Shinmen Takezo/Miyamoto Musashi
The series' protagonist, Takehiko Inoue's take on the legendary sword saint, Miyamoto Musashi.
- The Anti-Nihilist: Musashi's faced time and again with the meaninglessness of his desire to become invincible, along with the fact that his search for strength has cost him the lives of hundreds of people for no reason whatsoever and separated him from the one woman he truly held any affection for. But Musashi never backs down; even when confronted with how small he is in the grand scheme of the endless universe, and no matter how many times his ideals get insulted or proven false, he always picks himself back up and does his best to learn from his past mistakes.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Musashi's constant pursuit to better his skills pays off when he manages to single-handedly overcome a seventy-man army out for his blood, and as such becomes a national figure so widely known that samurai from far and wide begin holding his name in deep reverence. You'd think Musashi, given his goal of being "invincible under the sun," would be pleased about it—but in the aftermath of the Yoshioka school massacre, he begins to see just how meaningless the title of invincibility truly is, beginning to understand the value of life and non-violence.
- Blood Knight: At first; during his younger years as Shinmen Takezo, he willingly risked his life in meaningless battles solely for the instant gratification he gets from bloodshed. As time goes on and he gradually grows more enlightened, he actually expresses discontentment towards his life of violence and actively seeks to solve problems without needlessly hurting others.
- Break the Haughty: Musashi's greatest flaws are his overconfidence in his skills and his constant desire to prove himself. It is only when he suffers his first real defeat at the hands of Inshun that he recognizes the value of respecting his opponents and how narrow-minded his own view of his swordsmanship truly was.
- Byronic Hero: Introspective? Yes. Intelligent? In the heat of battle, he proves to be quite the Genius Bruiser. Arrogant? His extreme desire to prove himself tends to overshadow his more sensible side. Extremely passionate about his dreams? Understatement of the century. Intensely dedicated to his own philosophy, without any concern for any established standards set by society? Yup. The only thing he distinctly averts from the archetype is being jaded and cynical; Musashi's one of the most optimistic characters in the whole series.
- Can't Hold His Liquor
- Character Development: Musashi starts out the series as a violent youth looking for glory and to prove himself as the strongest warrior in the land. As his martial prowess grows, he also learns a lot from all the people he meets (both warriors and otherwise) and gradually realizes the value of life and the importance of solving problems without violence.
- Combat Pragmatist: In keeping with both his characterization from the novel (as well as historically) Musashi occasionally eschews fighting purely honorably in favor of using what simply works. For example, he begins his fight against the seventy Yoshioka swordsmen by incapacitating/killing them with unarmed blows before attacking with weapons he has taken from his opponents, and attacking from the shallowest direction (that is, that with the fewest swordsmen between him and his target)... and he doesn't hesitate to resort to the Groin Attack either!
- Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life: The whole manga centers around him discovering what it truly means to become "invincible under the sun." At first, he comes to the conclusion that he must slay everyone at the top in order to bolster his own standing, but later on understands that his relentless killing of numerous samurai has trapped him in an endless spiral of death.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Musashi doesn't necessarily care about earning the respect of others, but his main goal is to make his name known as the one "invincible under the sun."
- Fastest Gun in the West: A samurai version of this trope. As his reputation grows, ronin hoping to make a name for themselves seek him out and try to kill him. Needless to say, they all fail.
- To Matahachi. Matahachi is a hedonistic man who largely pursues temporary pleasures to fill the hollow void he's left in himself, constantly indulging in self-pity and fuming over the success of others, outright willing to steal other samurai's names in order to better his own lot in life—it's telling that it takes the death of his mother, as well as whole years of lying to her and nearly everyone around him to get him to start manning up. Musashi, on the other hand, relentlessly tries to better himself as a warrior without much concern for how others view him, willing to learn from every single misstep he makes while out on his quest and freely putting himself in less-than-ideal situations all to gain a better understanding of his swordsmanship and his place in the world.
