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You really don't want to miss out on this bloody, funny samurai anime from the creator of Assassination Classroom

Take a blast to the past with The Elusive Samurai.

A boy wearing old Japanese clothing, eating a steamed bun, being licked by a small Shiba Inu from The Elusive Samurai.
Image credit: Cloverworks/ Yusei Matsui

If you look back at the anime and manga scene in the 2010s, and the kinds of series that were popular, the vibes would feel quite different than they do now. Manga from Weekly Shonen Jump has always been popular, but the previous decade didn't have anything like the big three (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece) when it started off. It wasn't until towards the end of the decade where My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen really started to take off as the poster children for WSJ, so popular anime included titles like Konosuba, Psycho Pass, and Assassination Classroom, none of which you really hear about much anymore.

That last one, Assassination Classroom, felt like it was pretty broadly popular back in the day - what's not to love about the concept of a classroom full of teenagers being tasked with killing an anthropomorphic, goofy-as-hell, octopus person? As wacky as its concept is, it managed to deliver some emotional moments too, but the style of writing the manga and its anime adaptation had that felt more prominent in the 2010s seems to have largely been forgotten about. But Assassination Classroom is more than a decade old now, meaning one could arguably be nostalgic for it in the way someone last decade might have been for noughties anime - and if you miss that era of anime, even if it wasn't that long ago, you might want to check out The Elusive Samurai.

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Last week saw the arrival of the first episode of The Elusive Samurai, an anime based on the manga of the same name, which just so happens to be from the creator of Assassination Classroom, Yusei Matsui. The manga has been in serialisation since 2021, in Weekly Shonen Jump funnily enough, but for the most part it seems to have slipped under the radar, despite being from a fairly notable artist - in the West, at least. That's probably because it's a historical series, set in 1300s Japan, and Japanese period pieces don't tend to do as well over here when it comes to manga and anime, unless there's some kind of fantasy element.

It follows Hojo Tokiyuki, the air to the shogunate at the time, a young boy who avoids all of his training to be a samurai at all costs - a trait that lets him escape death when his whole family is killed (you can see where the name for the series comes from). The first episode sets all of this up, as well as introduces us, the viewer, to Suwa Yorishige, a shady priest that believes Hojo will go on to be a great hero that will save Japan. Fans of Jujutsu Kaisen will likely quickly latch on to him, as he's voiced by fan favourite Satoru Gojo voice actor Yuichi Nakamura.

I won't lie and say it's the story that immediately hooked me, because it's just the first episodes, it really was just kind of set up for the rest of the series, but that doesn't mean there wasn't anything worth getting excited about. For one, the animation was killer, pardon the pun. The direction on this first episode was really captivating, with one particular cut that switches things up between the lighthearted comedic tone to the genuinely horrible moments of violence in a seriously impressive way. You'll find a scene where Hojo's elusiveness is really put on display too, a kinetic, frenetic, and energetic sequence that brings a lot of life to what could otherwise be a dull setting.

Coming back to that point about nostalgia, it's the humour half of the first episode that feels closer to the kind of comedy you'd see in 2010s anime and manga - exaggerated, unrealistic, scene breaking. The anime's opening is nostalgic too, slightly cheesy, not all that well song, fun enough to not be bothersome, characters dancing around in front of mostly neutral backgrounds, fun enough to not be bothersome, even if you won't add it to your playlist of "best anime OPs". It really feels like an anime you just don't get much of anymore, and while I might not be massively nostalgic for 2010s anime, it still feels refreshing to have something that doesn't feel like it has to fit into current trends.

I'm not sure where the series will go, manga readers can surely spoil that for you (behave yourselves, manga readers) but the first episode is convincing enough for me to stick with it. I'll just have to prepare myself for a talking octopus to turn up at some point, if only to be on the safe side.

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