For decades samurai have been respected not only throughout Japan but also throughout the entire world. They have become a cultural staple that has inspired many movie directors, game designers and writers to create stories surrounding their customs. However, the medium that has best captured the samurai spirit in recent years is for sure that of manga. So let’s take a look at some of these stories filled with deadly duels, vagabonds and the samurai code.
5. Blade of the Immortal
(by Samura, Hiroaki)
The story of “Blade of the Immortal” follows Manji, a ronin samurai who has been cursed with immortality and seeks death, his that is. In order to break this curse bestowed upon him and return to normal, Manji has to slay one thousand evil men. However while on his hunt for evildoers, Manji comes upon a young woman who seeks revenge on the people who murdered her parents and the dojo she was part of. This gives Manji a head start on his thousand man slaughter so he agrees to help the girl out. It’s a bloody samurai tale filled with vengeance, misery and amazing fight scenes. Yes, Manji is not the most likable character at first, but with each he begins to reflect on his past actions and actually helps the people that need him most.
(by Issei Eifuku and Taiyō Matsumoto)
Takemitsu Zamurai begins with our mysterious protagonist, a ronin named Senou Souichirou settling down in Edo's Katagi tenements. While initially, the locals fear him and harbor suspicion, with one of the neighbors even claiming that Senou might not be human, they soon get used to him. That is of course after he pawns his sword and replaces it with a bamboo one, right before becoming the neighborhood’s school-teacher. It’s a slice-of-life type story with a samurai plot in between, which believe me is worth experiencing for yourself.
3. Rurouni Kenshin
Ruroni Kenshin is a classical samurai tale of roaming ronin with a dark past. It follows the adventures of Kenshin who back in his days was a ruthless killer and now seeks atonement for his past actions by helping out those in need. Upon his arrival in Tokyo, Kenshin meets a beauty named Kaoru who he saves from an impersonator of himself. For saving her life, Kaoru offers him a place to stay. From here on we follow Kenshin as he does his best to live a peaceful life while helping those around him. Kenshin’s tale is still extremely popular to this day and is a must-read for any manga fan that enjoys a good samurai tale.
2. Young Wolf and Cub
Ogami Ito is a ruthless executioner that works for the Shogun that is until he gets framed by the Yagyu Clan which hopes to take his position. With his name soiled and his wife murdered, Ogami, takes the only thing he has left, his infant son Daigoro and thus begins their years-long quest for vengeance. The story of Young Wolf and Cub is a gripping one, filled with emotion and violence.
And at first, of course, is the greatest samurai manga of all times, Vagabond. There isn’t a series that so realistically captures everything there is about the culture and has its foot in actual Japanese history. You see the manga’s protagonist, Takezo is based on the real-life legendary samurai, Musashi. The story follows this vagabond, on his search for the meaning of it all. He begins as a hot-headed teen who only seeks to be the strongest, but with each passing duel, Takezon slowly changes. It’s a very meditative story about spirituality, friendship, love and the meaning of life. Oh and this manga also has some of the best action scenes ever drawn in the medium. Vagabond has one small issue though and that is, that it’s been on indefinite hiatus since 2015, so if you’re just getting into it, be warned that it might not be finished soon.