Seinen – Historical, mature
1 Volume of 3 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (MediBang)
Ganjūrō, a samurai with no lord, is wandering without his sword. But he could easily replace it and then some if he were able to kill a man with a huge bounty on his head. But with a large reward on his head, others are surely going to have an eye on the prize — and the man in question isn’t going to go down easily either!
When I saw the cover, I was like, “Are we sure it’s Rogue Samurai? Not Clown Samurai, Kabuki Samurai, or even Bunny Pig Samurai?” Because I feel like any opponents he might face just might nope themselves out of a battle. Just think: you spent years training in the way of the sword, and you come face-to-face with this circus reject.
But yeah, eventually Ganjūrō looks like that.
We first meet Ganjūrō as he’s wandering around after losing his katana to gambling. He sees other men fleeing, one with his arm cut off. They drop a wanted poster for a man worth 100 Ryō (based on my research, on the low end, it would be roughly equivalent to US $55,000 today, but probably much higher). So when Ganjūrō immediately bumps into the 100 Ryō Man, you can see why the wandering samurai would want to take him down. But again, he has no sword, so he knows it’s not possible to take him down.
The two men meet again in the village, and Ganjūrō is still plotting to kill Kanichi. But this manga doesn’t just follow Ganjūrō; there are multiple parties interested in Kanichi, not to mention Kanichi himself has his own story. There’s the female head of a gang named Ai, who is excited at the prospect of a beautiful death by Kanichi’s hands. One of her followers is named Stupid Chiyomatsu, and you can guess what he’s like. Two boys named Monta and Kenjirō end up following Ganjūrō, but who knows for how long. Others are also targeting Kanichi.
Kanichi himself is mysterious, saying that the rumors about him are not true. He’s looking for someone, but there’s very little information about the person he’s searching for. However, what is known is that he is surprisingly polite. He offers a store owner some money for ruining the place when he kills someone, and we know he doesn’t take pleasure in striking others down. If you come after him, he will strike first. And as you may have gathered, expect to see a lot of dismemberment in this series. There’s some sexual stuff, but mostly beheadings.
Anyway, Ganjūrō, Ai, and others are all scheming to get that 100 Ryō and perhaps something a little extra. I get the feeling his series is going to be about all of them self-destructing. Kanichi doesn’t talk much, but he seems to always have his guard up even when people think he doesn’t. The manga gives us an inside view of all the main characters’ thoughts at some point or another, and most aren’t very good at planning. It makes you wonder how they even managed to survive up to this point. Well, maybe it’s not so much that they’re incompetent as they are arrogant. Some minor characters have already paid for their plan to kill Kanichi going off-track, and I don’t think it will be different for the others. Ganjūrō in particular had time to reconsider but he’s not.
Rogue Samurai looks like Japanese historical art. It’s a more realistic style versus most manga, as you can tell from the samples above. It can be a little creepy at times. But the gritty artsyle goes well with the setting of 1800s Japan. This is a series more for those of you who want a graphic novel version of a J-drama versus the usual anime/manga-type experience. Blood is a-plenty, and don’t expect much humor besides the silly things people think of as their life is ending. With only one volume, I don’t know if the manga will go to even darker places, but it’s certainly possible. But Suzuki does well with the setting, showing off the samurai uniforms and tea houses in good detail.
Japanese name order is used. There were a couple of typos. Bizarrely, there were also times that words would just be bolded. I guess it was supposed to give the sentences emphasis (“It happened at a shady gambling house in one of those dingy post towns”), but it just looks awkward.
Rogue Samurai could be a good choice if you love violence and backstabbing. The art is going to be an acquired taste for some readers though.
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I’d probably need to take some time to get used to the art here too. Seems interesting like a super grounded Kenshin kind of story but really short. I guess you’d be able to blast through this one in no time