Blade of the ImmortalEdit
Blade of the Immortal(Jpn. - 無限の住人 - "Inhabitant of Infinity") is a manga created in 1994 by mangaka(manga artist), illustrator and ero guro("erotic-grotesque") artist Hiroaki Samura. The series, published(by Kodansha) in the Japanese monthly magazine Afternoon as issues, is currently in its 26th volume in Japan(and other parts of Asia, such as China), while it is only up to volume 23 in the US, UK and parts of Europe. Outside of Asia, Blade of the Immortal is published by the American graphic novel publisher Dark Horse.
Blade of the Immortal is set in the 2nd year of the Tenmei era of Japan, which is the year 1782. This can also be referred to as the mid-Tokugawa Shogunate period. The main place of the story is Edo(modern-day Tokyo). The story starts with Manji, a samurai who killed 100 (regardless of guilty or innocent) men for his old master and is consequently a wanted criminal. After meeting the 800-year old nun Yaobikuni , Manji is given the Kessen-chū (Jpn. - 血仙蟲 - "sacred bloodworms"), creatures that sacrifice themselves to heal their human host's wounds. At this point Yaobikuni is constantly trying to convince an at-first reluctant Manji to atone for his sins in some way(one of her suggestions is that he shaves his head, becomes a monk and embarks on a pilgrimage with her). However, when Manji's sister Machi is murdered by the brother of one of Manji's victims, Manji makes a vow to kill 1000 evil men to cancel out his past sins and end his eternal life. Soon afterwards, Manji meets Rin Asano, a sixteen year-old girl whose parents were recently murdered "at the hands of complete strangers." She begs him to help her seek out revenge against her parents' killers. In the end he accompanies her back into town, meeting one of her targets, Kuroi Sabato. When Manji finally defeats Kuroi, he becomes Rin's bodyguard.
The main hook of the series, the Kessen-chū(Jpn. - 血仙蟲 - "sacred bloodworms") are creatures that live and breed in a human host, sacrificing their bodies to regenerate any wound their host has sustained. While they can, for example, reseal a deep hole or reattach a limb, they cannot handle regrowth of too many wounds sustained at the same time, and it is rumoured that the host will die if their head is cut off.
Characters in Blade of the Immortal(List)Edit
The Immortal that the series title, Mugen no Junin("Inhabitant of Infinity"), refers to. He is usually quite laid back and is often sleeping. Because of his obvious advantage of immortality, his swordwork is sometimes quite mediocre and many of the fights he partakes in often end with him being gravely wounded.
The last heir to her father's sword school, the Mutenichi-ryū. She holds a vendetta against her parents' killers, the Ittō-ryū. At the start of the series, she is still quite childish, but steadily "grows up" over the course of the manga, especially when it comes to saving Manji. Early on in the series, there are instances where she is shown as being confused about what she really wants, and what her morals are, for example, in Cry of the Worm, she tells Manji about the foreign sword taken as a spoil from the Mutenichi-ryū dojo the night her parents were killed, only to perform a U-turn and decide to give up on the sword and any other Ittō-ryū member but Anotsu Kagehisa. However, by Dreamsong, Rin is shown as being armed with the sword, wearing it from her shoulder in a tōju. Over the course of On Silent Wings and On Silent Wings II, she struggles with the notion of killing merely for revenge, especially after meeting Ittō-ryū member Araya Kawakami as well as his son, Renzo Kawakami.
Deceased sister of Manji. She became insane after Manji killed her husband out of self-defense, and was also murdered herself(by Shido Hashiyasu) because of Manji.
An 800-year old nun that has only appeared in issues #1 & #2. She is immortal due to the Kessen-chū, and has since fed them to Manji(and, it is implied, Shizuma Eiku.)
A bounty hunter diguised as a christian priest who has, according to himself, been ambushing and killing people for ten years. The last person he ambushed was Manji, who killed him.
The brother of Gyobutsū "Johnny" and deputy leader of the Shinsen-gumi, a ronin gang. He is killed by Manji along with 20 other gang members.
A painter (and ninja) who often practises "swordpainting," a technique by which a paintbrush is attached to a sword. This greatly annoys his daughter, Tatsubō. He is also later seen to be painting with blood. Despite being a fairly minor character, he has notable relationships with many of the main characters, such as Magatsu and Hyakurin. Recently, he has been shown teaching Meguro and Tanpopo art skills.
