Manga: Blade of the Immortal
Mangaka: Hiroaki Samura (Story & Art)
Publisher: Egmont (Germany)
Original Publisher: Kodansha
Published in: Afternoon
Price: 6,50€
Released so far: Volume 1-21
Release Schedule: Volume 22: October 2008
Licensed in the US: Yes, Dark Horse
Additional Information: The appendix contains all the Blade of the Immortal girls in school uniform, plus a weapons overview & description.

Neither Blade of the Immortal nor its mangaka require an introduction. Blade of the Immortal has been running in Kodansha’s Afternoon since 1994 and 23 volumes have been published in Japan, as of yet. Hiroaki Samura has done several other one-shots, and a single volume, Ohikkoshi, which was released by Egmont in 2006, and was also released by Dark Horse respectively. As this review is based on the events of volume 20 and 21, it will contain spoilers.

You have been warned! Do not click “more” if you don’t want to get spoiled!

Volume 21 opens up with a very short fighting scene in terms of Blade of the Immortal. However, it soon turns into a narrative chapter. We see Rin and later, Manji, bid farewell to Isaku and Doa, although I hope not. The two have left Itto-Ryu and will now wander through Japan, much like Rin and Manji did in the past. The chapter concludes as Habaki visits a house in a more rural area, and we’re soon introduced to one of Habaki’s closest family members.

With the rumours about the experiments spreading, the senate has forced Habaki to resign from his position. He was ordered to commit seppuku, but they give him a month to settle a few more scores with the living. You can probably guess what his plan is by now: Yes, the total annihilation of the Itto-ryu, and he has the means to proceed.

The time frame changes, and after a long period of time, we finally get to see our antagonist, Anotsu, again. He is informed about Habaki’s plans, and is already trying to come up with counter-measurements. He now uses his previously burnt down mansion as a secret base and meeting place. After the “poisoned banquet”, most of his skilled companions are now killed off, and he is left with a crippled organization. However, new recruits from all over the country appear, breathing new life into the Itto-Ryu.

A little bit later on, we meet Rin again. She’s living with an old acquaintance, Sori, and she’s taking care of the household. Manji is not living with her at Sori’s place, but in a small shabby hut at a riverside not too far away. However, when Rin arrives at his place to bring him food, it turns out not to be as peaceful as she had hoped for after the whole mess.

The volume brings back order after the chaos Manji and Rin caused in the prior arc. It establishes new parties, strengthens and refreshes old parties, and introduces new characters. At the same time it’s also a step back to the old “Blade of the Immortal before the prison” arc. We now have a somewhat clear cut between the parties. We have Manji’s party, the Itto-Ryu, Habaki’s party (now titled differently), and the government itself.

Samura also uses this volume to further enhance Rin’s character (physical and psychological) development. Manji and Rin’s dialogues are very funny and cute. For Rin, things haven’t become easier. Her blind hate for Anotsu is waning, and she’s unsure of what to do next. The latter is depicted in the last scene of the book. It’s a very ironic scene, but I won’t spoil it for you here.

I’ve already described Samura’s art in my last review. There’s not much to add or complement. His art remains stunning and absolutely awesome! This volume doesn’t require as much fluency and dynamics as the past volume, due to less fighting. Instead, it has to support the narration and dialogue. Yet again, Samura’s art manages to do so and fascinates as well.

Compared to some other manga, he uses a fairly basic – conservative, even – way of arranging the panels. However, the dynamics and fluency aren’t hindered by this trait. His realistic art makes it an enjoyable exception from the generic art one will find in many other manga.

Overall, this volume just makes you crave for more. Volume 20 finished the arc and left me with the sweet taste of completion. I was still anticipating the next volume, but not on the same level as I am now. I was satisfied with how the arc ended, but now I just want to read more on how the (apparently) last arc will develop. Give me more!

Story: 9/10 – Awesome turn of events, but somehow repetitive.
Art: 9/10 – The characters sometimes look too similar, and there were some very minor glitches in the art itself.
Enjoyment: 10/10 – It was simply very enjoyable.
Overall: 9/10

Commentary on Egmont’s release: Blade of the Immortal falls among the usual “industry standard”. There’s nothing outstanding or spectacular, but nothing bad either. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having a character list with a short description and picture at the start of each volume, so I wouldn’t have to check my older volumes. (And I can’t run to the PC every time I want to check the wiki on Blade of the Immortal, can I?)