I introduced Vagabond about two weeks ago as being an engaging work of art that has life lessons, historical artifacts and a good deal of entertaining value. Today, I am going to cover Takezo’s psychological profile at the age of 17 which is where the manga starts. These articles contain spoilers. As always, the pictures are the work of Takehiko Inoue and are used for educational purposes.
Takezo, like many other interesting protagonists, attracts people to him inadvertently. During his stay at Oko’s hideaway, he resists temptations of alcohol and Oko’s seductive matters. There seems to be a higher purpose driving him; a worship of the intangible.
Takezo gets into many fights with the bandits during this arc. He is almost always outnumbered by incompetent warriors. They might not be great adversaries, but this is a testament to Takezo’s shakeless resolve to become invincible. He is continually regarded as a young boy; but he delivers. His conviction, his skill in combat and his fearlessness are the first pillars of his character at that age. These are all attractive and borderline charismatic traits. As far as his physique goes, he is bigger and meaner than your average Joe. He also demonstrates a sense of duty by trying to help out his comrades. Not the talkative kind, Takezo is seen as a quiet force in most social encounters. Being a sponge is a great trait for any leader who is keen on learning. Not to mention that he demonstrates that trait without wanting to take advantage of any situation in particular. Just great analytical skills.
At a young age, Takezo is already asking important open-ended questions. He starts wondering what this endless fighting leads to and what it means to him. This demonstrates his ability to contemplate and understand his demeanor more objectively.
We also learn that Takezo did most of his growing up in the mountains. This can describe why he is seen as distant and unapproachable at times. Since he grew up alone, it also explains why he might be prone to have contemplative moments. He must have spent a good deal of time without human contact. This must have forced him to be mindful of his own company.
We get to see some interactions of Takezo and his father. We learn that Takezo comes from a renowned Samurai bloodline. We also see that Takezo’s relationship with fear is very peculiar. I would like to think that this is what makes Takezo so interesting. In the face of adversity and pain, he still knows fear, but it does not paralyze him out of action or skew his senses. As far as his childhood goes, his father treats Takezo as an enemy. His mother, well she left Takezo with his mad father. Practically an orphan.
Takezo eventually meets Takuan Soho. Takuan is a known Zen Monk and this scene illustrates how sharp he is. Without even knowing Takezo, Takuan figures out the deep nature of Takezo’s character. They will cross paths many more times.
Finally, Takezo is psychologically and physically beaten up into sense by Takuan Soho who tells him that his life is not just about killing and slashing people away. There is no doubt that this life-threatening experience marks Takezo permanently and dictates his behavior in the future chapters.
That’s that! Takezo at the age of 17 can be seen as a deep, question-seeking individual with great physical capabilities and a fearlessness that does not seem to be encountered anywhere else.