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Literature / Young Samurai

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Young Samurai is a series of action-adventure novels set in the early Edo period of Japan, written by Chris Bradford. Jack Fletcher is a twelve-year old English boy and the son of the navigator of the Alexandria, a ship charting a course from England to Japan. When his father is murdered by the ninja Dokugan Ryu, Jack is charged with keeping his father's special navigational chart - the rutter - out of enemy hands. Washing ashore, he is adopted by master samurai Masamoto Takeshi, who inducts him into his school for samurai, the Niten Ichi-ryū. Despite being regarded as an outsider due to being a foreigner, Jack befriends several of his fellow students, including Masamoto's niece Date Akiko and (eventually) his son Masamoto Yamato. However, Jack yearns to return home to England in order to look after his sickly little sister Jess, left in the care of a nanny.

The series consists of nine books:

  • The Way of the Warrior (2007)
  • The Way of the Sword (2009)
  • The Way of the Dragon (2010)
  • The Ring of Earth (2010)
  • The Ring of Water (2011)
  • The Ring of Fire (2011)
  • The Ring of Wind (2012)
  • The Ring of Sky (2012)
  • The Return of the Warrior (2019)

Tropes found in Young Samurai:

  • Battle Couple: Jack and Akiko become this over the course of the series, both becoming skilled samurai with shinobi training.
  • Big Bad: The evil ninja Dokugan Ryu serves as the main antagonist of the first half of the series, though Kazuki takes over that role in the second half.
  • The Bully: Kazuki starts off as one, but graduates to a more serious antagonist in the second half of the series.
  • Dual Wielding: The Secret Art of Masamoto Takeshi's Niten Ichi-ryū school consists of wielding both the katana and the wakizashi at the same time.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: For much of the series Jack's attempts to find a way back to England are kiboshed to the extent he considers Starting a New Life in Japan. However, growing persecution against foreigners and Christians makes that impossible. After much loss and suffering, he is able to return to England, with Akiko at his side.
  • Evil Cripple:
  • Evil Jesuit: Father Lucius, a Portuguese Jesuit priest introduced attempting to convert Japan to Catholicism. He treats Jack with contempt and distaste due to their rival denominations — Jack being Protestant — and is ultimately revealed to be the one who hired Dokugan Ryu to steal the rutter.
  • Evil Teacher: Hosokawa Yuudai, the kenjutsu instructor, is introduced as a bad-tempered Sadist Teacher who singles Jack out because he's European and treats Kazuki with favoritism. When Jack and Akiko run into him again after the fall of the Niten Ichi-ryū school, the latter assumes he'll help them out of loyalty to her uncle... only for Hosokawa to mutilate Jack's sword hand. The final novel reveals he was forced to commit seppuku for this.
  • Expy: Many of the characters are based off real-life people:
    • Jack Fletcher is based off real-life English samurai William Adams.
    • Masamoto Takeshi is based off Miyamoto Musashi, real-life samurai and founder of the Niten Ichi-ryū school.
  • Fin Gore: Hosokawa Yuudai cuts off part of the fingers of Jack's hand, crippling his ability to fight until he's able to adjust his fighting style.
  • Fire-Forged Friendship: Yamato initially detests Jack out of jealousy, but they become close friends after the first novel.
  • Handicapped Badass: After Jack's right hand is mutilated by Hosokawa, he is left unable to fight properly until he learns a new way to hold his sword from a painter.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • At the end of the first half of the series, Yamato sacrifices himself to kill Dokugan Ryu.
    • At the end of the second half of the series, Miyuki sacrifices herself to hold off an army of samurai aiming to kill Jack and Akiko.
  • Hopeless Suitor: For most of the second half of the series, Jack is oblivious to the fact that Miyuki has developed feelings for him, and only has eyes for Akiko.
  • Jidaigeki: The series is set during the dawn of the Edo period.
  • Kid Samurai: In the first half of the series, the main characters are samurai-in-training at Masamoto Takeshi's Niten Ichi-ryū school.
  • Kiss of Life:
    • Towards the end of Way of the Dragon, while fleeing the enemy army Jack and Akiko are forced to hide underwater. Akiko, who practised ama pearl diving when she was younger, has the lung capacity to hold out, but Jack doesn't. Noticing him starting to drown, she transfers some of the air in her lungs to him via mouth-to-mouth.
    • In Ring of Water one of the characters is poisoned by fugu, leading Miyuki to give him assisted respiration.
  • Legacy Character: In Ring of Wind, Dokugan Ryu makes a comeback after having seemingly been killed, leading Jack and Akiko to hope that Yamato is still alive... up until it's revealed that the original Dokugan Ryu is dead and the person hunting them is a successor.
  • Love Triangle: The second half of the series establishes one between Jack, Akiko, and Miyuki. It's resolved when Miyuki sacrifices herself to buy the others time to escape from an army of samurai.
  • Mistaken for Aliens: Or at least for Yōkai. Early in Ring of Earth, Jack comes across an old man and his grandson, the latter of whom assumes he's a tengu due to his European facial features.
  • Mistaken for Undead: While in the care of a travelling theatre troupe, Jack sees Miyuki approaching him while dressed as an onryō and immediately jumps to the assumption that she's died and her vengeful ghost has come for him.
  • Ninja: Shinobi are presented as antagonistic in the first half of the series, with Dokugan Ryu being the Big Bad. This is downplayed in the second half of the series, with Akiko revealed to have undergone ninja training; and in Ring of Earth Jack comes across a ninja village and learns that they are people just like the samurai, and even undergoes training to become one himself. Miyuki, a kunoichi (female ninja) around Jack's age, becomes one of his traveling companions and a rival to Akiko for his affections.
  • Samurai Shinobi:
    • Akiko is a samurai and holds ninja in deep contempt, but secretly undertook ninjutsu training and occasionally disguises herself as a ninja.
    • In the second arc, Jack — who in the first arc was trained as a samurai — comes across a ninja village and receives ninjutsu training there, learning that ninja aren't universally evil like the samurai believe but for the most part just people trying to survive in a society rigged to oppress them.
  • Scam Religion: Jack's interactions with Father Lucius establish that the Catholics and Protestants see each others' versions of Christianity as such — if not completely separate religions worshipping completely separate Gods.
  • Sinister Minister: Father Lucius is a Portuguese Jesuit priest who seeks to convert Japan to Catholicism, and is the one who hired Dokugan Ryu to obtain the rutter.
  • The Starscream: Dokugan Ryu kills Father Lucius, the Portuguese Jesuit priest who hired him to obtain the rutter, and decides to take it for himself.
  • Token White: Jack is the only living Englishman in Japan, which at the time had exclusive trade relations with Catholic Portugal. As such, he is discriminated against as a gaijin.
  • Tsundere: Miyuki initially distrusts Jack due to him being both a foreigner and a samurai, but slowly warms up to him and develops feelings for him... not that she'd admit it.