Samurai are a significant part of the history and culture of Japan, and they are also the most identifiable representatives of mediaeval and early-modern Japan’s military, considered to be very noble and professional swordsmen.
We are going to cover some of the most common and best samurai anime in this article, which differs significantly in the way they depict this aspect of Japanese history.
Samurai Anime List:
Hyakka Ryouran: Samurai Girls
Every genre requires an anime fan service.
And even by name alone, the Samurai Girls are pretty on the nose.
It’s a harem show where the male lead is as useless as male harem leads appear to be, and most of the screen time and most of the flattering angles are obtained by his three waifs.
It’s not the most entertaining series in the world, but the battles are good, and the show never takes itself too seriously. The anime acts as a great time killer.
It’s technically samurai-centred. Yet there are plenty of supernatural elements thrown into the mix, nudity and attempts at satire. So it’s far from the typical show of solemn & dark samurai.
Asu no Yoichi! – Samurai Harem
I assume the worst case of being on the nose was not Hyakka Ryouran.
Our protagonist, Yoichi Karasuma, spent the first 17 years of his life studying as a samurai in the mountains. He goes to a dojo in the city to further improve his abilities after mastering all his father could teach him.
The fact that Yoichi is socially incompetent and barely knows how women work is the main driving point of the series. The samurai anime girl has a unique spice in it.
So the word “living under a rock” suits him very well. Asu adheres to his samurai ideals and ways of life, causing the ‘modern’ supporting cast to establish a comedic atmosphere. It’s not a Konosuba, but you’re going to get a few chuckles out of it.
Sword Art Online is the best way to explain Amatsuki, but you’re a history nerd.
To start things off, it is an isekai with the most hilarious scenarios.
Tokidoki Rikugou, the protagonist, was a regular student who only despised history and continued to struggle. So he was sent to a museum where to better understand it. He could go inside a simulation set in the Edo period.
You can see where it’s heading here. In the simulation, he gets stuck. There are demons on the run as well so he easily teams up with two swordsmen, and the rest is history. To be more reliable, Japanese history.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings
Sengoku Basara is a samurai-focused anime that takes place in the later years of the Sengoku period in Japan.
It is a series that is very battle-focused and includes many historical figures. They’ve been changed a tonne to fit the anime style, but it’s always fun to see so many major names. The fights are far from realistic, but some amazing elements have been scattered throughout. Don’t think one-on-one duels are sombre and broody, but rather flashy spectacles where even the samurai’s horse is doing front flips.
Hakuoki ~Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
Your typical samurai anime combined with fantasy is Hakuoki.
Chizuru Yukimura, who was looking for her father but was caught up with the Shinsengumi, follows the story.
The Shinsengumi was like a special police force undercover and they were dealing with creatures of the vampire kind.
Aside from vampires, the plot is based on certain historical events, such as the presence of the Shinsengumi, and provides some insight into the Edo period’s political atmosphere.
The animation is so-so, but a big bonus is the use of lighting for some atmosphere. Nothing revolutionary, but it is a better love tale than Twilight in more ways than one.
Blade of the Immortal
Think Rurouni Kenshin combined with Seven Deadly Sins’ Ban with “Blade of the Immortal”.
With immortality, our protagonist Manji was cursed for leaving mountains of bodies in his wake.
Once again the only way he will become mortal is by murdering 100 bad men for every 1 good man he killed.
He is joined along the way by a young girl, Asano Rin, who is on her own road of vengeance.
They end up joining together in the hope of clearing their minds and making things right in the world. It’s a really gloomy series, addressing all sorts of injustices that happen every day.
Samurai Deeper Kyou
As two legendary samurai are having a duel, the scene is set. Kyoushirou Mibu, a man who holds the powers of the Mibu clan, and Kyou, the “Demon Eyes,” the man who killed more than a thousand people to get his edgy title.
But then a meteor strikes the field of war and Kyou ends up stuck in another person’s body through some plot twists.
