The Elusive Samurai – Episode 1

By: ThatNerdyBoliviane July 8, 20240 Comments
Takauji holding up Tokiyuki while smiling and laughing

Content Warning: gore, blood and sexual violence.

What’s about it? Hojo Tokiyuki is the heir of the puppet leader of the Kamakura shogunate.  He spends most of his days running away from his attendants and avoids attending his lessons because he’s content with being treated as another “puppet ruler.”  Tokiyuki is happy continuing the status quo for the sake of the prosperity of his people until the clan’s most loyal vassal, Ashikaga Takauji, betrays them and kills all their loyal followers. Tokiyuki is dead set on surviving and reclaiming his homeland from everyone who wronged him.

Manga readers rejoice! The animators from CloverWorks animated the hell out of this premiere.  If I were to recommend a summer premiere based on visuals alone, I’d pick this one in a heartbeat.  The vivid colors pop out of every scene from the clothing worn in the royal courts to the devastating destruction inflicted on the lives of ordinary townspeople.  It’s uncertain if this level of quality can be maintained for future episodes, but for now the vanity in me wants to put everything on mute and enjoy the pretty animation.  

The animators truly deserve all the praise for being able to capture the joy that Tokiyuki feels when he’s moving through space, especially since walking and running sequences are notoriously difficult to animate.  It’s going to be challenging for the animators to be consistent with this aspect of Tokiyuki’s personality, and it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll maneuver around this to make their workload a bit easier.  

Tokiyuki hanging out with his older brother
All Tokiyuki wants is to hang out with his older brother and eat desserts.

I’m curious to see how much the story will deviate from the real-life fate of Hojo Tokiyuki and whether or not this’ll have a bittersweet or a tragic ending.  Either way, Tokiyuki is a delight to watch and he’s such a rambunctious kid.  He clearly isn’t the idiot that everyone thinks he is, but is willing to let people believe what they want.  In his mind, if everything is working just fine and the people are happy, why should he change anything? It’s definitely a naive way of thinking, but he’s just a child and there’s no one around to tell him that he should at least be politicking behind the scenes to maintain his family’s position in power.  

The story is quick to remind the viewers that Tokiyuki lives in an extremely violent era and the peace that he desperately wants to protect can quickly be destroyed.  The visuals capture that grim reality by changing his brother’s toy ball to a severed head, which then leads to horrific images of dead bodies everywhere.  The series doesn’t even shy away from the brutal sexual violence that women experience during a war (which depending on the viewer, might feel impactful or gratuitous), and we are left with the reminder that Tokiyuki needs to fight for his survival.

Samurai holding the severed heads of people while being drenched in blood
The image speaks for itself. War doesn’t spare anyone not even the lives of innocent children.

The only thing that took me out of this premiere was the shinto priest, Suwa Yorishige.  His over the top facial expressions were too much for me to bear and basically ruined any seriousness the scenes should have.  The comedy and the violence just didn’t mix well for me so here’s hoping that gets better in later episodes.  Overall, The Elusive Samurai knocked it out of the park and I’m excited to see where the story goes from here.

About the Author : ThatNerdyBoliviane

ThatNerdyBoliviane was originally born in New York City and essentially lived there until the age of 17 when they had to move to Toronto for reasons. They are currently struggling to survive in this weird-ass world that does not celebrate awesomeness enough. They self identify as Queer Quechua (Mestize) Bolivian-American and are involved with social justice work of all kinds. Aside from that, they are an avid lover of anime, manga, cartoons, (on rare occasion live-action TV shows if it’s good), and having amazing discussions with other folks about nerdy things. You can visit their blog Home to my Bitter Thoughts or follow them on Twitter @LizzieVisitante.

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