Shigurui has an anime adaptation that I watched few years ago and liked (but with some reservations). Both the anime and manga start with a scene just before conclusion and then switch to the story from the beginning. And anime covers only somewhat half of the story, so I always wondered what happened after the end in anime. For some reason I thought that manga was finished, but I was wrong, so now I have one more ongoing manga to wait for (others are Gantz, Berserk and Claymore). And nobody likes waiting....
I will start with things that are most likely to put away a potential reader. This manga is quite disgusting, definitely in graphic way, and often in ways of the story. Every few pages someone is beheaded, has its guts spilled or is mutilated. Nudity and sex (heterosexual and homosexual) are common, although genitals are hidden. But expect breasts every every now and then. Level of violence is extreme - one samurai-school has a way of fighting where they try to "beautify" their opponents with minimum number of contacts. And by "beautify" they mean cripple, disfigure, etc. When two fighters meet, there are always a few "imagined" scenes they see, where each of them manages to kill the other one in most gruesome way. And so on...
Nevertheless, this manga has "something" that just appeals to every guy who enjoyed Stallone's movies (like Rocky and Rambo), ninja cartoons and Wild West comics as a kid. Rigid code of honor, unyielding fighters who don't care about staying alive, majestic combat moves and even more majestic names of techniques remind me on movies of Bruce Lee. Sincerely, I don't see any girl reading this, and lots of guys, too. But I'm quite sure that I would adore this when I was nine.
And let's be honest, authors didn't pull this things from their hats. As I see on Wikipedia, seppuku is still done and it was quite common in Japanese history. European feudal lords has a history of violence and caprice, and I don't see why would Japanese's would be different. I'm not really familiar with Japanese history outside anime and manga, but many customs and practices in this manga are elaborated as historical references. Although, I do agree that graphical violence is greatly exaggerated.
As you probably guessed, Shigurui is a samurai manga. I haven't watched a good samurai/ninja anime since "Basilisk" and "Samurai Champloo". I had high hopes for "Blade of the Immortal" and "Kurozuka", but they both failed. Manji from "Blade" is predictable (fight like an idiot while they think he's dead and then make a surprise resurrection), while "Kurozuka" ended as confusing post-apocalyptic mix. Anyway, this resembles greatly to "Basilisk", just with samurai instead ninja.
Story starts with Fujiki Gennosuke and Irako Seigen preparing for duel to death. Gennosuke lacks an arm, while Seigen is blind and has a crippled foot. Story then flies few yeas to past, when they first met in school of Kogan-Ryu, presided by the Grandmaster Kogan Iwamoto. And he's a real piece of crazy. Expect few days a years, he spends time in insanity, raping maids and eating like an animal, unable to talk or behave like a normal person. Gennosuke is a prodigy of the school, a probable successor of Iwamoto, with Iwamoto's daughter Mie like a extra prize. More, Gennosuke really loves her. And Seigen is an arrogant and beautiful ronin, with shady past and great ambition. Of course, they are bound to clash.
Main story itself is nothing innovative. But every now and then you get a few scenes from past of side-characters that give it an appreciated solidity. Although Gennosuke is clearly a good guy, while Seigen is a liar and manipulator, neither is Gennosuke a Dudley Do-right, nor Seigen doesn't have a good side. There are lots of supporting characters and some of them even manage to stay alive more than one volume. Except Gennosuke-Seigen story, there is at least one parallel story. I have one objection here: main story gets confusing every now and then, because it jumps in time often.
Even I can appreciate visuals in this manga. And anime was even better than this, at least from this point of view. Flashy combat moves with even flashier names, detailed and unique characters, it all looks very well.
If you can stomach all the gore and violence, and like samurai/ninja themes, you will love this manga. Touch of historical references gives it a feeling that you are reading a romanticized description of real, historical event. Definitely not for kids, although boys would love it.
As of next post, it will be about "Bounen no Xamdou", an anime I started to watch recently.