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Even since the Heian era, the members of the Mutsu family have practiced an unarmed martial art, the Mutsu Enmei Ryū. They walked the path of the undefeated and were called the Shura no Mono (Men of Carnage). This is their story.
Mutsu Enmei Ryū Gaiden: Shura no Toki (陸奥圓明流外伝 修羅の刻) is a Japanese historical manga published by Kodansha since 1989 and collected in 15 tankoubon volumes, in eight story arcs. A prequel series to Shura no Mon, it began serialization in the same magazine in July 1989 and ran until November 2005. Each arc is loosely based on Japanese history, focusing on a member of the fictional Mutsu clan and their influence on the life of historical Japanese figures.
The work contains examples of these tropes:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: The sword/machete carried by every single Mutsu successor ever, which can cut through iron with ease. Curiously, it was never used much in a fight; Yakumo actually using it in a fight even has him commenting that the fight is a tie due to that fact.
- Actual Pacifist: This is what killed Ryoma Sakamoto. After defeated by Azuma, Ryoma refuses to draw his blade despite being roughly on Izumi's power/skill level... which is definitely enough to Curb Stomp the Shogunate Mooks sent to kill him.
- And Now For Something Completely Different: When compared to all the other arcs, Azuma's arc sticks out like a sore thumb.
- Artistic License - Biology and Geography: There's simply no way that Azuma could survive drifting for two years across the Pacific from Japan to American Pacific coast on a dinghy without supplies. Then he traverses the arid landscape either to around the Wallowa River Valley or Colville Reserve where most of the story happened, similarly without meaningful supplies.
- Badass Family: Every family generally has a badass of their own, but naturally Mutsu family has the most. What's with having Enmei-ryuu and all... on the other hand, the Yagyu family has a lot of badasses too. Miyamoto's son Iori was more akin to a stepson, but it can make the Miyamoto 'family' count too.
- Big Eater: Amusingly, every Mutsu is presented as having a voracious appetite that is frequently remarked upon by other characters.
- But Not Too Foreign: Megumi, Soshi Okita's attendant (later tags along with Izumi) is half-caucasian and has blond/brown hair.
- Call Back: The end of Azuma's arc segues right into Shura No Mon, its parent series.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Azuma Mutsu, by his own admission, is rather clumsy and cowardly for a Mutsu. Cue him singlehandedly forcing an entire US Army cavalry troop to turn tail and run due to loss of their leader.
- Defeat by Modesty: Tsubura was defeated and captured by a group of ninja due to two things: first, she ran out of kunai, second, she had taken off her underwear while she was urinating thus limiting her movement options (a little on the Fridge Logic side too; wouldn't it be dark enough not to give away much details?).
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Azuma, as mentioned above. Kiichi, dying in place of Yoshitsune so the latter and his family won't get persecuted. Okita Soshi, died dueling Izumi.
- Dynamic Entry: Takato does this atop a large boar, breaking a brewing fight between Tsubura and Jubei.
- Five-Man Band: The Minamoto Clan (Kiichi's arc) part of the series has the following:
- Generation Xerox: The men of the Mutsu clan is generally of average build, wears a combination of white gi and dark pants, carries a nondescript blade in the back, a big eater, and freakishly strong.
- Heir to the Dojo: All of the Mutsu male who carried the infamous blade is an Enmei-ryuu successor. It does raise a question on how Azuma brought one to America — the successor of the time should be Izumi, and the present line of Mutsu descended from him.
- To a lesser scale, both Miyamoto Iori and Yagyu Jubei are this. Takato's arc is chock full of them too, but it's justified since it is a kendo tournament.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Generally once each arc. Notable ones includes Hattori Hanzo (Takato's arc), Azuma Mutsu (Azuma's Arc), Benkei Mushashibo, and Kiichi Mutsu (Kiichi's arc). Kiichi's Arc leads on number.
- Historical-Domain Character: in spades. Each arc is generally centered on a historical figure.
- Yakumo's arc is centered around Miyamoto Musashi.
- Izumi's arc is centered around Sakamoto Ryoma.
- Azuma's arc is set in America's western frontier, centered around Chief Joseph's children. Wyatt Earp makes an appearance. It is the odd one out of the series.
- Takato's arc is centered around Yagyu Jubei, but still has ties with Yakumo's arc as it happened under two decades within each other.
- Kiichi's arc is centered around Minamoto no Yoshitsune.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: both Takato and Jubei likes to shut one of their eyes.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Azuma is very skilled with thrown weapons; his speed of draw, accuracy, and power are all superb. His skill is such that he can accurately aim for and hit the hilt of two revolvers on two mooks' hand, impressing Wyatt Earp in the process.
- Jidai Geki: Spanning all the major time periods, except Sengoku Jidai/Azuchi-Momoyama Period propernote . Except Azuma's arc.
- Legendary Impostor: Tsubura has shades of this. To elaborate, she poses and picks fights as a Mutsu to gain attention of the shogunate, hoping that she will be invited to the kendo tournament and get within striking distance to Tokugawa Iemitsu. While not a total hogwash, she was seeded to meet Jubei in the next round. When it is clear that she can't win, she sprung her plan anyway, with disastrous results.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Justified by the series broken up to several story arcs that spans the entire time of Japanese Jidai Geki periods.
- MacGuffin: In Kiichi's arc, the Mutsu family seal. It was used by Yoshitsune to gain favor of Hidehira Fujiwara. Kiichi lost it near the end of the arc, and he quickly turns back to Yoshitsune's residence. True enough, he finds the residence surrounded and Benkei died standing, among other things.
- Never Bring A Gun To A Sword Fight: Several shogunate agents corner Ryouma Sakamoto in a room. Ryouma pulls out a revolver. Hilarity Ensues as Ryouma wasted all those six shots, because he can't aim the gun.
- Only Six Faces: Sometimes, it can be tough to differentiate between characters without resorting to hairstyles or other cues.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: One should wonder why Azuma isn't immediately labeled all sorts of suspicious in a Western frontier town, what being a East Asian man wandering alone away from the Chinatowns.
- Suicide by Cop: Hijikata Toshizo.
- Taking the Bullet: Several of Yoshitsune's retainers took arrows meant for him.
- The Western: Azuma's arc.