Manga / Azumi

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Azumi is a manga series created by Yū Koyama that ran from 1994 to 2009, starring a young kunoichi living during the early Edo Period.

The early part of the manga shows her as the sole girl in a group of ten war orphans - all boys - being trained as assassins by Gessai Obata, an elderly man they only know as Grandfather. When he deems them ready to graduate, Grandfather has them pair off with their closest friends... and fight to the death. Following that, Grandfather sends the five survivors, Azumi included, on missions to assassinate the vassals and supporters of the Toyotomi Clan, who oppose the newly-established Tokugawa shogunate and threaten to drag Japan back into civil war. And it only gets darker from there on out, as she starts to question the validity of her mission.

The manga won an Excellence Prize at the 1997 Japan Media Arts Festival and the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1998, and received two film adaptations: Azumi in 2003 and Azumi 2: Death or Love in 2006. It also received a Hack and Slash PlayStation 2 game adaptation in 2005, also called Azumi.


This manga includes examples of:

  • Action Girl: Azumi kicks ass and takes names like you wouldn't believe. Opponents constantly underestimate her and find themselves sliced to pieces.
  • Actual Pacifist: Shinjiro, despite being the youngest son of a noble family, is abhorrent towards violence. The one time he draws his sword is to keep Sakon from finding the hut where he's hidden Azumi - who unbeknownst to him had left - and it gets him cut down. By the time he returns, however, he's no longer a pacifist, remarking on how naive he once was and how if you want to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs.
  • Anyone Can Die: The manga makes it abundantly clear that anyone not named Azumi can and probably will die at some point, especially if they fall in love with her.
  • Attempted Rape: Many times, Azumi is confronted by bandits who threaten to rape her. Sakon and four of the ringleaders of the Ise ronin gang come the closest to doing so — the former by taking advantage of her being paralyzed by a poison dart, though he relents at the last moment; and the latter by ambushing her while she was bathing and ganging up on her, though she breaks free and kills them all.
  • Badass Cape: Gessai buys a stylish European cape for Azumi that she wears for the rest of the manga.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Azumi was sent to assassinate Hideyori Toyotomi, but wound up befriending him. The scheme was uncovered by his mother, Yodo-dono, who forced Azumi to kill Ukiha.
    • Kiku's friendship with Azumi was a charade in order to make her let her guard down... until it stopped being a charade.
  • Beta Couple: Shortly following Ukiha's death, Nagata met Yae, a girl whose father and brother were killed when they were mistaken for Gessai, Azumi, and himself. Nagata and Azumi persuaded Gessai to take Yae in and she and Nagata fell in love. When Yae departed to return to her hometown, Azumi persuaded Nagata to go tell her how he felt. Tragically, Bijomaru killed Nagata before he could do so, while Yae was within eyesight, and she never saw it happen.
  • Bi the Way: Sakon propositions Kiku, saying that he doesn't care that she's physically male.
  • Blind Obedience: Azumi and the others were raised to never question their Grandfather's orders, though she later begins harbouring doubts.
  • Cartwright Curse: Beginning with Nachi, all of Azumi's love interests have kicked the bucket and are pushing up daisies. Two she was forced to kill by her enemies, one committed seppuku, one was cut down without her knowledge,note  one was raped and beaten to death by bandits, and one she cut down in a duel to spare him wasting away from consumption.
  • Chaste Hero: Azumi was so naive as a young teen she didn't even know what the differences between boys and girls were, having been raised in complete isolation from the outside world. She eventually grows out of this naivety, but every man she falls in love with is killed, usually right in front of her.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Azumi had a huge crush on Nachi, one of her fellow trainees... who she was forced to kill as part of her initiation. She later falls for her fellow companion Ukiha, but is forced to kill him by Yodo no Kata.
  • Child Soldiers: Azumi and her companions were trained as ninja before they hit puberty.
  • Comic-Book Time: The manga takes place across several years during the early Edo Period and shows Azumi's transformation from a preteen girl to a young woman. Exactly how many years have passed is unclear, though the Siege of Osaka in 1615 is an important event.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: All of the ten children raised by Gessai Obata were war-orphans.
  • Cute Bruiser: Azumi is noted as being beautiful by many characters... right up until they witness her effortless vivisect upwards of a dozen mooks by herself.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Whether its against bandits, ninja, or trained samurai, Azumi effortlessly dices them apart. It gets to the point where her opponents have to fight dirty, and even then they still don't stand a chance.
