The imaginary and the real mash together to make a mixture of the odd and authentic because popular culture loves to romanticise historical professions so far apart from modern life. Unlike the hero of Ninja Gaiden, Ryu Hayabusa, genuine ninjas could not duplicate themselves and often avoided direct confrontation in favour of hiding out. Like the real-life Blackbeard and his crew, the Straw Hats don’t fit the mould of the stereotypical pirate.
Samurai are probably the most frequently cited ancient warriors in anime because of their prominent role in Japan’s history. Only samurai are trained to use swords, yet anyone can learn to use a sword. Even though Zoro of One Piece is a skilled swordsman, he still must follow the samurai code of honour. While some of the samurai depicted in anime are more realistic than others, all of them are fantastic.
1. Takasugi Shinsaku From Bakumatsu
History buffs in Japan will likely know the name Takasugi Shinsaku. Takasugi was renowned as a strategic thinker and skilled swordsman in the Japanese army in the nineteenth century. Takasugi advocated for a move that went against Japan’s feudal regulations and allowed non-samurai to carry firearms. Let it suffice to say that he had a major impact on the Japan of today.
Bakumatsu’s Takasugi Shinasaku is an engaging samurai, even if he isn’t quite as interesting as the real one. Takasugi, concerned about Japan’s future, plots to take a time-manipulating item from the government. While the samurai may look like a fool at first glance, Takasugi is actually very strategic.
2. Katsura Kotarou From Gintama
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that the vast majority of Gintama’s cast is comprised of highly trained soldiers with years of experience in warfare if not for the show’s comic tone. A lot of the Joui rebel army’s woes can be traced back to Katsura’s poor decision-making, but there’s a good reason why so many misfits are prepared to put themselves in harm’s path to back the samurai. Katsura is a noble samurai and master warrior who finds himself in a time that openly opposes him.
Katsura’s motivation throughout the duration of the anime is revenge for his murdered master. Katsura maintains his honour as a great warrior protecting the weak despite the itinerant samurai’s constant attempts to overthrow the government. Few can hope to survive an encounter with a smart and skillful swordsman. Don’t refer to him as Zura, please.
3. Jin From Samurai Champloo
Shinichiro Watanabe’s classic animation with the word “Samurai” in the title is perfect for fans of the genre. The music and images are practically faultless, and the characters are likeable, complex, and incredibly cool. Mugen, the more brash and unconventional of the two samurai, often overshadows Jin, despite Jin’s equal skill with the sword.
In contrast to Mugen’s free-form approach, Jin favours more conventional Kenjutsu techniques. Jin has a tragic history and has been through a lot as a samurai, yet he finds friendship with Mugen and Fuu.
Jin has faith in his own skills and fights to utilise his own unique approach rather than attempting to combine techniques from different schools. His samurai roots run deep. This could be seen as a flaw by some, but it actually reflects Jin’s strong desire to uphold his family’s traditions.
4. Assassin From Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
Fate/stay night’s resident samurai, simply called Assassin, is based on Sasaki Kojirou. Assassin is based on a mythical person who is most known for meeting his death at the hands of Miyamoto Musashi, probably Japan’s greatest swordsman, but in Fate’s reality, Assassin is not a proper servant because he does not have a formal name. But the oddity is a samurai of exceptional brilliance.
A neutral party in the Holy Grail War, Assassin was only called in by Caster. As a result, the fighter can be authentic without fear of repercussions. Assassin is, in many respects, the quintessential samurai. The swordsman has no fear of death, yet he also has honour in battle and would never attack an unarmed person.
5. Goemon Ishikawa XIII from Lupin III
A venerable warrior from an illustrious series. Goemon, on the other hand, contrasts with Lupin’s flashy character as a great thief by dressing in a traditional kimono and rarely breaking away from his sombre face. After beginning as adversaries, Goemon eventually joined Lupin’s group, and their friendship has lasted ever since.
Made to add a touch of Japan to Lupin III’s cast of memorable personalities, Goemon is a reserved but proud warrior who lives by his own morals despite hanging out with some questionable characters. Although the relationship between Goemon and Lupin is not as straightforward as that between a typical master and samurai, the swordsman is fiercely loyal to his master and allows the thief not to dishonour him.
6. Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma From Kuromukuro
Kuromukuro is a humorous and original action series that takes place in the twenty-first century and combines elements of science fiction, mecha, and samurai. Swordsman Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma from some time in the 17th century awakens from a long slumber in an alien artefact and finds himself at the middle of an epic battle between robots and aliens. The samurai may seem a little out of date, but Kennosuke’s mecha suit skills are absolutely brilliant. Kennosuke is the total deal, what with his intelligence and skill with a blade.
