The Elusive Samurai Volume One is set in war-torn medieval Japan and was created by the mangaka that created Assassination Classroom.

The Elusive Samurai Volume One
Written by: Yusei Matsui
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 5, 2022

The series focuses on Tokiyuki Hojo, the young heir of a samurai lord. He enjoyed playing hide-and-seek from his teachers, because he felt that since he would be a figurehead when he became the lord, that he didn’t really need to learn what they were teaching him. These games of hide-and-seek have made him a master of running away and hiding, and these skills become important after his clan is betrayed from within. As a surviving heir, Tokiyuki is being hunted by Takauji Ashikaga, the man who betrayed Tokiyuki’s family.

Tokiyuki is taken in by a Shinto priest named Yorishige Suwa. He’s an odd man who claims to be clairvoyant and foretells Tokiyuki’s future as the ruler of Japan. Three kids with Yorishige become Tokiyuki’s retainers, and Yorishige works at trying to make Tokiyuki stronger by encouraging his abilities of running and hiding. Even though Tokiyuki may only be eight years old, he seems to have a realistic attitude toward a lot of things, and is understandably not very quick to believe Yorishige’s clairvoyant visions. Tokiyuki may not necessarily be “book smart,” but he seems to have a lot of common sense for someone his age. This may be due, at least in part, to the environment that he’s growing up in.

For the most part, Volume One spends most of its time setting up the characters and their situations, although we already see the beginnings of character development for Tokiyuki by the end of the volume. To be honest, since this is a work of historical fiction, it makes sense that a lot of time has to be spent establishing not just the characters, but the world that the story is taking place in. Since the story isn’t taking place in the modern era and relies on historical figures, time needs to be spent trying to convey important information about these figures and the time period. Even saying that, though, the volume isn’t bogged down by these explanations. At the back of the volume, there are several pages that go into more depth about the concepts and people that appear in the series. Apparently, these pages were translated from material that appeared in five issues of Weekly Shonen Jump. I appreciated having these pages included at the back of Volume One, because it gave me a greater understanding of what I had just read.

When I saw that The Elusive Samurai was by the same mangaka as Assassination Classroom, that really piqued my interest for this title because I really enjoyed Assassination Classroom. From the tone of the series and the writing, I could tell it was by the same author. The Elusive Samurai contains the same type of mixture of drama and comedy that Assassination Classroom became known for.

Regarding the art style, I can see a handful of facial designs that made me think of characters from Assassination Classroom, but quite a bit of the art had its own look. I was glad to see that the character designs and art style weren’t simply recycled from Matsui’s previous hit manga. But then again, with this being a historical fiction piece, Matsui had to make sure that the characters and the look and feel of the manga fit in with the time period that he’s depicting, so it makes sense that there’s notable differences in art styles between this and Assassination Classroom.

After I finished reading The Elusive Samurai Volume One, I saw a lot of promise for the series, and I hope to have a chance to read subsequent volumes in the future. If you read and enjoyed the vibe of Assassination Classroom and have an appreciation for historical fiction, then you might enjoy reading this series. I also think that manga readers who enjoy historical fiction might also find enjoyment in The Elusive Samurai.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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