Takemitsu Zamurai is a seinen slice of life historical manga written by Issei Eifuku and illustrated by none other than manga veteran, Taiyou Matsumoto. It’s a series that combines thought-provoking writing with sublime art. And this was not left unnoticed in Japan, as the manga went as far as to win the Grand Prize at the 15th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2011. Yet, here in the west not many people know of its existence which is partly due to it never being localized in English.
So if you’ve never heard of this highly rated obscure manga series, well you’re in for a ride.
The story of Takemitsu Zamurai
The story itself is quite unordinary, especially for a samurai action manga. It has this easy-going tone to it, and its first few volumes are more slice of life than actual action.
The narrative follows the ronin Senou Soichiro as he settles down in the town of Edo. Aside from his lax and friendly personality, nothing more is actually shown about the character in the beginning. The first dozen or so chapters focus primarily on the moment, there’s no urgency here, no characters screaming their foe’s name as they charge towards them, just pure introspection.
There’s however some lurking suspense amidst all this calmness and this atmosphere is one of the many things Takemitsu Zamurai’s executes perfectly.
At the end of the day, Takemitsu Zamurai is a samurai manga, so it does have its fair share of epic fight scenes. These scenes are usually the ones where Matsumoto’s talent shines the brightest. His art is impeccable and flows perfectly through the page. It’s just breathtaking to look at.
Taiyo Matsumoto is a master at blending a realistic and believable setting with surrealistic imagery. There are talking cats for example in this manga and they often converse between one another and even with humans sometimes. It’s a fun little addition that doesn’t take you out of the story but actually adds to its charm.
Some of the manga’s chapters even start with conversing animals and then smoothly transition to our heroes talking. And such good dialogue it is. The dialogue is great at building up the characters, without giving away too much, just subtle nods and hints. After all it’s a show don’t tell type of story.
The art of Takemitsu Zamurai
The art of this manga is its soul. Although the story is great, without Matsumoto’s art, it wouldn’t pack the same punch.
The artwork in this series is phenomenal. The drawings are strong, evocative and unusual for manga. And to top, it all of, certain more tense scenes see Matsumoto adding in some brush strokes which really add to the atmosphere. One look at these masterfully crafted panels and you’d see why this is a manga worth falling in love with.
The art not only evokes the reader’s emotions but helps add personality to a lot of the characters. For example, the main lead, Senou, is depicted as an easygoing dummy who doesn’t like to overthink things. However, in certain action scenes, the way he is drawn changes, here he resembles more of a wild beast than a person. And it’s visual cues like this that show us more about the character’s personality than any amount of dialogue could.
Overall Takemitsu Zamurai is an odd manga with a lot of heart. And if you stay with it long enough to see its end, it will in turn stay with you for months to come!
Have you read, have you ready and how would you rate it? Drop us a comment down below and give us your take on this underrated contemporary classic.