  • Dangerously Short Skirt: Azumi wears a thigh-length kimono and frequently ends up exposing her underwear when she fights.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The backdrop of the series is the early Edo period, where the newly established Tokugawa shogunate moves against the vassals of its enemies, and various noble houses jockey for the shogun's favor or influence over him.
  • Deadly Graduation: Once he decides his ten pupils are ready to start going off on missions, Gessai Obata decides to give them one final test... they must pair off with their closest friend and fight to the death, an exercise intended to erase their ability to feel empathy. Azumi is forced to kill the boy she has a crush on.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Bijoumaru, the arrogant, sadistic, and very flamboyant iaido master hired to kill Azumi and Gessai. He kills Nagara and wounds Gessai, but is killed by Azumi.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Kiku and Genta's master is a Dirty Old Man who emotionally manipulates both of them into having sex with him.
  • Determinator: Despite crossing the Despair Event Horizon a couple of times, Azumi decides to live for the sake of her fallen comrades.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: As Kinkaku is dying following their Enemy Mine, Azumi catches him. He takes the opportunity to grope her, profess he wanted to rape her, and try to get a Last Kiss, but she pushes him away and he dies.
  • Doom Magnet: All of Azumi's friends except for Yae, and all of her love interests without exception, have been killed due to their involvement with her.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Azumi's first meeting with Sakon consists of him asking if she wants to have sex, after she unwittingly follows him to a field where a bunch of people are having A Party, Also Known as an Orgy. Azumi is mortified and immediately turns him down.
  • Double Weapon: Azumi wields an unusual, custom-made sword with a katana blade on one end and a dagger on the other.
  • The Dreaded: Azumi, as she garners a reputation for herself of effortlessly cutting down ninja and bandits sent to kill her.
  • Dwindling Party: One by one, Azumi's comrades and eventually her mentor are killed, along with almost every love interest she makes. It gets to the point where she starts shunning people so they won't get caught up in her battles.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: Azumi is compared to a bodhisattva later on in the series, and possesses preternatural combat skills.
  • Evil All Along: Nobody suspected the true mastermind of the Ise Ronins' plot to launch a crusade against the Shogunate was Konishi Shizune and his twin brother Tadane, who played everyone like a fiddle.
  • Expy: Konishi Shizune, a half-Japanese Christian who claims to be the Son of God, is based on Amakusa Shiro.
  • Freak-Out: Early in the manga, Azumi and her family briefly stop at a town where a wedding is being held. Azumi befriends the younger sister of a newlywed bride, who's around her age, and stays behind. A group of bandits attack the village and begin to Rape, Pillage, and Burn everything. The bride gives herself up to hide Azumi and her little sister, who are forced to watch as she is raped and her husband and father are cut down. The little sister rushes out to stop the bandits and is nearly raped herself, but the older sister attacks the leader of the bandits and is killed. Azumi - who had been angsting over whether to break her Grandfather's order to never reveal her bujutsu fighting style to anyone - snaps, grabs one of the bandits' katanas, and cuts them to shreds to protect her friend. It's after this that she starts questioning the validity of her "Grandfather's" orders, since had she acted sooner she could have saved everyone.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Azumi has been forced to fight naked on several occasions.
  • Gonk: Many of the villainous samurai, ronin, and bandits are drop-dead ugly, a stark contrast to the heroic characters.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Characters who are enemies early in the manga occasionally reappear as allies - albeit usually temporary ones - later on. Most notably are Inoue Kanbee, a samurai initially seeking to avenge his master - who was one of Azumi's early assassination targets - and Tobizaru, a ninja with a Gag Nose who was Kanbee's retainer and originally tried to assassinate Azumi.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Shunjiro Mayumi, a young pacifist samurai with the dream of creating a perfect country, is seemingly killed by Sakon - par for the course with Azumi's love interests. However, he is revealed to have survived and resurfaces a couple of arcs later having become the administrator of the Shogunate's gold mine in Ise, where he has implemented industrialization as the first step to realizing the creation of his perfect country. While he resumes his attempts to woo her, what he doesn't tell her is that he's imprisoned his friend and mentor Tenzo Karasuma and is working with a group of bloodthirsty ronin to instigate a violent revolution and tear down the Shogunate, had the innocent people he'd been travelling with murdered to preserve his secrets, employs slave labour under harsh conditions, and manufactures highly addictive drugs with nasty withdrawal symptoms.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Many of the nobles and important personages were real-life people who lived and died during the formative years of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Chapter 118 reveals Yae became a prostitute, but her Emotionless Girl nature turns off her clients.
