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One Shonen Jump Manga Shows How to Make Child Heroes Interesting

Warning! Contains spoilers for The Elusive Samurai Chapter 83!One Shonen Jump manga, The Elusive Samurai, is finally making the child protagonist trope found in most Shonen manga interesting. Many Shonen battle manga focus on young characters to provide the children in their intended audience an easy surrogate. But most of them don’t actually make anything of the fact that their main characters are children. The Elusive Samurai is a rare exception.

The Elusive Samurai is a manga by Yusei Matsui, the same mangaka behind the popular series Assassination Classroom. It is an exaggerated take on the Kenmu Restoration period of Japanese history in which the established shogunate was overthrown and taken over by a new regime. The young heir of the previous dynasty, Tokiyuki Hojo goes into hiding and gathers retainers to support him in a rebellion against the new shogunate. Given his youth, a major challenge he must overcome is proving himself to be a capable leader so that people will support him over the newly established regime. But the series’ latest chapter just showed one of the benefits of the youth of its protagonists as well.

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In chapter 83, Nezu, one of Tokiyuki’s main retainers, has just defeated a strong enemy general in battle. This foe, Yoshisue Shibukawa, is not bitter about his defeat though, instead complimenting Nezu on his well-fought victory. He goes on to say that his courage, imagination, and skill all served him well, but his youth was most important to his victory. In order to defeat Shibukawa, Nezu used his sword in an innovative way to propel himself off of Shibukawa’s blade, giving him the momentum to strike powerfully enough to cut through his enemy’s defenses. Shibukawa says that if Nezu had the weight of an adult, he never would have been able to actually pull off this attack, as either his sword or arm would have broken in the process.

It is rare to see the actual differences between how a child and an adult fight actually pointed out by a Shonen manga. Most of the time, if the youth of the main characters is mentioned at all, it is usually to justify immaturity or to point out how mature a character is for their age. The often much more significant considerations of how this would affect a character’s fighting style is often overlooked. But The Elusive Samurai is more grounded in reality, so Nezu’s age is not only mentioned, it is actually a cornerstone of his fighting strategy. This makes his youth feel like a much more vital and interesting part of his character.

As The Elusive Samurai shows, youth does not need to be insignificant window dressing to satisfy younger readers. In fact, it can be used to make its characters more interesting and unique. Hopefully, more manga learn from The Elusive Samurai’s example and fully utilize their child heroes’ youth instead of just making them adults in children’s bodies.

Next: Jujutsu Kaisen’s Yuji Proves He’s Much Smarter than Most Shonen Heroes

The Elusive Samurai Chapter 83 is available to read from Viz Media.

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