Blade of the Immortal Reread: Volume 9

There is a new, longer trailer for the Blade of the Immortal live-action movie. I can’t say it impressed me much, but it was just a trailer, focused very much on action and I am trying to keep an open mind. The final movie might feel different … yeah, no, I still don’t like the make-up, hair and costuming. But what I’m curious about is the overall atmosphere and the pace of the story. Worst case scenario: it will be a swift succession of badass action scenes without room for the characters to develop and the plot to feel meaningful in any way. It’d be a shame because Blade of the Immortal has a lot of quiet moments and philosophical talk. These quieter moments give depth to the characters and make the violence that eventually occurs all the more effectively shocking. Case in point: volume 9. Spoilers follow. Also some spoilers beyond this volume!

In volume 9, the three parallel storylines continue: Rin has apparently used up her competency ration in the previous volume, so now she makes the mistake of leaving her stuff unattended while taking a bath. All her money gets stolen.

Meanwhile, in Kaga, Anotsu learns that inheriting the Shingyoti-Ryu dojo comes with a requirement: marrying the master’s daughter, Hisoka. This isn’t something Anotsu expected or is fully comfortable with, so over the course of the volume, he has talks with Hisoka and with her father, who brings up an interesting point: Itto Ryu is a powerful entity, but completely dependent on Anotsu, so if he wants Itto Ryu to have any real future, he’ll need to marry and have children eventually, and pass on this legacy. Of course, this is exactly the issue that’s causing a lot of Blade of the Immortal characters a lot of trouble: the sucky legacies they inherited from their parents or grandparents. Anotsu is very conscious of this … I believe he’ll talk about it in a future volume, that he thinks it sucks when parents expect their kids to succeed where they themselves have failed, and that you shouldn’t have children before you have something to pass on to them? It’s been a while, we’ll see. Despite Anotsu’s reservations, he and Hisoka get along well.

Meanwhile, Manji is recovering from his injuries at Sori’s place. The entire operation was a failure because blood got on all the passports, rendering them unusable. Then Sori is like: uh, you could have asked me. I could get you as many passports as you’d like. Sori has crazy connections, remember. And so Manji will finally be able to follow Rin – once he has fully recovered.

Now, for my favorite plot development: Sori goes on a trip and leaves his house and daughter in the care of a young man he met recently. It’s Magatsu!! Remember, the last time Manji and Magatsu met, they fought and both ended up seriously injured. Things are different now. Magatsu has left Itto Ryu and only wants to find the person who killed his girlfriend. He only agreed to look after Sori’s home because he thought Sori knew more about the killer than he was letting on. Of course, Manji immediately recognizes the sketch, too: Shira! He agrees to team up with Magatsu, and a beautiful bromance is born.

Now, for my everyone’s least favourite plot development: Hyakurin and Shinriji are visited by Shira. He’s changed, not only because his hair is white now. He’s also creepily quiet and ominously warns Hyakurin that she should never leave survivors who’ve seen her face, since they might come after her for revenge. He’s not wrong exactly, but his advice would be more useful if he hadn’t actually betrayed Hyakurin and Shinriji’s whereabouts to a group of Itto Ryu, who repay him with one of those coveted passports, and proceed to attack. Shinriji is killed – after killing several Itto Ryu, a sad irony considering his wimpy, awkward and shy personality. Rest in peace. Hyakurin is kidnapped. And thus ends this volume.

Well, I am not looking forward to reading the continuation of Hyakurin’s storyline. But all the other storylines actually lead to moments that are among my favourite. Ahhh, ambivalence.

Like I said in the beginning of this post: The sudden violence in the last few pages, and the very sudden death of a supporting character who has been around for a while, are completely shocking after this volume of quiet talking, friendships being tentatively formed and emotions explored. I don’t think Blade of the Immortal gets enough credit for how much time the manga spends on exploring the characters’ thoughts and feelings. Most of the time people talk about it, it’s all about the action, the cool, badass “death murals” that were always kind of eyeroll-worthy and that Hiroaki Samura wisely gave up on after a few volumes.

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