyes or unproportional bodies here) - each individual has been given personal memorable traits. I think that made the story so much more believable and hardcore. Facial and body expressions are in most cases flawless - I could really feel their pain, sadness etc. And extra credit for the unreal good fighting panels. No shortcuts taken. Body and weapon movements are so detailed and technical correct, that it out classes most mangas so much it´s not even funny. Some of these panels can be a bit "shadowy", but it´s meant to be so. It showcases the speed of the movement, often without you missing out of what happens. Brilliant. Speaking of the weapons. Wow.. Such detail and variation. Many characters has their own weapons of choice (you can read about the weapons in more detail in a appendix to the manga), which Hiroaki has displayed in a very impressive matter. The backgrounds are a masterpiece in them self. Unbelievable details and shadowing. How often do you feel like you are in a winter landscape in a black and white print? Not often, but here you can almost feel the snow flakes land on your cheek. By far the best art I have seen so far in a manga.
I think I have mentioned that all characters felt very realistic and believable. The way they reasoned, the way they expressed emotions, and the way they acted felt.. in lack of better words.. very human. From unexperienced teenagers to ice cold seriekillers. It made me feel something for all the characters, and many times hard for me to pick sides (ok, in some cases it was pretty clear who you wanted to be sliced up - looking at you Shira). All characters had well developed personalities and character developments. I could really feel what kind of person they were, and the reasons behind their actions. All main and supporting characters are getting detailed backgrounds and own chapters dedicated to them, so most of them is really well fleshed out.
Rin starts out with a very naive idea of how strong she is and how she is gonna get her revenge. Throughout her journey she learns how powerless she is, and she starts to get doubts about her way to get revenge. A lot of people gets hurt in her wake, and that makes her question the pureness of her motives. Most of them all Manji, who gets hurt a lot throughout their journey, much due to her bad choices. Rin´s frequent encounters with Anutso also gives her doubts about if she actually is gonna kill him, a lot of what he says makes a huge impression on her. All those things makes her waver in her rightness and decision to take revenge.
Manji takes it up him self to be Rin´s bodyguard much due to guilt of his little sisters death (Rin resemble his dead sister a lot) and as redemption for all the innocent lives he took. Even due his character dosn´t develop so much, I like him do more fore his personality. Manji is a ruffie with a good heart. He goes out of length to protect Rin and give her revenge. He trains her in fighting skills and the way of the life she chosen. He smokes his pipe and drinks sake, and loves his naps. More then naps he loves sword fights. Always then entering a battle he has this crazy evil happy smile. I love it. Even due he is immortal Manji feels pain. And he is getting a lot of heavy punishment throughout the story - sometimes I was like "come on Hiroaki, give the guy a break". But he takes it all, and goes in to the next battle with the same crazy evil happy smile.
"Blade" has so many interesting and captivating characters. Anotsu (who I really wanted to see dead in the beginning), really grow on you. You get to know his past and the reasons he´s doing things the way he does. It don´t make the things his does right or good, but more understandable. He also feels love and compassion, which are shown mostly in his relationship with Makie. Speaking of Makie. One of the most badass fighters in manga history. She uses a kind of dubble-eged-3-way-split spear, that she can take out a half dojo with in no time at all, with out getting a drop of blood on her. Her fighting scenes are freaking awesome. Makie is one of the characters that moved me the most. Her past and her life is just to sad, and do she is that good at killing she don´t enjoy it at all. She always (battles and otherwise) has this sad face and eyes, that just makes your heart ache. Taito, Hyakurin and Giichi are also all fantastic characters, with fleshed out backgrounds and character developments. Just amazing to follow them throw out the manga. Shira can be the most sick and evil character I ever encountered. He makes many lives a living hell for many of the characters. He is a psychotic sadistic seriekiller, who really enjoys to slowly and painfully kill his victims. If you happen to be a women, rape during does sessions is highly likely. I have never wanted a character dead more then him. Cred to you Hiromaki, you really created a character that evokes feelings of pure hate and disgust.
Even if the story many times grows really, really dark it was awesome. The details in the story (cred for all the research in history, swordsmanship, martial arts and politics), amazing characters and character developments, and the fantastic art made this a lifetime memorable experience for me. Yes, I needed to take some breaks to collect myself after a extra intense sequences, but was soon on it again because I just had to know what was gonna happen next. Not for a moment was it dull, boring or uninteresting for me. I enjoyed all of it in it´s hardcore dark design.
A incredible and fascinating revenge saga, with heavy focus on the characters and whats happen to them. All to it felt original and unique. I could really feel the characters emotions and struggles, they all really gripped me. I gonna buy this and have in my collection for shore. I can really recommend this to you that´s into good revenge story´s with a lot of blood and fighting, emotional rides, and complex and interesting characters. You absolutely won´t regret it.