- To Sasaki Kojiro. Kojiro's a happy-go-lucky Manchild who can easily win the love of an entire village within a day; Musashi's mature, aloof, gruff, and doesn't tend to socialize at all (unless they happen to be particularly skilled swordsmen). Kojiro constantly goes after women without rest, while Musashi's fixated singularly on Otsu. Kojiro grew up loved by his father-figure and was treasured in his community, while Musashi grew up constantly being manhandled by his abusive father and ostracized by those who saw him as a "demon child." But both Kojiro and Musashi love using their swords in battle, are always restlessly searching for opponents to spar with all in the name of bettering their own skills, and are so deeply connected to the sword that the two of them can hold a conversation practically just by swinging sticks at each other in place of blades. Their passion for the sword is the one thing the two have in common.
- Handicapped Badass: Becomes this for a while after suffering a near-crippling injury to his right leg during the battle with the Yoshioka.
- Honor Before Reason: Zigzagged. Musashi is a Combat Pragmatist, and so doesn't normally care for traditional codes of honor when it comes to the battlefield. However, whenever someone challenges him, Musashi doesn't even consider the notion of running away, and even in defeat constantly seeks ways to better himself as a warrior. Gradually, he comes to view his opponents less as stepping stones towards his personal glory, and more as avenues to help better himself as a person.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: Musashi's initial goal is to become the greatest warrior in all of Japan, a title his father held ("invincible under the sun")—and to this end, Musashi goes to various schools and faces his contemporaries simply to prove himself better.
- It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Though Musashi at times catches himself wanting Otsu to accompany him throughout his travels, the knowledge that he can die at any moment in his journey causes him to steady his hand.
- Living Legend: Eventually, Musashi's name becomes so well-known that samurai from far and wide come for his head in their own desperate attempts to claim glory.
- Lonely at the Top: Though Musashi tries to keep it under wraps, it's clear that he dearly misses Otsu's presence—but believes his journey to be of more paramount importance. Over time, he becomes more comfortable with his feelings towards Otsu and even outright acknowledges feeling wistful without her, expressing regret over always causing her to worry for him.
- Love Is a Weakness: Musashi gradually grows more and more drawn to Otsu as the story goes on, and on numerous occasions has expressed how he feels that his desires for her (both sexual and romantic) are detrimental to his quest, if not outright perverse. But with Character Development he comes to accept his feelings towards her and even express some regret that his years-long quest to better his skills has ultimately been time spent being separated from the girl he loves.
- Mook Horror Show: The Yoshioka battle, full stop.
- No Badass to His Valet : Musashi comes across as either a savage killer or peerless warrior, depending on who you ask, but his Trickster Mentor Takuan Soho sees him for what he really is: A frightened, confused youth with something to prove. Despite how easily he could maim or murder the monk, Takuan continuously criticizes and taunts Musashi from their very first meeting, utterly unphased by the latter's empty threats. This is also the case with Otsu, as while Musashi can easily cut a man down without a second thought, Otsu really only sees him as her childhood friend Takezo.
- No Social Skills: Musashi has trouble relating to the trials and tribulations faced by non-samurai, and his determination to better his own swordsmanship confuses him on his own feelings at times. He's ignorant of Otsu's desire to get closer to him, and can't go five minutes of having a decent conversation with another swordsman without challenging him to a fight. He grows out of this when he decides to humble himself, helping an entire village farm their crops without resorting to violence or unnecessary cruelty in order to get the job done.
- Nominal Hero: The story doesn't really try to frame Musashi as necessarily heroic, and a lot of his more gruesome actions in the heat of battle (such as the massacre of the entire Yoshioka school) are presented as bluntly as possible.
- Oedipus Complex: He had a complicated relationship with his father, Shinmen Munisai, to say the least. Takezo tried to kill him several times as a child, and as a young man he became obsessed with surpassing him.
- Older Than They Look: Even as a seventeen-year-old, it's remarked that he looks like he's in his late twenties. That being said, Musashi's also noted by his fellow swordsmen for being considerably young for a man of his ambition and skill.
- One-Man Army: Musashi cuts down about seventy highly trained and nationally respected Yoshioka swordsmen — that is, the entire school membership, after diving right into their center at the start of the conflict and mortally wounding their leader. This single-handedly catapults him to a national figure and doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Running Gag: This iteration of Musashi retains his real-life counterpart's infamous tendency to arrive extremely late to set duels; here, it's explained that Musashi doesn't do so intentionally. In his rematch against Inshun, he was late because he literally overslept; in his duel against Denshichiro, he was threatened at gunpoint by Ueda Ryohei on the way there.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Otsu's the only one on his mind, even after years of his own deliberate separation from her.
