Author Topic: Matahachi: a man of the times  (Read 11751 times)

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Offline Walter

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Matahachi: a man of the times
« on: February 20, 2009, 01:04:07 AM »

   If you ask most Vagabond fans who their least-favorite character is, most will say Matahachi. Not only does he seem to be a distraction from the main story arc, he's a cad and a fake – leeching off the reputation of another just to get by with a pathetic existence.

   However, I think many readers miss the point of all his embarrassing subplots. Matahachi isn't just there for comic relief. Inoue focuses on him for a purpose, and I believe it is to show off a kind of dark mirror for Musashi's ambitions. The path Musashi followed, which Matahachi envies so much that he later emulates, ends up corrupting his entire life, in the same way that it nourishes Musashi's.

   I believe Matahachi is Inoue's (and by the same token Eiji Yoshikawa's) way of commenting on the pitfalls of this era in Japan for opportunists who sought the quick road to glory in the years after the war. It's only through the lens of Matahachi that we this aspect of the age – the power and influence of the “ascending dragons” phenomena.

   For every true hero like Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro there countless others who turned their brief reputations as swordsmen into careers by seizing the opportunity of the era. (Musashi and Kojiro do later “cash in” their reputations for careers to some extent, but Musashi manages to maintain his credibility, and it's well after his days as a vagabond). While these men were surely revered and respected, to outsiders it must have appeared like they put themselves on the fast-track to success. To Matahachi, this was his ticket to glory, and for a time, he always felt like it was just another year of training away for him to achieve it ("I'll make a name for myself, here in Osaka! You'll see, Takezo!"). But it's a dangerous journey, fit only for few, and he rode it all the way to spiritual bankruptcy.
   
   Musashi was able to survive and become a legend without compromising his path because his extraordinary abilities and spirit are suited for such a life. But consider how many lesser men must have fallen off that impossible mountain during the climb to the top. And I don't just mean the physical and fatal consequences – that aspect is well-covered by Musashi's story – but also the sociological and psychological impacts. This was a cultural phenomenon that was quite literally sweeping the nation. Consider how enormously popular the “way of the sword,” was at the time. Takuan says in volume 11 that the samurai practicing Zen meditation outnumbered the monks in his temple. Musashi led the charge in this era on a path that must have cut a swathe of broken, lesser human beings across the entire country. His childhood friend just happens to be one of these pitiful creatures that takes center stage so we can see all the gritty details of those in the gutter of his lifestyle.

   So for those who would write Matahachi off as just an annoyance, remember that Vagabond isn't just a story about Musashi, it's also about the time in which he lived, and the people that inhabited the world around him. Matahachi, far more than Musashi, is truly a man of the times.

:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline TheBranded1

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2009, 03:48:28 PM »
I agree with you Walter. The culture of that time and practices are shown with nice detail. I am no expert on japan history, but I can speculate that Inoue not only based this on the novel, but did some research to find out more about this era. I really didn't find Matahachi annoying or as comic relief, I thought he just wanted to get the glory with a shortcut, which is not always the best way. It happens even now, when some nobody tries to have his or her 15 seconds of fame on tv or any other media source.

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2009, 10:37:29 AM »
         I am not (a fan of) Matahatchi!

         Though, one thing I take away from his character is that he's not only a man of his time, as Walter so eloquently expounded, but a man of all time. As a matter of fact, I was lying, which isn't surprising, because I am Matahatchi. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say we are all Matahatchi! At least relatively. Compared to Musashi? Yeah, everyone falls somewhere between the two, and probably closer to Matahatchi, even though we admire the former and loathe the latter. Actually, that's probably why. Like Matahatchi, we don't want to be Matahatchi... we want to be Musashi! So, if you really don't think you're like Matahatchi, you might be more like him than you think... follow me?

          Matahatchi is the most human character in the series, he spends much of his time living inside his head, self-aware but struggling with identity; a contradiction of foolish impulse, thought-out contrivances, and rationalizations for both. If a man is to be judged by his actions, he's certainly a bad man, but actions aren't how he's defined himself. He's tried to do in his head too; he's going to do the right thing, he's going to be a good and righteous man, he's just never found his way. He's rarely put the two together, righteous thought and action, and they are his best moments.

