6 Manga Like Vagabond [Recommendations]

Written and illustrated by Inoue Takehiko and Yoshikawa Eiji, Vagabond is set in wild, war-torn 16th century Japan. Shinmen Takezou is equally wild, and his proclivity for violence and thirst for adventure led him and his best friend, Matahachi Honiden, to leave their small, peaceful hamlet and enlist in the Toyotomi army. Their dreams of glory on the battlefield are cut short by a rude awakening in the form of a crushing defeat at the hands of the Tokugawa during the famous Battle of Sekigahara. The two friends flee the field afterward, and barely make it out alive.

Honiden and Takezou are fatefully separated, and Takezou makes it his personal mission to let his friend’s family know he’s still alive. When he arrives home, instead of being welcomed as a bearer of good news, he is wanted for the murder of Honiden, and strung up and left to rot in the sun. The intervention of an itinerant monk, Takuan Soho, is all the saves him from death. Takezou sets out on a new journey with a new name: Musashi Miyamoto.

Vagabond is a surprisingly realistic fictionalization of one of Japan’s most legendary swordsmen. It spans an epic 37 volumes and is filled to the brim with action and adventure, supported by the fascinating historical setting of Japan on the precipice of an incredible change, as the Sengoku era gave way to the rise of the reign of the mighty Tokugawa. But for the readers that have already followed the series to its brilliant conclusion, Honey’s Anime is here to help! Here are 6 Manga Like Vagabond!

Similar Manga to Vagabond

1. Berserk

  • Authors: Miura Kentarou
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
  • Volumes: 38
  • Published: December 1990 – Present

In publication for almost three decades(!!), Berserk is a dark fantasy series set in a fantastical world inspired by medieval Europe. The story follows the exploits of its main character, Guts, an orphaned warrior who leaves his village seeking adventure, which he finds in the mercenary company, the Band of the Hawk. The Band is led by the powerful Griffith, who possesses a mysterious, face-shaped artifact known as a Behelit. As Griffith’s right-hand man, Guts and the other members of the Band play a pivotal role in ending the 100-year war that has ravaged Midland under the employ of the king. But things take a turn for the worse when Guts leaves the Band to follow his own path, and Griffith embraces his inner darkness in order to rise to greater heights.

To say more would be a disservice to readers who have somehow managed to keep Berserk off their radar. But the enduring popularity of the series, as well as its multiple anime adaptations, all started with the first volume. Fans of Vagabond will feel right at home with the series’ mature themes, centered around isolation and brotherhood, as well as whether or not mankind is inherently good, or doomed to embrace evil. The tale of Guts and his companions is written in blood, and shouldn’t be missed.


2. Vinland Saga

  • Authors: Makoto Yukimura
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Historical
  • Volumes: 19
  • Published: July 2005 – Present

Vinland Saga is another historical epic set in the past, this time in England in 1013 AD. Although England is under control of the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard, his two sons, Prince Harald and Prince Canute, argue over succession as their father nears his death. The story centers on Thorfinn, a young man in a mercenary company led by the rogue, Askeladd. Although Thorfinn is a skilled fighter in his own right, he has much to learn. He incessantly challenges Askeladd to duels which he invariably loses.

For Thorfinn, it’s not merely his reputation that’s at stake, but much more; Askeladd killed his father, and he is hell-bent on revenge, even if it means making a life amongst the company of the man he hates the most. Hired for the Siege of London, Thorfinn, Askeladd, and the rest of the company are soon embroiled in the machinations for succession after they take custody of the effeminate Prince Canute. What side of history will they fall on? Will Thorfinn get his revenge?

Fans of Vagabond will find a lot to love in Vinland Saga. War was the bread and butter of the Danes, and each volume is filled to the brim with bloody action. The series also has an incredibly meticulous attention to detail and recreates the atmosphere of its period with a great level of authenticity. Thorfinn’s quest for revenge is a visceral one and asks big questions about the desperate lengths people go to, and whether or not it’s worth it in the end. The saga tells a deeply personal story but also has a grander historical scope sure to enthrall any reader.


3. Blade of the Immortal

  • Authors: Hiroaki Samura
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Historical
  • Volumes: 30
  • Published: June 1993 – December 2012

Readers head back to Tokugawa-era Japan for the next entry on the list, Blade of the Immortal. Manji is a skilled samurai with a terrible curse that is perhaps his greatest strength; he is essentially immortal, unable to be killed by any mortal wound. The curse was cast upon him by an 800-year old nun, as a means for making him atone for his past sins. He accepts for the sake of his sister. The only way to lift the curse is to kill 1000 evil men, and only then will he be restored to mortality, and free of the supernatural blood worms that give him his miraculous abilities.

Along the way, he encounters a female swordsman, Rin, who is embroiled in her own quest for vengeance, and takes her cause as his own. How can a warrior atone for his past when the steps he takes towards atonement often have unforeseen consequences?

