~by Hiroaki Samura
After being recommended to me by my favorite comic shop, the manga Blade of the Immortal quickly became one of my favorite series. Despite this fact, I've been reading through it at a rather slow pace (we'll just say that I'm savoring the story and art, not to mention my continuous re-reading). Dreamsong is the third trade paperback issued by Dark Horse, collecting issues twelve through eighteen. While Dreamsong continues Manji's search for redemption and Rin's quest for vengeance, the story arc primarily focuses on Makie Otono-Tachibana and, in the process, reveals more of Kagehisa Anotsu's background.
Maki is as deadly as she is beautiful, rivaling even Anotsu, leader of the renegade Ittō-ryū school, in her extraordinary skill. Having first met when they were children, their paths have brought them together once again. A disgrace to her family, Makie has little left but a life as a pleasure woman and her blade. Taking her place next to Anotsu as a swordswoman of the Ittō-ryū, he asks her to kill Manji before Manji can kill him. He is keenly aware of Rin's vow to avenge her parents' deaths and Manji's besting of many of his followers as they search for the man ultimately responsible. But, with Makie, Manji may have finally met his match.
The artwork, though extremely graphic and violent, is exceptional in its beauty. The gorgeously penciled illustrations not only serve to further the story, but many are also works of art in their own right. A few oddities do pop up, due mainly to how the layout was adapted from the original Japanese publication for English speaking audiences, but these usually aren't too bothersome. Occasionally it is difficult to discern exactly what is going on in a particular panel, but it actually makes sense stylistically as this only tends to happen during battles when there's quite a bit of action going on. Blade of the Immortal begs not only to be read, but to be looked at. I'm definitely a fan of the series and Samura's visual style and artistic prowess plays a large part of that.
Dreamsong is my favorite collection so far (granted, I've only read three of them up to this point). Maki was wonderful and I do hope she returns in future story-arcs. With exceptional artwork and fantastic characters, Blade of the Immortal is easily one of the best manga series I've read, though it did take me a few volumes to really get into it. But now, I can hardly wait to read the next trade paperback, the first part of On Silent Wings.