          His good intentions have mostly paved his way to Hell, but that's only Matahatchi's bad side, his weakness, and it's the dominant half for sure... but somewhere deep inside it, that's also where his strength lies. He doesn't quit. He keeps trying. Every night he may screw up, but every morning he's going to redeem himself, so he believes. This is a strength he and Musashi share in different ways, and it's one that Matahatchi has exercised to a point even beyond Musashi. That's right, beyond Musashi. For mistakes have been Matahatchi's art as much as the sword has been Musashi's, and Matahatchi can look at himself and see his mistakes and failings like Musashi sees the movement of a sword. Most important, Matahatchi can finally act on these insights, selflessly, he can see and acknowledge his mistakes clearly and directly, he is aware of the consequences his actions have had for himself and those he loves and cares about, and he can now do the right thing, not just think about it.

          Musashi's not there yet, he's come close, it's been right on the tip of his tongue, he knows something's not quite right, especially after killing 70 men, but he still hasn't quite been able to admit he's been wrong; instead, despite his insights, his vague questioning of himself, he's yet to answer, instead he's always returned to form... like Matahatchi used to do. But, like Matahatchi, like all of us, he can still overcome, no matter how many setbacks, relapses, or new mistakes it might take. There's some Matahatchi in all of us, even Musashi, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.


Offline Walter

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2009, 02:19:48 PM »
  :isidro: That was a much better assessment of the character than I put together. I'm envious of your insight. I'd never even thought of Matahachi as being a reflection of us too, who strive for greatness but mostly fall on our faces, and have to get back up to try again.

And yeah, unlike Musashi, Matahachi isn't so desperately afraid of failure. It's what's holding Musashi back from realizing the endless nature of the path he's on. Another quality, Matahachi doesn't have, or even need,the sage advice of great men to realize his faults. He just gets punched in the face, kidnapped and hair torn out.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2009, 11:45:03 AM »
That was a much better assessment of the character than I put together.
Nah, just different, and built off of yours anyway... and your urgings to give Matahatchi's character some thought other than scorn.

I'm envious of your insight. I'd never even thought of Matahachi as being a reflection of us too, who strive for greatness but mostly fall on our faces, and have to get back up to try again.

Haha, and I'm envious that you just summed it up better in one sentence!

And yeah, unlike Musashi, Matahachi isn't so desperately afraid of failure. It's what's holding Musashi back from realizing the endless nature of the path he's on. Another quality, Matahachi doesn't have, or even need,the sage advice of great men to realize his faults. He just gets punched in the face, kidnapped and hair torn out.

Yeah, I never thought about it, but Matahatchi has no life coaches. Imagine if he did? If he hadn't fallen in with the wrong people in the first place. Meanwhile, Musashi has the wisest people in Japan giving him advice, yet he resists. Matahatchi? He had Oko... ouch! And still, objectively thinking, Matahatchi hasn't done anything nearly so heinous as Musashi. Matahatchi said it about Musashi himself, and not even disparagingly, "You're a monster!"

Offline Walter

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2009, 08:47:45 PM »
Though you mention it sarcastically, I really do think Oko was the best, and truly only, master Matahachi had in his life. It's reiterated multiple times that she's turned him into a sexual beast. Poor Kiku can't keep up with his insatiable sexual H U N G E R!

It's an aspect of life that he's far surpassed Musashi in. Of course, it's really a question of how Inoue will stand in this argument. Is Musashi held back by his chastity? Kojiro and Matahachi are already knee deep in ... forbidden fruit while Musashi has only an extremely vague, sophomoric understanding of the dealings of men and women.

It's also apparently a road Mushi will have to cross soon, as Takuan is already urging him in that direction.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2009, 08:52:47 PM »

Is Musashi held back by his chastity?

