Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 24: Massacre
The twenty fourth volume of Hiroaki Samura’s award winning series, Blade of the Immortal, arrives! Old enemies return to form and a small group of Itto Ryu members engage in a daring raid on the political heart of Japan.
Subtitled “Massacre”, this volume has certain expectations to live up to. It’s safe to say that it meets those expectations, if not surpassing them altogether. The first chapter sees the return of Shira in more ways than one. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him indulge himself, not since volume seven, and here we get a chance to see him indulge himself once more. It’s a rather dark and disturbing way to but it does a lot to reestablish Shira and remind us of why he’s so memorable and dangerous, something that might have been forgotten during the lengthy prison arc. If Shira’s past time of torture and mutilation isn’t your thing then you’re in luck, because it’s only the opening chapter of the volume. Indeed, the bulk of the book is given over to a massacre of another sort as Anotsu, Magatsu, Baro and Ohzuan return to Edo Castle. What ensues is essentially a one hundred plus page massacre. While the volume doesn’t do a whole lot to move the over all plot or character development forward, it does show us some rather interesting things about the world of Blade of the Immortal that we might often forget. Namely that the Itto Ryu and their founding members are indeed that damn good. When you see Itto Ryu struggling or getting offed throughout the series it’s easy to forget that they’re meant to be an incredibly strong, skilled and unorthodox group of swordsmen. That’s usually because they’re going up against the immortal Manji or specialized groups like the Mugai Ryu who’s members are often on par with them. Here though, we get to see what happens when four of the Itto Ryu engage the rank and file of the Japanese military in battle and the results are a bloody good read.
As always Samura’s artwork is fantastic and enjoyable in nearly every aspect. His story telling is wonderful and the action sequences flow across the page beautifully and are clear and easy to follow, even with the odd combination of panel rearrangements/flipping that the series undergoes. As usual the fight scenes are one of the book’s highlights and the massive raid on Edo Castle is an intense and exciting visual treat. Samura handles the few quiet and lighter moments with equal skill. The recent introduction of Megura and Tanpopo, a pair of female ninja who are clearly intended as comedic relief has given him a chance to show off his lighter side. While some of the comedy certainly comes from the dialogue, Megura’s spit take in this volume is actually pretty hilarious and shows off Samura’s flair and ability with comedic visuals and timing.
After a huge, two volume battle in Edo Castle only a few volumes ago, returning to the idea again may be a bit odd but after seeing it pulled off I’m rather glad they did. It was a fantastic moment in the series that really served to show just how extraordinary the Itto Ryu, and by proxy Manji and those they fight, really are when it comes to the sword.
Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 24 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.