Blade of the Immortal, Volume 25: Snowfall at Dawn

Blade of the Immortal, Volume 25Creator: Hiroaki Samura
U.S. publisher: Dark Horse
ISBN: 9781595828835
Released: August 2012
Original release: 2009
Awards: Eisner Award, Japan Media Arts Award

Snowfall at Dawn is the twenty-fifth volume in the English-language release of Hiroaki Samura’s award-winning manga series Blade of the Immortal. Published by Dark Horse in 2012, Snowfall at Dawn collects the same chapters as the twenty-fourth volume of the original Japanese edition of Blade of the Immortal released in 2009. Blade of the Immortal first began serialization in 1993 and has covered a lot of ground since then. Starting as a story of revenge with a touch of the supernatural, the series mixes historical reality with the fantastic and later on even a healthy dose of horror. Snowfall at Dawn is part of the fifth and final major story arc of the series. With morally complex characters, dynamic artwork, and an engaging story, Blade of the Immortal continues to be one of my favorite manga series.

After their daring assault on Edō Castle, Baro Sukezane provides the diversion needed to allow his comrades Magatsu Taito and Anotsu Kagehisa, the leader of the Ittō-ryū sword school, to escape. They aim to rejoin the rest of the Ittō-ryū as quickly as possible while avoiding their pursuers. Among those trying to locate Anotsu are Asano Rin and Manji, her bodyguard and companion. Little do the pair know, but they are also being pursued. Shira, a sadistic murderer who holds a particularly intense grudge against Manji, is steadily getting closer to exacting his revenge. Accompanying Shira is Kawakami Renzō, a broken young man with his own reason for hating Manji. It’s only a matter of time before the four of them meet once again. The encounter is one that Shira has been preparing for and fantasizing about, taking great pleasure in anticipating and contemplating the pain and torment his plans will bring Manji and Rin.

The last few volumes have been building up to the confrontation between Shira and Manji. Unsurprisingly, their battle is the focus of Snowfall at Dawn. What did surprise me, however, is how comparatively tame it is physically when considering the perverse and barbaric nature of Shira’s past exploits and misdeeds. The potential for extreme physical violence between Shira and Manji is great. Shira is an unapologetic and twisted sadist while Manji is a man who is extraordinarily difficult to kill, making him an ideal victim and target. But Shira isn’t only interested in Manji’s physical suffering, he also takes great joy in causing mental anguish. Although there is still plenty of bodily harm and pain inflicted during the battle in Snowfall at Dawn, the psychological impact and agony caused by Shira’s attack on Rin and Manji is just as crucial to the fight. Out of all of the characters in Blade of the Immortal, Shira is easily the most unquestionably villanous and terrifying.

In addition to the showdown between Shira and Manji, Snowfall at Dawn also reveals Shira’s whereabouts during the long prison story arc as well as his involvement in the immortality experiments. Shira may be an utter bastard, but he’s had some unspeakable things done to him as well. As part of this, there is also a lengthy discourse in Snowfall at Dawn about the nature and limitations of Manji’s bizarre regenerative abilities. While vaguely interesting, it is largely unnecessary. Anyone who has been reading Blade of the Immortal should be well aware by this point that Manji’s immortality is imperfect; ample evidence can be found throughout the series. However, Samura hasn’t previously gone into such specific detail about it as he does in Snowfall at Dawn. Unfortunately, he has to interrupt the flow of the story in order to do so. Still, Samura soon returns to what really matters in Snowfall at Dawn—Manji and Shira’s battle, which will reach its conclusion in the next volume, Blizzard.


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