Blade of the Immortal Reread: Volume 5

The Blade of the Immortal reread continues …

As usual, 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 5 covers chapters 20 to 24, but I already talked about chapter 20 the last time…

Blade of the Immortal #5

This is the volume where (imho) Blade of the Immortal truly begins. With the introduction of Mugai Ryu, and with the government getting involved, the story gains a lot of dimensions and moves away from the relatively straight-forward “Rin and Manji VS the bad guys”.

On the Itto Ryu side of things, Anotsu strikes an unexpected deal with fucking Kagimura Habaki. (Seriously, fuck this guy. I never managed to like him. Maybe it’s because he has a moustache. And he’s mean.) Habaki offers to make Itto Ryu an official sword school, and Anotsu accepts. Magatsu is not so thrilled about the news, since hating samurai is the whole point of his punk way of life. He decides to quit Itto Ryu and says good-bye to Anotsu, and hen to his girlfriend O-Ren, a prostitute with whom he’d been living.

Magatsu’s reappearance happens in one of those memorable and fun scenes, with a failed assassination attack by the new kids in town: Mugai Ryu, who are hunting down Itto Ryu members.

The other Itto Ryu members we meet are Hyakurin and Shinriji, who are introduced as they take down an Itto Ryu with a fun ruse; Giichi, who kills his target in battle with clearly superior fighting skills … and Shira, who is tasked with killing Magatsu, but only finds O-Ren, whom he tortures, rapes and murders.

Ugh, Shira. He’s a character I love to hate like no other. He gets worse and worse with every appearance, and he sticks around a lot longer than I ever expected or hoped. He’s like a cockroach. Except evil.

It is Shira who comes to Manji and Rin with the offer of teaming up, in order to catch and kill Anotsu before he can leave for Kaga. There is clearly something off about Shira, but Rin still thinks that she may be able to learn something important from him, something that will help her in her quest.

I think I already mentioned that I had Shira confused with Eiku Shizuma (from volume 2) at one point, and it’s probably because Rin’s scenes with both these men evolve around the same question: How far is she willing to go for her revenge? Rin wants to grow strong, and at first believes that she should try to be more like Shira, at least in some ways. But Shira is a cruel murderer. Rin isn’t. Rin befriends a stray dog. Shira kills and eats it.

Further musings:

  • Shira eating the dog is one thing, but feeding it to Rin before telling her what it is, well, that’s the stuff of nightmares.
  • There’s some poetic justice waiting for Shira, though. (It’s also the stuff of nightmares, technically …)
  • It’s just one scene, but O-Ren and Magatsu are really sweet together. He seems to have … I don’t know? Issues showing affection? Hang-ups over intimacy? Magatsu almost seems as if he doesn’t return O-Ren’s feelings, but he’s probably just incapable of expressing them, and it’s a tragedy that O-Ren dies with their relationship still in such a … tentative state.
  • “Akagi”, the “name” that Magatsu gets from his would-be assassins, is such a fun way to place/hide a hint … I wonder if there were any first-time readers who figured it out. I didn’t. But I was also really, really slow on the uptake regarding Makoto …

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