Manga Review: Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume One

Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume One is based on the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China videogame.

Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume One
Written by: Minoji Kurata
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: February 16, 2021

When I saw that this manga was based on a videogame, I was afraid that my lack of knowledge about the game franchise would hamper my ability to understand what was happening in the manga. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The character of Shao Jun is alive during the Great Ming Empire, and the story is set in the year 1526 AD. Shao Jun is an assassin for The Brotherhood, and at the beginning of the story, her comrades have all been killed by the Templar Order. Shao Jun went to Florence to retrieve a special box from her master and is captured by the Templar Knights when she returns to China. We start to follow her adventures as she escapes from her cage.

But just as things start to get interesting, the reader is suddenly transported to the modern day, where a young woman named Lisa is part of an experiment using a machine that taps into the memories of ancestors and allows the person in the machine to relive those memories. It turns out that Lisa, who has violent tendencies, is a descendant of Shao Jun. She is being told by Dr. Kagami, the one behind this machine, that this is a form of therapy to help Lisa overcome her violent tendencies. But as it’s revealed to the reader, Dr. Kagami is part of a modern version of the Templar Knights, and she’s hoping to use Lisa to find out what happened to the box that Shao Jun was supposed to bring back to China. And Dr. Kagami shows just how two-faced she is in this volume: one minute she’s comforting Lisa, and the next tells a colleague she doesn’t care what happens to the descendant of an assassin as long as they get the information they need. Dr. Kagami is truly a despicable character.

While the reader learns that The Brotherhood and the Templar Knights are still around in the modern era, it’s really not explained in exactly what ways or forms these organizations still exist. Obviously, these groups would have had to evolve with the times, but this volume doesn’t go into any detail about this. As things are now, the reader just has to kind of accept it and go with it. Hopefully future volumes will help expand on this idea.

The rest of the volume sees Lisa undergoing more sessions and reliving more of Shao Jun’s memories. However, since Dr. Kagami has no control over what memories Lisa will see, she ends up jumping around to various times of Shao Jun’s life. For example, one of the memories is from when Shao Jun was five years old. Obviously, this memory isn’t going to help Dr. Kagami accomplish her goal, but it was a nice thing for the reader to see in order to learn a little more about Shao Jun. In a later scene, as Lisa goes through a session, we see that Dr. Kagami learned something interesting that she hadn’t known about before.

At one point in the volume, Lisa asks about The Brotherhood and the Templar Knights, and Dr. Kagami gives her an explanation. This was important for Lisa, obviously, but also important information for the reader.

My favorite parts of this volume were right at the beginning and right at the very end, when we get extended portions of Shao Jun’s story. I really like Shao Jun as a character because she’s a strong, kickass woman. I found myself wishing that this manga just focused on Shao Jun’s story and didn’t have the modern day angle with Lisa in it. Yes, I know there’s a search for the missing box in the modern world, but Shao Jun’s story is so interesting and riveting on its own that it makes the modern day portions feel like an intrusion. Hopefully future volumes will expound more on why the modern day version of the Templar Knights is desperately searching for this missing box.

I really liked the art style of this manga. The depiction of motion is fantastic, and some of the panels have some great detail in them. This is especially true for the portions that take place in Shao Jun’s time period. The panels that take place in the modern day don’t look quite as impressive to me.

Even with some of the nitpicks I had, I still enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume One. While I may not be familiar with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, I have a feeling that fans of that game franchise who also read manga will enjoy this series. I would also recommend this series to manga readers who may not be familiar with the game franchise, but enjoy stories set in ancient China that feature a strong female lead character.

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