To be exact, Kyoushirou’s body.
From that point on the series divulges into a week-series villain, where villain after villain they mow down before they meet the final boss. As the storey continues, we also hear about both Kyo and Kyoushirou.
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Kurozuka has some fairly mixed feedback overall.
The animation is very top notch, especially during battles, as it was created by Madhouse.
Depending on the listener, the storey is hit or miss. After losing a duel against his brother, who was the first Shogun to rule all of Japan, the protagonist Kurou retires to the mountains. He meets Kuromitsu then and the two of them fall in love.
Kuromitsu, the plot twist, is immortal and vampires are thrown into the mix before you know it.
So if you’re only looking for action from Madhouse or you don’t mind pondering a little bit about the storyline, then this fantasy/samurai anime is for you.
Peace Maker Kurogane
Our protagonist, Ichimura Tetsunosuke, who essentially gets the Uchiha care, follows this plot.
And I don’t mean being overpowered and having all the key points of the tale narratively.
Ichimura’s family is being killed right in front of him, and he’s out for vengeance now. He must get better in order to do so, so he approaches Shinsengumi.
Can you remember them from a few return entries? And he must learn how to cut down his rivals in true Shinsengumi fashion or someone who is a threat to the government or to the Shinsengumi themselves.
He comes to discover that it is not so simple or fun. Hey, go figure.
Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto
Like a couple of the shows on this list, if you are excited about the first 4 words, then you will love this anime.
It takes place during the time of Bakumatsu, so it is the very end of the period of Edo. And it deals with the social consequences of a revolution in politics.
Past and politics here are main variables. That’s almost more than the characters, so I have few words for them.
The protagonist is Yojiro Akizuki, a mercenary whose objective is to fly across Japan and kill supernatural things that could endanger humanity.
So there is a mystical twist to the whole shindig as well. It’s all politics, though.
Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki
“Angolmois: Record of the Mongol Invasion” is the English title of this anime and that is all you really need to know when it comes to plotting.
It is a historic sequence that portrays the 13th century invasion of the Mongols.
Our cast of protagonists consists mainly of people displaced from the mainland and charged with defending the island of Tsushima. This one small fact, exiled to them, carries a lot of weight.
The anime also does not sugarcoat fighting at all so be prepared for rolling heads and streaming blood.
Mushibugyo is for you if you are looking for a proper shounen that just happens to be samurai related.
It’s an alternate Japanese Edo era where giant bug monsters wander the world and sightfully destroy people.
In order to deal with these pests, called the Mushi, a special division is thus created.
The classic semi-incompetent guy who trusts in his mates and draws victories from his rear end is our protagonist.
It begins with the normal monster fashion of the week. But the more you watch, the storey gets more powerful, complicated and gory. But don’t drop it for sure, because you’re going to have to watch this one a while to see where it’s going.
You almost forget how brutal the Edo era was in fact, after watching shows like Hakuoki or Sengoku Basara.
You realise that people died, but not the horror that comes with it, necessarily. Where Shigurui comes in, that is.
A combat between a one-armed samurai and a blind samurai is the central point of the storey.
They were trained under the same master, and now they will fight to the death, as ordered by Lord Tokugawa Tadanaga.
For the faint of heart, the series is not. Since it does not romanticise tragedy, it is explicit, raw, and gory. You will come away with a whole new view of what it means to be a samurai if you have the belly for it.
I’m going to throw it back to the old school Madhouse of the 90s for this one now.
Ninja Scroll was probably the first anime movie ever seen by a lot of kids in the 90s. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s all about the fight scenes.
There’s a storyline, but it mainly justifies why Jubei Kibagami, our protagonist, has to kick some more ass.
He’s a samurai and we get our second protagonist along the way, Kagero, who’s a ninja.
Though more or less demon ninjas and BHNA’s Kirishima wish to stop them, they are investigating a plague. Trust me, it’s a good time for you.
