Japan is famous for many things. Flashy and weird technology to great and weird anime to some of the best and weirdest culture (I know the weird part is there a lot). But what you have to know is that Japan and its culture is one of the oldest. Also, Japan is fun. But there is another quite famous thing about Japanese culture. It is the samurai. The men of honor who were the staple protector of law and kingdoms during the feudal era. So, it is evident this will have heavily influenced the Japanese media and yup, it has. Concerning ourselves with anime, we see that there are some good anime out there which have the samurai theme. Here’s the list of top samurai anime ever. You can watch several of these best samurai anime on Netflix, YouTube or Crunchyroll.
12. Samurai 7 (2004)
The plot of ‘Samurai 7’ is set in a distant future. The planet is kinda different from our own but who knows what Earth will look like in the future. The story tells of a time when the samurai have mechanized their bodies and are constantly engaged in battle and war. After the war is over there are peaceful times but not for everyone it seems. The farmers of the Kanna village are facing a crisis. They are being attacked by robbers with mechanized bodies. With them facing starvation they decide to take the risk of hiring samurais to defend themselves. They have no money to offer so they end up offering rice. But luck kinda favors them and they are able to hire 7 samurais.
11. Blade of Immortal (2008)
‘Blade of Immortal’ is a samurai-themed action anime. I won’t say that the actions are too over the top and the protagonist isn’t insanely strong or confident. I guess he would have died many times over in the series if it wasn’t for the curse which provides him with eternal life. Yup, as you have already garnered from the title there is something related to immortality in the series. Manji the main protagonist is known as the 100 man killer. He also carries several weapons with him at once. He later meets a girl whose father and mother have been killed by a group of fighters and decides to help her get revenge. I don’t know about you guys but I just felt that the anime ended abruptly.
10. Shigurui (2007)
What is the best thing about Samurai anime? For me, it is the underlying unsaid code of honor and awesome sword fights. There are often multiple characters who are not evil but due to a clash of principles they are rivals and can even fight to the death. This story is kinda like that. Two skilled swordsmen Fujiki Gennosuke and Irako Seigen are opponents in a tournament which earlier used wooden swords but now have moved onto the real ones. However, there is something different about these two fighters. Fujiki has only one arm while Irako is blind. To further the complications they are both the student of the same master. They need to fight to prove their worth and become the successor of their master’s school.
9. Afro Samurai (2007)
Afro was a boy who lost his father when he was quite young. But what’s worse than your father dying when you are just a kid. It is witnessing his death as he is being cut down by someone and all you can do is watch. The man who murdered his father was Justice who now had laid claim to the Number 1 fighter headband. Now, to defeat him Afro must rise to the top and get the number 2 headband and challenge justice to a duel. But even after acquiring the number 2 band he is in trouble. This is because even though only number 2 can number 1 number 2 can be challenged by anyone. Will Afro be able to avenge his father’s death?
8. Onihei (2017)
The best thing about ‘Onihei’ is that even though it is set in the Edo period there isn’t any wart going on where we see clashing of principles as men die trying to protect their country and honor. Well, I know what you are thinking. They are supposed to be the main attraction of a Samurai Anime. Yes, I know, but Onihei has brought forward a different concept on how to view the samurais. Here, the main protagonist is Heizou Hasegawa who is a police chief and is tasked with finding and punishing criminals. The show encases his daily life and his musings about the world and the creatures inhabiting it.
7. Peace Maker Kurogane (2003)
Revenge is a difficult path to take. Not everyone who desires it can face it. More than an avenger people end up becoming the victim of revenge. This anime kind of tries to tell that via the character of Ichimura Tetsunosuke. Ichimura has had the bad luck of witnessing his parents murder. This has stirred up a desire for revenge within him. He wishes to seek power and strength to be able to avenge his parent’s death. For this, he decides to join the legendary Shinsengumi and begin his training but little did he know what it means to take a life. He soon starts realizing he isn’t a bloodthirsty mongrel. But what will be the cost of taking another man’s life for revenge? Will he remain the same or will he not be able to do it?
6. Sarai-ya Goyou (2010)
Akitsu Masanosuke is skilled with the sword. But he is masterless and no matter how much he tries he is left or dropped by the Lords. His shy nature and lack of self-confidence may have been a reason for this predicament of his. But desperately needing a job and being really hungry he decides to become the bodyguard of a man who is the leader of a shady group named ‘Five Leaves’. Even though at first he doesn’t like the activities that the group ends up doing, he starts to gravitate towards being fascinated by them.
5. Mutsu Enmei Ryuu Gaiden: Shura no Toki (2004)
Well, its time to throw the swords away. But come on, isn’t that the main part of a samurai story, you say? What kind of samurai anime would it be if the main protagonist doesn’t have a sword? The short answer to the question is ‘This kind’. The kind ‘Mutsu Enmei Ryuu Gaiden: Shura no Toki’ has decided to showcase. Mutsu Enmei-Ryu is a sort of unarmed martial arts with which you can defeat any number of enemies even armed ones. This show tells the story of three generations of Mutsu Enmei-Ryu practitioners as they try to show and prove the worth of their discipline. The fight scenes are great and do not contain whacky or fantasy moves.
4. Juubei Ninpucho (1993)
If you want to see a nice samurai-themed anime movie then ‘Juubei Ninpucho’ is a good choice. The series is kinda gory, to some extent dark and contains graphic sexual imagery. The main protagonist of the movie is Jubei Kibagam. a swordsman for hire. He doesn’t want to associate himself with politics and wants to stay out of such complicated businesses. But seems like he was out of luck as after a chance encounter with a Stone-like fighter from a criminal group he gets into a certain political mess. Also, he is poisoned by an old man who wants him to get to the bottom of the mystery relating to the criminal group that is if he wants the antidote.
3. Stranger: Mukou Hadan (2007)
Up next is another movie. I liked this one too because of the storyline and the characters. One of the main protagonists of the movie is a child named Kotarou. He along with his dog Tobimaru is involved in various petty crimes involving stealing food etc. But he soon finds himself being chased by assassins sent by the Ming Dynasty who want the child for fulfilling some weird prophecy. He is saved by Nanashi, a ronin but Tobimaru is poisoned and needs immediate attention. Though reluctant at first Nanashi decides to be their bodyguard after Kotarou promises top to give him a gem. But looks like the task of saving the dog and keeping the boy safe is getting dangerous with each passing day. Nanashi starts to slowly get attached to the boy.
2. Gintama (2006)
‘Gintama’ is fun to watch. It has a unique plotline and great character work. The plot is set in an alternate Earth during the Edo period. Aliens attack this planet and are faced with resistance from the samurai. But the Shogunate is doubtful and by betraying their people they stuck a deal with the aliens to enter the country and banned carrying of swords. Gintoki Sakata is a samurai who still believes in the old way and does odd jobs which mainly involve apprehending criminals. After saving certain people like Shinpachi Shimura and his sister Tae and also an alien girl named Kagura Gin makes them a part of his team. The entire plot showcases their adventures as they do their odd jobs.
1. Rurouni Kenshin (1996)
You already knew that this was going to be on the list at some point of time and here it is. ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ is one of the best samurai anime out there be it n the basis of the plot or characters. Hitokiri Battousai was an infamous assassin whose skills for the kill had made him achieve legendary stature. But he seems to have disappeared. Years later there is a man named Kenshin Himura who possesses a sword sharpened on the opposite end making it harder to land a fatal blow. It turns out that tired of the bloodshed he has caused, Kenshin has taken a vow not to kill anyone. This anime beautifully shows the adventure of Rurouni Kenshin and how far will he go to keep his vow.