Manga / Samurai Executioner

"Punished is not the man himself, but the evil that resides in him"

Samurai Executioner is a spin-off manga series from Lone Wolf and Cub. It focuses on the encounters and experiences of one of Itto's opponents (Yamada Asaemon), the Shogun's sword-tester and executioner.

The series follows the progress of Asaemon's career as the Shogun's O-Tameshi and an official executioner. There are several important arcs throughout the series, interspersed with vignettes focusing on individual executions that Asaemon carries out. The series also follows the development of Sakane Kasajiro, the Edo-era equivalent of a beat cop who greatly respects Asaemon and views him as a mentor figure.

Samurai Executioner provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Kasajiro pretended to have died from a wound sustained during an investigation to pull his wife's leg, even Asaemon found it funny.
  • Action Girl: Shinko the Kappa starts out as a criminal successfully stealing jitte and swords from officers in an attempt to get the government to revoke her father's execution, though she ultimately fails. Even after she ultimately ends up Happily Married with Kasajiro, she's still a force to be reckoned with, to the point she actually joins him on the police.
  • Berserk Button: For Asaemon, finding out that he executed an innocent man who was framed by the men who arrested him is a pretty big one. Miscarriages of justice in general are things that Asaemon takes very seriously.
  • Crapsack World: To the underclasses of Edo Japan, life sucks.
  • The Dreaded: Asaemon full stop. A group of rioting prisoners aren't worried about a small army of police surrounding the prison because of the hostages they have. But the moment Asaemon shows up is a mass Oh, Crap! moment for the lot of them.
  • End of an Era: Samurai takes place at the end of the Edo era, with the rise of the merchant class and the downfall of the samurai.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Quite a number of the condemned do this. Some require help from Asaemon (usually by way of the Last Request).
  • Footnote Fever: Due to the Shown Their Work below, the translators at Dark Horse Comics had to do this.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Readers of Lone Wolf and Cub know that, unfortunately, Asaemon is ultimately destined to perish in his duel against Ogami Itto due to the interference of the Yagyu.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Asaemon. He will tear you a new one if you deserve it. At the same time, he is totally capable of making the condemned feel comfortable before he chops off their heads.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Many of the condemned, if Asaemon fulfiled their Last Request or otherwise made them feel comfortable before he brings down the sword.
  • Happily Adopted: Subverted somewhat as Asaemon officially adopts Shinko in order to to make it easier for Kasajiro to marry her.
  • Heel Realization: To Asaemon, it is most important that the condemned be truly repentant of their crimes before he executes them.
  • High Concept: Much like the series that spawned it, Samurai Executioner serves as an exploration of Buddhist concepts and how they are practiced by the samurai and warrior class of Japan. It especially focuses on the concepts of compassion, as well as crime, punishment, and repentance. It also focuses on the purpose that justice and the law serve in the Edo era.
  • Implacable Man: If Asaemon is ordered to execute someone, it doesn't matter how well-connected or influential or what their station might be. He will carry out the execution no matter who or what might get in his way.
  • Last Request: Asaemon encounters many such requests. Whether he grants them depends on circumstances.
  • Never Trust a Title: Half-averted. Asaemon is an executioner. However, he isn't a samurai.
    • He does however, *execute* Samurai from time to time.
  • One Last Smoke: A tobacco-addicted criminal requests to be executed while enjoying her last pipe.
  • One-Man Army: Asaemon during the prison riot chapter.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Asaemon, at least in so far as his position will allow. Asaemon's compassion for the condemned is a major fixture of the series and he will go to great lengths to fulfill their last requests, at one point going so far as to spend a year nurturing and growing a chrysanthemum at the request of one of the people he executed in order to understand the mindset that led the man to commit his crime.
  • Ronin: Asaemon himself. His depiction is especially unusual for that of a ronin, given that he holds a government post and is very well off as a result. Indeed, his lot is quite a bit better than a few actual samurai vassals that he meets, most notably master swordsman Tsukuba Bakushu, who wants Asaemon's post.
  • Shown Their Work: The series might as well be called "Life for Commoners during Edo Japan: The Series".
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Kasajiro and Shinko have a serious case of this, to the point that they get into legitimate fistfights before reaffirming their love for one another.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Asaemon's opponents occasionally underestimate him, assuming that, as an executioner, his skills are of little to no use in real combat, considering he practices almost exclusively against victims who are restrained or corpses. They are sorely mistaken.
  • Weapon of Choice: For Kasajiro, there's his hook and rope. Asaemon has his personal sword, Onibocho, which he uses for his executions (as well as fighting in general). Finally, all police rely primarily upon their jitte, which makes sense, as jitte are designed for disarming and subduing criminals and are pretty much a policeman's badge of office.
  • Zen Survivor: Asaemon again.