So far I think it's been demonstrated the other way around, that Musashi's chastity is a virtue which allows him to remain purely devoted to the sword. Still, I'd like to see him and Otsu have SOME kind of intimacy and for him to experience and get above it in a natural way. So far, not unlike the image above, it's been like a joke, where Mushi literally thinks the sounds of Kojiro getting it on with a chick in the next room is cats! :ganishka:

Offline TheBranded1

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2009, 09:03:32 PM »


Haha :carcus: Musashi might have wrote the book of five rings. But Matahachi could have been the author of this one



Offline Bunnet

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2009, 03:12:28 AM »
May I add that Matachi seem like the representation of a normal man while Musashi seem like the overwhelming giants. Man vs Nature. Matachi is a man and so he wants to clime higher but without effort and his nature of fear and easily overwhelm by the world makes him hide under liquor, women and even false reputation. But he pay for them, he lost himself to liquor, women were more than a poison to him and the reputation he "stole" was more than dangerous. I say it brave to take someone else name and try to live with it knowing this guy was master swordsmen. What if someone came after you publicly and they wanted challenge what would you do? 

Offline Walter

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2009, 03:28:12 AM »
May I add that Matachi seem like the representation of a normal man while Musashi seem like the overwhelming giants.
Yeah, I'd even say that's an understatement.

Quote
What if someone came after you publicly and they wanted challenge what would you do? 
\Well, in Matahachi's case, he'd push them down a hill and run away.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline Bunnet

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2009, 04:38:53 AM »
Yeah, I'd even say that's an understatement.
\Well, in Matahachi's case, he'd push them down a hill and run away.
that made me laugh so hard but in all serious yes he is Musashi very foil

Offline TheBranded1

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2009, 04:52:17 AM »
that made me laugh so hard but in all serious yes he is Musashi very foil
?
Did it made you laugh beacuse it sounded something Matahachi would do? Or  That he actually did it to someone?

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2009, 08:57:56 AM »
May I add that Matachi seem like the representation of a normal man while Musashi seem like the overwhelming giants. Man vs Nature. Matachi is a man and so he wants to clime higher but without effort and his nature of fear and easily overwhelm by the world makes him hide under liquor, women and even false reputation. But he pay for them, he lost himself to liquor, women were more than a poison to him and the reputation he "stole" was more than dangerous. I say it brave to take someone else name and try to live with it knowing this guy was master swordsmen. What if someone came after you publicly and they wanted challenge what would you do?

Nice addition to the thread, particularly the part about the price Matahatchi has had to pay because of his choices. I think there's even more that could be said on that point.

Well, in Matahachi's case, he'd push them down a hill and run away.

Well, let's give him his due, that was 1 out of 3. The first time, to his credit, he did cut the vermin down (before stealing his scam, not to his credit), then the hill push and run (would Musashi count that a victory? =), and the last time, when he swang wildly and ran off, which he gets a big fat L over for letting poor Uncle Gon get killed.

Offline Bunnet

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2009, 11:16:26 PM »
?
Did it made you laugh beacuse it sounded something Matahachi would do? Or  That he actually did it to someone?
because I can actually see him doing it

and thank you for complementing what I said

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2009, 08:25:22 AM »
because I can actually see him doing it

Oh, he really did do it too! I could barely remember myself, because as I said before, I wasn't a big Matahatchi fan, but he pushes a swordsman named Kai Shojiro and his disciple down a hill from behind in volume 8, when they're to have a match. What's funny about it is if Matahatchi really had a killer instinct, and was quick enough on the draw, he could have possibly run him through with his sword in the same motion. I mean, it was brazen enough, and like I joked, I wonder if the Musashi, particularly the old Musashi, would consider it a legitimate move to win.

Offline Bunnet

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2009, 02:21:49 AM »
I can't say for sure but from what I gather I think Musashi would consider a victory a victory regardless what is done, well maybe kidnapping people and hiding behind women and children

Offline Kalie Ma

Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2009, 04:14:28 AM »
I agree with Bunnyet about the tactics Musashi (Mushi?) would value. To win is all its the same reason he had no problem attacking the Yoshioka by surprise and even in the novel had no trouble killing the small child who was to be Yoshioka's future. The child was brought to a battlefield. BUUUUUUT I think we all know that though he would accept a defeat at the hands of a lesser human being, it truly would be valued lower, especially by readers.

Ive gotten away in my thoughts but the point I try to make is (heres where you read)... all strategies are open when it's a battle at hand. But those who would employ base tactics were probably not skilled enough to pull them off with enough lethality to overcome someone as honed and perfected (?) as Musashi.