  • In Love with the Mark:
    • Azumi develops feelings for Hideyori Toyotomi, who she was supposed to assassinate.
    • Kiku, a cross-dressing Badass Gay assassin who joins up with Azumi intending to befriend her and then kill her when she lets her guard down. Kiku, much to her confusion, falls in love with Azumi and ultimately can't go through with it.
    • Sakon, a ronin hired to assassinate Azumi, propositions her several times and even comes close to raping her, but develops feelings for her after being impressed by her skill and determination. He confesses his feelings for her when he reveals he's dying of tuberculosis, and doesn't want her to die by anyone's sword but his.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Azumi tries to pay off the extreme debts that forced Yae into prostitution, but only manages to offend her.
  • Knight Templar:
    • Gessai Obata, the man Azumi refers to as "Grandfather", staunchly believed the Tokugawa shogunate was doing what was right for Japan and that anyone else taking power was going to plunge the country back into civil war. He maintains this outlook despite having a hit put on him, and only as he's dying does he question his blind faith before realizing it's a setup to manipulate Azumi into seeking revenge against the shogun.
    • Tenkai, the Buddhist monk who was employing Gessai, is the one from whom he got this outlook.
  • Jidai Geki: The series is set in the death throes of the Sengoku Era and the early years of the Edo Period.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Azumi frequently finds herself forced to kill her love interests, starting with Nachi.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Azumi unwittingly becomes caught up in one between herself, Sakon,note  and her friend Yae.note 
    • In the following arc, Azumi finds herself caught up in a love triangle between her old flame Shunjiro and the charismatic but naive Shizune. Tobizaru also becomes infatuated with her, but she is oblivious to this.
  • Man Child: Hideyori Toyotomi, who is a childlike, innocent man to the chagrin of his cruel and domineering mother, Yodo-dono. He was so head-over-heels in love with Azumi that when he learns she was an assassin sent to kill him he has a mental breakdown. The one time his mother gets him to man up is when she persuades him to fulfill his duty and commit seppuku after Tokugawa's forces destroy their mansion and Azumi tries to persuade him to leave his past as a noble behind and run away with her.
  • Master Swordsman: Several skilled warriors are introduced, but by the time she's on her own Azumi's bujutsu vastly outstrips everyone else, letting her mow down dozens of opponents at once. After slaughtering a large group of bandits, she becomes so renowned that people come to believe she's a youkai.
  • Mixed Ancestry:
    • It's speculated that Azumi has a European ancestor, due to her brown hair and dark blue eyes, which are frequently remarked upon.
    • Shizune has blond hair and blue eyes due to one of his parents being a foreigner.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Azumi is noted multiple times to be so slender she logically couldn't stand against the beefcake samurai she fights against and easily dismembers. She continuously proves everyone wrong.
  • Not So Different: When telling Azumi why he had the people they travelled with together executed, Shunjiro states that he sacrificed the few for the needs of the many, saying his reasons are the same as Azumi's and daring her to deny it.
  • Oblivious Mockery: When Azumi learns that Yae has become a prostitute to pay off her debts, she decides to use the money she'd earned to buy Yae's freedom so that her friend wouldn't have to suffer. Yae is insulted by this, thinking that Azumi is assigning a monetary value to their friendship, and forces Azumi to take her money back.
  • Ore Onna: Azumi, having been raised amongst a group of boys, uses "ore" to refer to herself. When she has her first period, Gessai tries to teach her proper feminine etiquette, but to no avail.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Every time a group of bandits or ronin show up, chances are this is what they'll be doing.
  • Relationship Upgrade: After falling off a cliff together, Azumi and Ukiha confess their feelings for each other and kiss. Soon afterwards she's captured and forced to kill him.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Tenkai sends Azumi, Tobizaru, a samurai named Tsudzura, a kunoichi named Hatsune, and two samurai named Utsobu and Kagari to assist the daimyo in eliminating a group of ronin planning to instigate a rebellion by the commoners and ronin against the Shogunate in Ise. Azumi manages to infiltrate the rebel group and ingratiate herself with their ringleaders, but before she can act Tsudzura is pegged as a castle samurai and brutally murdered by a mob of armed peasants as practise for the revolt against the Shogunate, the daimyo's castle is overtaken by the rebels, and Hatsune, Utsobu, and Kagari are found out and drugged by the ronin to expose Azumi's involvement. It should be noted that while Shizune is nominally the leader, he wants the people to live in peace but the ronin under him are hijacking his message to stir up violence and conflict. The one who is masterminding it turns out to be Shunjiro, who wants to overthrow the feudal system and instigate industrialized capitalism so that people can profit from their work and not have to suffer under the tyranny of the samurai class, though he himself is betrayed by the ronin.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Terasawa Gensai calmly justifies the attempted rape of a samurai's daughter right in front of her father as happening with the consensus and assent of the people of the fief. Only Shizune's intervention stops it from happening.
