Follow TV Tropes


Samurai Cowboy

Go To
Konnichiwa, pardner.

But every day there's a new thing comin'
The ways of an Oriental view
The sheriff and his buddies with their samurai swords
You can even hear the music at night
The Doobie Brothers, "China Grove"

Essentially a melding of The Wild West and Feudal Japan, even if the setting also takes place in the future or has Cattle Punk elements.

The earliest association between samurai and gunslinger tropes was probably Akira Kurosawa, who modeled several of his samurai films after American Westerns. Fittingly, several of his films were remade as actual Westerns (e.g. Yojimbo into A Fistful of Dollars, and Seven Samurai into The Magnificent Seven). This helped tie in the close association between these eras.

Also, Rōnin and The Gunslinger seem to occupy the same place in the stories of their respective cultures. Both are essentially an updated version of the Knight Errant (or rather, Ronin serve as a bridge of sorts between the Knight Errant and The Gunslinger, having at one point been the contemporaries of both), drifters with Mysterious Pasts Walking the Earth, dueling rivals, fighting bandits, embodying stoicism and self-reliance, and aspiring to self-discipline, often while struggling with their inner demons.


The similarities between the idealized forms of the Bushido code and the Code of the West are undeniable, as well- Placing honor and duty above all, protecting the weak, killing only when required but unflinchingly doing so when it is, valuing equally intelligence, Heroic Resolve, and physical ability. This makes it only natural that the two characters should begin to blend together in an East-meets-West world. The fact that they're both iconic warrior-types of their respective nations is also a plus.

Note that a cowboy moving to old Japan, or a samurai or kung fu master moving to the Old West, does not count. Such situations often lead to this trope, which is about explicitly blending the two — but not always.

May be a result of wanting to justify the combination of Sword and Gun with Katanas Are Just Better and Revolvers Are Just Better.


A Sub-Trope of Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot.

Compare Samurai Shinobi, Street Samurai, Corporate Samurai, Cyber Ninja, The Gunslinger, Rōnin, Sword and Gun, Space Western, Western Samurai.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Justice from Afro Samurai at first seems like a straight example of The Gunslinger, fighting Afro's father (who is using a katana) to a standstill with two pistols in one of the most badass fights of the series. He eventually plays this straight when it is revealed that he has a hidden third arm that wields a katana.
  • Andy, the crazy cowboy from the "Cowboy Funk" episode of Cowboy Bebop decides to become a samurai (complete with katana) at the end of the episode, after Spike beats him.
  • In the Captain Harlock spinoff Gun Frontier, the Old West incarnation of Tochiro is one of these. He shows some traits of this in other entries in the franchise like Cosmo Warrior Zero.
  • GUN×SWORD which takes place on a Space Western planet where cowboys and mecha roam. The protagonist Van is a cowboy who wields a metallic cloth that can turn into a sword, with its hilt looking an awful lot like a gun handle with a trigger included. Plus he pilots an Armor that uses a sword. In addition, his rival uses a gun that looks like a Japanese sword handle, with his two very long magazines kept in his belt, making it look like he's carrying a daisho.
  • Sazanami in Naruto is a former swordsmith turned bounty hunter. His katana has a hilt shaped like a rifle stock and he wears a cowboy hat. In the English dub, he's voiced by Steve Blum and gets an Actor Allusion for that other bounty hunter he played.
  • Azuma Mutsu's arc from Shura no Toki is arguably this. Azuma, while isn't a samurai or a cowboy, is a Japanese man thrown into a cowboy/frontier setting and ended up mixing characteristics from both sides.
  • The prequel chapter of Silver Spoon either manages to be an example or an aversion, depending on how you look at it, since the story centers on the lives of the actual Samurai Cowboys (and cowgirls) of historical Hokkaido. After the conflicts that began the Meiji period, many samurai families were driven north to the province of Hokkaido, where they began new lives as farmer pioneers (with all the attendant tropes...including an unfortunate fate for the native Ainu tribes).
  • The one-off antagonist Rai-Dei the Blade of the Gung-Ho Guns in Trigun is basically a samurai on a Wild West planet. He is treated as outrageous and insane. He dodges bullets. He wears a fringed leather vest with hakama and his katana can fire its blade if necessary. In the manga, he does all of this on rocket skates.

