Blade of the Immortal (Muugen no Juunin) is set in 18th-century Japan and tells the story of a girl named Asano Rin, and her badass bodyguard Manji. Manji is immortal thanks to an infestation of kessen-chu, sacred worms that pervade his system and knit together any injuries he sustains. He can die only by beheading or by coming into contact with a particularly rare poison. His goal in the series is to remove the curse of his immortality, which will happen if he kills 1000 evil men in reparation for the 100 innocents he killed as an outlaw.Two years prior to the beginning of the story, Rin's father (a swordsmanship teacher) was murdered and her mother was brutally raped in front of her eyes by the members of the Itto-ryu — a renegade sword school led by Anotsu Kagehisa. Rin vowed to track Anotsu down and kill him in revenge, and so she hired Manji to help her fulfil her quest. The series follows Rin and Manji as they travel through feudal Japan, fighting members of the Itto-ryu and other enemies, and meeting comrades with questionable morality of their own.A Samurai epic with vividly realistic art and well-crafted characters, Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura also explores many thoughtful issues relating to death, immortality, revenge, forgiveness, and redemption.Bee Train studio along with Production I.G produced an anime adaptation which saw a US release from Media Blasters.
Action Girl — Makie is the best swordfighter in the series, even beating out the main villain and the main character.
Doa is also seriously dangerous and even Rin can make a reasonable showing on a good day.
Hyakurin also qualifies as one, as she's quite competent with her bow and arrow and even a sword when she needs to be.
Out of the kunoichi, Meguro, Tanpopo and Ryo all qualify.
Affably Evil — Anotsu is quite genteel. His treatment of Hisoka particularly displays this.
Always Save the Girl — Played straight and gender-swapped between Manji and Rin. Both of them will go to any lengths to protect each other, and Rin actually states that a stranger's life doesn't mean as much to her as Manji's.
Appendage Assimilation — Manji's bloodworms don't discriminate when they're healing him - they'll bind together any flesh available, whether it originally belonged to him or not. Cue Burando, the resident Mad Doctor, figuring out how to transfer his immortality through serial limb transplants.
Armor Is Useless — Averted with Shishiya Arashino's armor that makes him nigh-invulnerable.
Art Evolution — As well as Samura moving from his painstakingly shaded and more realistic drawings (which are now only used for chapter covers) to a slightly scruffier, yet very dynamic mark-making style, some of the the characters are barely recognisable from the earlier volumes.
Authority Equals Asskicking — Habaki Kagimura, a government official badass enough to rip out his own eye from the socket when it was pierced with a hairpin, while barely flinching.
Special mention for the Last Blood arc, where this happens three times in a row- first Rin and Anotsu are saved from the Shingyoto-ryu by Manji, then Magatsu shows up and finally Makie intervenes.
Bishōnen — Anotsu is remarkably delicate and softly drawn in comparison to the other fighter characters. He himself acknowledges his slender build when explaining his choice of weapon, and other characters call him "pretty."
This goes so far as that everyone (including professional government assassins) are willing to believe that Anotsu could sneak around as a woman unnoticed.
Blood Knight — The happiest moment in Shira's life was when he realised he had 'two guys he desperately wanted to kill no matter what.
Bodyguard Crush — Inverted, in that Rin is the one with the crush on Manji, though he eventually falls for her as well.
Broken Bird — Hyakurin and Makie, before their appearances in the story. As the storyline progresses it's more like "Completely Shattered Bird". Also Rin, and Doa, to some extent, though it's only implied from a few flashbacks.
Calling Your Attacks — "Flight of the Golden Wasps!", which everyone points out is a stupid name and a stupid move altogether.
Cursed with Awesome — The kessen-chu. Manji was originally given them solely to keep him from committing seppuku and leaving Machi alone and his original motive was to get rid of them by killing 1000 evil men. Of course, he would have died in the first volume without them.
Daddy's Girl — Habaki loves his illegitimate daughter Ryo, and in return has her absolute loyalty.
Dance Battler — Makie is incredibly acrobatic when fighting, using an almost capoeira-like style at times.
Driven to Suicide — Since the story takes place in a feudal Japan this happens a lot, most notably in the form of seppuku. However several characters openly criticize this, especially how common it is in their society.
Manji does this to Makie when her tuberculosis gets the better of her to pass the medicine he held in his mouth.
The Dulcinea Effect — Magatsu, due to his dead little sister, has a habit of going out of his way to protect any young girl he comes across, even if they're his enemy. So far it's applied to O-Ren, Tatsu, Meguro, Rin and Ryo.
Ear Ache — Both Giichi and later Anotsu suffer this.
Ear Cleaning — Once Rin starts behaving more affectionately toward Manji she also starts taking care of him, including offering to clean his ears, an offer he dubiously accepts.
Eye Scream — Happens way too often, and nearly always in grisly detail.
Exotic Weapon Supremacy — Actually something of a plot point - the reason the Itto-ryu are carving their way across Japan is to get rid of the restrictions on weapons training, and one of those restrictions is that you have to stick to boring old katanas. As a result, the various ruffians who make up the main cast have all sorts of weird and wonderful ways to slice each other up, whilst regular swords are largely the reserve of disposable mooks.
Face of a Thug — Dewanosuke, a simple, kind-hearted petty criminal who, in Manji's words, 'looks like a mass-murderer'.
Harmless Lady Disguise — A plot point revolves around the fact that Anotsu plans on travelling to Kaga undetected by disguising himself as a woman. It's then subverted, as Anotsu turns out to have simply leaked some false information and then hired several prostitutes to pose as his decoys.
Heel-Face Turn — Magatsu, the only one of Anotsu's Itto-ryu henchmen to survive his encounter with Manji and later becomes his ally.
Notably, he is the only one of the original group that attacked Rin's parents that is still alive (aside from Anotsu, of course). In a flashback, we see that he tried to convince his companions to leave Rin and her mother alone before finally walking away in disgust, showing that even then he was more of an Anti-Villain.
Hooker with a Heart of Gold — O-Ren was just a sweet girl who sold her body since she was thirteen to pay for her dying mother's medicine, and dreamed of being married to the man she loved when she became free.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl — Isaku and Doa. Manji and Rin to a less exaggerated degree (see image above).
Ill Girl — Hisoka, and Makie later on. Anotsu seems to get involved with these.
Immunity Disability: The protagonist, Manji, is not only immortal but can heal from virtually any wound. This comes back to bite him a few times:
In general, Manji bemuses that although he's one of the best swordsmen in Japan, his sword skills have slowly gotten worse because knowing he can't die dulls his instincts.
There's a special poison that works only on immortals; it doesn't directly kill them, but it basically reopens every single wound they've ever received after becoming immortal. When used on Manji, the results are especially gory, excruciating, and horrific.
Important Haircut — Makie, deliberately making herself worthless as a prostitute. Hyakurin cuts her hair as an offering to a fallen friend.
Improbable Weapon User — Plenty - see Exotic Weapon Supremacy above. The mangaka admits that most of Manji's weapons are of his own design and have no historical precedent, but the grand prize goes to Giichi, who somehow manages to be one of the deadliest fighters in the series despite being armed with a guillotine-flail.
Incurable Cough of Death — Subverted. Makie has an apparently incurable respiratory disease, a tuberculosis. Fortunately for her Itto-ryu got a competent doctor to maintain her and during her last fight Manji manages to obtain the a superior version of a in-universe tubercolusis cure "the Asaemon Pills" that later revealed that the medicide effect only temporary.
Subverted again. When she begins to cough up blood during her battle with Giichi, he moves in to kill her and promptly gets his hand cut off. Turns out Anotsu had given her the cure long time ago, but she was hesitant to take it since in the beginning she didn't know if she wanted to continue living as a murderer and later she question whether her she wanted to life so bad that she had to eat the Asaemon pills that is made of human liver. She had faked succumbing to the tuberculosis by biting off her tongue because Giichi looked strong and she need a diversion
Instrument of Murder — Makie conceals her weapon within a shamisen, which she also plays on occasion.
Irony — One of the first of many terrible things we see Shira do is feed Rin the dog she befriended for sick kicks. He meets his end when he is eaten alive by wolves.
Katanas Are Just Better — Averted. While some great swordsmen use the vanilla katana almost every serious threat uses a personal weapon that often have dishonorable or subtle movements to them. Tellingly the greatest fighter in the series uses a combination of a pike and three section staff. The Big Bad (sorta, see Gray and Gray Morality) explicitly chose a Chinese sword and a enormous and deadly axe as his weapons to prove that the katana is worthless, and has so far succeeded. Particularly when a poor samurai gets a head crushing object lesson on why a thin sliver of metal isn't the best shield against a twenty kilo axe.
The main arc is actually revolve around this trope as xenophobia happen across japan, a non katana user or foreign sword user is considered heretic and become an actual cause for expulsion or alienation. The Big-bad grandparents is expelled from his sword school for this reason and ended with creating Itto-ryu which is a school devoted to prove that katana and traditional sword-style is not better. For this reason through-out the manga contain many kind of swords and weaponry as the big-bad army try to prove katana and old-sword style inferiority.
another thing is that since katana is the majority weaponry in this era, several character in this story such as Gichi actually devised a weapon and fighting style that can be defined as Anti-Katana making for normal katana user to be an easy target for them.
And again, played straight during the finale, when Anotsu discards his trusty axe in favor of a more traditional weapon during his fight with Kagimura Habaki who is the anti-thesis of Itto-ryu as he represent katana and old-style superiority giving the fight full-on irony.
Kissing Cousins — Anotsu and Makie are second cousins (grandparents were siblings) and blatantly romantically attached, although their relationship is pretty complicated.
Knight Templar — Habaki. He was certainly obsessed with eliminating the Itto-ryu before, but now that his seppuku is coming closer, the man is obsessed with erasing not only the Itto-ryu, but anything and anyone that gets in his way.
Lady of War — Makie is the strongest fighter in the series, is graceful and quick enough to avoid the blood spray from all of her attacks, and is lovely enough to inspire Rin to jealousy.
Let's Get Dangerous — Take her Manji away, and the adorable, averagely-strong Rin becomes a force of destruction against anything standing between herself and her man.
Limited Wardrobe — Manji's trademark black-and-white sauwastika kimono. Lampshaded in chapter 141, where Rin is utterly flabbergasted to learn that they're actually sold in stores — she'd always thought he'd sewn them himself.
Looks Like She Is Enjoying It — Makie had sewed her right hand closed so that she wouldn't be tempted to pick up her sword again, and when Anotsu pulled out the strings, she started screaming in agony. Rin was sitting outside Makie's hut as they were doing this, and it's obvious by her expression and what she says to Anotsu afterward what she thought had been going on.
Made of Plasticine — The katana is a very effective cutting weapon, but seriously, taking off multiple limbs in one stroke is just ridiculous.
katana sharpness is actually known for this capability especially the handmade custom katana, The mythbusters actually have tested the "bone problem" in katana cutting in their web episode only to learn that katana is sharp, thin and have enough force to cut through the bone easily. Manji (and presumably the rest of other character) actually regularly maintain and sharpen his katana to keep this capability.
on the other hand, it's also mention several times in this series that not all katana in the series is well made or properly maintained to have the capability.
Malevolent Masked Men: All the prisoners from the Prison arc wearing otter hoods, though they only attack because they've been driven insane through hideous torture.
Market-Based Title — You know how successful the title change is when even the hardcore otaku doesn't refer the series as Mugen no Juunin (Inhabitant of Infinity), which is the original title.
Success that passed over to other countries as well, A Lamina do Imortal in Brazil, La Espada del Inmortal in Spain and Miecz nieśmiertelnego in Poland are direct translations of Blade of the Immortal; the German version doesn't even bother with a translation and goes with the English title. It seems only France has taken up the original Japanese title with L'Habitant de L'Infini
Non-Nazi Swastika: Manji has the swastika symbol on the back of his clothes as a reference to immortality. In fact, manji is the Japanese name for the swastika symbol. In the original version, it's drawn in the "Nazi direction", but in English translation was flipped to the "Buddhist direction".
No Swastikas — Subversion: The name Manji refers to the Japanese symbol that looks like a backwards "swastika" or sauvastika. He wears the symbol on his back, which is one of the reasons they didn't "reverse the art" in the US publication.
In the German version they had to remove the symbol on Manji's back and made it a simple cross, since it's forbidden in Germany to show it anywhere, despite the fact that the story takes place centuries before the rise of the Nazis. For comparison
This has actually gotten to the point where Dark Horse Comics put a disclaimer on the inside cover of the book stating the difference between Manji's Buddhist insignia, and the German Swastika.
Off with His Head! — Happens all the time to mooks, and it's very rarely clean and precise.
One-Man Army — Manji is the most blatant example, famously slaughtering a hundred police officers. However Habaki and Makie also easily qualify and, following the infiltration of Edo Castle, so do Anotsu, Magatsu, Baro and Ozuhan.
Only a Flesh Wound — Whilst Manji has an excuse, even the ordinary humans can take ludicrous amounts of punishment and still remain functional, especially when one considers the decidedly primitive medical care available. Magatsu is a particularly big offender, repeatedly shrugging off getting Impaled with Extreme Prejudice like it ain't no thing.
This affect Manji's sword skill quite considerably, as the immortality turns him into sloppy fighter that constantly gets hit and bested by his opponent. At some point Manji actually thanks the opponent for giving his "fear" back.
Only Six Faces — At the beginning this tended to occur with the female and minor characters, though it has improved significantly over time.
Perma Stubble — Literally with Manji, as his condition makes him unable to either shave it off or turn it into a proper beard.
Pet the Dog — Ironically while being eaten by dogs, Shira tells Renzo to stop the Cycle of Revenge, though it's mainly due to the fact that it's nearly impossible to kill Manji. "—And don't ever listen to men like me!"
Psycho for Hire — Shira once he leaves the Mugai-ryu. Or maybe even before then, to be honest.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits — The Itto-ryu is a villainous example of democracy at its finest. The only criterion to join is strength: men, women, commoners, foreigners, thieves, rapists, people over two-hundred years old, people with three heads, anyone is welcome! The Mugai-ryu is a less extreme (but more dramatic) example.
