Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru Review

I remember pretty vividly when the author of Naruto announced that he was going to be starting a manga about Samurai next. In theory this would be the next big thing that would rise to great heights. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long and I can see why. I enjoyed the manga well enough while reading but I can see how weekly there would be some chapters that were dreadfully boring. Even by the end I would say the character roster is fairly low tier and the art could be messy. Some interesting ideas though and I suppose that is the case with a lot of manga that end early. Good ideas that just didn’t work out.

The manga starts by introducing us to Hachimaru. He is a very sickly kid who has to always be hooked up to a generator or he will die. This is pretty rough for him because the guy has always wanted to be a legendary Samurai. Right now he can only achieve this vision by playing video games. The virtual reality is highly advanced as this seems to be in a far future kind of setting so at least he has learned some skills. He is the #1 Samurai in the world in that game but it doesn’t help his real life circumstances.

In this world, in order to be a samurai you have to commit Seppuku which is to stab yourself in the gut with your sword. Usually this is a means of suicide but in this world if you are “chosen” then you will survive and become a Samurai. If you aren’t…then you will have just murdered yourself. Hachi’s father warns him never to try this but one day a group of evil samurai show up so Hachi performs the ritual and manages to survive. They also get saved by a wolf named Daruma who claims to be a very powerful Samurai.

The stakes are bigger than either of them as Daruma explains that he needs to find the 7 legendary Samurai who will serve as keys to open a mystical box. Opening that box will end up saving the entire universe but the heroes have to hurry. Additionally, the various villains will want to have a hand in putting a stop to this as well. There is really no time to waste but will Hachimaru’s ability to become a Samurai be a hinderance or a help?

There are a lot of other concepts that the manga introduces. There are so many of them in fact that it takes whole volumes to explain them all. The series ended with 5 volumes and I want to say that even up to the final volume there were new elements being added. It’s a lot to take in and it’s clear that Kishimoto had a lot that he wanted to cover but I think it would have worked better if he had spaced things out a bit.

From the start I also didn’t like the whole Seppuku aspect. I never like it in movies, games, or shows when someone does that. The character always claims that it will reclaim their honor and all, but you can’t claim anything when you’re dead. The fact that the only way to wield this power in the universe is to trust your life to a 50/50 stab…it’s a very odd mechanic and it’s one that just doesn’t work well. No wonder there aren’t a ton of real samurai in this world.

Now, there are several divisions of Samurai. I forget the terms but to be a true samurai you need a princess. The princess is able to power you up through prayer which allows you to use a variety of skills like spirit swords and body hopping. Hachi gets a princess near the end but this setup does mean that the princess likely won’t be doing much since her whole function is to stay in the back and pray. It’s a mechanic that doesn’t seem to have any future potential for battle so that could be tough on the princesses.

As you can see, there are just some fundamental issues I have with the series setting and build up. It’s something the series can get around but it is tricky for making this one of the elites. As mentioned, there is also an absolute ton of info dumping going around here. I think the author could have managed to condense this quite a bit and that would have gone a great deal into improving the series.

Then for the art, it’s not as good as you would expect since Naruto was pretty solid. I think the artist has an issue with scale sort of like the Shaman King/Ultimo series. Since this series gets into breaking moons and such rather early on, the action scenes get really crazy. It can be really hard to tell what is happening in a fight without severely slowing down and just trying to see what is going on. You have to take a deeper look but the art just gets way too convoluted.

All right, so lets take a look at the characters here. First up you have Hachi who is a reasonable main character. He wants to see the world and become the best samurai around. He had to live with being away from his dream for a really long time so he makes the most of it when he’s finally free. He does get jealous about Ann really fast but ultimately recovers with a decent character arc. I didn’t have any real qualms with this guy.

It’d be nice if Hachi was a little more self confident and slow to make mistakes but I saw improvement during the series so he would only have continued to get better. His dog Hayataro is more machine than anything at this point but he still a good dog to have around. He is able to transform which lets Hayataro fight even further as well. Having a machine dog around also lessens the chances of animal violence which is a win in my books.

