Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru 004-006 – Manga Review
Synopsis: A new series written by Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto! With art by Akira Okubo! A futuristic tale of samurai adventure! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
Samurai 8 begins to expand its story beyond the confines of its ‘starter world.’ Up till Chapter 4 Samurai 8 has played a lot like Naruto, introducing our sympathetic main character, getting them to beat a starter villain and showcase real power, while also meeting and befriending an individual who suffers similar issues to his own. It’s here that Samurai 8 starts to become its own thing, laying the framework out and introducing ideas that will gradually take Hachimaru from his small corner of the universe and throw him into a grander story.
This involves hinting (Not so subtly) that Hachimaru’s dad actually knows way more than he lets on. Besides a flashback primarily showcasing how much he actually cares for the well being of Hachimaru, we also get a tantalizing tease for an individual likely to be the series’ main villain. The understanding that Hachimaru’s dad cares, and even fears for him feels like a retread (we knew this even in Chapter 1) and you could probably thus trim Chapter 4 down, but what’s here works all the same.
Chapter 5 is a bit more of a stumble however. As Hachimaru begins a journey with Daruma toward becoming a True Samurai (moving goal posts and all) we begin introducing additional comedy. Perhaps unhappy with how straight his writing has been, Kishimoto starts to double down on the sillier traits of Hachimaru and Daruma, both to the point they almost don’t feel like the same characters. Compounding that is a sudden shift into action, as Daruma’s narcolepsy gag leads to an all out brawl for what seems like purely visual sake. The action looks fantastic, but its hard to care about anything that’s happening because it doesn’t really serve a narrative purpose. It’s almost like Kishimoto was afraid he’d lose his readership if he didn’t give them something eye-popping to gush over.
Chapter 6 then starts to throw a ton of exposition at the reader, adding additional elements and ideas onto what it means to be a samurai, even going so far as to introduce a whole princess angle into the mix. It’s complex and feels like more than we really need to know right away. It doesn’t help that it also seems to pigeon-hole our potential lead heroine, Ann, (introduced towards the end of this chapter) into a non-combat, damsel in distress role, what with all the talk of Hachimaru only understanding what it means to be a Samurai by finding someone he desperately wants to protect.
Ultimately Hachimaru still hasn’t really offered a strong hook, a reason for readers to become invested. I think it’s compounding damage from giving Hachimaru his dreams right away (until we moved the goal posts on what it means to be a Samurai). By allowing Hachimaru to suddenly obtain crazy amounts of power, and save his father, it feels like Hachimaru already completed his journey and until the series can successfully set up a new one (Which may be right around the corner) it’s floundering.
That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Samurai 8 in the comments below!
Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru is published as part of Shonen Jump.