Welcome to This Week in Shonen Jump, our weekly check in on Viz’s various Shonen Jump series. Viz has recently changed their release format, but our format will mostly remain the same. We will still review the newest chapters of one title a week, now with even more options at our disposal. The big change for our readers is that, even without a Shonen Jump subscription, you can read these most recent chapters for free at Viz.com or using their app.
This week, Rowan checks in with “The Elusive Samurai.” If you have thoughts on this or any other current Shonen Jump titles, please let us know in the comments!
The Elusive Samurai Chapter 71
Written and Illustrated by Yusei Matsui
Reviewed by Rowan Grover
You guys, this is how to do an exhilarating chase scene in comic books. If you’ve ever played those recent Resident Evil games (I haven’t so this is completely based on the vibes I get), Sadamune’s presence in this chapter feels akin to one of those massive monsters that relentlessly pursue you in those. Matsui has him as the most consistent and imposing figure in the issue, starting off by having him and his horse tear a path through civillians to come leaping over Tokiyuki like a demon. Matsui channels this demonic idea even further as the first time we see Sadamune’s profile, his pupils are whitened out and inhuman, and his face contorted in focus.
Stripping his dialogue and internal narration down to just the barest facts also adds to this terrifying mystique. The opening scene is hammered home by a powerful arrow show that sears through panels and obstacles, leaving speedlines and splinters flying. It’s a great visual spectacle and Matsui angles every scene to punctuate the force and speed the arrow is moving with. Brilliantly, the next time we see Sadamune’s face, it is the complete opposite to before: relaxed and satisfied with the chaos he has wrought, his pupils returned.
The next few pages we get deeper into Sadamune’s head as his obsession with figuring Tokiyuki out deepens. The internal monologue has the villain reflecting on his past thoughts of his perception of Tokiyuki, and using twisted rationale to justify hunting the young lord down. It’s a clever way that Matsui makes Sadamune feel like a hero in his own mind, even though he is quite clearly hunting down our elusive protagonist for the kill. The shot of Sadamune viewing Tokiyuki’s crest as a bastardization of the Hoju crest could almost pass as a reasonable conclusion, until we see the page punctuated by the antagonist’s wide-eyed, bloodshot pupil.
After a beautiful splash page of the two heroes facing each other on a vertical angle that is presented almost like a tarot card, the battle deepens and becomes much more even-sided and technical. This is where Matsui really shines as a battle-manga creator. Tokiyuki cleverly chooses which side of the ravine he will flee on, based on the fact that it will be harder for Sadamune to shoot horseback on a certain angle. It’s just enough explanation to make the fight feel satisfying to follow, yet not too much that it gets bogged down in details. Sadamune get suckered into a shot that I won’t spoil here, but suffice to say, Matsui stretches out the fight detailing enough to build tension, and snap that release with a huge panel filled to the brim with chaotic speedlines and movement.
The final scene is a great epilogue to the fight, with Tokiyuki expressing his naive but sincere and genuine hope to reclaim the throne, with Sadamune letting him escape this time with a renewed appreciation for the boy’s vigor. Sadamune’s initial reaction to the boy’s innocent confidence is a great example of Matsui’s expressive cartooning. Sadamune goes from bug-eyed to having his face distorted and fluid with rage, his skin completely strained and his features twisted and bulging. However, his gradual move back to calm acceptance is so gracefully done over just a few panels, and caps the chapter into a perfect single story that still baits towards the series’ future.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – An excellent chase scene that feels like a culmination of the struggles to this point, yet stands on it’s own just as well too.