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Greatest Ninjas and Samurais of the Manga world

Updated on February 27, 2016

I have always been fascinated by ninjas and samurais since I was young. In fact, one of my earliest movies on ninjas was American Ninja as well as Ninja Turtles (not sure if that is considered). The assassins in black that were always able to hide in the shadows while cutting down enemies in their fame katanas.

I was fortunate enough that when 1994 came, one of the best ever samurai manga came along - Rurouni Kenshin (on my personal ranking), while Naruto (my personal favourite and ranked #1 on burst onto the scene in 1999. Since then I have been picking up on various shinobi mangas to quench my interest of these mythical characters and have filter out some of the most memorable and favourites out in this post.

Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)

Nothing else needs to be said of Naruto, where many people ranked this manga as one of the best, if not the best. It’s on par with your legendary One Piece and Dragonball kind of manga. The story plot, in-depth characters, tonnes of well crafted ninja spells and fighting techniques gave birth to the wonderful world of ninja village Konoha.

It tells of the protagonist Naruto Uzumaki, who is the son of the deceased Hokage (leader of the village) and was also implanted with the monsterous Nine-Tails Demon Fox, who if awakens have the power to destroy and lay waste on any village. Since young Naruto has been despise since he wasn’t able to show any shinobi talent as well as having the monster sealed in him.

Along the way he was able to cross many difficult paths, with the help of his mentors and friends. Even though when meeting with difficulties he was also determined to overcome it. During every stage and arc of the manga, you are able to see just how much effort and resolution he puts in, for every training and every battle.

Just like how Luffy of the One Piece manga has always been, maintaining his “I will be the next Pirate King” mentality, Naruto has always wanted to be the greatest Hokage ever, and the story concluded as he stands atop the ninja world.

Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)

Kyo (Samurai Deeper Kyo)

Also known as Demon Eyes Kyo. You would never have expected the story plot to pan out the way that it ended. Kyo was part and the last of the mythical race called Mibu, who was so powerful that they eventually destroyed themselves. The clan ruled Japan in the shadows by controlling the Shoguns. In the mist the Mibu created the “Battle Dolls”, who looked like humanoid figures but were for the entertainment of their masters.

It started out with Mibu Kyoshiro as the main character, only to be revealed later on that he was sharing the body with Kyo. Kyo was on the quest to reclaim his real body, only to be met with many past mighty comrades (who were supposed to be famous Japanese warlords and generals) who joined him in his fight against the Battle Dolls and its creator, the Former Crimson King and the first Battle Doll.

As the story progresses, Kyo (who was already one of the strongest swordsman when the story begun) continue to level up in his skills and completed the legendary swordstyle Mumyo Jinpu Ryuu, together with his Mibu lineage and his mighty long Black Sword, enabled him to defeat his enemies and save his Battle Dolls comrades via his blood.

Kyo's Mumyo Jinpuu Ryu Sword Technique - Suzaku

One of the Top selling manga - Bleach

Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)

One of the best selling manga in both United States and its homeland Japan. Bleach is one of the most complex ninja mangas around. In the main character Ichigo Kurosaki, born of a shinigami (high ranking one some more) and human, was brought into the Bleach world through plans schemed by one of the story’s greatest villain, Sosuke Aizen. Along the way as he and his friends, Orihime Inoue, Sado and Uryu Ishida fight through enemies, the plot gets more fascinating and suspenseful.

Writer Tite Kubo has done a wonderful job of mixing the supernatural world of Shinigami (aka death god) coupled with ninjutsu skills and weapons as well as culture. He was able to integrate various key characters and organisations within the manga plot to make up a very detailed world of the Soul Society as well as its enemies.

Each key character has a general set of shinobi spells, but what really sets each and every character apart (especially Ichigo), is his/her past and their individual swords, the Zanakuto (the Soul-Cutter Sword). As Ichigo’s blade continue to spurn surprises and evolves, so does the plot.

Ichigo Kurosaki Bankai! (Bleach)

Recca's Eight Flame Dragons

Recca Hanabishi (Flame of Recca)

The story arcs surrounds the Hokage ninja clan that have existed hundreds of years ago. The main character, Recca Hanabishi, was first portrayed as a school teenager who was deeply obsessed with anything ninja. The story was then developed that Recca was actually the second son of the leader of the Hokage ninja clan, who was saved by his mother via a time portal when their village was attacked by the enemy Oda Nobunaga.

Recca Hanabishi was borned with the ability to control fire and when he managed to unleashed the flame in him, he was able to summon the Flame Dragons to his aid. Each dragon has a special ability that Recca was able to deploy, as long as the Dragon acknowledges him. Recca then found out that these Dragons are also the spirits of the past Leaders of the Hokage Clan.

As the story develops, Recca soon made friends with other ninjas each able to wield the elementary powers of Wind, Water, Earth, and Gold. With their comradeship and teamwork, they were then able to defeat the final evil and allowing Recca’s Flame Dragons to ascend to heaven.

Kenshin Himura (Rurouni Kenshin - aka ‘Samurai X’)

Kenshin Himura’s story character is vastly different from Naruto, he started off as one of the most powerful swordsman during the Meiji period of Japan. His kenjutsu (Japanese swordsmanship) was schooled under the famous Hiko Seijuro, whose Hiten Mitsurugi Ryū fighting technique is able to make him unbeatable.

Kenshin has been participating in assassination since young, and after the end of the war, has decided to offer protection to those in need in order to atone for this murders. However, the story picks up when his successor Shishio Makoto, who inherited his title of Hitokiri Battōsai, plans to conquer Japan by conquering the government.

Samurai X’s story consist of plenty of history from the main character’s past. Which Kenshin have no choice but to wield his trademark Katana, the Sakabato (Reverse-Blade Sword), so allows him to defeat enemies and yet not kill them.

Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X) - One of the best Manga

Gintoki Sakata (The White Demon)

Gintoki Sakata (Gin Tama)

Gintoki is a hilarious character in the world of Gin Tama, at least at the beginning. Lazy and comical, you would wonder if this is indeed the main character of the story. As the plot develops, we start to understand the pain and sadness of Gintoki during his younger days. Schooled in swordsmanship under Yoshida Shouyou, Gintoki participated in the Joui War when his mentor was captured. Not only was he unable to protect his friends, he was even forced to execute his teacher Yoshida Shouyou.

But make no mistake, Gintoki Sakata is a very powerful samurai. Nicknamed the Shiroyasha (meaning White Demon) due to his extremely powerful sword skills. Gintoki has high level of endurance coupled with agility. Even his swordsmanship is praised by various sword masters, most notably Yagyuu Binbokusai, mentor to the Shogun’s father.

A charismatic character who establishes friendship and allies along the way, Gintoki Sakata made Gin Tama manga a must read for samurai fans.

If you like Manga, you may also like this:

Which other Ninja or Samurai do you think I have left out?

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