Furuta is the guy who raised Hachi for a while. Now, this is a character I’m not a big fan of. I know he was locking Hachi away for his own good and all that but by the end of the series they’re low key hinting that he knew a lot more than he let on. Keeping secrets rarely pays off and this is definitely not going to be one of those times. I’m not sure if I actually believe he’s no longer around but with the series over, I suppose the future plans might not even matter.

Daruma is a really big character and serves as Hachi’s mentor. The guy used to be super powerful but due to plot reasons he is currently stuck as a wolf now. It seems to be going for an All Might kind of deal where he can temporarily go into his true form but only for short bursts of energy. It’s too bad because his normal form is awesome while I’m not a big fan of the wolf form yet. It’s also hard to scale how strong the wolf is since he is supposed to be pretty tough still but spends a lot of time sleeping so it’s hard to say. I wasn’t really on board with him, but Daruma’s not bad.

Then there’s the main heroine Ann. So she has a bit of a tragic backstory because her brother Nanashi failed the rite and ended up dying. Again…this is why using Seppuku as a way to gather your powers is insanity but as a result she has a hard time getting close to anyone, particularly Samurai. As her job is to pray for one, that’s a little tricky. As the series goes on she learns how to work with Hachi more effectively though.

Ann doesn’t get a whole lot of time to shine yet, but I expect she would have made for a pretty good team along with Hachi at some point down the road. I just hope she could learn to do more beyond just praying like perhaps firing off energy blasts or something. Just as a way to give the princess more to do than just being protected. She’s also more of a timid character so I wouldn’t mind if she really upped her confidence levels by the end.

As the series goes on, we meet some more Samurai and miscellaneous characters. One group is Sanda and Ryu. Sanda is a very tricky fellow who works for a mobster so you want to be careful how much you take his words at face value. I was not a fan of his though. He just made way too many wrong decisions at a late point in the game. So by the time he has his character arc I just thought it was way too late for him.

I do like Ryu though. His gimmick is that he is always forgetting things. Even if an event happened mere seconds ago, he won’t remember it. The guy’s short term memory is shot but he’s still an excellent fighter. It’s a gimmick that may get old eventually but at the moment I’m definitely cool with it. He was a very memorable character which was important. Also I have to say, I feel like Kishimoto was choosing these names as homages. The series has characters named Ichigo, Goku, Ryu, etc. That can’t be a coincidence.

Nanashi is another character who joins up with the team. As one of the 7 keys, you can expect that he would have continued to stay relevant as the series went on. He’s not bad, the guy doesn’t have a lot of self confidence initially as well but gradually continues to improve. I’m not super impressed with him yet though so he would need more time in a sequel series to get better. It’s also interesting how the series already has two characters named Nanashi. It’s just rare when that happens especially when a series isn’t all that long.

Next up is a cat warrior named Hanaichi. He’s not really a big player yet but he’s another Samurai who gets a lot of hype so you will want to keep an eye on this guy. His ally, Goku is more interesting though. Goku’s an excellent warrior who is also good outside of combat and even gives Hachi a few pointers. I could see this guy getting a big role down the road. He’s certainly one of the most impressive samurai we see in the series.

Now lets look at some of the villains. First up is Ata who is the first serious fighter that Hachi has to go up against. His skills are pretty decent but of course as an opening boss you know that he isn’t going to be one of the more powerful opponents. His goals are rather basic as well. His design is fairly unique though so I’ll give him that. As far as opening bosses go, I would say he was decent. Plus he is still relevant since the heroes haven’t really fought him at his best yet.

See, in this series the soul is more important than the body so you can always create another body around it if you are strong enough. Strength of will is absolutely essential in this series and it’s really how the samurai get the will to fight. Without that then they would be in trouble, but naturally someone like Ata will be ready for the longhaul.

Then you have Benkei who had a whole tournament scheme going when he always intended to just rob the winner. It’s a solid plan and the guy can fight so that definitely went pretty well for him. Still not a standout villain or anything but he was a fun one to have around. Near the end of the series you get a whole group of Hachi clones/siblings who show up. None of them have a chance to do a whole lot though but it’s an interesting idea. More secrets from the past coming to light and all of that.