Do you like mechas and samurai? Boom, you’ve got both now.
In a futuristic world where Transformers are more common than the Bible, Samurai 7 takes place and everyone dresses properly.
The plot focuses, in all seriousness, on seven mecha samurai who are charged with defending a village from bandits.
The bandits have mecha suits, too just to be obvious.
Each of the seven samurai has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and they learn how to work as a unit step by step. You will be put off by the premise, but trust me, the storey is actually really entertaining and if you are into samurai stuff, the show is worth a watch.
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Sword of the Stranger (Stranger: Mukou Hadan)
Stranger: In the best way possible, Mukou Hadan is a classic samurai movie.
An orphan named Kotarou and his fuzzy companion Tobimaru are introduced to us.
Life doesn’t seem that good for the two of them because, in order to survive, they have to rob. And if that’s not bad enough then unexpectedly, for no apparent reason, there are people trying to kill them.
They run into a ronin named Nanashi through pure luck and decide to help the two out. Nanashi is the selling point for me.
Given that this was done by Bones Studio and won an international animation award, oh boy, you can imagine how beautiful the battle scenes look. It’s not even 2 hours long, so give it a try for sure.
You will probably enjoy Drifters if you are really into Japanese culture, bloodbaths, or a mix of the two.
Its main implication is that the isekai treatment is offered to a bunch of different warriors throughout history and thrown on the verge of war into a fantasy world.
Fantasy beings such as elves and demi-humans are packed with it too. Our main cast includes Shimazu Toyohisa, Oda Nobunaga, and Nasu Suketaka Yoichi, which will give you a sense of what’s to come if you know history.
As far as the action is concerned, rest assured that with Hellsing, it goes toe-to-toe.
We have a classic action set up in the world of Afro Samurai.
A man killed Afro’s father, and yes, his name is actually Afro. And he is finding vengeance now.
In a duel over his number 1 headband, his father was murdered, which effectively means that only the number 2 headband will challenge him. Anybody can challenge the number 2 headband, so do you want to take a wild guess as to who has it?
For me the show has three selling points:
A character called Ninja Ninja, and
Samuel L. Jackson voices Afro
You have to admit that is a badass round-up.
Dororo, when it comes to samurai anime, is a very unusual take.
Pinocchio’s edgier brother Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s kind-hearted brother are the main protagonists. Being cursed at birth, in order to get his body back in hopes of becoming completely human, Hyakkimaru must destroy several demons.
The absence of actual limbs leads to the body of Hyakkimaru being made up of swords. This is a setup the series beautifully uses.
As they are very raw and wild in nature, the battles are probably the strongest points of the series, while still having some beautiful choreography.
So far I’ve spoken about a few shows, and most of them follow the line of the demon blade’s unstoppable master will bring honour to his dojo and overthrow the government’s formula.”
Saraiya Goyou just doesn’t do that.
The protagonist, Akitsu Masanosuke, is a fairly ordinary warrior who as a samurai, only does his job of taking bread to the table.
He gets involved with a party called the Five Leaves, since he keeps being fired for being a crappy bodyguard. They are a group of morally ambiguous characters that during the show we get to meet.
There are crimes committed, but at what price and for what purpose? There are a lot of issues here. The type of painting, too is… fascinating, to say the least.This is one of the best samurai anime for 2021
Onihei, or “50 shades of grey morality,” is told through Heizou Hasegawa’s eyes. He’s chief of the police force of Fire and Burglary.
And by police, of course, I mean samurai.
It is an episodic series in which each episode is self-contained and a new lawbreaker and backstory is introduced.
And here’s where my little fun alternative title comes in: some of these characters are always going to make you wonder what it means to be nice or just.
We also learn about our protagonist, little by little, alongside them, and come to find that his history may not have been so squeaky clean either.
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Tell us what is in your list of best samurai anime and which one you have already seen from our top samurai anime list. We will be glad to know your opinions.