Vagabond (manga)

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Cover of Vagabond vol. 21 of the English adaptation, featuring the protagonist Miyamoto Musashi.
GenreEpic,[1][2] historical,[3][4] martial arts[5]
Written byTakehiko Inoue
Published byKodansha
English publisher
MagazineWeekly Morning
Original runSeptember 17, 1998 – present
Volumes37 (List of volumes)
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and manga portal

Vagabond (Japanese: バガボンド, Hepburn: Bagabondo) is a Japanese epic martial arts seinen manga series written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue. It portrays a fictionalized account of the life of Japanese swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, based on Eiji Yoshikawa's novel Musashi.

It has been serialized in Weekly Morning magazine since September 1998, with the chapters collected into 37 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha as of July 2014. Viz Media licensed the series for English release in North America and has published 37 volumes as of April 2015. The series is currently in an extended hiatus, with the latest chapter released in May 2015.

Vagabond won a 2000 Kodansha Manga Award and the 2002 Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, and has sold more than 82 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling manga series.


The story starts in 1600, in the aftermath of the decisive Battle of Sekigahara. Two 17 years old teenagers who joined the losing side, Takezō Shinmen and Matahachi Hon'iden, lie wounded in the battlefield and pursued by survivor hunters. They manage to escape and swear to become Invincible Under The Heavens (天下無双, Tenka Musō). They find housing with two women, but are soon attacked by the Tsujikaze gang, and in the confusion of the fight their paths separate: Takezō decides to become a vagabond and wander the world challenging strong opponents, and Matahachi chooses to stay with the women. Takezō returns to his hometown, the Miyamoto village, to tell Matahachi's mother, Osugi Hon'iden, that his son is alive. However, Osugi reacts hostile because the village detests Takezō for his extremely violent and antisocial tendencies, and because the future of the Hon'iden gentry family is compromised now that their heir Matahachi is missing. Osugi pulls strings to accuse Takezō of being a criminal. Takezō fights his pursuers but is eventually caught by the monk Takuan Sōhō, who makes him reconsider his purpose in life. Takuan frees him and, to make him start his life anew, renames him Musashi Miyamoto. Thus begins a story that will show how the legend of the acclaimed sword master Musashi Miyamoto was forged.

Story arcs[edit]

  • Takezō arc: Takezō Shinmen and Matahachi Hon'iden's perilous escape from the battlefield of Sekihagara, their hazardous housing with Okō and Akemi, the events corresponding to Takezō's unwanted return to the Miyamoto village.
  • First Yoshioka arc: after a 4 years timeskip, Musashi's arrival to Kyōto, his fight against the Yoshioka swords, Matahachi's situation in Kyōto, the fight's aftermath.
  • Hōzōin arc: Musashi and Jōtarō's arrival to the Hōzōin spears, the events preluding Musashi's fights, Musashi's first fight against the Hōzōin, its aftermath, Musashi's second fight against Inshun Hōzōin, its aftermath, Otsū's situation with the Yagyū, Matahachi's situation with Kojirō Sasaki's certificate.
  • Yagyū arc: Musashi and Jōtarō's arrival to the Yagyū swords, the events while deliberating how to enter the Yagyū headquarters, Musashi's meeting with the 4 seniors, his solo fight against the Yagyū men, his encounter with Sekishūsai Yagyū and their talk, the fight's aftermath.
  • Baiken arc: Musashi's training, Matahachi and his family's troubles, the events directly leading to Musashi's fight against Baiken Shishido, their fight, its aftermath, various displays of character backstories.
  • Kojirō arc: after a reversal to 17 years before the story's start, Kojirō Sasaki's difficult upbringing with Jisai Kanemaki adopting him, various displays of character backstories, timeskip to when Kojirō is 9 and the village's crisis with their protector Yūgetsusai Fudō, its aftermath, timeskip to when Kojirō is 17 and Ittōsai returns dragging Kojirō to a night fight, its aftermath, the travels of Kojirō, Ittōsai and Gonnosuke with a brief encounter with Takezō at the battlefield of Sekihagara, their splitting, the situation of Sadakore's squad, the fights against the peasant groups, Kojirō's fight against Sadakore's squad.
  • Second Yoshioka arc: return to Musashi's story where it was left, Musashi's return to Kyōto, the events preluding his fight against Seijūrō Yoshioka, their fight, its aftermath with the Yoshioka's various deliberations, Musashi's fight against Denshichirō Yoshioka, its aftermath with the Yoshioka's definitive plan, Musashi's solo battle against 70 Yoshioka men, its outcome.
  • Ichijōji's aftermath arc: the aftermath of Musashi's solo battle against 70 Yoshioka men, his stay at the Konpuku temple, his arrest and imprisonment in the Nijō Castle, his escape, Matahachi's situation looking for his mother, Kojirō's situation being hired by the Hosokawa clan.
  • Wandering arc: Musashi's perilous wandering, his fight against Ittōsai, its aftermath, his housing with a peasant family, his return to wandering, Matahachi's situation with his mother, Kojirō's situation upon his arrival to Kokura.
  • Farming arc: Musashi's meeting with Iori, his stay with him, his plans to turn his barren field into crops, the village's help, Musashi's emergency request, Shūsaku's plans, the aftermath.
  • Hosokawa arc: Musashi, Iori and Toyozaemon's journey to the retirement estate of Yūsai Hosokawa, Otsū and Jōtarō's situation living with the Yagyū, Kojirō's situation with the Hosokawa.


