Monday, October 11, 2010

Musashi Read-a-long: Part 2- Water

Musashi- An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era
by Eiji Yoshikawa

In Book 2: Water, our hero, after his life changing experience during his three years of imprisonment, has set out to improve his skills as a swordman and, of course, it will not be without conflicts. If you wander into these various schools and challenge them, often ending up killing some of their best and brightest, you may make some enemies and this is the situation Musashi finds himself in.

As an aside, the lack of any sort of concern about the many very bloody, violent killings in this chapter is interesting. I think I have mentioned before that many in Japan, to this day, see this book, these stories, as some sort of common national story, as speaking to their identity as a people. So I really wonder how they see the very casual attitude toward deadly violence that is certain an integral part of this section.

But on a lighter note, I am happy to say that this chapter saw the reappearance of several of my favorite characters, including Otsu, still nursing her unrequited love for Musashi. Or is it really unrequited? Perhaps not... There is also a brief reappearance of his friend Matahachi, he who ran off with the older woman in book 1, and Matahachi's mother, who blames Musashi for her son's disappearance. The introduction of a new source of some humor, the boy Jotaro, who has become Musashi's student and sort of son figure, was good, but best of all is the return, at the very end of this second book, of my favorite monk,Takuan.

I must be honest and say that I did not like section as much as I liked the first, mostly for a reason that I feared when I started the book. There are a LOT of new characters and I must admit I had a bit of a problem keeping them all straight. I finally decided that it might not be necessary to keep them all straight but rather just go with the flow so long as I get the overall story and just focus on the central reoccurring characters....pretty much all of the ones I mention in the last paragraph. I think a lot of these others will end up dead, with their heads smashed or stabbed through with a sword, so not to worry about remembering them all.

And once again, I loved how this section ended, with the wise young monk Takuan warning Otsu where the pursuit of her love for Musashi may lead her. I must find out how this turns out, so I soldier on to the next ...Book 3...Fire!


  1. Neat :-) what a fun looking book :-) sounds like fun with unrequited love and bloody violence, LOL

  2. I started to struggle with the names too ... but I figured (much like you did) that the main ones I'll remember and the rest will end up bloody pulp under Musashi's sword.

    It was amazing how casual the killing was in this book. I mean, Musashi walks in, kills the teacher of the school and then walks out. And that one battle with the rogue ronin was horrifically bloody.

    Yet there is still an element of comedy that I find refreshing.

    I'm curious to see what happens in Book 3!

  3. I am not bothered by bloody battles, but sitting around having a snack on the middle of the dead bodies seemed a bit much, even for me!

  4. I wasn't bothered by the battles mainly because Musashi's attitude has changed and he's maturing - actually caring more about not killing people when it's not necessary.

    I haven't worried about remembering all of the extra names, which I hope will not come back to bite me in the next few books. :)

  5. so it seems we have not committed all these names to

  6. Well I haven't committed the names to memory either. I do have a flowchart, but that's just me. So glad we are all in the same boat.


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