There are days that I want to just sink deep into the darkness of a manga like Attack on Titan or Hell’s Paradise, and then there are days where my heart needs a lighter adventure. That’s where Shonen Jump’s Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru comes in. A cyberpunk samurai story that fuses fantasy, bushido code, and science fiction together to create a unique world where a young boy, Hachimaru, becomes a samurai aided by his dog. Together, the two represent the future of the world and their quest to protect it from destruction is just beginning.
Published by VIZ Media in English, the series is written by Masashi Kishimoto and features art by Akira Okubo. Last volume, we saw Hachimaru morph from a sick child bound to a machine and protected by his father into a child on the path to becoming a true samurai after meeting the legendary warrior Daruma. Now, in Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru Volume 2, which encompasses Chapter 7 to 15, we see Hachimaru still excited from his new found power learning the ways of the samurai from his master Daruma and united with his princess, Ann who is just as lost in her fate as Hachimaru is.
The first part of Volume 2 exists to build out the world of Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru. After learning that princesses and samurai are tied together, we see what this means in action as Ann and Hachimaru are brought together. While he is a samurai of circumstance, a weak kid turned strong, she is a princess out of place, she can’t arrange flowers, she has never shared her cooking, and when it comes to locating the locker balls, which store samurai souls, she lost hers – which of course resulted in Hachimaru’s activation. These two fit together, and it’s clear as they grow, they’ll do it together, which will make for an interesting story.
Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru Volume 2 focuses on Daruma teaching Hachimaru the world he’s about to enter, the skills he will need, and providing the moral gravity for the volume and the series to come: it’s not about being strong, it’s about who you’re strong for. While eager, Hachimaru is too quick, too impulsive, and too hungry for a world, and he is just now learning to listen to his master. While we learn about the world of Samurai 8, the lore and world-building provided is lost on Hachimaru. That is, until the world comes crashing into the training area in the form of one of Daruma’s former students, Ata.
A samurai from another world, Ata is looking for the mysterious Hachikaku, and is cutting down the world’s protectors to do it. When he blasts into the training area, Daruma is able to stop him briefly, but at the cost of being paralyzed until his body repairs itself. The group is left to fend for themselves even if it is futile. As the team becomes smaller, Hachimaru is left with one choice: fight. It’s a moment in the volume that is best read than explained but in truth, it brings home the core of Daruma’s teaching and the core of what it means to be a samurai. It doesn’t matter if a samurai is strong if he doesn’t have someone to be strong for. When Hachimaru awakens the part of himself desperate to protect, he becomes a match for Ata.
What blew me away about this climactic fight isn’t that Hachimaru was able to use his power, it was that the team nearly loses and it’s all for naught. There is a heaviness to the ending of this volume that drives home to the audience what Hachimaru will be against. It’s an uncertain future, and one that we rarely get in shonen manga where our protagonists are over-powered. Even with a lack of understanding of how to use their power, most shonen protagonists still come out on top in their first arcs, and while this isn’t the end of the Ata arc, there is enough doubt to make the story quite emotional.
While Kishimoto has presented us with a fantastic world, one built up around Japanese culture and stretched to include new concepts of samurai through a science fiction and cyberpunk lens, Okubo’s art is outstanding. Okuba’s art style is highly stylized and unlike what I’ve seen before. It’s equal parts Studio Gibli and Naruto, which is no surprise given that he is working along side the iconic Kishimoto, the artist behind Naruto. Visually, Okubo keeps up with Kishimoto’s grand science fiction story, blending elements of different genres to craft splash pages and panels that both provide a richness to the world but also exist harmoniously with each other.
Overall, Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru is going to be next hit in the shonen world, it sees an animated form, and for now, it’s a must read whether you’re picking up the volumes of reading via the Shonen Jump subscription. Volume 2 is magnificent and emotional, taking what felt like a simple story about a boy and his dog in the first volume into new genre territory with loads more grand reveals, epic battles, and shonen flare to come.
Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru Volume 2 is available May 5, 2020 wherever books and monthly chapters are available via the Shonen Jump app.
Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru Volume 2
Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru is going to be next hit in the shonen world, it sees an animated form, and for now, it’s a must read whether you’re picking up the volumes of reading via the Shonen Jump subscription. Volume 2 is magnificent and emotional, taking what felt like a simple story about a boy and his dog in the first volume into new genre territory with loads more grand reveals, epic battles, and shonen flare to come.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.