Is Vagabond A True Story

The manga series Vagabond by artist Takehiko Inoue follows the life of Miyamoto Musashi--one of the most famous Japanese sword masters who ever lived. Musashi wrote The Book of Five Rings, a treatise on Japanese swordsmanship and philosophical still widely read throughout the world. While Vagabond is inspired by historical events and people, it is still a work of fiction. The art and drama are absolutely stunning while the original source material has plenty of dramatic gravitas without needing to deviate from historical events. That said, Inoue took inspiration from the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa more than actual history, so the series is not without some poetic license. These are 5 historical facts Vagabond gets right and 5 things it does not. One of the reasons to read Vagabond is that the fights are pure art! They're exhilarating, epic, and fantastically paced. Many of these are duels in which Musashi fights one-on-one against a single opponent, each of them looking down the length of their sword, hearts pounding as they can taste the nearness of death in the air.

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The real Miyamoto Musashi was a master duelist. He won his first duel at just thirteen and had won more than 60 by the time of his death, never once being defeated. For this, he was known as a kensei, or sword-saint. Feudal Japan had a very rigid honor code. At the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate, there were shifts happening in the country which brought some major changes to codes of conduct and people's roles in society, but overall, certain types of behaviors were acceptable and others would be punished with a quick death. Jemas Whalen wrote an excellent article for Medium entitled "Complimentary Opposition: Vagabond vs The Historical Musashi" in which he points out that had someone accused Musashi of learning the way of the sword while whacking at trees in the forest, they'd have paid with their life. In the manga, Musashi is himself guilty of rudely breaking into a prestigious swordsmanship school like an oaf and making demands.

While there is some debate among historians, Miyamoto is said to have fought at Sekigahara.

Had he done so, it's unlikely he'd have lived to see old age. Considered one of the great turning points of Japanese history, the Battle of Sekigahara took place in the fall of 1600 CE. The armies of the feudal Tokugawa and Toyotomi Clans clashed. The battle concluded with Tokugawa Ieyasu's Eastern Army defeating the Toyotomi Clan's Western Army, thus establishing the victorious Tokugawas as the future shoguns. While there is some debate among historians, Miyamoto is said to have fought at Sekigahara. Vagabond begins with him lying on his back in the mud the aftermath of the historic battle, utterly defeated and haunted by the events of that day. One thing interesting about women in Vagabond is the way it establishes gender roles in feudal Japan. Most of the women in the story are brides, widows, prostitutes, or serve in some other distinctly domestic and subservient role. While it is true that Japan has a long history of strictly enforced gender roles that have demanded women be submissive to men and act in these roles, this long history came into effect with the reforms made under the Tokugawa Shogunate. Before that, female samurai were a part of feudal society, being known as 0nna-bugeisha. Given that Vagabond opens at the very beginning of the Tokugawa rise to power, women should have more autonomy in the world. Though Vagabond begins with Musashi traveling with just a wooden bokken practice sword, later in the series, he begins to use two blades: the longer katana (sometimes translated as "longsword") and the shorter wakizashi (also known as the "companion sword" ).

Worn together as a matching set, these two blades were known as a daisho. In his treatise on swordsmanship, The Book of Five Rings, the historic Musashi speaks of the necessity of using both a katana and wakizashi together, as between them a warrior can adapt to any circumstances in which he might need to fight opponents. Japan was filled with same-sex relationships. Many famous samurai and daimyo had same-sex partners. There were male prostitutes, and men became sexually engaged in the monastic orders. Genderfluidity also seems to have been fairly commonplace, or at least forms of play which experimented with crossing gender binaries. Only through Westernization and the accompanying Christianization did same-sex couples become societally marginalized. Historians debate about Musashi's sexual preferences. Whatever his sexuality, Vagabond fails to show the sexual diversity of world he lived in, as heterosexuality is shown not just as the default, but all-consuming. As a child, Musashi studied under a Zen Buddhist monk named Takuan. Later in life, he repeatedly referenced Buddhist and other religious teachings when writing The Book of Five Rings. Vagabond does an excellent job of showing the prevalence of Buddhism both in early 17th Century Japan and as it directly impacted Musashi's own life.

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Takuan is even a major character introduced early in the story, acting as both a teacher and antagonistic foil to Musashi. Though Takuan nearly executes Musashi, he also helps the young man escape, saving his life. To read Japanese historical documents can be a bit of a shock for modern audiences, especially with regards to the casual treatment of violence. Samurai write sentimentally about techniques to skin an enemy's face or describe torching all the villages in a valley as lighting their path so they can ride at night. Modern hangups about violence just didn't exist. Though Vagabond definitely is a violent manga (it is about a warrior, after all), it often has characters deeply upset by violent actions. Anyone who has studied Japanese history will find such attitudes laughably out of place. In the manga, Musashi makes references to his father being a hard man, a warrior whose brutal strength and cruelty was passed not his son. Additionally, there are allusions to his time as a child living out in the wood and training in swordsmanship. The historical Miyamoto Musashi's father was Shinmen Munisai, a famous samurai who fought with both the katana and jutte. He started a school for swordsmanship where he killed one of his students. Shortly after that, he began training his son. While the manga isn't 100% accurate here, it gets a lot right. While it is impossibly to know exactly what Miyamoto Musashi looked like, most depictions have him wearing his hair in the traditional Japanese topknot. At some point not long before his death, he made a self portrait that showed him balding with short hair in the back and a hairless pate. Whatever he looked like, he absolutely did not have anime hair. While artist Takehiko Inoue clearly is inspired by the topknot in his depiction of Musashi, the sheer amount of spiky strands pointing in all directions is definitely not meant to be taken as anything but an artistic aesthetic.