Samurai 8 really gets bold by the end. At this point the author likely knew the series was ending so why not go all the way right? The series goes in a much different direction than I expect it would have if this stayed as an ongoing. It ends on a very open note so perhaps this will get a sequel series someday. It seems like a longshot especially since Kishimoto is so involved with Boruto right now but I guess you never know.

The fights were good and while I wasn’t fully engaged in the story yet, there was a lot of potential. In a way this series was going for the kind of adventure feel you would have in Fairy Tail, minus the fanservice. The issue is that it tries to go too fast and doesn’t feel natural the way that Fairy Tail does. Mix in the messy art and now you’ve got a bit of a problem.

I liked the video game analogies though and how Hachi was leveling up like he was in an RPG. If the video game aspect had been pushed a bit sooner then that definitely could have helped. It flowed really well with the series and also would have probably amped up the fights a bit as well. If the series ever does get a sequel I’d certainly be down for it.

Now you may be thinking, with all of these negatives, how will this title still get a positive score? Well, at the end of the day the manga was still fun and interesting. I was engaged enough with what was going on and blasted through the volumes in no time. It could have been better but we still had quality action moments, no fanservice, and the series was well written. The issues I mentioned will keep the series from being great, but it’s still a pretty good read and a nice way to spend some time.

Overall, Samurai 8 is a good series but one with enough flaws where you can see why they pulled the plug. It was just a good time to have something else give it a shot. My main issue was really with the series introducing way too many concepts in a short time (Particularly since I didn’t like most of them) and allowing this to make the fight scenes way too convoluted. It’s cool that he mixed in sci-fi with traditional samurai battling so well but there were too many layers to everything. If you’re looking for a good action title to check out though, you can’t go wrong with this one especially since it’s so short.

Overall 7/10

Deadpool: Samurai Review

It’s time to take a look at a quick one shot that came out for Deadpool a while back. It’s always nice to see Marvel have some collaborations with Shonen Jump. It definitely breaks the wall quite a lot as you would expect from a Deadpool comic and definitely delivers on all the action you would expect. It’s pretty entertaining and at only one chapter you’ll be breezing through this story real quick.

It starts with a bunch of samurai gangsters attacking a girl. Fortunately they are interrupted as Deadpool shows up inside of a baby carriage. He decides to stop these guys and save the girl while hurling insults the whole time. The gangsters have never dealt with anyone quite like Deadpool so as you can imagine they are definitely not too well equipped to handle this guy. They’ll have to try using all the weapons at their disposal, but against a guy who is basically immortal all this will ultimately do is prolong the inevitable. The victor is never in doubt in this title.

The artwork is certainly pretty nice. The action scenes are on point and there is a lot of detail here. Whoever drew the comic definitely gave it their all and didn’t phone it in. I could easily see this getting some more chapters and doing well as an ongoing series. There’s just a lot you can do with Deadpool and the art would be able to keep up.

The actual story may not have a lot of stakes since it’s obvious that Deadpool will beat up on these humans, but for a one shot it’s not like you’re trying to build up any big plots anyway. It’s really just about introducing people to Deadpool and throwing in some one liners. There are a lot of third wall breaking moments as Deadpool keeps plugging in the comics. I’m definitely fine with skipping his origin story here since as he mentioned most people will likely know it anyway. Even if he was a brand new character, I feel like the origin story isn’t something that you worry about for the pilot. It would take too much time away from everyone else.

Most of the story is Deadpool just owning everyone and reminding the audience that he isn’t a total hero like the others. Ultimately he is protecting the girl but he is murdering everyone else so think of him like the Punisher. His goals align more with the average hero’s, but he doesn’t go all in on trying to save everyone the way that they do. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time and took advantage of that. The manga can get a little violent even with the parody nature so that’s something to keep in mind when you’re reading of course. Pretty much everyone gets bullets and stabs into them before the day is through.