- Slasher Smile: In his younger years, Musashi's love for intense mortal combat would make itself clear on his face. He slowly grows out of using it when he comes to recognize the weight of violence and slowly begins moving towards a Martial Pacifist route.
- Slipknot Ponytail: Sometimes during fights.
- Sociopathic Hero: Early on, Musashi's concerns lie heavily towards bettering himself as a warrior, and while he does care about other people (such as Otsu, Matahachi, and Jotaro), it's clear that he treats everyone outside of those close to his heart is just either in his way or a new challenge. His learning empathy and compassion is one of the cornerstones towards his transformation into both a better samurai and a better person.
- Sore Loser: Zigzagged. Whenever he loses a fight, he makes every attempt to figure out how he failed and always pushes to better himself in every possible way. That won't stop him from being super salty about losing, however.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Musashi and Otsu are mutually attracted to one another, and miss each other dearly, but thanks to Musashi's constant drive to better himself as a swordsman he and she are always driven apart. As Musashi comes to humble himself and understand the cost of violence, he becomes more comfortable with his feelings towards Otsu and plainly states how much he craves to be with her.
- To Be a Master: Deconstructed. His driving motivation is to become "invincible under the sun", but the closer he gets to achieving this goal the more realizes how little the title means, especially when his massacre of the Yoshioka school ends with him crippled and forced to crawl away past their already-rotting corpses.
- Took a Level in Badass: Keeps getting more and more Badass over the course of the series.
- Villain Protagonist: Starts off as an amoral thug, who challenges people to death matches for the sake of personal glory.
- Walking the Earth: Musashi lives as a vagabond, seeking out the strongest opponents all over Japan.
- Warrior Poet: Paints, carves Buddha statues and practices calligraphy.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Musashi's driven to become the strongest warrior in all of Japan, and to this end he overcomes obstactle after obstacle, never letting his failures overcome him and always working towards self-improvement as a warrior. It gets to the point where people are taken aback by his unnatural determination, some even calling him foolish for clinging to such outdated ideals. After his massacre of the Yoshioka school, Musashi comes to terms with the fact that even his desire to become the strongest ultimately makes him feel hollow, and so his Character Development leads him to stray away from bettering himself as a samurai to bettering himself as a person.
- Worth Living For: Though Musashi cares little for his own life and is perfectly content with losing it in a fine duel, the moment he thinks about Otsu, he gives everything he has to survive.
Takezo's childhood friend who persuades him to leave Musashi village and join the war, thus setting of the events of the story. A decent person deep down, Matahachi continually lets himself and others down due to his very weak moral fiber.
- Butt-Monkey: He's a Dirty Coward through and through, and a petty, wretched lowlife to boot. His envy, self-pity, inferiority complex and laziness are his defining characteristics. Yet he's also a deeply frightened, guilt-ridden, self-loathing fool with a childhood of ostracism and an overbearing bully of an adoptive mother. Overshadowed by his best friend and spurned by his childhood crush after abandoning her for someone else, his entire life has been highlighted by inadequacy and misjudgment. He brings most of his own trouble on himself, but he's just a sad, weak man looking for validation in all the wrong places.
- Can't Catch Up: Not that he really tries anyway.
- Character Development: Subverted time and again. For every opportunity the story throws at him to steer him towards the right path, he quickly gives in to his weaker qualities and ultimately makes life worse for himself. Finally played straight after the death of his mother, at which point he decides to become his own person without trying to measure himself to Musashi or anyone else. Also, when he's revealed to have been the Narrator All Along, he appears content with the fact that his audience is much more interested in Musashi's portions of the story than his own.
- Cowardly Lion: Tragically subverted. Whenever Matahachi is faced with a adversity or danger, he feels compelled to save the day or take a stand. He never does, and it haunts him every time.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Despite the fact that Matahachi Really Gets Around, he finds himself constantly envious of Musashi and Otsu's relationship, and gets even more aggravated when he acknowledges that his cowardice is the reason Otsu and Musashi grew closer in the first place. This is defied by the time Musashi massacres the Yoshioka school; truly recognizing his own failures for the first time, Matahachi begs a sleeping Musashi to take Otsu with him throughout his travels.