Main characters[edit]

Miyamoto Musashi (宮本武蔵)
The main character, also known by his birth name, Shinmen Takezō (新免 武蔵). He aims to become "invincible under the sun".
Sasaki Kojirō (佐々木小次郎)
A deaf swordsman and the archrival of Miyamoto Musashi.
Otsū (おつう)
Childhood friend of Takezō and Matahachi, and ex-fiancée of Matahachi. She serves as aid to Yagyū Sekishūsai Muneyoshi.
Hon'iden Matahachi (本位田又八)
Childhood friend of Musashi and Otsū, ex-fiancé of Otsū, and ex-husband of Okō. At the age of 17, he goes to war with Takezō but he ends up abandoning Takezō during a fight and marrying Okō instead of Otsū. Some years later, he is seen as a good-for-nothing and drunkard but he pursues his dreams of becoming stronger, after he sees Musashi challenging the Yoshioka-ryū school. He impersonates Sasaki Kojirō for a period, after obtaining Kojirō's certificate of swordsmanship.
Takuan Sōhō (沢庵宗彭)
A Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk whose words are brutally acute and honest.
Jōtarō (城太郎)
Musashi's first apprentice. He first appears in Volume 4 when an injured Musashi stays in a tavern after the Yoshioka-ryū challenge. An enthusiastic and kind orphan but he leaves his master for a while, after Musashi shamefully retreats from the challenge with Inshun.

Minor characters[edit]

