Vagabond is an infamous historical samurai manga based on Eiji Yoshikawa's novel Musashi. Its creator is the renowned mangaka, Takehiko Inoue. If you’re not familiar with the series, Vagabond follows the story of legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, the most famous samurai in all of history. Inoue’s take on Musashi masterfully follows the life of the renowned swordsman, from his young days as a rowdy vagabond to his later years as an enlightened samurai.
Without going into spoiler territory in case you haven’t read the manga, I have to say, Vagabond is a masterclass on how to write and illustrate a seinen manga. It’s not only realistic but captivating with its luscious art style and engaging characters. Yes, you read that right. Vagabond is not only about Musashi, there’s a plethora of side-characters and stories that intertwine with the main one.
The most notable of these characters being Musashi’s love interest Otsu and his childhood friend Matahachi. However, the story also has a second protagonist, Sasaki Kojiro, who in real life was Musashi’s most notable rival. When it comes to the real-life counterparts of Kojiro and Musashi, their tale ended in a duel against one another. In this duel Kojiro was defeated and killed by Musashi.
With Vagabond entering its final, arc it was evident throughout the story that two samurai would eventually fall victim to this ill-fated duel. However, as we patiently waited and waited, that duel never came. Just as Vagabond entered its final arc in 2015, it also went on an indefinite hiatus. One that is still ongoing, even now. And this brings us to our main topic, what in the hell happened to the Vagabond manga and will it ever return?
Why did Vagabond go on hiatus?
It’s speculated that a lot of this had to do with Inoue working on Vagabond for close to two decades, which took a toll on his physical and mental health. For years, Vagabond was on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule, requiring Inoue and his assistants to constantly pull all-nighters in order to meet deadlines. This led to Vagabond going on hiatus in 2010 for two years, due to Inoue’s health.
However, after a doctor’s check-up, they found nothing wrong with him physically. Therefore, he came to the conclusion that Vagabond was mentally draining him. After Inoue came back from the hiatus in 2012, there was a sudden decline in the manga’s quality. His ultra-detailed drawing was substituted with a more minimalistic art style. This was extremely evident in Vagabond’s infamous, farming arc (the last arc finished before the series went on hiatus). And this brings us to 2015.
Another reason for Vagabond’s long hiatus can also be traced back to Inoue’s other unfinished manga, Real.
Real is a manga about disabled basketball players which was launched in 1999, just a year after Vagabond. Inoue worked on an off on this project, although there were times when he worked on both mangas simultaneously. Real also experienced its fair share of hiatuses as well. With the series going on an indefinite hiatus in 2014, that is, until August of last year(2019).
Basically, Inoue took a break from drawing manga for more than four years. During this break he focused on his life, health and love for basketball. However, with him back on Real, what does the future have in store for Vagabond?
Will Vagabond ever come back from hiatus?
The last time Inoue spoke about Vagabond was in an interview in 2015. When he was asked whether he had any idea when the series would end, Inoue responded:
“A few years ago I said Vagabond would end soon, but… I’m sorry (laughs). Manga is a living being which grows along with the characters, whose final destination and evolution is something I never know, so I can’t say when it is going to end.”
Although he hasn’t said anything about the manga ever since we should all trust in Inoue’s perseverance. Because like his characters, Inoue too has shown that he doesn’t give up easily. Even after going on multiple hiatuses in the past, he has always returned. So let’s hope he does so again with Vagabond, one day, more determined than ever!