Author(s): Takehiko Inoue
Artist(s): Takehiko Inoue
Category: Historical, Biographical
Languages: Japanese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Indonesian
Grade Level(s): 9-12
Mature Content?: Violence
Vagabond is the tale of Miyamoto Musashi, one of the most revered swordsmen and philosophers in all of Japanese history, treading the line between manga and graphic novel. The series is extensive, following his early life as Shinmen Takezo, a young samurai trying to make his way. The first few installments in the series are very violent, while the latter parts of the series tell more of how he became Musashi, and started to focus on buddhism and philosophy, while still wandering Japan and testing his skills.
This series would be fantastic to teach medieval Japanese history and culture. It does a great job of showing some of the nature of politics as well at the time. It could also be used in an English class to teach characterization, character development, and almost the hero’s journey. Moreover, it could serve as an effective companion text to a class studying the Book of Five Rings, a philosophy text written by Musashi – excerpts of which might have some utility in a philosophy or world literature class. However, all that being said, since the series is so extensive (there are at least 37 volumes!), it would be difficult to use much more than excerpts and pieces of the series.