Manga Review: Blade of the Immortal Omnibus 1 by Hiroaki Samura @DarkHorseComics

May Contain Spoilers

I was first introduced to this series when Dark Horse was releasing the floppies over 20 years ago (!). That was before licensed manga was released right to left, but instead was flipped to read left to right. Blade of the Immortal was cut up and the panels arranged in an order more palatable to Western readers at the time. Boy how things have changed! Instead of taking the opportunity to release these omnibuses in their original layout, the publisher choose to keep everything the same, and just bound three volumes together for each omnibus. Since I read a digital review copy, I unfortunately can’t weigh in on production quality, other than to say that the digital review copy was so clean and crisp, and a joy to read, that I wish that they releasing this in digital format as well as paper.

Blade of the Immortal tells the story of Manji, a cursed swordsman, and Rin, the orphaned daughter of a murdered dojo master. Manji has been cursed with blood worms, thousands of wiggly creatures that repair physical damage done to him. He was a murderer, a criminal who caused the death of his sister’s husband. To atone for his crimes, he has vowed to kill 1000 evil men, which I don’t really see as much of an improvement. Manji is the embodiment of live by the sword, die by the sword, except that because of the bloodworms, he can’t be killed unless someone manages to separate his head from the rest of his body.

Rin watched as Anotsu Kagehisa, a master swordsman with a grudge against her family that started with his grandfather, murdered her father, and his men brutalized her mother. They left her alive and alone, swearing vengeance against his Itto-Ryu dojo. The main ternate of Anotsu’s dojo is victory regardless of method, and he looks at the rules of other dojos with scorn. He has vowed to gather other misfit swordfighters together, destroy all other dojos, and have his revenge against the people who threw his family into the cold because his grandfather had the gall to save his master using two swords. How absolutely unseemly!

The artwork is stunning. I love Samura’s illustrations. Some panels are inked, some are just gorgeous pencils, with eye-catching details throughout. Grab a copy of this from your library even if you don’t like historical action stories and just flip through all of pages of beautiful art.

I really like the story. Rin has hired Manji to be her bodyguard, and to help her get revenge against Anotsu and his gang of bloodthirsty followers. After over 500 pages, I don’t know if I like Manji or not. He’s kind of a jerk, and he’s a guy who will stab you first and ask questions later as you bleed out in front of him. Rin, on the other hand, has seen some terrible things, and even though she longs for her revenge, she doesn’t always have the killer instinct or heart to achieve it. Good thing she has Manji along, who does not share these reservations.

Grade: 4.5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

A cursed, seemingly immortal warrior aids a young girl in her quest for revenge, as the students of a brutal new sword school tear a bloody path across Japan. Hiroaki Samura’s massive manga series spawned an anime run, a spinoff novel, an art book, and a live-action film! Samura’s storytelling tour-de-force also won Japan’s Media Arts Award, several British Eagle Awards, and an Eisner Award, among other international accolades. Intense and audacious, Blade takes period samurai action and deftly combines it with a modernist street idiom to create a style and mood like no other work of graphic fiction.
“Blade of the Immortal Omnibus Volume 1” contains the first 3 volumes of “Blade of the Immortal” by Dark Horse.
“Samura’s work will thrill you, engage you, and even horrify you like no other artist working in film or print today.”
-“Geof Darrow”