Very little is known at first regarding Kennosuke’s background. It’s understandable that he’s having trouble adjusting to his new surroundings, given his cloak of secrecy. Formerly, a princess’ personal bodyguard would be a trained martial artist. Kennosuke, even after all these years, still wants to do the right thing and kill the Oni and help Yukina Shirahane, a student who looks just like the princess. Despite not fitting the usual profile of a calm and collected samurai, Kennosuke yet demonstrates an unwavering loyalty to his lord.
7. Yamatonokami Yasusada from Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru
While many samurai shows are based on actual events, Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru takes a slightly different tack. The protagonists are not people at all, but rather swords that have been given life in order to defend history from an army that wants to rewrite it to suit their own purposes. Though it has a fair bit of action, the overall tone of the anime is upbeat and positive.
It’s not surprising that the Token Danshi are all exceptionally skilled swordsmen, given their lineage. Yamatonokami Yasusada learned a thing or two as Okita Souji’s uchigatana, but he’s having a hard time adapting to life as a soldier in Saniwa’s care.
Yasusada’s personality might be seen to have two distinct sides. If the humanised sword isn’t in a duel, Yasusada seems like a shy, mellow person who wouldn’t harm a fly. Once combat begins, the fighter discards all inhibitions and becomes a ruthless killing machine. Yasusada is an absolute terror with or without a sword!
8. Nanashi From Stranger: Mukou Hadan
During Japan’s feudal era, ronin (or a samurai without a master) were common. Samurai were expected to commit seppuku (a ritual suicide that was considered honourable) if their master died. After refusing, the samurai was cast out of society and feared by feudal rulers. There was a common belief that ronin were all violent outlaws.
It’s true that Nanashi is a samurai without a castle, but it doesn’t make him a criminal. The foreigner’s experience in the civil war had left him cynical and unwilling to pledge allegiance to a feudal lord, so he decided to become a mercenary as a means to leave his past behind. In the end, the samurai and the boy on the run from unknown killers cross paths.
Despite the fact that the wanderer’s background is kept secret for most of the film, Nanashi is still a simple person. The samurai is not shy about expressing his opinions and often lets his sword do the talking for him. The action scenes in Sword of the Stranger are masterfully staged, showcasing Nanashi’s lightning-fast reflexes and unconventional fighting technique, traits that may have developed as a result of the samurai’s non-Japanese ancestry.
9. Shimazu Toyohisa From Drifters
The appearance of historical figures as waifus in anime and manga is so common that the appearance of Oda Nobunaga has become almost clichéd. Drifters is an unabashedly irreverent isekai series that pits fictionalised versions of Joan of Arc and Butch Cassidy against each other in a big tag team fight royale.
Shimazu Toyohisa, a Japanese warrior, gets sent to a fantasy realm after his death in the Battle of Sekigahara, where he joins the Drifters and fights the Ends. Shimazu comes out as surprisingly honourable, despite his involvement in quite a bit of murder, despite the brutal and bizarrely amusing nature of the anime.
Toyohisa is so courageous that he can single-handedly defeat armies, although his bravery often borders on the absurd. When pitted against a crazy Joan of Arc, the samurai’s personal code of conduct, which forbids harming unharmed civilians or women, presents a minor dilemma.
10. Hyakkimaru From Dororo
Is it too soon to crown a samurai who is still on the air? Dororo has been around since 1967; the 2019 version is just the latest iteration. Indeed, near the decade’s close, an anime series was initially created. One of the first samurai in anime has finally returned to the spotlight thanks to a new adaptation.
The very existence of Hyakkimaru is terrible. Hyakkimaru’s ambitious father offers him up to demons the moment he is born by removing 12 of his body parts as a sacrifice. The infant, abandoned in a river, survives despite having lost all five senses and having only the ability to tell demons from people. Hyakkimaru is a nomadic samurai with a knack for killing monsters who is driven by an unquenchable lust for life. The swordsman receives a demon body part if he kills the correct demon.
Personality-wise, Hyakkimaru isn’t well-developed at first. There is a gradual coming together of the warriors and a newfound appreciation for the world as the anime progresses. Hyakkimaru is fearless when it comes to facing a demon with a sword, and he never hesitates to use one. Dororo’s swordsman has the lowest starting wealth of any samurai. Inspirational, endearing, and one-of-a-kind, Hyakkimaru is a character you won’t find anywhere else.
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