    • Shizune and his twin brother Tadane are revealed to be gleefully sadistic Psychopathic Manchilds, orchestrating a war to amuse themselves, shooting Shunjiro with a prototype pistol and torturing him, and capturing and torturing Azumi.
  • Sole Survivor: Of the ten assassins trained by Gessai Obata, Azumi is the only survivor.
  • The Starscream: Terasawa Gensai, Kuroda Taketori, Yamaguchi Nobutsuna, Kurisuke, Hayashi Matabee, Miki Uemon, Sagawa Sozaburo, and Todo Shiro seemingly pay lip-service to Shizune's pacifist Christian doctrine in order to gain the support they need to start a new war. They even betray Shunjiro — who had hired them to facilitate his creation of the perfect nation — when Uemon, Shiro, Kurisuke, and Sozaburo attempt to rape and kill Azumi in front of him, though she escapes and kills them.
  • Tautological Templar: Gessai Obata raises Azumi and her comrades to believe that everything they're doing is good, and the people they kill deserve to die.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: When Kiku is taken hostage by bandits wanting to rob a gold transport, Azumi agrees to not intervene so long as she is unharmed. When the bandits discover Kiku is physically male and rape her anyway before beating her to death, Azumi goes berserk and mows them down while snapping that she'll never forgive them.
  • Tongue Trauma: When Yae is taken hostage by assassins trying to lure Azumi into a trap, she tries to commit suicide by biting off her own tongue so that Azumi won't have a reason to fight against impossible odds, but Azumi stops her.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Shunjiro, once a kind idealist, later becomes a rather corrupt and nasty official who has people murdered by the dozen to protect his 'ideal country' and uses slave labor from those he's addicted to his drugs.
  • Transsexual: Kiku is physically male, but dresses as, acts like, and considers herself to be a woman. She's also an assassin who aims to befriend Azumi and kill her once she lets her guard down... or at least she did, before she fell in love with her.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior:
  • Underestimating Badassery: Most people scoff at the idea that Azumi, a young woman in her late teens, would be able to massacre between 70 and 100 bandits by herself.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Azumi and her comrades are thurougly brainwashed by Gessai Obata, who trains them as ninja and uses them to assassinate the members and supporters of the Toyotomi Clan.
    • Gessai Obata was played by Tenkai, who left him to die as soon as he was no longer needed.
    • Munenori Yagyu, of the Yagyu clan is trying to use Azumi as a pawn to assassinate the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu by framing Ieyasu for the murder of Gessai Obata.
    • Konishi Shizune is a kind but naive half-Japanese Christian who seeks to unite the people of Ise into a peaceful classless society. However, Shunjiro and the eight ronin commanders working under him have hijacked Shizune's message to start a violent revolution. He doesn't realize he's being manipulated until after Azumi shows up, but she doesn't have the heart to spell it out for him. That is, until he's revealed to be the true mastermind.
  • Vague Age: Azumi's age isn't specified, but when the manga begins she's decidedly a preteen. Her missions under Gessai begin in around 1611, and at least six years pass over the course of the manga.
  • War Is Hell: As is its aftermath, as Azumi discovers through great pain and hardship. The first arc of the manga has Gessai Obata's team of ninja assassinating the vassals of the Toyotomi Clan in order to prevent them from dragging Japan back into another civil war, and the bandits Azumi continuously mows down are masterless samurai trying to make a living the only way they can.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Initially, Azumi doesn't question whether killing the former daimyo and samurai-turned-bandits is wrong, but once she gains an understanding of the political maneuvering that displaced them she begins questioning her reasoning to kill them and only kills them if they threaten her or her loved ones.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • It's implied that Tenkai, the Buddhist monk allied with the Tokugawa Shogunate, has something to do with the assassins sent after Azumi following the Shogunate's consolidation of power.
    • It's made to appear that the Tokugawa Shogunate is behind the repeated assassination attempts on Azumi that wound up killing her Grandfather, but it's a secret plot by Yagyu Munenori, the patriarch of the noble Yagyu family wanting to manipulate her for his own purposes.


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