The Elusive Samurai, Vol. 1

Viz Media. (The ­Elusive Samurai). Vol. 1. Jul. 2022. 200p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781974732517.
Gr 8 Up–Victory through retreat. It’s a terrific elevator pitch for a series: a young man whose only strength is his ability to flee, destined to utilize that strength to become the greatest hero of his era. Betrayed and on the run with a band of companions, Hojo Tokiyuki must learn to use his skill if he’s going to survive the political chaos of the Japanese Kenmu Restoration era, with betrayals, alliances, and plot twists galore. The many names and titles can be a little overwhelming for non-Japanese readers, especially since so few of the characters receive much in the way of characterization, but the generous back matter does a lot to explain the culture and history involved. Fortunately, the book can still be enjoyed even without that background, with lots of fast paced action and attractive lead characters. A sense of speed is depicted beautifully, though backgrounds are a little barren and some of the secondary character designs blend together. Things do get quite graphic at times in terms of violence, contrasting with the innocence of the main character: Tokiyuki is eight years old and a carefree, pampered child who witnesses the slaughter of his family and friends. It’s still early going, but the stakes are well defined even if the characters aren’t.
VERDICT A solid, if not spectacular, new historical manga from the creator behind “Assassination Classroom.” Worth considering for collections where ancient Japan or action manga are popular.

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