It's almost Halloween, and what better way to spend October than watching psychological thrillers? If you're looking for an anime filled with suspense, amazing storytelling, and dynamic characters, Naoki Urasawa's 2004 anime series Monster gives us all of these things and more. It focuses on the life of Dr. Tenma, a brilliant Japanese brain surgeon working at Eisler Memorial Hospital in West Germany, 1986. He's the hospital's rising star and engaged to the daughter of the hospital's director when he's suddenly faced with a moral dilemma that shakes his core, forcing him to make life -changing decisions. An innocent man dies because Dr. Tenma followed orders to treat a patient of higher social and political status. He is devastated and horrified as the widow confronts him, realizing what following these orders had entailed. This is a huge turning point in his life and the beginning of our story. This moment leads him to make a decision that alters his life in ways he couldn't even begin to imagine. The dilemma Dr. Tenma had to face is one that is brought up throughout the entire series: is every life equal? Obviously, the answer is "yes," and Dr. Tenma tries to convey this time and time again.

Starting because of the innocent man dying because he wasn't deemed as a priority by the hospital, Tenma performs surgery on a boy with a gun shot wound despite receiving orders to treat the major first. When Dr. Tenma decides to help this boy, he's completely unaware that he's reviving a "monster" and the antagonist of this story. Almost immediately, Dr. Tenma is faced with tragedies and mystery at the hands of this ten-year-old boy. Most of Monster takes place 10-12 years after this point, following a string of murders occurring around Germany. It doesn't take long before Dr. Tenma is standing face to face with the murderer, who then reveals that he was the young boy Tenma brought back to life ten years prior: Johan Liebert. He shoots Dr. Tenma's patient right before his eyes and walks away like a true psychopath: cool, calm, and menacingly slow. Thus begins Dr. Tenma's journey to take Johan down, pulling him out of the shadows and into broad daylight to prevent any more murders from happening. This proves to be no easy task, though, and Dr. Tenma soon discovers there is far more than meets the eye in his journey of rectitude. The plot of Monster is imaginative, with a well executed story. The mysteries, plot, and characters are all woven together so seamlessly, and everything made perfect sense as the story progressed, while also managing to surprise at every turn. The plot is beyond compelling and riddled with depth and intrigue.

They were each their own person and brought something unique to the story.

Urasawa did a great job making the characters three-dimensional and real. These characters weren't good or bad, or cookie-cutter images of other characters. They were each their own person and brought something unique to the story. They made us reflect, they made us cry, and they made us feel. Every episode brings something new and enthralling. The characters are carefully developed along the way-heroes, villains, and everyone in between. There are a lot of different types of villains in Monster (with the big bad boss being Johan Liebert), which is a big part of what makes this series so great. There's not just one bad guy and a bunch of lackeys, but multiple villains of all calibers, with various levels of evil versus humanity, none of which are the same. Even Johan's followers have their own individuality as villains. Each one brings something different to the table, and we tend to hate each of these villains (or love to hate them) for different reasons.

First and foremost, there's Johan. If you like incredibly eerie, disturbing villains-the calm and collected ones that are secretly serial killers-you've come to the right place. Johan's the main antagonist of this story and Dr. Tenma's worst nightmare come to life. He constantly taunts the doctor and murders anyone in his way-sometimes for no reason at all other than he simply can. As the show progresses, secrets are revealed and more tragedies occur. We realize just how bad Johan really is and how much he seems to hustle as a villain (seriously, where does he find the time)? He is easily one of the creepiest villains in all of anime. Everything he does is meticulous, and he can't interact with anyone without ruining their lives or convincing them they're useless and unworthy of love, or even life itself. He's calculated, intelligent, and has no remorse; he knows exactly what he wants to do and will accomplish it at all costs. He isn't predictable either, which gives the story all the twists and turns it needs to be made even more interesting. While Johan is the calm, creepy evil mastermind, there are others walking adjacent paths, such as the recurring villain Roberto. This man is so easy to hate, which makes him a good villain in its own way. In contrast to Johan's insidiousness, Roberto's more of a brute force/macho man villain that you know can beat the life out of you without breaking a sweat. While Johan uses mind games to win his wars, Roberto uses his inhuman strength and size to barrel through obstacles and demolish his enemies.

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