Blade of the Immortal, Volume 1: Blood of a Thousand

Creator: Hiroaki Samura
U.S. publisher: Dark Horse
ISBN: 9781569712399
Released: March 1997
Original run: 1994-ongoing (Afternoon)
Awards: Eisner Award, Japan Media Arts Award

Blade of the Immortal is one the very first manga that I’ve read. I picked it up upon the recommendation of one of my very favorite people at one of my very favorite comic stores. This first collection compiled by Dark Horse consists of the first six issues of the comic series.

Manji is a rather bad-ass samurai who has been cursed with immortality after killing a hundred innocent people at the orders of his boss. He still feels pain, and, given the types of wounds he manages to procure, this can be quite excruciating. In order to repent for his past misdeeds, he makes a deal with the eight-hundred year old nun who infected him with kessen-chū, the sacred bloodworms that keep him alive and heal his wounds: He will kill one thousand evil men, and only then will he be allowed to die.

A young girl named Rin is alerted to Manji’s existence, and newly formed vow, by the nun. She is the sole survivor of her family’s massacre. Her father, a skilled swordsman and leader of a respected dōjō, is slain by a newly instituted rebel school. Seeking revenge, Rin convinces Manji to serve as her bodyguard in her quest.

The art is absolutely fantastic. It is exceptionally violent, extraordinarily graphic, but intensely beautiful and gorgeously penciled. Unfortunately, because of the way comic was adapted for English readers, some of the art is inconsistent (For example, Manji has a bad eye which is sometimes shown on his left side, and sometimes on his right.) The story is at times rather disturbing, but it is not without humor. This first volume makes for a strong introduction and includes a glossary and an interview with the creator. While I’m not quite hooked on the series yet, I’m pretty sure I will be very soon.

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