The Elusive Samurai Volume Two continues Tokiyuki’s story and introduces a new ally for him.
The Elusive Samurai Volume Two
Written by: Yusei Matsui
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: September 6, 2022
The second volume opens with Kojiro and Tokiyuki competing in a dog shooting competition at the Suwa Grand Shrine. Sukefusa, the assistant to the shugo (governor) of Shinano, has heard about the competition and convinces Sadamune (the governor) to join in the competition and use it as an opportunity to weaken Yorishige and locate the last of the Hojo clan (which, of course, is Tokiyuki).
Sadamune barges into the competition and scores very well. Afterward, he declares that if no one can beat him, he will search the entire Suwa territory for the last of the Hojo clan and they will not be allowed to interfere. Yorishige makes a deal: he accepts the proposal, but Sadamune has to agree that if the Suwa win, he will not wield his authority as governor to disturb his territory. Yorishige sends out Tokiyuki (under the name Chojumaru) as the archer to go up against Sadamune. Yorishige sweetens the deal by declaring that they can score points by hitting the dogs or each other. Yorishige has a plan, and in the end, Tokiyuki is the one who is victorious. I really liked seeing how the pompous Sadamune was knocked down several pegs by someone he thought was so far beneath him.
Unfortunately, Sadamune doesn’t hold his end of the bargain, and he soon comes back to the shrine with an imperial command from the Mikado. The command, which must be obeyed, says that the Suwa territory now belongs to Sadamune, and that the Suwa have 10 days to withdraw their retainers. After Sadamune leaves, Yorishige tells Toriyuki about a thief he wants Tokiyuki to enlist in order to steal the piece of paper with the imperial command on it so they can destroy it. Without the piece of paper, there’s nothing Sadamune can do until he gets a new imperial command.
Quite a bit of the volume focuses on Tokiyuki finding the thief (Kazama Genba), convincing him to join up with Tokiyuki, and then working together to steal the imperial command. Of course, Kazama isn’t easy to convince to join up right at first… but even when he does join forces with Tokiyuki, the thief isn’t entirely sure if he really wants to help or not. In fact, Kazama spends some of his time trying to teach a naïve kid like Tokiyuki about the ways of the world and seeing his trust in others crumble, but he finds that he did himself no favors when it seems like the two of them could potentially get caught.
Both Sadamune and Sukefusa work together to try to take down Kazama and Tokiyuki, but the two young men work together to outsmart their opponents and make their escape. While Kazama continues to stay with Tokiyuki and his retainers, it’s quickly apparent that Kazama’s temperament is much different from the others, and in fact, he can act quite crudely at the shrine. This introduces a new dynamic to the interactions between the characters, and it’ll be interesting to see in the long run if this dynamic will continue to play out during the remainder of the series.
The final chapter sees Yorishige suddenly losing the ability to see the future. In his thoughts, we see Yorishige admit that this isn’t the first time this has happened, but that no one else at the shrine knows about this issue. I’m going to guess that this development will not only be important for the story that starts to unfold at the end of Volume Two, but that it will likely be something that comes up again in future volumes of the series. While Yorishige might be able to still hide this issue at the moment, will there come at time when he can no longer hide it? And if that happens, how will Tokiyuki and the others deal with it?
At this point in the story, though, it’s decided that Tokiyuki and his retainers (the Elusive Warriors) should be the ones to investigate Sadamune’s newest scheme. Since Yorishige can’t see what’s going to happen, he keeps trying to object to the Elusive Warriors going on the mission, but he’s forced to relent when his objections are overruled. Unfortunately, before they can get very far in their investigation, they come under attack… and this is where Volume Two ends. I thought this worked as an effective way to end this volume and to make readers want to come back from Volume Three in order to find out what happens.
I have to say, both Sadamune and Sukefusa are depicted in such a way that they’re almost grotesque. Sadamune has big, bulging eyes to emphasize his keen observational skills, while Sukefusa has larger than normal ears to emphasize his higher than average hearing ability. However, this depiction actually works, especially when it’s established in The Elusive Samurai Volume Two just how obsessed Sadamune is with tracking down Tokiyuki and humiliating Yorishige. Sadamune’s large and bulging eyes make him look like a crazed man with an obsession. At this point in the series, though, Matsui seems to be setting the story up where Sadamune is going to be the primary “baddie” that is targeting our protagonist and his allies. He might surprise me and shake things up in a future volume of the series, but Volume Two leaves the reader with the impression that Sadamune and his cronies will be serving as the main antagonists.
Right after the story ends, VIZ Media included several pages analyzing the events, characters, and concepts that appear in this volume of the series. Like with the previous volume, I appreciated getting this analysis, because it helped me to better understand what I had just read.
Matsui is writing a piece of historical fiction and incorporates as much of the original history as possible, but he admits in the author’s note that there are some elements he created for his story that aren’t part of the actual history. Unfortunately, since I don’t have the knowledge of Japanese history that a Japanese reader would have, I’m not really able to pick up on the elements that Matsui created for the story. At least the historical analysis that’s included at the end of the volume provides me with some information to learn about some of the Japanese history that’s incorporated into this story.
Overall, I thought that The Elusive Samurai Volume Two was a strong follow-up for the first volume. Readers who enjoyed the first volume won’t want to miss out on reading the second one.
The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media
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