Like Vagabond, Blade of the Immortal centers on the exploits of a misunderstood swordsman in a tumultuous era. The historical samurai action is fast and furious, and the artistic style practically splashes off the pages of its thirty volumes. Although not as realistic a depiction as Vagabond (understandably difficult when there’s a swordsman with regeneration powers strong enough to make Wolverine jealous), they share similar themes of identity, atonement, and understanding.


Any Manga Like Vagabond ?

4. Kozure Ookami (Lone Wolf and Cub)

  • Authors: Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima
  • Genres: Action, Historical, Samurai
  • Volumes: 28
  • Published: September 1970 – April 1976

Perhaps one of the best-known samurai epics to ever grace the page or screen, Lone Wolf and Cub is one of Japan’s most iconic tales of vengeance. Ogami Itto was the Tokugawa shogun’s Chief Executioner and a peerless swordsman who lived a life of prestige and peace with his wife, and infant son Daigoro. However, his life changes forever due to the underhanded machinations of Retsudo, the leader of the Ura-Yagyu Clan, who wishes to seize Ogami’s position of prestige out from under him. Ogami arrives home to find his wife killed and his life compromised. He flees with his son, Daigoro, abandoning the honor he held so dear for the sake of vengeance. Together with his son, they set out on the path to damnation and bloody satisfaction, carving their way through feudal Japan.

Lone Wolf and Cub is a bit dated in terms of the quality of its translation, but the epic tale of Ogami and Daigoro is an easy recommendation for fans of Vagabond. There is an overarching plot that is punctuated by “cases of the week,” all of which are rooted firmly in the samurai experience. Although Ogami vows to sacrifice all in the name of vengeance, many of the series’ quieter, more contemplative moments are meditations on the Bushido code, and what it means to be an honorable warrior.


5. Rurouni Kenshin

  • Authors: Nobuhiro Watsuki
  • Genres: Action, Drama, Historical, Samurai
  • Volumes: 28
  • Published: April 1994 – September 1999

Another popular staple exported from Japan to stores around the world over, Rurouni Kenshin takes readers to the tumultuous early days of Meiji-era Japan. Himura Kenshin is a lone wanderer, formerly known as Hitokiri Battousai, a ruthless assassin with an unparalleled body count during the war that established the Meiji government. Seeking to atone for the sins of his past, he travels the countryside offering assistance and protection to those in need, although he has taken a vow against taking another life. He arrives in Tokyo, to the dojo of a young woman named Kaoru, and assists her in defeating an imposter claiming to be none other than Kenshin himself. She offers him a place to stay, and during his stay in the capital, he learns that the past can feel impossible to leave behind.

Vagabond has a lot in common with Rurouni Kenshin, especially in the fact that it centers on a swordsman trying to find a path forward despite a flawed, violent past. It has a bit more levity and lightheartedness than Vagabond, but still offers plenty of edge-of-your-seat action, intense plot twists, and moments of catharsis. It captures the essence of a fascinating time in Japan’s history and tells an enduring story that is still popular and adapted to this day.


6. Kingdom

  • Authors: Yasuhisa Hara
  • Genres: Action, Historical, Drama
  • Volumes: 46+
  • Published: January 2006 – Present

We round out our list with Kingdom, which trades in the trappings of samurai-era Japan for the legendary Warring States period of ancient China. Xin and Piao are orphans of war in the kingdom of Qin, who dream of rising from their humble stations and ascending to the status of “Great Generals of Heaven.” They’re separated when Piao is conscripted by a governmental minister and taken from the village. Several months later, he returns on the verge of death and begs Xin to travel with him. There, Xin learns the truth; Piao looks nearly identical to the ruler of Qin, the young king Ying Zheng. After Piao succumbs to his wounds, Xin decides to carry on Piao’s legacy and help Ying Zheng confirm his place as a ruler.

Like Vagabond, Kingdom follows a young warrior who believes they are destined for greatness and sets out to find glory and fame on the battlefield. The series contains an epic roster of characters that are both based in history and fictionalized and centers around the drama in their lives both on and off the field of battle. There’s a rough realness to both series’ that demonstrate the true brutality of war, as well as the moral ambiguity of the concept that the victor writes history. With an epic number of volumes already in circulation and few signs of slowing down, Kingdom is an epic series for any fan to immerse themselves in.


Final Thoughts

Part of what makes Vagabond (and the other entries on the list) so appealing is its ability to transport readers to a more epic time and place, where legends live and die on the field of battle. The drama that unfolds is more than visceral, because the journey charted is emotional, with surprising plot twists and character beats along the way to the thrilling conclusion, which sometimes seems to rewrite history. Are there any other series’ that fans of Vagabond and other entries on the list should add to their collection? Sound off in the comments and share the wealth!

Nick Rich

Writer

Author: Nick Rich

Nick is, first and foremost, a nerd. Netflix on in the background, a drink in one hand, and a book in the other is how you'll find him most days after work. He currently works as an English teacher in Kawasaki, where he lives next to a graveyard with his girlfriend and his unnamed flying squirrel. He hopes to run into Kitaro, late one night.

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