Friday, February 22, 2008

Blade of the Immortal: The Sparrow Net

New Blade of the Immortal! Okay, a new compilation of stories we’ve already seen in monthly format, true! But with the end of that monthly format, the trades are now all we have to look forward to.

While Manji’s prison ordeal continues Samura turns his attention to Rin and her new companions, Doa and Isaku. An encounter with the Edo constabulary, leads to Isaku’s capture and the two women combining their energies in order to rescue both men. With some special equipment from Sori they stake out the castle and begin to formulate their plan. Within the castle Kagimura decides he has to use Burando after all. Unfortunately, the doctor has become quite unhinged since his own imprisonment. He is now a true mad scientist, and all the crazier for making some kind of sense.

It’s the story of Doa and Rin that makes up the meat of this volume. We learn something of Doa and Isaku’s origins in the northern islands and their flight south to make a new life for themselves, we learn a secret which may well condemn Isaku now that he’s been captured, but the most interesting part of these characters’ development is seeing Rin now acting as the adult and caretaker. She’s gone through a wild and arduous few months with Manji, but now we get a chance to see what that experience has taught her. Doa may be impressive in combat, but she isn’t used to taking responsibility for herself and with Isaku gone that it falls to Rin to keep the Itto-ryu fireball in line and focussed on the task ahead.

The only real problem is how long it’s taken to get to this point. Manji was captured in issue 105. That’s twenty one issues, or almost two years, before the material covered in The Sparrow Net. Much too long. And this storyline wasn’t finished when the monthlies were discontinued five months after these issues. As much as I hate to admit it, this arc works only in trade format. From that perspective, Manji was only captured two volumes ago, and even now we see many elements coming together that should move things forward soon –especially a horrific discovery in the woods outside the castle. I expect the next trade will include new material and, let’s hope, the end of this arc.

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