Overall, It was a little surprising to see Deadpool as one of the first characters to get his own manga one shot, but I suppose he should have a lot of international value. I wonder if the movies did well in Japan. The final scene of the manga is definitely pretty fun and it’s something I would like to see more characters do. Since nobody in this world knows who Deadpool is he can really go crazy with trolling everyone. We get a quick guest star near the end which was fun. I think the artist could definitely do a good job with this character as well. If you haven’t read this story yet then you should check it out. It’s quite fast and a solid enough read on its own.

Overall 7/10

Batman Ninja Review

Time to look at one of the strangest Batman films to date. This one goes for a very different look and even takes place in a different era than where Batman usually is. It’s a fun enough film, I think parts of it end up feeling more experimental than fixed, but it has potential. Either way it’s a fun way to spend 90 minutes and I’d be game for a sequel.

The film starts with Batman trying to stop Gorilla Grodd’s latest invention. It’s a time machine that he is planning to use to rule the Earth across all of its different eras. Batman blows it up, but this has the unintended effect of bringing him and everyone who was in range of the device into Feudal Japan. He is now in the Sengoku period and each of Batman’s enemies have commanded one of the territories. Joker naturally owns the biggest one. Batman will have to quickly get used to this period and make arrangements with local armies to fight back. He may even have to team up with Grodd, but can the ape be trusted?

After that beginning the film does play out a little differently than I thought it would. I got the feeling that Batman was going to have to unite Japan and take out all of the villains. Of course, maybe it’s for the best that it didn’t go that way since each fight would have been really rushed. I’m ultimately pretty glad that Batman just ignored everyone else and ran to where Joker was. His Batmobile looks better than usual here as it has multiple vehicles built inside. It was too bad when they were ultimately broken.

In general Batman looks pretty good here. I’m still not crazy about his design, but personality wise he basically made all of the right choices. Even if if the hostage was almost definitely fake and just Harley in disguise, that’s not a risk that Batman can simply make. In hand to hand he was doing quite good as well and his plans were on point. Even his quick period of self doubt was shorter than most as he quickly got back on the saddle. That’s definitely what I like to see from our lead.

His array of Robins also show up and were fairly helpful I suppose. As always, Red Hood was definitely the most violent and intense of the bunch though. He was really willing to take Joker and Harley down for the count. Batman’s not up for murder like that so I feel like if that happened in the present he would have probably tried to arrest Jason. This just wasn’t a good time to do so. Catwoman looks all right as well. As always she basically plays the field until one side has the edge and then she makes her move. Things worked out pretty well for her so the plan was definitely her best option.

There’s not much to talk about for the soundtrack but how about the animation? Well, for the most part it looks good. The character models are very detailed and there’s a high tech feel to the whole thing. While the fights can be a little blocky at times it doesn’t take away from the nice choreography. On the other hand, we do get one stretch of time for the farmer scenes where the budget completely dies out. I didn’t mind the video game type cutscenes when Batman says that he’ll have to do things like Feudal Japan civilians would as it’s a bit of a throwback. This artistic fadeaway style is something else though. The scenes just don’t look good and you start to feel like the budget is drying up real quick. Fortunately these are quick scenes though.

There’s a lot of action to be found here. As soon as one fight scene ends you can bet that a new one is about to start up. There is rarely a few scenes in a row where nothing much is happening. With the short length this is basically a must so I’m glad that the film handled this well. You can feel a good amount of power behind each of Batman’s blows which is always important. He strikes with minimal movement as each blow is very precise. The film does a good job of getting that across.

As for the villains, Joker is certainly the main one here. His voice will take some getting used to, but the character definitely gets a lot of respect here. He actually has Batman on the defensive a few times which is more than most villains can say. He actually looks really good during combat which is always nice to see. Grodd also looks pretty solid here even if he isn’t quite as impressive. He’s also a strategic mastermind in his own right so he shouldn’t be underestimated.

The other villains don’t get a huge role though. It’s pretty much unavoidable, but that’s why this concept could have really worked for a full TV season or something like that. Having Batman tackle all of the districts would be pretty cool. Aw well, either way we did get a bunch of giant robots for some fights so that was pretty neat. Then the quick Bane vs Batman scuffle was also pretty intense. It’s always nice to see Batman bringing out a whole lot of tech like this. He’s a genius and with prep time you’d expect him to have a lot of tools at his disposal.

