Header Ads

Samurai Shin: An Independent Manga Review

Amir Atsuko and Keith Masaru are young warriors eager to prove that they are worthy of the title of Samurai. Although the two of them share such similar history and goals, they are more enemies than friends.

But when an unnecessary evil appears in the village, lead by a man with a bear mask, their home is burned to the ground. How will Amir lead his life now that his home is gone, and will Keith's ambition continue to lead him astray? What sort of journey will these two lead, and what will happen the next time they cross paths?

Samurai Shin is a Hip hop inspired manga comic and mixtape series, created by Mikel Miles (Writer/Executive Producer) and Ivan Aguilar (Illustrator). Artists for the first two chapters are Fhami Fauzi and Sukma Agustriyana, with Lavender Khan assisting as the manga's editor. More independent artists are expected to contribute to the next installment set to release in 2017. The aesthetic of the manga is heavily influenced by popular samurai focused anime, such as: Afro Samurai, Samurai Champloo, and Sword of the Stranger. The first Samurai Shin mixtape, or OST 1, is available on Soundcloud. Featuring the talents of: P.Soul, Kuro Silence, Chill $quad, Xia-Dawn, Core Demonstrations and Jaymin Warren.

Comics, or in this case manga, and animation are two mediums that seem to go hand in hand. Some comics are adapted into animation, or entire comic book series can be created to enrich well known animated properties. Samurai Shin is in the latter category, with its visual style and tone very reminiscent of the anime series listed above. However, it is clear from the very first page that this manga is a labor of love. Using visual cues and ideas in order to pay homage to the material that inspired them, not rip them off.

With only one and a half chapters out at the moment, however, the story is still building its world and characters. Right off the bat readers are introduced to the two main characters and their intense rivalry. Not long after their first encounter, the story splits in two. The first following Amir and his life in the village while chapter 1.5 follows Keith's character motivations. In these chapters we start to get an idea of the world around them, signified by the arrival of the manga's (so far) primary antagonists. Showing that while this a world of Samurai, it is also a world of handguns, modernly dressed assassins, and radio. It is because of this information that the exact location of the setting hard to grasp. I'm sure this will be expanded on in later chapters but it is worth noting that how the setting is established will play a key role in separating Samurai Shin from the crowd.

Another area of the manga that I found a bit rough around the edges was the dialogue writing. Most of it is pretty straight forward in setting up the characters personalities and motivations. However certain lines would come off as a bit stiff and take me out of the experience.

While Samurai Shin may stumble in a few places on its first two chapters, the story, characters, and more importantly the presentation has loads of potential. Starting off the story with setting up the two primary protagonists rivalry was a great way to kick off the narrative. We still don't know too much about them, other than their rivalry as hopeful samurai, and their family history but this can be expanded upon as the story goes forward. There is even a hint at the end of the 1.5 chapter that the next story will introduce a third character. A young African Japanese woman in a bold fighting stance, said to be taking on her fathers legacy. If this character is meant to be the Fuu to Amir and Keith's Jin and Mugen alignments, consider me fully on board.

But even without the promise of three main characters working off each other, there is still plenty of cool elements to Samurai Shin that makes it worth recommending. The manga art being the most stand out element. It is always interesting to see how different artists approach depicting a story. With styles that seem to suit each character. For example, the first chapter is full of bold lines and full of realistic character details. While the second goes into more of a traditional manga style, softer character designs but filled with dynamic actions and great character expressions. If this is only a taste of what is to come, then it will be very exciting to see what new artists will bring to the table in future chapters.

Praise must also be given to the inclusion of the mix tape. Something I found enhanced the experience of reading the manga, fulling embracing its purpose as a tribute to famous samurai anime. The tracks are fun and full of the hip hop vibe, bringing back the emotions I would often feel when watching the latest episodes of Samurai Champloo. Credit goes to the independent musicians for creating a dynamic mix of vocal and instrumental tracks. Blending in just enough to enrich the visual narrative and not distract from it.

In conclusion, is Samurai Shin rough around the edges? Yes.

Is it worth reading? Absolutely.

When an artist is truly passionate about a project, that passion almost always comes through in the final product. Even if Samurai Shin still has some growing to do in order to fully cement itself in the minds of readers, it is well on its way to getting there. Mike and Ivan's partnership for this manga is bound to lead to great things and I look forward seeing how their samurai journey will unfold from here on out.

FORMATSDigital Comic
FROM Peepgamecomix/Comixcentral
RATINGParental Advisory (Explicit content)
1-1.5 Chapters

For more info, check out Samurai Shin's main Website, or find them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.