Calligraphic manga featuring famous samurai Musashi

Musashi Miyamoto is the famous 17th century samurai who wrote The Book of Five Rings, a classic text on martial arts and military strategy. Takehiko Inoue is the genius manga artist behind Slam Dunk, a 90s manga series about a goofy basketball player that sold 100 million copies and got an entire generation of Japanese boys hooked on the sport. Inoue's latest endeavor has been to chronicle the life of Musashi in a comic book series titled Vagabond. Instead of using a pencil, he used sumi ink and a calligraphy brush (no erasing mistakes!).

The first volume of the manga series was published in English by Viz Media last year, and this month they're publishing The Water and The Sumi, two giant volumes chock full of illustrations from the series. It's a fine collection worth owning if you're a fan of samurai or manga, or both. Image copyrighted by I.T. Planning, Inc, 2008.

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)


  1. This is an excellent manga series with near impeccable art. Even the Sasaki Kojiro arc is amazing in itself. I’m glad it’s being published here; just hope it doesn’t take too long for them to be all released.

  2. Vagabond is amazing. Visually and storywise. I downloaded fan translations but I plan on buying it all when its finished being released.

    1. If you haven’t seen Inagaki Hiroshi’s Samurai Trilogy, starring Mifune Toshirô as Miyamoto Musashi, rent it. It’s one of Mifune’s strongest roles, and as much as I like Kurosawa, I prefer Inagaki.

  3. Cool. This looks great…and yet another thing to go on my big pile of “To Read”. *sigh*

    @5 Antinous: Thanks! Just threw all three in my Netflix queue.

  4. sorry, but the Law of Universal Averaging Fairness dictated that Mushashi looked like a friendly balding rodent with an overbite and myopia – right up until he cut you in half anyways.

  5. You might want to do a little more research…I started reading vagabond (still published by Viz and already with about 6 volumes released) back in…maybe 2003 or so, and in English. I still have the old issues, as a matter of fact. As a series it is amazing, as art, even better.

    Another great samurai manga is Lone Wolf and Cub.

  6. Agreed, this series is not new to the US this year. I am your shoujo manga junkie with occasional lapses into other genres of manga, and I also highly recommend Vagabond for the art alone. There’s no need to be a samurai fan to enjoy this series.

  7. i’m confused by this post and comments. already, viz media has published all current 27 volumes of vagabond and is scheduled to publish 28 shortly in october. i believe that the general vibe is that there will be about 30 volumes in all which means we’re nearing the end of the series for everyone.

    out of all the manga on the international market, this has got to rank among the very best in art and storytelling. i have to be honest, usually samurai storylines aren’t my thing but inoue is so amazing and powerful, this is a recommended must have for anyone who reads manga or even comics. it’s just that amazing.

  8. Quick correction, Takehiko Inoue does indeed use a pencil and erases the pencil work after inking. You can see this process in action on his excellent behind the scenes DVD.

  9. A wonderful manga. The best artwork i have seen in a long time. Great story. Sometimes the action slows down too much, there is a fight that last more than a tome and in real time last for 10 seconds!

    Anyways, a GREAT manga.

  10. As shoontz mentioned, Takehiko Inoue does indeed use a pencil and erases.
    Also He doesn’t use calligraphy brush for most of background art work(BG art is his assistant’s work).

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