We have to quickly talk about the ending though. It’s basically there for cool points, but makes no sense otherwise. So Batman…the guy who is always trying to hide his secret identity has decided that he’s had enough of that. He gets into a horse driven carriage that has Bat emblems all over it. Why would he draw attention to himself like that? It’s a moment that just feels really forced and I had to bring that up. Not a bad ending I guess, but in universe it just makes no sense.

Overall, Batman Ninja is definitely a fun film. It brings that proper blend of being a super hero film along with some anime inspirations. The fights are good and there’s not much bad to say about the film. The animation could certainly be more refined and the character designs need some work, but as long as you remember this is an AU then that doesn’t even matter quite as much. If you haven’t checked this film out yet then I would recommend changing that. It certainly has a good amount of enjoyment to offer you.

Overall 7/10

47 Ronin Review

I remember seeing the trailer for this film in the theaters a while ago. The trailer had a lot of action, but on the other was mythical action set in the olden times of the Hobbit. If you’ve read my reviews of that film series, you know that this isn’t a positive thing. The film confirmed my fears as I watched it and it’s time to see why the 47 Ronin could not even score a 4.

The film’s plot is pretty basic. Kai is a “half breed” and nobody likes him. Unearthly creatures raised him, but Kai fled because he didn’t want to be a villain. He decided to work for a Samurai group in Japan, but they treated him as a slave. Undeterred, he warns one of the samurai that a witch has infiltrated their ranks. The samurai fumbles for a quick excuse so that he won’t have to face her and he says that Kai just has a crush. Their master is put under a spell and tricked into incriminating himself so that he destroys himself with honor! The main villain is the leader of another tribe, Kira. Kira decides to take the main heroine for himself and the feudal lord of Japan forbids the samurai from doing anything about it. The samurai are quickly beaten and thrown around. Time skip! The samurai decide to come together to save the heroine. Hopefully she’s still okay….it’s only been a year right? They head out and get ready to win it big or go home in pieces.

If the plot feels like it was just thrown together…then it’s time to read it again. I’ll admit that it’s not my greatest plot summary, but it’s hard to make it sound interesting. None of the characters were likable and the villains were terrible, but not in a “Look how epicly evil he is” but in a “this guy’s extremely weak and evil, he wouldn’t last a second against Barney with prep time) Let’s get into the various reasons as to why this film did not become enjoyable.

Slow pacing. The film is around 2 hours and the plot doesn’t even start until over an hour has passed. (By plot, I’m referring to the Samurai becoming Ronin and 47 of them going to attack the villains) The first hour is about the heroes getting beaten up and a lot of sad things happening to them. One thing that I’ve never liked is when a film dwells on the sad parts for too long. We get that the character’ life is pretty awful right now…let’s move on. Kai gets beaten up in almost every scene and it gets pretty tiring after a (very short) while. Nothing really happens in the first half and nothing good really happens in the second half.

Classic animal violence is another problem with the film. It’s to be expected which is why I don’t like when films take place in the olden days. We have horses that are injured and slain during the battle with the Chimera. I’m not talking about one or two horses, but a whole lot of them! The Chimera is also animal like in appearance, which definitely does not help matters. Even the final boss is an animal! (Once again, the trailer shows off some of the final scenes of the film…)

Boring fight scenes is a big problem for this film. The Hobbit, Prince Caspian, Lord of the Rings, and Pirates of the Carrabean suffer greatly from this issue. You know that a fight scene is bad when a comedy like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has one that is many times better. The problem with sword fight scenes in the olden days is that they are typically boring. You need good choreography and preferably a cool sword as opposed to a generic one. These fight scenes just have people stabbing each other and all of the “grittyness” will make you snicker or cringe. If you want a good sword fight, check out Bleach!

Unnecessary grittiness is pretty self explanatory, but it’s still a negative. To trick the head of the Samurai into getting himself into trouble, the witch puts a spell on him and he sees that Mika is in danger. He quickly attacks Kira, but then the illusion wears off and his life is basically over. There were so many other ways that they could have handled this, but they made sure to choose one of the worst ones possible. This kind of scene will never help a film and it will only make it lose more points in my book. That was just awful.