Okō (お甲)
Akemi's mother and Matahachi's ex-wife. At first, she makes a living with swords and armors left behind on battlefields, later she works in the pleasure quarters in Kyoto.
Akemi (朱美)
Okō's daughter and Yoshioka Seijūrō's lover. She first appears in Volume 1, when she finds Takezō and Matahachi after the Battle of Sekigahara and brings them home in order to help them recover (it's implied that at that time she was collecting swords and armors on the Sekigahara battlefield). In volume 3, she works in the pleasure quarters in Kyoto.
Tsujikaze Tenma (辻風典馬)
A brigand and head of the Tsujikaze-gumi (辻風組) gang. He killed Akemi's father (according to Akemi), but he dies while fighting with Takezō.
Tsujikaze Kōhei (辻風黄平)
Younger brother of Tsujikaze Tenma. Later assumes the name Shishido Baiken (宍戸梅軒).
Hon'iden Osugi (お杉おばば)
Matahachi's mother and matriarch of the Hon'iden clan.
Shinmen Munisai (新免無二斎)
The father of Shinmen Takezo (Musashi) and an expert martial artist in the usage of sword and jutte.
Yoshioka Kempō (吉岡 拳法)
The founder of Yoshioka-ryū school of swordsmanship and military instructor to a Shogunate family.
Yoshioka Seijūrō (吉岡清十郎)
Yoshioka Kempō's oldest son and one of Akemi's lovers. Despite not having interest in swordsmanship, he is naturally gifted at the art and was chosen as the second generation head of the Yoshioka clan.
Yoshioka Denshichirō (吉岡伝七郎)
Seijūrō's younger brother. He is strictly dedicated to the way of the sword.
Ueda Ryōhei (植田良平)
A Yoshioka-ryū senior disciple and the leader of the Ten Swords of Yoshioka (吉岡十剣), which includes Mīke Jurōzaemon, Nampo Yoichibe, Kobashi Kurando, Ōtaguro Hyusuke, Horikawa Yoshibē, Azuma Koshiro, Fujīe and Tagaya Hikozo.
Gion Tōji (祇園藤次)
A senior Yoshioka-ryū disciple and member of the Ten Swords.
Hōzōin In'ei (宝蔵院 胤栄)
The founder of the Hōzōin-ryū school of spearmanship. Students include Agon (阿厳) and Myōei (明栄).
Hōzōin Inshun (宝蔵院 胤舜)
The second-generation master of the Hōzōin spear technique. Before being a Hōzōin-ryū disciple, he was named Shinnosuke Mitsuda whose parents were killed by a rōnin.
Yagyū Sekishūsai Muneyoshi (柳生石舟斎)
The founder of the Yagyū Shinkage Ryū school of swordsmanship. The school's four senior disciples are Kizaemon Shoda (庄田喜左衛門), Kimura Susekuro (木村助九郎), Debuchi Magobe (出淵孫兵衛) and Murata Yozo (村田与三).
Kami'izumi Ise no Kami Hidetsuna (上泉 伊勢守 秀綱)
The founder of the Shinkage-ryū school of swordsmanship and Yagyū Sekishūsai Muneyoshi's master.
Yagyū Hyōgonosuke (柳生兵庫助)
The successor of Yagyū Shinkage Ryū, he is a son of Yagyū Toshikatsu and a grandson of Yagyū Muneyoshi.
Kanemaki Jisai (鐘巻自斎)
Founder of the Chujō-ryū school of swordsmanship. Master and guardian of Sasaki Kojirō, as well as master of his father.
Itō Ittōsai (伊藤一刀斎)
Former student of Kanemaki Jisai and founder of the Ittō-ryū school of swordsmanship. He takes Sasaki Kojirō on his travel and further mentors him in swordsmanship.
Musō Gonnosuke (夢想権之助)
Founder of the Shintō Musō-ryū school of jōjutsu. He joins Itō Ittōsai and Sasaki Kojirō on their travels.
Hon'ami Koetsu (本阿弥光悦)
Famed swordsharpener, artist and calligrapher.
Itakura Katsushige (板倉勝重)
The Kyoto Shoshidai. He has Musashi imprisoned in order to shield him until his injuries heal.
Hosokawa Tadatoshi (細川忠利)
Daimyō of Kokura Domain.
Nagaoka Sado (長岡 佐渡)
A samurai that serves the Hosokawa clan.


Takehiko Inoue started Vagabond having wondered what the character was like when he read Musashi. Having come off of drawing a sports manga, he wanted to create a series about more basic concepts, such as "life and death, the human condition, etc." Rather than portray Musashi's later life in his "enlightened state", which has been written about often, the author chose to depict the lesser known "young man reaching that point of enlightenment when he comes from a place of being so like an animal." In 2009, he stated that he made his weekly deadline thanks to only having to draw the people, with his five assistants drawing the backgrounds.[6]

In April 2009, Inoue told Nishinippon Shimbun that he suspected Vagabond would be ending "within one or two years." Claiming that he did not know how it would end, but that it had entered its final stages.[7] In January 2010, he confirmed it would be ending within the year.[8] However, in September during a hiatus due to health concerns, Inoue announced that the ending had been delayed until 2011.[9] Inoue posted an update on his website in December 2010, stating that Vagabond would not return until he regained "enthusiasm" for the series.[4]

After eighteen-months, Vagabond returned to Weekly Morning as a monthly series in March 2012.[10] The manga went on what was supposed to be a four-month hiatus in February 2014, with the reason stated being for Inoue to work on research.[11] However, it was not until January 2015 that the series resumed.[12]

The series is currently in an extended hiatus, with the latest chapter, chapter 327 "The Man named Tadaoki", released in May, 2015.


