The manga industry is cutthroat. Where you have some new manga skyrocket to newer heights from their humble Shonen Jump origins, there are many, many more that go unheard. Somewhere stranded between limbo and canceled. And this isn’t limited to obscure titles either. I mean, just look at the case of Vagabond getting cancelled.
There are manga titles that start strong but dwindle in sale records. They eventually get canceled and annexed to the graveyard but that isn’t always the case. There are plenty of manga franchises that were utter monsters in the industry, impossible to stop. But as meteoric their rise, they halt just as abruptly.
One of the most popular examples of iconic manga that went on hiatus with no warning is the Seinen legend, Vagabond. A martial arts epic by writer and illustrator Takehiko Inoue, it became one of the best-selling manga of all time. However, it went on hiatus in May 2015 and hasn’t returned since. Though Vagabond has not been officially cancelled, fans are still left pondering over its fate.
Hiatuses aren’t uncommon in Vagabond’s long history of publication. It went on pause during September 2010, then again in February 2014. But this period has been the longest, with no end in sight even in 2022. But does that mean the entire manga of Vagabond is cancelled with no conclusion? Let’s discuss!
What’s The Hype Around Vagabond?
Vagabond isn’t a cult favorite for no reason. This tale follows forgotten soldiers on the losing side of the Battle of Sekigahara, a real-life event that took place in 1600s Japan. In particular, it focuses on one underdog and his rise to glory.
Our protagonist is Takezō Shinmen, who grew up being shunned for his violent nature. Nicknamed the ‘Devil Child’, he joins the Toyotomi army alongside his friend, Matahachi Hon’iden but they end up suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of the Tokugawa clan. As they lay on the battleground, battered but alive, they pledge to become greater than what they started as. Together, they make the vow of Tenka Musō; to become invincible under the heavens.
They go their separate ways, with Takezō becoming a vagabond that goes around challenging other swordsmen. Whereas Hon’iden decided to stay with the two women that sheltered them shortly after the battle. Branded as a wanted criminal, Takezō is pursued endlessly. He is freed from his assailants by a monk, who takes him under his wing and gives him a new name, Musashi Miyamoto.
This is the fictional account of the famed Sword Saint, possibly Japan’s greatest swordfighter, and how his path of enlightenment came to be.
Why Did Vagabond Go On Hiatus?
With a premise this good and art so beautifully intricate, it made sense for Vagabond to become the hit that it did. Over 83 million copies sold worldwide, it won multiple awards across Japan and even bagged an Eisner in the US! So, why would something so big end up halt so abruptly?
Manga, in general, isn’t an easy medium. Not only are you writing a story, but you’re also visualizing it. That takes time and effort, and having it be on a deadline can curb your enthusiasm for creating the said narrative. Especially with a story as dark and haunting as Vagabond, it took a massive toll on Inoue’s mental health. You can see the spiral after the 2012 hiatus, when the manga dipped in its art quality, becoming more minimalistic.
And this isn’t the only manga under Inoue’s belt. Slam Dunk and Real are also his works, with the former being heralded as a classic in the Sports Manga genre. He was working on Real around the same time as Vagabond. Likely the pressure of doing two manga simultaneously, with one being on a weekly deadline, was too much.
Is Vagabond Cancelled For Good?
Not according to Inoue! Though he spoke about it last back in 2015, he apologized and said that manga to him is a ‘living being’, i.e., something he can’t predict when and how it will meet its end. This makes sense, looking at Vagabond’s history.
Vagabond was stressful for Inoue, there is no doubt about that. It is a behemoth to tackle and takes an entire village to create one chapter. But we have hope, seeing how Inoue has recently returned to writing Real again, after a hiatus. This shows that even after roadblocks, he always comes back to give the fans a conclusive end. But if the wait has been too long, and you want to know how the Sword Saint meets his destiny, then we have news! Therefore, Vagabond being cancelled isn’t true.
In 2008, Takehiko Inoue held an art exhibition titled ‘LAST’, where he also displayed an eventual epilogue to Vagabond. Finally, after more than a decade, that epilogue is available to read on MangaDex under the title Vagabond: The LAST Manga Exhibition Complete Catalogue.
But here’s hoping we get to see the definitive end through Inoue-san himself someday, on his terms! Hey, never say never, right?