Many might not be aware that Assassination Classroom author, Yusei Matsui, has been running a new manga titled The Elusive Samurai in Weekly Shonen Jump since January 2021. Volume 1 of the new manga has also been published in English, with the first volume now being available as a part of Viz Media’s library.
Viz Media describes the plot of The Elusive Samurai Volume 1 as:
After the massacre of his family by the traitor Ashikaga Takauji, Tokiyuki flees with the help of a handful of loyal retainers who have also survived the purge. One of them is Suwa Yorishige, an ally of the Hojo clan and lord of Suwa Province. The slightly odd Yorishige also claims to be clairvoyant and foretells that Tokiyuki will one day become the ruler of Japan. But for the moment, escaping from enemy territory is the priority!
The Elusive Samurai story is based on Japanese history around the 1330s, meaning it is set nearly 7 centuries ago. What happened in your country at that time? Whatever it may be, it happened at the same time on the globe. Doesn’t that make it sound exciting? The author featured important aspects of the life of teachers and students in his previous Assassination Classroom, and now he is bringing to the modern-day world “a little-known period in Japanese history”, which he hopes you will find “thrilling through his unique perspective“.
People who have gone through compulsory education in Japan already have knowledge of how history unfolds afterward, but if this is your first time hearing of Japanese history, the manga simply serves you an exciting story of a young master’s life that is filled with revenge. The story is historical fiction, meant to entertain readers.
I believe the historical aspect made The Elusive Samurai different from his previous works Majin Tantei Nogami Neuro and Assassination Classroom: a creature with overwhelming power doesn’t stand side by side with the protagonist. Majin Tantei Nogami Neuro had demon Neuro who appeared from the demon world for high school student Yako Katsuragi, while Assassination Classroom had the octopus-like teacher for junior high school student Nagisa Shiota. Even though The Elusive Samurai has Shinto Priest Suwa Yorishige with prescience, which is actually beyond human power, for the little young master Hojo Tokiyuki, he does remain within the range of human.
On further note, The Elusive Samurai‘s compiled volumes have a distinct feature: interesting commentary from Japanese historian and series supervisor Kazuto Hongo on the era, cultures, and traditions that will help you to further immerse yourself into the old Japanese world. “Increase your enjoyment of this manga by learning the real history behind it!” the manga states. The author talked about his cooperation with Hongo on the Special Thanks page: “I called upon him to supervise the historical details in the series and to write the pages of historical analysis. Anything that departs from history is the author’s own creation or personal interpretation.“.
From his first serialization through his second work, Matsui’s art skills have shown impressive progress, and the latest The Elusive Samurai is no exception. Three main things which attracted my attention when it comes to his work are expressive characters, the insanity of human characters demonstrated in Majin Tantei Nogami Neuro, and the cuteness of Assassination Classroom depicted in characters like Nagisa Shiota. If you were a fan of Assassination Classroom for combat scenes, The Elusive Samurai manga should suit your taste, as the protagonist has to live a life full of battles. If you are curious about exotic old Japanese vibes, the series should be recommended.
I believe it should be noted to avoid confusion that in Viz Media’s translation the names for the historical “characters” in the manga are written in the Japanese order (family name – given name), despite those names such as the author and others who live in the present time are placed in the English order (given name – family name). The abovementioned creator’s name for instance is Yusei Matsui, but the protagonist is Hojo Tokiyuki.
On another topic about names: it is indeed a shame that by romanization of names, the visual effects of Kanji usage cannot be transferred to the English edition. The most notable example in the volume is the antagonist’s name, who goes from 足利高氏 (Ashikaga Takauji) to 足利尊氏 (the same reading with one different Kanji). He is Ashikaga Takauji after all, but the impact is inevitably lost. When it comes to names themselves, Kazuto Hongo details them in the commentary section.
I thought it’d be also noteworthy to mention a line that caught my attention for those who are wondering about the quality of translations. In a gag scene where a Shinto Priest Suwa Yorishige and the Elusive Samurai, Hojo Tokiyuki are arguing over the Priest’s ability to foresee the future, these conversations occur:
Shinto Priest Suwa Yorishige: “In comedy duos, there’s a straight man and a funny man, and you’re more of a straight man!”
The Elusive Samurai Hojo Tokiyuki “So what’s that make you?!”
As you can see, Hojo Tokiyuki replies by saying “How about you in the comedy duo?!” in English, but, given how the English translation worked, the Japanese version would sound blunter and mean sounded to English speakers.
Hojo Tokiyuki says “Whose fault do you think is that,” in a literal sense, but in this case, it’s an indirect way to blame the person for their actions, so the core lies in criticism “you made me do that,” and what’s more, the line ends with a phrase, which you may find harsh, “you dumb fortuneteller!” in the original text. You can see the English translation for the part sounds a lot milder. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar enough with the English-speaking culture to judge if the expressions can be seen as harsh, but let me repeat that it’s a gag.
For what it’s worth, I may share with you how long I spent checking out the materials straight, from the start to the end. Other than my language proficiency, please note there may have been differences between the physical and digital copies that possibly affected my reading experience in the first place: It took 28 minutes and 29 seconds for me to finish the Japanese original paper book, and 1 hour and 24 minutes and 6 seconds to read through the English edition of The Elusive Samurai volume 1.
NIGEJOZU NO WAKAGIMI © 2021 by Yusei Matsui/SHUEISHA Inc.
Anime Corner received an advance copy of Viz Media’s release of The Elusive Samurai manga in exchange for an honest review.