Written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue, Vagabond is based on Eiji Yoshikawa's 1935 novel Musashi. It started serialization in the 1998 40th issue of Kodansha's Weekly Morning, published on September 17, 1998.[13][14] He began the series Real in Weekly Young Jump in 2001, and serialized it alongside Vagabond. As of July 2014, the Vagabond chapters have been collected into 37 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha.

Viz Media began releasing Vagabond in English in North America in 2002.[15] Their release retains the color pages from the series' magazine run, and the company has published 37 volumes as of April 21, 2015.[16] Viz's release is distributed in Australasia by Madman Entertainment.[17] In 2008, Viz began re-releasing the series in a format that collects three of the volumes into one.[18]

Two art books for the series were released on October 23, 2006; Water containing the manga's colored art and new pieces, and Sumi () containing the black and white art as well as early rough sketches. Both were published in North America by Viz on September 16, 2008.[19][20]


Vagabond has sold 82 million copies worldwide.[21]

Vagabond won the Grand Prize for manga at the 2000 Japan Media Arts Festival. The following is an excerpt from the speech congratulating Takehiko Inoue: "From Toyotomi to Tokugawa. Musashi Miyamoto grew up amidst the turn of two great eras. Mr. Inoue has taken the powerful Musashi who was sometimes called a 'beast' and drawn him as a vagabond. The artist brags about boldly challenging the national literary work of Eiji Yoshikawa, even so, the sense of speed that he creates is impressive. I send my applause to the artist for creating a new image of Musashi."[22] The same year, the series won the 24th Kodansha Manga Award in the general category.[23] Vagabond also received the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2002, and the North American version earned Inoue a nomination for the 2003 Eisner Award in the Best Writer/Artist category.[11]


  1. ^ Kosaka, Kris (January 7, 2017). "'Vagabond': An epic manga based on the life of a 17th-century samurai". The Japan Times. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  2. ^ Cha, Kai-Ming; MacDonald, Heidi (November 30, 2007). "Takehiko Inoue Unveils Mural at New Kinokuniya". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved April 20, 2020. Inoue is also the mangaka (manga creator) behind the epic ongoing series, Vagabond (Viz Media), based on Japan's most revered and influential samurai warrior, Miyamoto Musashi.
  3. ^ Douresseaux, Leroy (April 23, 2015). "Vagabond: Volume 37 manga review". ComicBookBin. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Vagabond Manga Remains on Indefinite Hiatus". Anime News Network. December 7, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  5. ^ "The Official Website for Vagabond". Viz Media. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Aoki, Deb. "Interview: Takehiko Inoue". Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  7. ^ "Takehiko Inoue: Vagabond Manga Will End in 1-2 Years". Anime News Network. April 24, 2009. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  8. ^ "Inoue Confirms End of Vagabond Manga by Year's End". Anime News Network. January 4, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  9. ^ "Takehiko Inoue Delays Vagabond Manga's Return & Finale". Anime News Network. September 8, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  10. ^ "Vagabond Manga's Return Slated for March 15". Anime News Network. February 9, 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Vagabond Manga to Go on 4-Month Hiatus". Anime News Network. February 16, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  12. ^ "Vagabond Manga to Resume on January 29". Anime News Network. January 6, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  13. ^ "Works". Archived from the original on May 23, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  14. ^ モーニング 1998年 表示号数40. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  15. ^ "Vagabond, Vol. 1". Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  16. ^ "Vagabond, Vol. 37". Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  17. ^ "Madman announces December acquisitions". Anime News Network. December 8, 2006. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  18. ^ "Vagabond, Vol. 1 (VIZBIG Edition)". Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  19. ^ "Water (Vagabond Illustration Collection)". Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  20. ^ "Sumi (Vagabond Illustration Collection)". Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  21. ^ コンテンツビジネス概論‐12 (PDF) (in Japanese). Ritsumeikan University. December 13, 2012. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 22, 2014. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  22. ^ Japan Media Arts Plaza. "2000 Japan Media Arts Festival Manga Division Grand Prize Vagabond". Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  23. ^ Joel Hahn. "Kodansha Manga Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on August 16, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2007.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]