- Dirty Coward: And it fuels his inferiority complex to Takezo.
- Foil: To Musashi naturally. They both start out at the same place. Musashi pursues martial perfection, often living like an ascetic and choosing to live in privation even when better options are available. On the other hand, Matahachi ends up wallowing in worldly pleasures, taking every advantage of every opportunity to make himself more comfortable.
- Glory Seeker: Leaves Miyamoto village and go to fight in the battle of Sekigahara to make a name for himself. He fails pretty badly.
- The Hedonist: Pretty much every time Matahachi sees an opportunity for immediate satisfaction, he takes it. It ends up biting him in the ass every single time.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: He measures himself to Musashi constantly, to the point of depressing himself—when he sees just how dedicated Musashi is at trying to better himself as a warrior, it drives him insane that though the two of them literally grew up together, his own failures and weaknesses are ultimately what prevent him from making a name for himself. When his mother dies, he resolves to become his own person and follow his own path, refusing to measure himself in comparison to anyone else ever again.
- Miles Gloriosus: He borrows Sasaki Kojiro's identity for a while to live off his reputation. It gets complicated when Kojiro himself shows up, and gets even more so when Kojiro leaves Matahachi for no good reason at all.
- Older and Wiser: Turns out later on that Matahachi's been the Narrator All Along, and as he narrates Musashi's tale appears nostalgic, humble, graceful, and not in the slightest bit the cowardly and hedonistic fool he'd been before.
- Pet the Dog: Matahachi's truly not a terrible person. He's just so desperate for validation of his own existence that he's willing to indulge in cruel or dishonorable acts to fill the void. It's clear, however, that he ultimately does care for those around him, and while the story frames his weaknesses as unfortunate characteristics, he's always presented with an opportunity to redeem himself.
- Narrator All Along: Once the story hits the point where Matahachi's mother dies, we flash forward to several years into the future, where it's revealed that an elderly Matahachi has been narrating his and Musashi's story to multiple people daily, for a fee.
- True Companions: For all of Matahachi's contempt and jealousy towards Musashi, it's clear that they're both inseparably tight friends and will always have each other's backs through thick and thin. This is best exemplified in the aftermath of the Yoshioka school massacre; even though prior to the battle, Matahachi and Musashi had a huge falling out, once the former finds the latter's cold and battered body lying in the soil, Matahachi lugs the man to medical care as quickly as he can.
- Unreliable Narrator: It's eventually revealed that an elderly Matahachi is actually the narrator of the story, and so it can be inferred that at least some parts of Musashi's story have been embellished for the sake of entertaining his audiences.
An orphan raised at the temple in Miyamoto village, Otsu is a childhood friend to both Musashi (Takezo at the time) and Matahachi. She was originally betrothed to Matahachi, but then he broke it off after he decided to run away with Oko and not return to Miyamoto village. She instead fixates on Takezo/Musashi (it's implied that he was actually the one she was in love with all along) and leaves Miyamoto to go after him when he heads out to make his name as a swordsman.
- Adaptational Badass: Otsu in the original novel was pathetic and needy, with a very weak constitution, often to the point of getting physically ill over emotional matters. In the manga, she is much more self-sufficient and even takes lessons in self-defense from the Yagyu.
- Arranged Marriage: Was originally betrothed to Matahachi, who in a moment of weakness ran off with another woman—essentially abandoning Otsu.
- Inelegant Blubbering: When Matahachi confesses his infidelity to Otsu by way of a letter, she goes livid to the point of crying and shrieking and biting herself in her anger and pain.
- Insistent Terminology: Continues to refer to Musashi as Takezo, long after he has officially changed his name.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Otsu is more than capable of fending for herself in the rather less-than-safe byways of Japan, especially after she takes some pointers from the Yagyu on how to defend herself.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Otsu is fixated on Takezo and won't give anyone else a second glance.
