Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 23: Scarlet Swords
Another year, another volume of Blade of the Immortal. The pieces that were set up in the previous volume begin to move in what just could be the final act of the series. Habaki Kagimura, the fallen samurai, faces his imminent death but is allowed one last chance at redemption. To this end his elite group of fighters, the Rokki begin to make their move on the remains of the Itto Ryu before that group begins their journey into exile. Add to the mix Manji, Rin and Kagimura’s replacement the devious Hayabusa Ugen and the tale takes on a new complex and deadly permutation.
As stated above this volume really focuses on the beginning of the showdown between Kagimura’s Rokki and the Itto Ryu. The two factions’ first clash was shown in the previous volume and this one steps up the skirmishes a bit more. It’s not all fast paced action though as the once monstrous Kagimura continues to grow into a desperate and sympathetic character who’s now trapped and being crushed by forces he once wielded and controlled. His relationship with his illegitimate daughter continues to be a highlight and gives him some genuine warmth and humanity, something I’d never thought I’d see given his portrayal in the past few volumes. It’s not all heavy, emotional and grim tales though as the two female shinobu, Meguro and Tanobo continue to provide some wonderful comedy throughout the volume.
Samura’s art continues to be some of the best in sequential art today. His combination of dark, heavy thatching with just a spindle of toning for shading and the suggestion of colors results in each panel being a lovely work of art in its own right. Despite the odd flipping and cutting and rearranging of panels, the visual flow still moves wonderfully and his action sequences are lovely, clever and easy to follow. Add to that the interesting new costumes and designs for the Rokki and their Hanya masked henchmen and you’ve got a book that’s a feast for the eyes.
All in all Blade of the Immortal continues to be a fantastic read and the new characters, twists and turns that this volume throws at the reader keeps the anticipation high for future volumes. Easily my favorite series out right now and while it may cost a little bit more than your average volume of manga I have no problem paying it for a quality story that’s held my attention for over a decade.
Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 23 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.