The Road to the Final Climax of Vagabond
Takehiko Inoue's Vagabond, which began serialization in Kodansha's Weekly Morning in 1998, is a samurai manga based on Eiji Yoshikawa's novel Miyamoto Musashi. The manga won the 4th Media Arts Festival Grand Prize and the 24th Kodansha Award for Best Manga in 2000, as well as the 6th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Award in 2002.
Now in its eighth year of serialization, the series is getting closer to its final story arc. In November SWITCH ON Excite released an interview on Inoue's Vagabond. The article explores the development of his drawing techniques, his plans for Vagabond, and more.
Also included is a translation of a small Editor's Rant, which was released around the time Vagabond was first serialized. The rant reveals where the title "Vagabond" came from.
Combining Image and Body
According to Inoue, he is always trying to "combine the image and the body." In the course of creating Vagabond, Inoue's use of ink brush gradually increased. Around the time of Musashi's duel with Shishido Baiken, Inoue began to heavily rely on the ink brush. During the Kojiro arc, Inoue became completely dependant on it.
When creating manga, Inoue first draws rough copies of naked bodies of human. For example, when drawing Musashi gripping a sword, Inoue would first draw a naked Musashi, and then draws the clothes.
Some wonder why Inoue goes through all this trouble. According to Inoue, everyone is naked, clothe is what humans put on their body. Drawing nudity and the human body is the most basic drawing technique.
When asked about his drawing techniques, Inoue said, "I wanted to understand the movement of the body, so it was natural for me to draw like that." Perhaps Inoue won't be able to draw his characters correctly without first understanding how a character's body moves under heavy Japanese clothes.
Inoue said, "If only I could learn swordplay, in addition to being able to use an ink brush correctly, I would also be able to draw better fight scenes in Vagabond. I want to challenge my own body".
The Wall that Inoue Faces
According to Inoue, "If he had to draw a character being slashed to death, the character must be able to clearly see the instant right before his or her death." It may be difficult to for others to understand this idea, but Inoue likes to do things his own way. With this idea in mind, Inoue is facing a "wall." Inoue's personal feelings toward Vagabond may be beyond the imagination of the avid readers.
Vagabond is a rare work, but that doesn't mean it's always been a masterpiece, as it was adapted from a story written by Eiji Yoshikawa. Through Vagabond, Inoue is showing Japan a new image of Miyamoto Musashi.
The "wall" may not be the last one of Inoue's career as a manga artist, as Inoue will need to face new ones in life. As long as manga artists continue to draw manga, it would be difficult to separate their professional life and their private live. The wall between the work and life of authors and artists is very fragile.
The question remains, what kind of wall is it? What answer does Inoue think lies beyond the wall?
To the End of the Story
"In the beginning I wanted to create a simple road trip movie," said Inoue, "but due to my own habits, it's not easy for me to make things like that."
According to Inoue, Vagabond will end in one and a half to two years. In Vagabond, Musashi has already finished his fight with Shishido Baiken, and has beaten his rivals, including Yoshioka Seijuro, Gion Toji, and Yoshioka Denshichirou. Sasaki Kojiro is the only one left.
Inoue succeeded in arousing in his readers a strong sympathy towards Kojiro by narrating the childhood days of Kojiro. Readers understand that Kojiro will fight a life-or-death battle with Musashi, so there is only a limited world which Inoue should draw.
As for Inoue, he is only seeking ways on how to draws it and one could say he is suffering from it, because Inoue wants to complete this manga, a challenge to him, as a professional manga artist.
Editor's short rant on Vagabond
What is a "Vagabond"? What does it means?
Inoue: Vagabond means "a rogue" in English. Inoue thought up this title by himself. This manga is based on the novel "Miyamato Musashi." Miyamato Musashi is very famous in Japan, and Inoue didn't want his fans to read his manga with the novel in mind, so he used another English title for his manga.
In the manga, Honiden Matahachi calls himself Sasaki Kojiro. Will he become an important rival of Musashi like in the novel?
Inoue: I can't say anything about it now. You will just have to see for yourself in Morning (the anthology Vagabond is serialized in).
I read the original novel before reading the manga. I noticed that some stories, such as the Hozoin arc and the Yagyu arc, were not in the original novel.
Inoue: Vagabond doesn't completely follow the original novel. I'm creating new stories and new characters to show my own theme to the readers.