Bebop Reacts: Samurai 8 - The Tale of Hachimaru

May 16, 2019




     I'll be the first to admit that I was cautiously optimistic going into this debut chapter and I'll also be the first to admit that my feelings haven't changed since reading it. Written by Masashi Kishimoto of Naruto fame, and drawn by his longtime assistant Akira Okubo, Samurai 8 is the tale of a young boy chosen to be a samurai who must gather 8 keys for some mystical event to happen. Right off the bat, the art is as close to Kishimoto's as I've seen anyone not related to him (his brother is also a mangaka) produce and that is a very good thing. In an interview, Kishimoto said that towards the end of Naruto he was just drawing outlines for Okubo to finish, so this quality and comfort level makes sense. It makes me wonder why they couldn't get someone like Okubo to more closely emulate this style for Boruto which, after this chapter's release, just looks plain ugly in my opinion. The story is different enough, though, with a scifi setting and some complex technological concepts being thrown around with little to some explanation. Kishimoto definitely left himself room to expand upon a lot of concepts but the chapter was not devoid of explanation or payoff to the point where I felt completely confused. There were some similar story beats, though, such as the "destined" or "chosen" child idea so prevalent in Naruto, and I personally hope that Kishimoto's writing can stray away from those ideas as the series goes on to avoid falling into too similar of a narrative. On the topic of the narrative, Samurai 8 has a much more structured one from the get-go than Naruto did: In Naruto, the titular character wanted to be hokage and grew t get to that point through various missions and quests that started off unrelated but came together in the end. In Samurai 8, the "let's look for this finite number of keys" structure is primed to be able to more cleanly separate arcs up while keeping the main themes and concepts focused down. I felt like Naruto lost its way towards the end by going too grand in scale and I hope that this more clearly defined goal helps alleviate that issue. 

     In the end, I trust Kishimoto when he said in a recent interview that he learned a lot from Naruto and knew where he could have improved. Nevertheless, with this really being his only second large-scale serialization when it comes to publisher support, I remain cautiously optimistic in my evaluation. If you think about it, beyond Naruto, Kishimoto is still pretty unproven in his storytelling so this can go either way. Definitely read it because it could be the next thing and really, I hope it grows into that. 

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