Blade of the Immortal reread: Volume 3

And on with the great Blade of the Immortal reread!

This is not a recap. There will be heavy spoilers for future events of the manga, possibly including the very ending of Blade of the Immortal. So do not read this if you don’t want to be spoilt. I am using the official German release of the manga. Volume 3 covers chapters 9-13.

Blade of the Immortal #3

This volume contains the rest of Makie’s introduction episode, and the surprising first encounter between Rin and Anotsu.

I’m still having difficulty putting my Makie-related thoughts in words, which actually annoys me. But I always found it interesting that Makie’s tragedy lies in the fact that she excels at a skill that would make her admired and respected if she were a man, but instead makes her an outcast and a source of misery for her family – because she is a woman. Blade of the Immortal very often portrays society’s sexism and its effects, but no other major female character feels as completely doomed by her gender as Makie.

The flashback to Makie and Anotsu’s childhood reveals a lot about the both of them. I have always liked the Anotsu/Makie pairing … they are perfect for each other. And I like that Anotsu accepts that she is a better fighter than he will ever be. Come to think of it, that’s not the attitude I expect from the villain of a fighting-focused manga, I expect them to strive to be the strongest and accept no one else to hold that title!

But Anotsu is a fascinatingly unusual villain. When Rin hears noises in a forest and goes to investigate, she suddenly runs into him. I love the irony that Rin is on the hunt for Anotsu, but actually finds him when she’s completely unprepared for it. And Anotsu? Instead of killing her, or injuring her or even keeping her prisoner, he just talks with Rin about her goals and about his world view … and then lets her go.

Further musings:

  • “Rin randomly runs into Anotsu” happens a few times in the series, and sometimes it means literally running into him. It’s funny how such a simple plot device can reliably lead to such interesting scenes.
  • The entire volume is focused on the stories of women: first Makie, then Rin. Manji plays important roles, but the focus is off him for now.
  • Manji gives Rin some fighting training, but it’s really clear that Rin isn’t ever going to be able to compete with the major players of Blade of the Immortal. I’ve seen some complaints about this, and I’ve seen complains about other stories whose female protagonists are surrounded by warriors but do not grow into powerful warriors themselves. Does that automatically make them weak? I don’t think so. There’s more than one kind of strength, and Rin is going to have her moments to shine, just outside of duels. (The important thing is not how strong you are, but how you use your strength.) And for a traumatized teenage girl, she’s not doing so badly anyway.
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