In terms of sheer quality, this eighth Omnibus repackages three of the best Blade of the Immortal volumes, starting with a continuation of the conversation that ended Omnibus VII, as Rin talks with the man who murdered her parents. It’s a conversation defying expectation, partly because Hiroaki Samura has so cleverly redefined the moral high ground, a process that continues throughout the series until the very end.

That’s not far off now, and after the selection of stocktaking episodes originally seen in paperback as Scarlet Swords, Samura sets his cast down the final road. Anotsu and his Ittō-ryū swordsmen are being hunted down by disgraced feudal landlord Kagimura and his crew of killers, and almost everyone of note is heading to a port from where escape may be possible. While stocktaking doesn’t indicate this is the most dynamic sequence, Samura ensures there are shocks and deceptions aplenty.

In an era when main roads are guarded by feudal troops on the lookout for wanted people, travelling anywhere without the correct papers was arduous and dangerous, and the urgency required when being hunted can result in fatal mistakes. The middle section was titled Massacre when originally published, and the four chapters in which Anotsu Kagehisa and three Ittō-ryū colleagues make a definitive statement is one of the most thrilling sequences in the entire series. Samura presents a whirlwind of unpredictable action as he underlines the saying that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. It’s a heroic and possibly futile gesture that’s a testament to planning, and the sustained action and tension is magnificently realised.

Blade of the Immortal incorporates a substantial cast, and as Samura heads toward the final reckoning, he looks back on anyone of any substance, many not destined to see the series out. What was Snowfall at Dawn in paperback is one of the most graphically violent sequences in a series where Samura never shies from showing the consequences of violence, and that’s even before it begins to deal with Shira, Manji’s irredeemable mirror image, the Sabretooth to his Wolverine. That represents an intelligent use of the storytelling technique of switching scenes at a pivotal moment. Samura doing so means the battle between Manji and Shira continues into Volume IX, but the scenes delaying the conclusion are brilliantly played out and equally compelling suspense as we see the predicament Rin finds herself in.

Despite the quality, this isn’t the book to sample. Start at the beginning. Just dipping in here will result in many pages of stunning art, and some easily understood action, but the story nuances will fly over heads, and that’s a great loss.