The daughter of Sōri. She often gets angry at her father's messy painting style, as this often results in both of them being evicted from where they are staying. Recently married.
A woman that briefly appears twice in Volume 1, Blood of a Thousand. She is presumably the Innkeeper of the Inn where Manji, Machi and Yoabikuni have settled in at the start of the series.
The former husband of Machi. He was a policeman as well as a samurai. One night while walking home with Machi, they witness a disturbance nearby and Saitō leaves Machi to go home on her own while he deals with the reason for the disturbance; Manji. He ends up being killed by Manji out of self-defense.
Rin's father. He is the son of Takayuki Asano, who is Rin's grandfather. He is often referred to as "Takayoshi" by his father, Takayuki. He was killed by Kuroi Sabato.
Rin's mother. Before being kidnapped and eventually killed by the Ittō-ryū, she was the victim of a grisly rape led by Araya Kawakami.
- Saburo Anotsu
Kagehisa Anotsu's grandfather. He was originally a student of Mutenichi-ryū, but ended up being expelled for using a foreign sword.
- Takayuki Asano
Grandfather of Rin. Along with Saburo Anotsu, he fought off attackers when the two men and the (then) master of Mutenichi-ryū were surrounded by bandits.
- Lord Makiyuri
A local daimyō that appears only once; in Volume 4, On Silent Wings. When he is about to maim or perhaps even kill Renzo Kawakami, Rin steps in and convinces him that Renzo is under her care.
A fellow geisha to Makie that appears only in Volume 3, Dreamsong. She seems to have a friendly relationship with Makie, and the two have one thing in common with each other; they used to be prostitutes.
A prostitute working at the Ittō-ryū's favoured brothel, Yukimachi. She appears three times throughout the series and two of those times, is shown as being angry at the Ittō-ryū, firstly at Magatsu(she believes it was his fault that O-ren was murdered) and secondly at the Ittō-ryū in general for using prostitutes from Yukimachi as bait, as one of them, O-sei, who ended up so mutilated she could no longer work as a prostitute, hung herself as a result. She was also used as bait(issue #42, Heart of Darkness part 8) but came back unscathed. Her most distinguishing feature is that she has freckles.
A young Yukimachi prostitute who was in love with Magatsu. Killed by Shira.
The owner of a shop that Hyakurin often visits, buying food and sake. He is mentioned quite a few times, but only really appears once.
The Yukimachi prostitute hired as bait. She lured Shira and Rin out onto a main road until two Ittō-ryū members showed up, who were quickly dealt with by Shira. Shira then proceeded to mutilate her before attempting to rape her, but was stopped by Rin and Manji. She survived this attack, but hung herself afterwards.
- Hayakawa Kakōsai Genkei
The former husband of Hyakurin. He was an abusive samurai and every child he bore, from both his previous wife and Hyakurin, were weak and sickly. He desparately wanted an heir and thought he could find it in Matsuhiko, but unfortunately Matsuhiko was also weak and sickly. He was killed by Hyakurin.
One of a pair of twins, parented by Genkei and Hyakurin. His twin sister was killed by their father with the excuse that he had no time to raise girls. Matsuhiko is a sickly child, weak, and perhaps even slightly effeminate-looking. Eventually killed by Genkei.
- Sōhachi Nakaya
The Innkeeper that eventually agrees to accompany Rin through customs so that she can travel to Kaga.
- Sato Nakaya
Wife of Nakaya. She also reluctantly agrees to help Rin get through customs, even hatching an idea to increase her chances.
- Yoshiaki Harukawa
The father of Makie Otono-Tachibana. He ended up disowning both his wife and daughter after realising that Makie had inherited the family's fighting ability instead of his son, also referred to as "Yoshiaki."
- Komae Harukawa
Makie Otono-Tachibana 's grandmother, the sister of Saburo Anotsu and the great aunt of Kagehisa Anotsu.
Makie's mother. After being disowned, she became a prostitute to support her daughter Makie and herself.
The head mistress of Yukimachi. After the events of Volumes 6 to 14, O-kane tells Sosuke Abayama and the Ittō-ryū in general to stay away from the brothel, even as mere customers.
The servant who takes care of Dewanosuke during the short period of time that he's in Kodenma prison. (Issue #113.)
Giichi's sickly son. He is only mentioned and never seen, and dies around the time of Volume 14.
Dewanosuke's wife. He mentions her while talking in his sleep. (Issue #113.)
Burando's love interest. She is mentioned in a flashback and tried in an epidemic along with Burando's mother. (Issue #111)
A fellow doctor that Burando studied under in the past. Seen in a flashback. (Issue #111.)
A prisoner who is brought in to Manji's cell to replace a deceased Dewanosuke. (Issue #115.)
The third felon to be experimented on after Kurifu's swift death. (Issue #116.)
The fourth felon.
The fifth felon. After his death, the names of the felons experimented on cease to be mentioned.
Appears twice in the series. He is the head of a group of policemen and has a run-in with Dōa and Isaku both times he appears.
A doctor who appears a few times during the prison arc. He knows Kashin Koji and they have been seen eating together along with doctor Kure. He has also been seen mocking Burando when he had been temporarily banned from continuing his research.
Another doctor, who is always seen with doctor Mori. He is not as hot-headed as doctor Mori.
The son of Habaki Kagimura and his current wife, Shima. He first appears(along with Shima) in Issue #122.
An Edo castle guard, though he mainly guards Manji's cell in the dungeons. He appears to be friendly with Toraemon. (Issue #115.)
A dungeon guard that traps Rin, Dōa and Nanda-rō early on. He ends up extracting punishment on Rin, in the form of tataki.
A beggar that first appears in issue #124, wearing Isaku's armguards. Rin and Dōa force him to infiltrate Edo castle with them so that they can have some idea about which ways to go within the dungeons.
Habaki's wife. She first appears with Kentarō in issue #122.
Later supporting characters:Edit
- Ayame Burando
One of the doctors working under Habaki to research and experiment with (Manji's)immortality. He is eccentric and often has conflicting thoughts about human lives. Implied to be much younger than Mozen and Toraemon.
A servant and guard under Habaki. He is often seen carrying the doctors' equipment and performing small tasks such as taking Manji's blood and cutting into him to demonstrate his immortality.
- Yamada Asaemon Yoshirō
A famous executioner. Also called "Kubikiri Asa." He is skilled in severing limbs efficiently. Habaki employs him to sever Manji(and various felon's)'s limbs down in the prison.
Asaemon's loyal bodyguard. Stood with Asaemon, the two can be compared to Dōa and Isaku; Benki is quite large and well-built while Asaemon himself is smaller and has a lighter frame.
The first felon to be tested on. Of all the felons tested on, he lived the longest. Killed by Habaki in order to test his immortality.
The first ever doctor Habaki orders to experiment on Manji to reveal everything about his immortality. Both him and Burando are given eight days, with himself starting first. When his eight days are up, he is fired and doesn't appear again.
- Renzo Kawakami
The son of Araya Kawakami. He first appears in On Silent Wings part 1. Both literally and figuratively, he is Shira's hand, often having to feed and clean him.
The twenty-two year old leader of the Ittō-ryū. He is often quite cold emotionally, though he lets Rin live even after she attacks him. His main goal is to lead a sword school with superior skills only, one that "holds their stupid "virtue" in contempt"
A close friend of Anotsu and the witness to his younger sister's traumatic death. Due to this, he is extra protective of young women, even going out of his way to avenge the prostitute O-ren's needless death.
An on-off Ittō-ryū member and the first female Ittō-ryū to appear. She is Anotsu's skilled but troubled cousin.
A sixty-year old swordsman and second-in-command of the Ittō-ryū. Though he appears much earlier in the series, he is never seen in combat until issue 103; Pity.
The first Ittō-ryū member to be killed by Manji. He appreciates feminine beauty to the disturbing point of having his own wife(and later, Rin's own mother) preserved using taxidermy and sown onto his shoulder.
The first immortal antagonist to appear in the series. He was given the worms two-hundred years prior to the series and carries with him the only known poison that can stop them regenerating; the kessen-satsu("Bloodworm killer").
Father of Renzo Kawakami. He is a skilled mask-maker who, two years ago, led the rape of Rin's mother.
A small but incredibly fast and skilled Ittō-ryū fighter. However, her ever-present readiness to fight and kill often lands her and Isaku in trouble.
Often seen with Dōa. He is originally a portuguese christian, and he and Dōa are from Hokkaidō. He cannot kill people and only acts as the defense in fights, while Dōa acts as the offense.
An elderly doctor and spy for the Ittō-ryū. He has been making maps of Edō castle which, unintentionally, come in useful for Rin and Dōa.
Arguably the most mysterious of all Ittō-ryū. It is unknown whether or not he is even Japanese. He appears to be deaf, although he seems to understand when people are talking to him. He has a whistle which he uses to disturb the enemy.
One of the ten core members of the Ittō-ryū. His most distinguishing feature is that he has a scar across the nose, which makes him look like Manji. Though he is seen relatively early in the series, he is not properly introduced until much later.
- Hage/Tsuchimoti Nisaborou
The first minor Ittō-ryū character to be introduced. Though he is often referred to by fans as "Hage," the Wikipedia.jp article for Blade of the Immortal names him as "Tsuchimoti Nisaborou." He appears in Genius and wields a foldable spear called Aun. His most distinguishing feature is his aquiline nose. Killed by Master Sōri.
- Iwami Ginzan
A herbalist as well as Ittō-ryū member. His most distinguishing feature is a huge scar on his forehead. Killed by Shira.
A doctor as well as a member of the Ittō-ryū. Killed by Shira.
- Morozumi Chōgo
A rather fat Ittō-ryū member who uses a pair of katana. Killed by Giichi.
- Sumino Kenei
An Ittō-ryū member with an impressive arsenal of six tantō and one katana. Killed by Hyakurin.
An Ittō-ryū member fascinated by Manji's immortality. He wanted to ingest Manji's flesh or eat his heart in an attempt to steal his immortality, but was poisoned by Hyakurin and later beheaded by Shinriji.
A long-haired Ittō-ryū member whose most distinguishing feature is his mismatched shades; a reference to DC/Vertigo character Spider Jerusalem. Killed by Manji
An Ittō-ryū member who wields a large machete-like weapon. Killed by Manji.
A large well-built Ittō-ryū swordsman. He is quite composed in comparison to Tamasaki. Killed by Giichi.
An Ittō-ryū swordsman that thinks of nothing but revenge on Hyakurin after he lost his eye and the feeling in two of his fingers due to her poison. Killed eventually by Hyakurin.
- Kurishige Wayan
An Ittō-ryū fighter that lost his father and right eye to a bear attack when he was younger. He often integrates his experience of fighting bears into his swordwork. Killed by Manji.
- Fujiaki Kasori
A swordsman that looks similar to Wayan. Killed by Giichi.
The secret and part-time leader of the Mugai-ryu and the full-time head of the Bangashira, the Shogun's Banshu Samurai. He is the mastermind behind the massacre of ten Itto-ryu members at a set-up banquet, and the manager of the even graver "Immortality experiments" held in the dungeons under Edo castle. Though never seen fighting, he is rumoured to be skilled with a sword.
The former wife of an abusive samurai, Hyakurin killed her husband as retribution for the slaughter of their son, Matsuhiko, and the earlier killing of his nameless twin sister. She also compusively bleaches her hair to remove bloodstains, presumably because bloodstained hair reminds her of her traumatic past as a samurai's wife.
Possibly the series' worst villian, Shira is a sadistic pychopath who delights only in rape, torture and murder. After his arm is cut off by Manji, he stops at nothing to try and get revenge, his vendetta against Manji bordering on obsession. He has recently been shown travelling with Renzo.
A "strong-silent"-type character who is often seen wearing black shades. He has quite a collected demeanor and is seemingly never emotional. After his wife died, he devoted himself to taking care of his ill son, Tojiro.
A small-framed amateur Mugai-ryu swordsman who is in love with Hyakurin. He has no previous experience with a sword and so always accompanies Hyakurin on missions, until his death in Beasts.
The mole of the Mugai-ryu, sent into the Itto-ryu as a servant. He is a former prostitute; the only Mugai-ryu member(excluding Habaki) without a criminal conviction.
- Kensui Ibane
Leader of the Shingyoto-ryu and step-father of Hisoka. He agrees to join forces with the Itto-ryu on the condition that Anotsu marries Hisoka, but as soon as the marriage begins, he is forced by the bafuku to betray Anotsu; attempting to have him killed.
- Hisoka Ibane
The step-daughter of Kensui. She is frail and sickly, and near-blind from the medication she takes to stay alive.
A stuttering swordsman of the Shingyoto-ryu and their boldest member, even forcing Anotsu into a duel as soon as he arrives at their dojo. He is in love with Hisoka, though it is unrequited. Attempts hot-blooded revenge on Anotsu for the suicides of Kensui and Hisoka.
A well-mannered and collected Shingyoto-ryu swordsman. He is incredibly calm and mature in contrast to Iriya.
A swordsman who joins Kozue and Iriya on the Shingyoto-ryu's last attempt at revenge on Anotsu.
Swordsman who joins in the hunt and attempted revenge against Anotsu.
A younger Shingyoto-ryu member and servant, he is the only member spared when Anotsu and Rin fight four Shingyoto-ryu members on the road.
The first member of Rokki-dan to appear in the series. He wears an odd helmet that conceals most of his facial features. He uses a Naginata. Killed by Baro.
- Inroku Ban
A large man in hakama and armour. Armed with a flintlock pistol.
- Shishiya Arashino
The largest member of Rokki-dan. It is revealed that he is Dutch; as he greets Itto-ryu members with "goede'morgen," the Dutch expression for "Good morning."
- Shinhei Doma
A Rokki-dan member whose most distinguishing feature is his odd hairstyle; partly shaven with plaits at each side. Initiates the torture of Baro's fiancé. He wields Nunchaku and is often seen with Tareshin.
- Tareshin Hasshu
A long-haired Rokki-dan member who uses an odd Naginata-like weapon with three blades at the end. Often seen with Shinhei.
- Shozo Murasaki
A hunchbacked little man with buk-teeth who leads in the torture of a man who is revealed to be Abayama's son and later, Baro's former fiancé.
- Ryo Soma
The illegitimite daughter of Habaki Kagimura. She threatens Habaki with suicide in order to replace the recently-deceased Haiyabo and fight for Rokki-dan. She has also been seen working as a wood-chopper.
Other Suboardinates of the government and Habaki KagimuraEdit
One of the two shinobi that often accompany the Rokki-dan and Hebigumi on missions and carry out spy work. In love with Master Sori. She and Tanpopo are quite comedic when together and have been, quite recently, the series' main source of humour.
Works with Meguro, carrying out spy work and accompanying the Rokki-dan and Hebigumi on missions. Both her and Meguro are also being tutored in art by Master Sori.
The Hebigumi are an army of fighters that all wear the same uniform; a Noh mask, armour and hakama.
A government official that works closely with Habaki, even prepared to take Ryo under his care as his surrogate daughter when Habaki dies.
Government official whose odd facial features make him resemble that of a drag queen. He first appears in issue #104 but did not appear again nor was named until very recently. He later hires a small group of assassins consisting of four females, who are often shown in elaborate clothing.
A kunoichi working for Hanabusa. She can be distinguished by her hairstyle; long hair tied back into two plaits. She leads the aforementioned all-female assassins as well as the other Shogunate officers he has at hand. She and two others in her group are later killed by Makie near the end of the series, after shooting at her using rifles and trying to protect Hanabusa, the two kunoichi are torn apart by Makie, while Ena is left to die impaled to the ground as.
A kunoichi from Ena's group, also working for Hanabusa. After her group attack Meguro and Tanpopo, Ena attempts to get information out of her but fails as Meguro escapes carrying Tanpopo. Mizuma is later seen giving chase, along with three other Shogunate officers, but instead comes across Shira resting under a cliff. After some questioning, Mizuma orders the three officers to execute Shira, after she recalls Hanabusa saying he was a monstrous mistake that had no place in the government. Shira however easily kills the officers, then he severs Mizuma's right when she tries to attack him. He thanks her for the information one of her officers unintentionally gives regarding Manji's whereabouts.
Mizuma meets her grisly end as Shira proceeded to rape and torture her to death, with her body, along with the officers, being found by the Rokki-dan. After Ryo covers her body with a coat, she questions Habaki regarding who was responsible for the attack.
The series has so far won two awards, the first being an Excellence Prize at the 1997 Japan Media Arts Festival, the second being the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 2000 for "Best U.S Edition of Foreign Material."