- Spirited Young Lady: Otsu's remarkable in the setting, as she very much manages to maintain the Yamato Nadeshiko trope she's supposed to fulfill—and yet more often than not defies that trope by being very outwardly emotional, loud, outspoken, and at times appearing uncultured. Yet her determination, beauty, purity of heart and earnest behavior more than make up for it.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: A bit more rugged than the usual version, due to her traveling, but many characters who meet her often comment on her poise and beauty, even in unusual situations.
Musashi's rival. Portrayed as a Bishōnen, deaf mute.
- Adaptation Deviation: The historic Kojiro was rumored to be fully or partially deaf in one ear, though nothing of the sort was suggested in the Eiji Yoshikawa novel. Vagabond is loosely inspired by history and the novel, but deviates heavily from both in that Kojiro is completely deaf and mute.
- Adaptational Heroism: Book!Kojiro is much darker than his happy-go-lucky Manchild counterpart. The original novel portrays him as cunning and sadistic, although courageous and not without nobility.
- Ambiguous Disorder: His deafness and muteness notwithstanding, Kojiro has a lot of trouble when it comes to interacting with others—that is, unless they're a pretty lady or a samurai. With the former, he'd mostly resort to taking them to his bed on the spot, and with the latter, he'd only give them the time of day if they proved themselves willing to give their lives in a fight against him. His ability to pick up on social cues outside of that are almost nonexistent.
- Blood Knight: He shares Musashi's intense love of combat, and constantly is in search of enemies as strong as himself if not stronger to better his swordsmanship.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The only reason Kojiro's survived as long as he has is because of his incredible prowess with a katana. He's so good with it that his reputation alone was able to spread his name across Japan even before he was given the certificate which would formally establish his status as a samurai.
- Character Focus: The first arc featuring Kojiro took up about a third of the then-twenty volume series by the time it was done.
- Chick Magnet: Receives a lot of female attention even at a young age, and is frequently caught in women's beds by other characters.
- Die or Fly: Was on the receiving end of this by Itto Ittosai, who only believed Kojiro could truly hone his skills as a swordsman through rigorous combat and extreme conditioning. As such, Ittosai left Kojiro to face hundreds of hungry, bitter villagers in the middle of a vast valley alone and waited to see if he'd make it. He came back, as one of the deadliest swordsmen in all of Japan.
- Dissonant Serenity: Several characters note how Kojiro's eyes almost never change emotion even in the face of certain death or extreme pain. Others note how when it does change emotion, said emotion is almost always excitement. Granted, he does display pain when he suffers horrible wounds (as any warrior would), and the one time he really breaks down is when Ittosai leaves him to fend for himself against dozens of sword-wielding villagers hungry for his blood.
- To Miyamoto Musashi. Kojiro's a happy-go-lucky Manchild who can easily win the love of an entire village within a day; Musashi's mature, aloof, gruff, and doesn't tend to socialize at all (unless they happen to be particularly skilled swordsmen). Kojiro constantly goes after women without rest, while Musashi's fixated singularly on Otsu. Kojiro grew up loved by his father-figure and was treasured in his community, while Musashi grew up constantly being manhandled by his abusive father and ostracized by those who saw him as a "demon child." But both Kojiro and Musashi love using their swords in battle, are always restlessly searching for opponents to spar with all in the name of bettering their own skills, and are so deeply connected to the sword that the two of them can hold a conversation practically just by swinging sticks at each other in place of blades. Their passion for the sword is the one thing the two have in common.
- Genius Bruiser: He is so perceptive and attuned to the sword that he can learn entirely new techniques in the midst of battle.
- Handicapped Badass : Deaf, mute, and easily one of the most talented and lethal swordsmen in the entire series, which is saying a lot.
- Happily Adopted: Kojiro deeply loves and respects his Parental Substitute Kanemaki Jisai, to the point where he learns the definition of the word "invincible," his mental image is that of Jisai himself.
- Hyper-Awareness: His skills are on-par with Musashi's, if not outright surpassing them, and it's thanks to his ultra-perceptive nature that he's been able to survive multiple gory battles throughout Japan.
- I Want My Mommy!: When Ittosai leaves Kojiro behind to fend for himself in a Die or Fly sort of test against dozens of hungry, angry, violent villagers, Kojiro looms over all the corpses he's made and breaks down, calling out for Jisai as he sheds tears of pain and fear.
