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Vagabond Volume 37 Review: Slow Paced Historical Fiction
Manga and anime based on Japan’s History is fairly common. Although most of these will usually focus more on action and violence, this is not the case for Vagabond. Vagabond is based on the famous samurai known as Miyamoto Musashi. While one would expect such a manga to be about battles and Miyamoto fighting people, this is not the case for volume 37. While this could be considered a strength for Vagabond, the execution of the idea tarnishes what would otherwise be a great drama.
Volume 37 of Vagabond tells the tale of Miyamoto’s attempt to save a village that is on the brink of starving to death. Life and death hang in the balance, and it all depends on an upcoming crop of rice that is being grown. If the crop survives, so will the village. All the while Miyamoto helps the villagers with the farm while also instructing them on how to protect themselves from any dangers. Since this is mostly a drama, the pace is slow as expected. Unfortunately, there are times where it feels a little too slow. At the same time there are moments where the story jumps ahead a little and it is difficult to follow along with what is going on. That said, it is a nice change of pace to see some historical fiction for Japanese history that doesn’t involve war or violence.
While the art style has a realistic tone to it, I think this is personally my least favorite manga in terms of art. The ink/pencil style with a bunch of random lines used on faces and shading can be very distracting, and the art is often not particularly easy on the eye. Children look like deformed, miniature adults and the women don’t even look human. There are even a few moments in the manga that don’t make any sense simply because of how the scene is depicted in the art, particularly near the end of the volume.
This volume seems like a one off in the series, like a little side story or something. The end of the volume implies that Miyamoto will be heading out to another location, and it sounds like there will be a change of pace in future volumes since it is likely there will be lots of combat involved given what time period in Japan this manga takes place in.
I can’t really recommend this manga to anyone except for people that consider themselves to be Japanese History enthusiasts that are into historical fiction based on historical figures like Miyamoto Musashi. The pacing is too slow, and it feels like the story is just skipping around with a bare bones outline. It would have been nice to show more of Miyamoto learning how to live among a village of farmers in a life style that is likely far more peaceful than what you’d expect from the chaotic Sengoku period. Although if you are into this genre, than you will likely enjoy Vagabond Volume 37.