There can’t be any other negatives right? Well, we’ve got a minor one at the ready and that would be the soundtrack. It’s one of the most forgettable soundtracks that I’ve seen in a while and I can’t remember a single theme. That’s pretty sad and while it’s minor compared to the others…it’s definitely not a good thing. How can you enjoy a film without a good music playing in the background?

The cast is also terrible. I don’t like a single living character in the film. They’re all mean or unlikable. Kai is the main character and we’re supposed to feel bad for him since he’s always getting beaten up. His “friends” also beat him up because they don’t want to stand up to the villains. Kai is then forced into slavery and fights death matches for a year. He’s a changed man by the end, but he still refuses to use his super powers…even though they could end the war and help a lot of people. He still doesn’t want too use them for no discernible reason. Using these abilities is not going to turn him evil and a lot of people died because he wouldn’t make the tough call. (The Kai from Cardfight Vanguard would be ashamed!)

Oishi is one of the big “heroes” by the end, but it’s really hard to root for him. He was mean to Kai for the entire beginning and he only acts nice to him once he needs Kai’s help. Oishi also spent a year in solitary confinement, but he’s actually doing pretty well considering. (Unless it was less than a year, but I believe that it said one year) Oishi has his big fight at the end, but…that’s not going to change anyone’s mind. Oishi should have stuck up for himself!

The only character that could be considered cool is the samurai made out of steel. He’s not actually alive as he seems to have been created by the witch. His power is incredible and he feels no pain. He caused an entire squadron to retreat in fear of the very sight of him.

Kira is the main villain and he’s completely unlikable. He’s smug, but he’s not even a great fighter. He can fight, but he is usually hiding behind the witch and his henchmen. He kidnaps people and he doesn’t have any goals that I can get behind. In short…he’s a terrible villain. He’s a generic character that is evil for the purpose of being evil.

Mika is the main heroine and she gets a pretty sore deal in this film. She can’t really fight so the villains take her pretty easily. She is then left to fend for herself for a very long period of time. Her situation is pretty depressing and the ending isn’t great either. She has to hope that the rest of the citizens aren’t corrupted and I would quickly try to move to America if I were her.

Mizuki is one of the big villains and she does most of the work for Kira. She frames the old leader of the samurai and she also beats up a lot of the samurai while she’s in her serpent form. She’s not very powerful in that form, but she’s still a match for the humans. She’s not likable either as she’s just there to help Kira. There’s no reason to root for her and you just want her screen time to end.

Asano was the old boss of the samurai and he wasn’t very likable. He was too old to fight, but he did try his best. He didn’t go down like a man and his untimely demise was not very epic. That’s partially why Asano just didn’t rank in the end. He should have tried harder and he could have been cooler, although he definitely made the right move during the illusion. No one can fault him for that.

Finally, the ending is terrible. It cemented the fact that I wouldn’t like any of these heroes. They took the easy way out by taking a quick exit instead of living for the consequences. A true hero would have fought the odds and tried to stay alive. Better to die on your feet than die on your knees right? The ending is pretty sad and you’ll leave the theater on a sad note. That tells you that the film is doing something majorly wrong. No matter what the genre is, you should leave a film humming or feeling pretty epic about yourself. This film doesn’t accomplish that since I don’t see myself discussing it that much in the future.

Overall, this is a film that I would strongly advise skipping. You won’t be finding a fun samurai experience here and you’ll be better off watching the Rurouni Kenshin series. The film makes about as many errors as it could make and there really aren’t any redeemable features about this movie. The undead samurai was decently cool, but his very limited screen time isn’t worth checking the film out. Not to worry, the new Godzilla film is almost upon us and I recommend preordering your tickets for the big event instead of renting this film from Netflix.

Overall 2/10

Samurai vs Ash

Samurai may try to be tough, but in the end he’s just a kid. Satoshi…I mean Ash has been pwning for years! While he’s back to being just a human (He lost his epic powers) he still knows how to pwn. One good punch and Samurai will be down for the count. Samurai just couldn’t win. Ash wins.