Reluctant Warrior — Makie. Her mother taught her that being a prostitute is better than killing people. You can rest assured that when she gracefully kills you, she will look very, very sad.
Revenge — Deconstructed, as Rin and Anotsu begin to develop a much more complex relationship than that of "avenger" and "avengee".
Shira's last words to Renzo are to stop seeking revenge on Manji because it's impossible. Renzo finds him anyway, but Rin offers to let him cut off her hand instead since Manji as she need Manjis hand to complete her journey/mission. Magatsu intervenes and tells Renzo to learn more about his father and the Itto-ryu before decide for himself.
At the end of the manga Rin finaly kills Anotsu instead of letting him escape as Manji would have. She later states that it was not for her revenge anymore but to prevent the cycle from repeating next generation after Manji has defeated him. Unfortunately Anotsu is still alive when his body is moved and carried to the ship albiet missing an arm and with some serious wound.
Shira tries to invoke one on Manji in chapter 169. He has tied Rin to the underside of a dock in frigid water. When Manji tries to cut her loose, she sinks to the bottom of the lake and he find out too late that her feet are tied to a stone with knots too tight and complex to be undone with one arm (as Manji has lost one). Furthermore, Shira has confiscated all of Manji's weapons so that cutting Rin loose is not an option. And last but not least, the water is so cold that even Manji's immortal body can't stand up to it (cold, heat and drowning are explicitly stated to be things that immortality does squat against. So, in summation, Shira has created a situation in which Manji has to either try futilely to save Rin's life (only for them both to drown) or realize that it's hopeless and willingly allow his most important person to die in order to save himself. Shira wins either way, but he'd be especially happy to see Manji abandon her and then come back to kill Shira himself in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Sanity Slippage — Burando, who starts out as an idealistic (if immoral) doctor who actually believes that subjecting inmates to horrific experiments will bring progress. After he is locked away, he comes back... different (still a hypocrite, though).
Serrated Blade of Pain — Shira possesses a large cleaver-like sword with barbs, which he usually uses to maim, shred and sometimes rape his (frequently female) opponents.
Sinister Minister — The priest who tries to kill Manji in the prologue. Also Eiku, who dresses as a monk.
Sins of Our Fathers — Rin wants revenge on Anotsu for killing her father, whose grandfather expelled Anotsu's grandfather from his school, while promoting his own son — Rin's grandfather — which is why Anotsu killed Rin's father in the first place.
Anotsu (in disguise) and a rather tipsy Hyakurin have a long conversation about how unfinished business is passed down from father to son and results in nothing but a cycle of misery with each new generation forced to carry the burden of revenge.
It's explained by Magatsu that in order for them to attack effectively they need to learn how to utilise their body weight, since they don't have the sheer physical strength needed to inflict damage on opponents (usually bigger and heftier than they are) otherwise. This is done by two character Makie and Doa
Makie armed with a triple staff with pike with fighting style that contain spinning, jumping and kicking to attack, distract and gain enough momentum give deadly force to the enemy.
Doa use a blinding speed and nimbleness to use her entire body weight at her strike (hence why she jumps around when attacking).
Meguro on the other hand being mainly a spy, fighting is not her main forte making her didn't understand or use the principle above. as running is her specialty, she opt to run around while giving death by thousand cuts. In reality this is also deadly as the small injuries hampers the enemy movement making them unable to keep up with meguro, they'll also suffer from major blood-loss. Unfortunately, this fighting style is useless against the immortal shira who able to heal those small injuries quickly.
Habaki and Anotsu could also be seen as versions of this, being men who are prepared to go to whatever lengths to benefit their country and their comrades.
To elaborate, Habaki main intention is the safety of the current government which he will cross many lines to do so, such as using death-row criminal to do his dirty work to hunt possible threat to the government, do immortality research that cost over 200 lives for the possibility of immortal-shogun and torturing the innocent for information on the possible threat.
Anotsu on the other hand wants to prove the weakness of the current government and wants to re-light the age of sword to strengthen the nation even it requires him crushing and killing many "weaker" aspect of the current government.
Rin: Truth to tell... I've never thought Manji's life weighed the same as some stranger's.
Who Wants to Live Forever? — While several people do, Manji is not one of them, when the story starts he's bored of life and laments the fact that confidence immortal body is causing his sword skills to slip.
Eiku Shizuma initially seems like a subversion (wants to rule world) but lets Manji defeat him when he realizes how bored he's getting.
Your Days Are Numbered — In the aftermath of the Prison Arc, Habaki has been given a month to settle his affairs before he must commit seppuku. Additionally, Makie seems to have contracted tuberculosis in more recent chapters.