    Comic Books 
  • The title character from the Image Comics comic Cowboy Ninja Viking is essentially one of these (just ninja instead of samurai) also crossed with a Viking.
  • The Judge Dredd Alternity special had Shimura appear as one of these in The Wild West, helping a family of former slaves by fighting the Angel gang, who had been slavers and fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War until they'd been locked up by Dredd (who appears briefly as a Union General) after the war.
  • The Comic Book Shaolin Cowboy.
  • The Ultraverse: Tugun, a member of the villain group TNTNT, is a samurai who wields two guns instead of two swords. He combines the ethos of the Samurai with the tactics of The Gunslinger.



    Live Action TV 

  • The main character in the Knights of Cydonia music video is a practitioner of Kung Fu kicking butt and taking names in a Schizo Tech Wild West.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Deadlands allows for these kinds of characters with a little artistic license. A character with a saber (refluffed as a katana), martial arts, and a trusty revolver is so easy to make that it can be done during character creation.
  • In Pathfinder you can do this fairly easily by multiclassing between samurai and gunslinger, or by focusing entirely on one class and just getting the necessary proficiencies to use the other's weapons.

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands 2: Zer0 got a Tombstone-themed head and skin for Community Day. Given that the game itself is a Space Western, it's quite fitting. He also has Vladof class mods built around improving his skills with pistols.
  • The Player Character in Fallout: New Vegas can easily be this; wearing cowboy hats and dusters while wielding a katana, all while adhering to a strict code of honor. This is even lampshaded by the achievement for dealing damage with melee weapons, 'New Vegas Samurai.'
    • The picture for the achivement is the Vault Boy dressed up as Buddy the protagonist of the postapocalyptic movie Six String Samurai where he tries to get to Lost Vegas and take the throne of rock that Elvis Presley left behind after forty rockin' years as the King of rock. Therefore its most likely a movie reference
    • The Fallout world in general could be described as a post-apocalyptic American version of the Sengoku Period mixed with The American Civil War: Numerous factions, from the NCR to the Brotherhood of Steel to the Enclave, are all fighting each other for control of the Wasteland, each trying to reunite and rebuild America in their own vision throughout the series, fitting with the Arc Words "War never changes."
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Shadow in Final Fantasy VI is a Rōnin ninja with a whistling, jaw-harp-twanging Spaghetti Western theme and the appropriate personality.
    • Both Cloud and Barret in Final Fantasy VII have very similar backstories (hometown gets burned down due to Shinra's evil, a charismatic old friend does a Heel–Face Turn and becomes The Rival, vowing revenge...) but Cloud's takes place in a little rural town with swordsmen going off into the mountains at the orders of their master, while Barret's takes place in a desert/mining town with rogue gunfighters, infinite deserts and whistling Spaghetti Western music.
    • Gravey from Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is pretty much this trope. The very first commentary he gets during his introduction is that his weapons of choice, a pair of katanas, doesn't seem to fit his appearance of a stereotypical Western gunslinger. His bio in the game explains that Gravey gets bored really easily and is constantly changing and mastering weapons to keep boredom at bay.

    Western Animation 
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Zuko Alone," complete with a Showdown at High Noon. Though Zuko uses Chinese-style swords, the effect is the same.
  • Often utilized in Samurai Jack; the title character would often take the role of the Lone Stranger who comes to help a town in need.
  • Kanan Jarus from Star Wars Rebels has outright been described as such by the creators, adding that he's as likely to shoot someone with a blaster as he's to use his lightsaber. He lived up to this spectacularly in the Season 1 finale duel against the Inquisitor, utilising Sword and Gun by simultaneously using his lightsaber with Ezra's blaster-lightsaber to keep his opponent off-balance.
  • One episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) is basically a Whole Plot Reference to The Last Challenge, with Leo playing the sheriff and the villain playing the punk gunslinger kid who calls him out. To drive the point home, the episode starts with Splinter watching a Western (implied to be The Last Challenge) and comparing the main character to a "samurai of the Old West".
  • Wielding twin katanas as well as a gun, and being an explosives expert and being a lone ranger type, Transformers: Prime Wheeljack could well be said to be one of these.

    Real Life 
There is actually a kernel of truth to this concept. The end of the samurai era and the Wild West occurred at the exact same time. During the 19th century many Japanese chose to emigrate to the American west seeking greater economic opportunity, mostly the non-firstborn sons of rural farmers, but also no small amount of suddenly jobless samurai. Like most immigrants, over time they adopted some western mannerisms, while maintaining many elements of their original culture. Subverted in that most ended up becoming miners, shopkeepers, or farmers rather than the wandering heroes this trope implies.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: