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Review: Samurai 8: Tale of Hachimaru Volume 1

Review: Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru Volume 1
Story by Masashi Kishimoto; Art by Akira Okubo
Teen (12+)
Viz Media, March 2020
196 pgs., $9.99 USD

After finishing his manga Naruto in 2014, creator Masashi Kishimoto announced his next series would be a sci-fi story. In 2019, that manga finally debuted as Samurai 8: Tale of Hachimaru, with Kishimoto taking on only the writing duties and newcomer Akira Okubo doing the art. It fused a sci-fi world with a samurai action adventure to varying success.

When we first meet the protagonist, Hachimaru, he is playing a VR video game in which he is a samurai searching for seven keys that are needed to save the galaxy. In the game, he is a powerful warrior. In reality, he is incredibly weak, needing cables attached to his back as life support, and eating only a liquid diet. He has never left his house. He lives with his father, who takes care of him and his pet holder Hayataro, a mechanical dog who meows instead of barks. Hachimaru’s journey begins when he meets Daruma, a true samurai in a mechanical cat body, who, like in the video game, is searching for seven samurai keys in order to protect the galaxy. Hachimaru is one of these keys, and after proving himself worthy, receives a samurai cyborg body. He then begins his training with Daruma.

Hachimaru is a fairly typical protagonist. He’s brash, argumentative, and doesn’t like listening to his father or Daruma’s lessons. He is also kind, friendly, and willing to sacrifice himself for his father. Daruma, as his mentor, explains to Hachimaru (and the reader) the workings of this new world and his new powers. Hachimaru’s father is a bit of an enigma in this first volume. He seems to know about samurai and the danger the world is in, but is trying not to let on. By the end, we are introduced to Ann, a princess who is somehow tied to Hachimaru, and Nanashi, a shut-in like Hachimaru was, who plays the same video game instead of actually training to be a samurai.

The world of Samurai 8 has a lot of moving parts, so there is a lot of exposition, and not just from Daruma. About half the book is devoted to showing and telling. But it’s not good exposition, as the things explained are things the characters should already know in world, and are obviously only being explained to the reader. While these explanations aren’t necessarily boring, they do drag the story down as there is so much of it. The story itself feels uneven, and the chapters don’t flow well together. I’m not really sure what was the point of the chapter with Nanashi. It doesn’t go anywhere and seems to only be there for Hachimaru to show off his new powers.

Okubo does a good job of bringing Kishimoto’s vision to life. The characters, designed by Kishimoto, feel like his designs without looking too much like his previous series. The action scenes aren’t cluttered, but they are still detailed. The tech is distinct and blends well with some of the rustic style buildings, reflecting both the sci-fi and the samurai warrior heritage the story is portraying.

Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru isn’t a bad manga. The world building is interesting and the story has potential. It just feels like it needs more time. So much is thrown at the reader in the first chapter that it takes multiple reads to take it all in. This can be a good thing when the story elements are nuanced, but that isn’t the case here. If a little more time had been taken to develop the characters and plot, and the end of the first chapter had occurred further into the volume, it would have been a much better read.

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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