REVIEW: ‘Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying

Video game manga is one of the best ways to get more from stories you know won’t get sequels or are between installments. When it comes to Sekiro: Shadow’s Die Twice, players who are looking for more lore can pick up Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying which is published by YenPress for English audiences, with story and art from mangaka Shin Yamamoto with supervision from FromSoftware. In this manga, readers get the chance to discover the history of the Sword Saint, Isshin Ashina, and one enigmatic samurai when you travel to the Sengoku Era.

If you’re familiar with the critically acclaimed game, Hanbei the Undying is an NPC in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice who acts as a training partner for Sekiro, not only providing useful tips but also sparring with him so that Sekiro might optimize his combat tactics. An important part of the game, Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying dives into his background which elevates a character that can’t die so you can spar with him to test out new mechanics into one with depth and background that seamlessly fits into the larger narrative of the world of Sekiro. This manga serves as a dive into his Hanbei’s past and details the ways in which immortality can be created and the evils that go along with achieving it.

The manga itself is simple in that it replicates moral issues around immortality like most stories that deal with the subject. Hanbei is a character that is apathetic, merely fighting to pass the time, until he isn’t. As he comes to grow closer to the siblings who took him in, Hanbei begins to care and uses his immortality to save them and the village. This ends up leaving a thin narrative, but in order to correct it, Yamamoto uses flashbacks to not only offer up a timeline of Hanbei’s life but to show the violence in it and how he came to be. All that being said, it’s really the art that readers should pick this book up for.

While the story is average, the art is superb. With high stakes action sequences, detailed character designs, and unique interpretations of violence, the art in Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying is the best thing about this manga. There is a balance between its graphic nature and its beauty and it’s carried by Yamamoto’s attention to detail when crafting his characters. You can see the bones beneath Hanbei’s weathered skin, the small elements in armor that show where each piece hinges together, the detail in the monkey’s fur, the way in which the blood sprays when bodies are cut, and of course, the ways in which a sword hits a body. Every small detail sings from the page and the designs pull life from the video game while holding their own unique aesthetic on the pages.

Overall, Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying is a great read for fans of the video game and of action manga in general. There is no prior knowledge needed but the ending of the manga works well when paired with the game. Additionally, if this is the kind of quality we can get from the world of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I welcome any and all manga tie-ins.

Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying is available now from booksellers, with chapter one available for free.

Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying

TL;DR

Overall, Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying is a great read for fans of the video game and of action manga in general. There is no prior knowledge needed but the ending of the manga works well when paired with the game. Additionally, if this is the kind of quality we can get from the world of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I welcome any and all manga tie-ins.