The creator of the popular and unconventional manga Assassination Classroom, Yusei Matsui, has been quiet since the series finished its run in 2016. The series maintained a solid fanbase, spawning films both animated and live-action, and has only grown more popular as it became better known in the west. Matsui’s latest work, however, marks a stark contrast from the hyper-competent students of class 3-E.
The new series, Nige Jouzu no Wakagimi, localized as The Elusive Samurai, recently began its run in Weekly Shonen Jump on January 25, 2021. Set in Feudal Japan, the story casts the lone survivor of the historical Hojo Clan as its protagonist as he flees from the new shogunate after they seize power from his father. He’s quite young, however, and not the least bit heroic in any traditional sense.
Hojo Tokiyuki is just eight years old when his family is nearly wiped out by a coup from their trusted retainer, Ashikaga Takauji. Rescued by a bizarre and creepy priest who claims to see the future, Tokiyuki is left with only a handful of untrustworthy allies as he tries to avoid capture while traveling Japan, until the day he can claim vengeance. But Tokiyuki is really not suited for this kind of revenge quest; his only true skill is running away, evading those trying to kill him as easily as he did the teachers trying to get him to study and practice. Of course, it’s hard to blame an eight-year-old for not wanting to fight grown men, and the priest, Suwa Yorishige, tries to convince him that this is the right call. For Tokiyuki, the most heroic thing he can do is keep living, even if that means spending the next few years running and hiding. Thus, The Elusive Samurai begins its deadly game of hide and seek.
Yorishige does seem to be taking some cues from Assassination Classroom’s Koro-sensei, who was certainly the star attraction of that series. He’s a bit lecherous and claims to have divine powers, although it’s limited to a vague type of clairvoyance and a radiant light he can dim and brighten at will. Like Koro-sensei, Yorishige is in the role of the trickster mentor, deliberately putting Tokiyuki in danger in order to prove to him the true value of his gift at retreating. Of course, he also has his own motives, which aren’t entirely clear yet, and that might be the point. Tokiyuki is in a world where no one, even family-like his uncle, can be fully trusted and driving this home by keeping the kid on his toes could be just another aspect of this trickster mentor approach. There are other characters that haven’t been fully introduced yet, such as Yorishige’s skeptical daughter and shrine maiden, Shizuku, and their as-of-yet-unnamed traveling companions.
While it may not be off to as explosive of a start as Assassination Classroom’s destruction of the Moon, The Elusive Samurai has set up an interesting scenario that turns traditional shonen concepts of heroism on its head and has a style that invites comparisons to the recently ended Demon Slayer series. Cast against the idea of honorable suicides and reshaping nations through bloody conquest, a boy who becomes a hero through hiding and fleeing offers a lot of potential. As Tokiyuki’s first conflict with his uncle unfolds in the coming chapters, The Elusive Samurai will face the difficult task of making a protagonist whose only goal is to run away fun to read about. With quality art and a proven writer at the helm, it will certainly be one of 2021’s most intriguing manga series.
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