Vagabon (manga-Musashi)

Vagabond (,Bagabondo) is an ongoing manga by Takehiko Inoue, portraying a fictionalized account of Miyamoto Musashi’s life, on a loose adaptation of Eiji Yoshikawa novel Musashi.

The manga has been serialized in Kodansha’s seinen Weekly Morning magazine since 1998 in Japan, with translations to English by VIZ Media. As of May 28, 2009, 30 tankobon volumes have been published in Japan, with 29 of them translated for the United States. Vagabond has, to this date, sold more than 22 million copies throughout the world.

Differences with the novel

While the differences in the manga compared to the novel are too numerous to list in full, here is a small selection of more important differences.

  • In the manga, Sasaki Kojirō is deaf, mute, and childlike in nature, as well as first being raised by Kanemaki Jisai, then Ito Ittosai and most recently with Hon’ami Koetsu and his mother, the latter who has chased women out from below his blanket multiple times. In the novel, Sasaki Kojirō is neither deaf nor mute. Though he still retains some traces of the childlike nature portrayed in the manga, he is very intelligent and cunning. Moreover, he is also much more violent, arrogant, and slanderous.
  • The character Tzujikaze Kōhei does not exist in the novel. Furthermore, Musashi is freed from the tree by Otsū after being shunned by Takuan who shows no mercy to Takezō.
  • In the manga, Seijurō is portrayed as a playboy and an alcoholic while his brother, Denshichirō, is depicted as a dedicated swordsman who is committed to the Way of the Sword. Seijurō is still portrayed as a playboy in the novel, but he is less of a swordsman than his brother. Denshichirō was described as the more skilled swordsman one but enjoyed his liquor far more than his brother.
  • In the manga, both Seijurō and Denshichirō were killed by Musashi. In the novel, only Denshichirō was killed. Seijurō fought Musashi but survived.
  • In the manga, the Yoshioka conflict ends when Musashi kills all seventy swordsmen of the Yoshioka. In the novel, the Yoshioka school is far less numerous and the conflict ends after Musashi slays the last heir of the Yoshioka, Genjirō (in similar circumstances as the fight at Ichijōji except that instead of failing to take out Ueda right away, he is able to kill the clan head). Musashi’s action haunts him for the remainder of the novel.
  • Gion Tōji neither dies in the novel nor is the bloodthirsty warrior portrayed in the manga. Rather, he is similar to Matahachi, full of envy and cowardice. He escapes with Oko and makes a living with her as a criminal. They encounter Musashi on his path more than once in the novel and swear vengeance upon him.
  • In the manga, when Takezō is taken away from Miyamoto village, Takuan renames him Miyamoto Musashi after teaching him simple values of life, but as a result of this Musashi has only a slightly more refined outlook on life (as revealed in his first encounters with the Yoshioka and then the Hōzōin temple). In the novel, Takuan captures Takezō and takes to the regional Daimyō for punishment. Takuan, a great friend of the Daimyo, is granted his request to pass judgment: Takezō is locked in solitary confinement for three years. His room is filled with books chosen by Takuan, which consist of Greek philosophy, war tactics, art, and history. After reading these books many times, Takezō emerges three years later, much calmer and gentler than before. Takuan then renames Shinmen Takezō to Miyamoto Musashi.
  • In the manga, Seijurō does not rape Akemi. Though Akemi initially longed for Musashi, she eventually called herself “Yoshioka Seijurō’s woman” and jumped off a cliff. In the novel, Seijurō rapes Akemi after he discovers that she still has feelings for Musashi. Akemi then attempts to commit suicide by drowning herself in the ocean but is rescued by Uncle Gon, who drowns in the process.
  • In the novel, In’ei is a senile old man and Musashi did not have a bout with Inshun. Furthermore, Musashi did not meet with Sekishusai.


Japan Media Arts Plaza. “2000 Japan Media Arts Festival Manga Division Grand Prize Vagabond Retrieved on 2007-08-26.


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