Art of Hiroaki SamuraEdit
Unlike many other mangaka, Samura attended art school, though he was picked up to do Blade of the Immortal before he graduated. Samura's style is very realistic mixed with some elements of typical anime and manga(i.e comical facial expressions) and he demonstrates a good knowledge of proportion and anatomy often in his work.
Weapons and Martial Arts in Blade of the ImmortalEdit
Volumes and Issues (tankōbon)Edit
Volumes* (English trade paperback):Edit
- Blood of a Thousand
- Cry of the Worm
- On Silent Wings
- On Silent Wings II
- Dark Shadows
- Heart of Darkness
- The Gathering
- The Gathering II
- Fall/Autumn Frost
- Mirror of the Soul
- Last Blood
- On the Perfection of Anatomy
- The Sparrow Net
- Badger Hole
- Demon's Lair
- Demon's Lair II
- Scarlet Swords
- - Issues contained within a certain volume are focused on more within the main article of that volume. Therefore, by clicking on Blood of a Thousand, for example, one may see the links to the articles for all the articles collected in that volume.
The Japanese tankōbon(collected editions) tend to collect more issues than the English volumes. They are as follows:
- tankōbon 1
- tankōbon 2
- tankōbon 3
- tankōbon 4
Regional differences (Editing in the European and American versions)Edit
It was first announced on 23 March 2008 that an anime series based on Blade of the Immortal was in the works. It was produced by Bee Train and its first episode premiered on 13 July 2008. The Anime currently has finished its first season, which consisted of 13 episodes. Media Blasters, an American company, has acquired the rights to the show and has since released it in September 2010. They have dubbed the show in English.
Cultural References & References to Other WorksEdit
The series does have a few references to ancient Japan and other works, though they are quite rare and few in number. However, historic figures, events, and eras are often mentioned, such as Miyamoto Musashi, Oda Nobunaga, and the Muromachi period.
The first instance of sampling from another work appears in Issue #2, Conquest. In Rin's flashback, Anotsu tells her father his percieved origin of the Itto-ryu - he explains that his grandfather(Saburo Anotsu) and Rin's grandfather(Takayuki Asano) were competing to recieve the secret inner teachings of the Mutenichi-ryu. He goes on to explain how his own grandfather was expelled, and in the process, a panel from Japanese print-maker and artist Hokusai's "Hokusai Manga" is shown.
Another instance of sampling Hokusai's work came up again, in a much more recent issue of Blade of the Immortal. The cover of an issue featured in Volume 20(Demon's Lair II), shows Rin with part of one of Hokusai's well known Ukiyo-e prints; The Great Wave off Kanagawa .
A real-life stone monument has also been shown(and explained) in Issue #89 (Crossroads) of the series. In this part of the story, Anotsu, while travelling with Rin, has been infected with tetanus and, now that his condition has worsened, cannot even stand. He is shown to be leaning against the back of this monument, with Rin sitting nearby. This is also briefly explained at the end of the issue.
The character Hanada, an Ittō-ryū underling, was "supposed to look like John Lennon" but ended up as "just another Otaku dude." His asymetrical glasses could also be taken as a reference to DC/Vertigo character Spider Jerusalem; one shade is quadratic and the other is circular.
A few other characters are homages to certain bands and muscians such as Black Sabbath and Sex Pistols. However, these homages are contained in those certain characters' names. For example, the Ittō-ryū swordsman Kuroi Sabato's name is an almost literal romanization of "Black Sabbath;" Sabato is a romanization of the english word "Sabbath" and "Kuroi" is the Japanese word for "black."
A novel, Legend of the Sword Demon, was published in 2008. It was written by Junichi Ohsako and features illustrations by Hiroaki Samura.
An Artbook, The Art of Blade of the Immortal, has also been released by Dark Horse. It was published on 19 May 2010.
Many of the back pages of both the Volumes and Issues of Blade of the Immortal include pin-ups, short parody comics and spin-off pictures often by other professional artists as well as Hiroaki Samura. Most of the singular issues also feature art of the characters, sent in by fans/amateur artists.
Some Blade of the Immortal merchandise has been released by Dark Horse, including a Manji figure, as well as T-shirts and lighters featuring Manji and Rin on them. Stickers with various designs on them have also been released.