The Elusive Samurai Volume Four sees Tokiyuki starting to take on a little more of a leadership role.

The Elusive Samurai Volume Four
Written by: Yusei Matsui
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 3, 2023

This volume opens by introducing a new character named Kiyohara Shinano-no-Kami, the kokushi of Shinano. He’s now in charge of Shinano, and it becomes quickly clear that he’s an arrogant and selfish man. We also see that Ogasawara Sadamune, the governor of Shinano, is having to answer to Kiyohara since he is of a lower rank.

In the town of Kawanakajima, a man named Hoshina from the Suwa sect has raised an army because they are unable to endure the new oppressive taxes being levied on them by Kiyohara. Suwa brings this to Tokiyuki’s attention, and asks him, as well as Kojiro, Kazama, and Fubuki, to act as messengers. He wants them to convince Hoshina and his followers to stop fighting and help them escape. If you hadn’t noticed, none of the female characters from the Elusive Warriors are part of the group going to Kawanakajima. It’s decided to not have them go along, due to the danger of war and violence erupting. While it’s a little disappointing that the female characters are sidelined during this storyline, this seems to be accurate for the how this era of Japan has been depicted thus far in The Elusive Samurai.

It’s clear right away when Tokiyuki and the others arrive that Hoshina and his men intend to die during this battle with Kiyohara’s forces. While Tokiyuki is unable to dissuade them from fighting, Kojiro, Kazama, and Fubuki are able to help out enough with distractions and tricks to give Hoshina and his men a chance to not be completely slaughtered on the first day of fighting.

Afterward, Tokiyuki and Hoshina have a loud exchange of words, and when all is said and done, Tokiyuki somehow convinces Hoshina to flee to the north and regroup, and having the women and children flee the village. The vast majority of Volume Four focuses on Tokiyuki helping Hoshina and the others flee as the other Elusive Warriors provide distractions to Kiyohara’s forces and to help Hoshina’s forces fight who they absolutely have to fight in order to get away. It’s during this section where Tokiyuki really displays his potential for leadership. Tokiyuki may still be more of a runner than a fighter, but he does what he needs to do here, which even includes shooting warning shots with a bow and arrows. And it also helps that Kiyohara’s arrogance gets the better of him right at the end of the fight.

This section with Hoshina and his men fighting against Kiyohara’s forces was a relatively quick read, due to all of the action involved. That’s not to say there aren’t panels with dialogue, because there are. But there are a lot more panels focusing on action and very minimal dialogue here.

By the end of this section of the manga, there’s a sense of optimism. Unfortunately, the next chapter quickly shows us that those rebelling against the oppression did not see their desire to rush to die subside for the long term. And let’s just say that their rebellion didn’t go well. After this gloomy fact is mentioned, the rest of this chapter is a light-hearted story about Tokiyuki missing the sea bream he would eat in Kamakura. The other Elusive Warriors, while performing reconnaissance, catch a sea bream and prepare it for Tokiyuki. This leads into the next chapter, showing Ashikaga Takauji in Kamakura and how things have changed since he took over. This chapter establishes to the reader that it may not be easy for Tokiyuki and the others to reclaim Kamakura as they think it might, since Takauji has been winning over most of the people.

The final chapter of the volume is just starting the next story arc for The Elusive Samurai. Sadamune has his eye on Tokiyuki, and he has suspicions of Tokiyuki having some kind of connection with the Hojo. Suwa is asked to send Tokiyuki alone as a messenger to bear a gift to Sadamune. Ayako volunteers to accompany him, saying he’s too small to go alone, and also uses the fact that she’s a “mere girl” to her advantage. The volume ends with Tokiyuki and Ayako arriving to meet with Sadamune, and we just start seeing the interactions between Tokiyuki and Sadamune as the volume ends. The stage is obviously being set for Volume Five to open with Sadamune questioning Tokiyuki, and the audience is left to wonder how Tokiyuki will handle it and if he’ll be able to successfully hide is connection to the Hojo. I thought this was the perfect place to end of the volume on, and it encourages readers to want to come back in order to find out what will happen to Tokiyuki.

Right after the story ends, the manga includes eight pages that analyze and explain the events, characters, and concepts that appeared in this volume of the series. Just like with the previous three volumes, I appreciated getting the information that was included in these pages because it helped me to better understand what I had just read.

The Elusive Samurai continues to be a strong series, and the past two volumes have started to see some substantial as well as some subtle evolution for Tokiyuki’s character. This character development, as well as the level of detail Matsui goes into for the history of the time period, help to make The Elusive Samurai one of the stronger historical fiction manga that I’ve personally read. I hope I get the chance to read Volume Five in order to see how Tokiyuki handles Sadamune and his questioning.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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