Wjhat's this to do with Muatahachi? I dont know but ill add a post here soon about him!!

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2009, 07:52:06 PM »
Wjhat's this to do with Muatahachi? I dont know but ill add a post here soon about him!!

Looking forward to it, and welcome to the Vagabond Inn!

Offline Bunnet

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2009, 01:15:41 PM »
Did the real life Musashi have any kids by the way?

Offline Walter

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2009, 03:48:18 PM »
Did the real life Musashi have any kids by the way?
None that we know of, other than his adopted sons (unless I'm forgetting/missing something huge). I'm not even sure it's known that he ever had sex.  :ganishka:

We do know that he never took any wives though. Poor Otsu...  :sad:
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #20 on: April 06, 2009, 04:31:49 PM »
Indeed, which led to some whispers about his sexuality one way or another, maybe we should more specifically say we're not even sure it's known that he had ever sex with a woman! Anyway, for the record, Musashi's adopted sons were named Miyamoto Mikinosuke and Miyamoto Iori, the former committed seppuku in service after his lord's death, and the latter became distinguished in service. So, his sons did him proud, one could argue they were more successful than their father by social standards of the times.

Offline The Hawkman

Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2010, 07:31:30 AM »
I am Matahachi's biggest fan (Probably not but I am a big one nonetheless.).

    Well, I'm not adding anything new to this section, but I just felt like posting anyways. I personally am a fan of Matahachi (yeah I said it already but it deserves repeating...Okay not really). I'm not sure exactly what it was, but there has always been something about Matahachi that clicked home with me, ever since that first page with him on the ground asking for forgiveness for leaving. I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but if anything, Matahachi is my favorite character in Vagabond so far, and it doesn't look to be changing any time soon. Perhaps it is the fact that amongst these geniuses and master swordsmen, he is the only "average man." The only human actor in a play of monsters. Perhaps it is the fact that Matahachi reminds me of myself in quite a few ways. Whatever the reason may be, whenever he appears, I find myself rooting for him, hoping he'll do "the right thing," (I'm not gonna get into the whole right vs wrong discussion)  He allowed Musashi to face bandits alone as he had some "quality time" with Oko. Instead of helping the challenge against the Yosioka school, he instead drank their sake and accidentally set the place on fire. Stealing someone's identity, cheating people out of their money the same way they tried to cheat him out of his; And yet, I can't help but hold Matahachi in high esteem. Illogical no?

    He is not invincible under the sun, and does not claim to be so. He's no Musashi and he knows it. Yet, when the plan falls through, and his ambitions fail, he does what any man would do. He simply acknowledges his shortcomings and vows that he will improve himself. In my opinion, from what I've read so far, those first few pages that feature Matahachi describe his character perfectly. He's in the mud, covered in the filth of a lost battle, asking for forgiveness from people who have no chance of hearing him. He's crawling, across the ground, the situation is hopeless when out of nowhere comes Musashi, standing upright  and seemingly ready to go at a moment's notice. After he is helped up, it's Musashi's words and confidence that  push him to declare that he's not going to die.

     Again, I know I'm not adding anything new to this thread, but it helps to write it down anyways. I think that the main reason that I am a fan of Matahachi, and perhaps the main reason why many people find him both horribly irritating offensive and yet why some people can't seem to get enough of Matahachi is that as much as we would like to be like Musashi or Kojiro, most people are closer on the scale to Matahachi, and that doesn't sit too well with some; and even though I know that it's almost impossible (I've never actually read the actual book), I keep  rooting for my favorite character, and I hope that someday he won't have to crawl on his belly just for another chance at glory.

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Re: Matahachi: a man of the times
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2010, 09:18:23 AM »
Welcome to the in Hawkman, and nice post. While he's certainly not my favorite, I now share most of your sentiments about Matahachi at this point. As you say, I think the average person probably does more closely resemble him than anyone else in the series, a real and flawed man among larger than life legends, and that's why he's so challenging to the reader, because in his shortcomings our own are reflected. We see in him what we don't like about ourselves next to an ideal, and even the fraud of vicariously experiencing that ideal.

It's really quite depressing. :ganishka: