Samurai 8 – The Tale of Hachimaru Volume 1 Review

Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru is the much teased new work of Masashi Kishimoto, the same man responsible for Naruto, although this time he wrote and storyboarded the chapters, but the actual art credit goes to Akira Okubo, one of Kishimoto’s former assistants getting a promotion of sorts. It debuted with a bumper first chapter in May 13th 2019’s issue of Shonen Jump!

The story, as the title suggest, centres on Hachimaru, and boy does he ever own the “underdog gets his chance to be a hero” role. Having been born so weak that he’s been hooked up to a machine his whole childhood, unable to go out or even eat solid foods, Hachimaru dreams of become a space-faring samurai like his idol Fudo Myo-o, something he’d play in VR games but never imagine getting to do. That is of course until a space-travelling samurai in a cyborg cat body arrives on his doorstep…

This is where Samurai 8 falls on its face. The world Kishimoto has created is extremely odd, but instead of slowly peeling back the layers, the first chapter is filled to the brim with exposition, complete with several diagrams and cutaways. Apparently in this world samurai are heroes with cyborg bodies that travel the stars protecting people, they gain their new bodies (which can break apart and reveal the spine-like “Key” in the middle) by committing seppuku while having the rank of “Bushi”, who are regular humans trained in the ways of the samurai, but not yet able to break apart or fly into space. Alongside the Key in their bodies, samurai also have literal, tangible souls that when combined with the Keys assemble the cyborg bodies via a “Locker Ball”.

Alongside all of this is each samurai having a “Key Holder”, which is an animal that can, among other things, change into body armour that covers the regenerative cyborg body of a samurai and enhance their strength. Think I’m done? Nope! In order for a samurai to gain his full strength they need to complete a “Trinity”, which is the samurai, the Key Holder animal, and a “Princess of Fate”, literally a female with whom they can build a strong relationship. Throw in the fact that Daruma, the aforementioned samurai in a robotic cat body, no sorry, a blind robotic cat body, is on a quest to find seven keys that can open “Pandora’s Box”, and you have one hell of a confusing and frankly often boring time.

Even when Hachimaru becomes a samurai and is travelling outside his house for the first time in his life, all he does is meet a fellow shut-in and explains to them that going out and meeting people is the best thing, much better than playing computer games in your home in the most blatant bit of social commentary I think I’ve ever seen. Oh, and then he slices a tank in half. That’s quite cool. He struggles at first because he dropped his sword and we get a good explanation as to how you can only activate and use your own samurai sword, not somebody else’s. Forgot about that bit.

So cutting out the endless exposition and the story works as a very traditional shonen origin story. The unlikely dreamer gets to live his dream, thanks to meeting a weird old master and going out on a quest to find magical items. Coming up in Volume 2 is meeting the token female character! One who is actually already fated to be with our protagonist, thanks to the whole Trinity thing, so that clears up any future shipping arguments if nothing else…

While the story isn’t very exciting, the artwork for the record is very good. The backgrounds and especially the shots of technology are very detailed and often very nice to look at. A lot of the character designs bear strong resemblances to Naruto characters, but as a fan of Akira Toriyama I have a hard time criticising any manga artist for sticking to one style…

Overall Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru’s first volume gets off to a very dull start. Masashi Kishimoto has come up with a very strange new world, but instead of letting his audience’s imagination run wild, he takes up countless pages explaining everything in explicit detail, to the point where it felt like he was pitching his idea of a story to me. It’s safe to say I don’t see this being a runaway hit like his previous work, though I suppose with all the exposition out of the way, maybe future chapters will actually focus on… fun things. Maybe?

Read a free preview at VIZ Media here

4 / 10

Cold Cobra

Having watched anime since it was airing late night on the Sci-Fi channel in the late 90s, I consider myself... someone who's watched a lot of anime, and then got hired to write reviews about them. Hooray!

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