- Idiot Savant: Terrible in social circles and lacking in virtually all forms of etiquitte, but if you hand him a sword he'll cut you down without a second thought.
- Manchild: He's very socially unaware and does things impulsively. Characters are frequently frustrated at his disregard for societal norms.
- Moses in the Bulrushes: Kojiro is introduced in this fashion. His father had him sent by boat from a besieged castle to be raised by his master, Kanemaki Jisai. His mother had been swept overboard and killed during the voyage and he would have suffered the same fate if Jisai hadn't saved him.
- No Social Skills: People are always impressed by Kojiro's swordsmanship, but outside of combat and sex, Kojiro's not really good at many other things like writing, etiquette, and empathy.
- Odd Friendship: For all his and Musashi's differences, the one thing binding them together is their shared passion for the sword, and their deep understanding of the way of the sword. The two even hold what is essentially the equivalent of a conversation by swinging sticks at each other in a mock-duel.
- The Rain Man: Kojiro can't hear nor speak, and it's implied he has a bit of an Ambiguous Disorder which prevents him from interacting with others properly. However, he compensates for all of that by way of his incredible swordsmanship—his lack of hearing forced him to become extra-perceptive to both his environment and his reflexes, enabling him to survive countless near-death scenarios by way of him simply being that observant.
- The Unintelligible: Ninety percent of his dialogue throughout all of his appearances consist of Auuu, Aaa, or some variation of the two. Justified, given that he's deaf and mute.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Random robbers have been struck by thoughts of how Kojiro's eyes look beautiful and too innocent for him to have killed anyone. There is a lot of focus on his eyes in general, as being deaf has led to him having very sensitive, perceptive eyesight.
- Worthy Opponent: Rather tellingly about his attitude towards the sword, Kojiro views those who are unwilling to give their lives in a battle as unworthy of his time. The two people he holds deep respect towards are Musashi and Kanemaki Jisai—the latter of whom Kojiro outright upholds as "invincible."
- My Beloved Smother
- The Resenter
- Revenge Before Reason
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!
- Selective Obliviousness: Refuses to acknowlegde that Matahachi was the one who betrayed Otsu.
- Abusive Parents: He was a piece of work. A large part of Takezo's initial motivation to become strong is fuelled by his desire to escape his father's shadow, as Munisai routinely shamed him out of fear that one day the boy would usurp his place as the so-called strongest warrior in all of Japan. Even after Munisai's death, the shame and fear Takezo felt under his grip drove him to seek strength well into his late teen years, to the point where he willingly participated in the Battle of Sekigahara to make a name for himself.
- Crazy-Prepared: As young Takezo learns the hard way when he attempts to attack Munisai in his sleep, only for him to wake up immediately and pull a spear from under his covers. This is actually not as eccentric as it sounds, as it was not uncommon for samurai and lords to sleep with a makura yari, or "pillow spear" within their reach in case of just such a threat.
- Posthumous Character
The second genration master of the Yoshioka Kempo's school of swordfighting in Kyoto. While a superbly talented swordsman, he is also hedonistic and carefree, though he can and will be serious and take appropriate measures in times of crisis.
- Adaptational Badass: In the novel, he really is little more than a hedonistic pretty boy, who is actually inferior to Denshichiro in swordsmanship.
- Aloof Big Brother
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy
- Big Brother Instinct: While he remains an Aloof Big Brother, he still ultimately cares for Denshichiro. He even tries to kill Musashi in a sneak attack to prevent him from fighting Denshichiro, having already known that Musashi would win... unfortunately for Seijuro, Musashi had surpassed him too.
- Combat Pragmatist: Not above ambushing people. See Big Brother Instinct.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass
- Iaijutsu Practitioner
- The Hedonist: Prefers spending time in the pleasure quarters over running his dojo.
The second son of Yoshioka Kempo.
- Adaptational Badass: In the novel, while he was considered the more competent of the two brothers, Denshichiro wasn't all that much better than Seijuro overall.
- The Big Guy
- Can't Catch Up: As hard as he works he can never match Seijuro in swordsmanship. And in the year leading up to their rematch he utterly fails to keep up with Musashi, who makes the most of the year and grows into one of the very best swordsmen in the land.
- Happily Married: Shown briefly to be a devoted father and loving husband.
- Honor Before Reason: He insists on fighting his rematch with Musashi even though he is clearly outmatched and stands nothing to win.
- He also expels Ueda Ryohei, his de facto brother, for trying to protect him by arranging for Musashi's demisenote .
- Over Shadowed By Awesome: Skilled and dedicated swordsman, but hopelessly outranked by his brother and eventually Musashi.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Very much so. Seijuro is a carefree pretty boy blessed with supreme talent and confidence, and Denshichiro is a stern, hulk of a man, who works hard trying to be as good as his brother.
A senior disciple of the Yoshioka School. He was raised by the Yoshiokas and is almost regarded as a brother to Seijuro and Denshichiro.
- Combat Pragmatist: Hopes to ambush Musashi rather than fight honorably.
- Like a Son to Me: Yoshioka Kempo considered him his third son.
- Spirit Advisor: Becomes one to Otsu and Musashi.
- 10-Minute Retirement: Is banished from the Yoshioka school by Denshichiro, but Den dies a day later with his will stipulating that Ueda is to be readmitted to the school and made headmaster.
Tropes shared by the Hōzōin monks:
The first generation master of the Hōzōin spear technique. Has retired from teaching the spear technique and now lives as a farmer near the temple.
The second generation master of the Hōzōin spear technique.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Not as much of Jerkass about it as some others, but he certainly doesn't hide his supreme confidence in his own abilities.
- Blood Knight: As with many of the most prominent fighters in the series he loves to fight strong opponents.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia
- No Social Skills
- Near-Death Clairvoyance
- Slasher Smile: Frequently sports one.
- Wake-Up Call Boss: After fighting Inshun it really dawns on Musashi that there are still fighters much stronger than him.
A skilled spearman of the Hōzōin. He takes pride in his ability with the spear, but is otherwise reserved and deferential to In'ei and Inshun.
- Catchphrase: "You have had/will have the privilege of being defeated by Agon of Hōzōin."
- Spared By Adaptation: In the original novel, Musashi never fights Inshun, but ends up killing Agon with a single blow...with a wooden sword no less.
- Badass Pacifist: Holds Musashi off with a backscratcher while bedridden and completely saps Musashi of his will to fight without even being fully conscious at the time.
- Heroic Neutral: The Yagyu clan have always kept out of the conflicts of the greater clans.
- Old Master
- Obfuscating Insanity : A light example. He has become a bit absent-minded and strange in his old age, but he's seemingly every bit as sharp as he was in his prime, still as dangerous as any young swordsman and certainly much wiser than the majority of the other characters. Observe how he defended himself from Musashi in his sleep and stared down the vicious swordsman Ito Ittosai, deterring both without even having a sword on his person. Later inverted on his deathbed, when his mind genuinely begins to slip.
- The Magnificent: Other swordsmen consistently refer to him as "the invincible Sekishusai".
Sekishusais favorite grandson and heir.
- Adaptational Heroism: In the novel he sentences Takezo to three years of imprisonment before christening him Miyamoto Musashi
- Badass Pacifist: "He cut me down with his mind!!"
- Bullying a Dragon : A middle-aged Buddhist monk who mercilessly mocks, scolds and even challenges a violent young swordsman who practically leaves a path of corpses everywhere he goes. Most of his shenanigans are actually just an unorthodox approach to guidance, as he actively seeks to help Musashi realize who he really is, but that doesn't make it any less brazen. This is true to history, as Takuan Soho was respected by warlords and samurai for his frank, astute advice, but his acerbic honesty made him plenty of enemies as well.
- Cool Old Guy: Only 36, but definitely gives off this vibe.
- Trickster Mentor: To Musashi.
An old, retired swordsman who's washed up and raises Kojiro as his son after his parents die.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: He's so devoted to Kojiro that begging the villagers for food doesn't bother him.
- Parental Substitute: To Kojiro.
- Old Master: Though he's rather washed up at the time the story begins, he is eventually treated this way by the villagers after he cuts down old man Fudo. He explicitly refuses to teach Kojiro, wanting him to have a peaceful life, not that it stops him.
- Overprotective Dad: Refuses to teach Kojiro the sword time and again, fearing the day that Kojiro would be struck down in a meaningless battle.