Blade of the Immortal, Volume 7: Heart of Darkness

Creator: Hiroaki Samura
U.S. publisher: Dark Horse
ISBN: 9781569715314
Released: April 2001
Original release: 1997
Awards: Eisner Award, Japan Media Arts Award

Heart of Darkness is the seventh volume in Dark Horse’s English translation of Hiroaki Samura’s manga series Blade of the Immortal. After chapters twenty-six through thirty-three were serialized as individual comics, the seventh collection was published in 2001. The numbering of the English volumes of Blade of the Immortal is slightly different than that of the original Japanese volumes. Heart of Darkness collects chapters from the sixth and seventh volumes of the Japanese editions, both of which were released in 1997. 1997 is also the year that Blade of the Immortal won a Japan Media Arts Award. The series also won an Eisner Award in 2000 for Best U.S. Edition of International Material. In addition to being critically well received, Blade of the Immortal also happens to be one of my favorite manga series (as well as one of the first manga that I read). Understandably, I was looking forwarded to reading Heart of Darkness.

Rin and Manji aren’t the only people after the life of Kagehisa Anotsu, the leader of the rogue Ittō-ryū sword school. The Mugai-ryū, more of a band of assassins than a legitimate style, are also after Anotsu, but they have their eye on Manji, too. Anotsu will soon be leaving Edo, but his exact route is unknown. The Mugai-ryū have obtained inside information on Anotsu’s plans and are willing to trade it in exchange for Manji’s aid in taking him down. But that is all they are willing to share—who the Mugai-ryū really are, and who is backing and supporting the group is unknown. Despite their better judgement, Manji and Rin agree to join forces with the Mugai-ryū. They will soon discover just how incredibly dangerous some of its members truly are and may very well come to regret their decision.

Heart of Darkness is a exceptionally apt name for this particular story arc. Shira, one of the members of the Mugai-ryū who was introduced in the previous volume, Dark Shadows, plays a very prominent role. He is already known to be cruel and sadistic; the bloody aftermath of others’ encounters with him were shown in Dark Shadows. In Heart of Darkness his perverse proclivities are on full display—witnessed by Rin and the readers from start to finish—and it is brutal. From the very beginning of Blade of the Immortal it has been clear that the series is intended for mature audiences, but Heart of Darkness leaves absolutely no doubt. The lengthy scene with Shira is well done, but that doesn’t make it any less horrifying or any easier to read. It’s disturbing, rough, and intense, but then again it should be.

I continue to be impressed by Blade of the Immortal. In Heart of Darkness Samura’s artwork and storytelling is once again top notch. (Although the way Dark Horse has semi-flipped the manga occasionally makes the panel flow somewhat awkward.) His characters, even those that are scary as hell, fascinate me. Anotsu in particular is very intriguing. Time and again he is shown to be an incredibly formidable opponent. Not only is his a skilled fighter, but he has the brains to match. Anotsu is extremely intelligent and an excellent strategist which is one of the reasons he’s managed to stay alive for so long considering the number of people who would rather see him dead. Blade of the Immortal remains one of my favorite series. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next volume, The Gathering.

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  1. Glad to see another Blade of the Immortal review, it’s one of my favorite series.

    The Shira scenes were well done, in the sense that they really disturbed me as I figure they were intended to do. It seems like none of the characters are meant to be seen as “good” or “bad” but Shira really pushes it.

  2. Thanks! I’m hoping to review each volume, but I’m being rather slow about it. The encouragement is appreciated. ^_^

    One of the things I love about the characters in Blade of the Immortal is that they’re all morally ambiguous. But you’re right, Shira really does push it. He is one terrifying dude.

  3. would you please more explain about the plot, I couldn’t understand this volume properly. thank you

    • Ash Brown says

      Sure, I’d be happy to! I think the review gives a pretty good gist of what is going on without giving away spoilers, but I can be more specific once I have a chance to look through the volume again. Before writing up a summary, is there something in particular that you are curious about or were confused by?

      • on page 141, Rin: “So that was it– they were trying to smoke out the mole as well. two birds with one stone”. what is she talking about? what was the anotsu ‘s plan? And how did he knows there is a spy in his dojo?
        sorry for my bad english :)

        • Ash Brown says

          It’s been a while since I’ve read the early part of the series, so I don’t remember exactly what it was that made them suspect there might be a spy. It was probably a lot of little things that added up over time.

          Anotsu’s plan to leave the city without being caught or killed was to dress up as a woman. Only a few people knew about this plan, which was also important. This plan would accomplish two things at the same time (which is what “two birds with one stone” means if you are unfamiliar with the phrase, usually it’s “to kill two birds with one stone”):

          1) Assassins would be looking for a man, not a woman, which would make it easier for him to escape.
          2) If a group of assassins was looking for a woman, it would mean that there was a spy and the spy told them the plan. And because only a few members knew about the plan, he would know the spy was one of those people.

          So, the plan was intended to make it easier for Anotsu to escape AND to find who might be a spy. Hopefully this helps! (Also, your English is quite good!)

          • pal, thanks for your explanation. :)

            • Ash Brown says

              You are very welcome! I hope you enjoy Blade of the Immmortal; it’s a great series. :)

              • the only thing that bothers me is that i can’t buy original books. i have to download them. :( manga and anime is prohibited in my country Iran. i wish i could have my own manga collection :(


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