Follow TV Tropes


Samurai Shinobi

Go To

Yoru: We all choose our own paths, Wayne-San! [Kyodai] walked a dark trail. It was not your responsibility. If you see Batman, tell him I have great respect for him.
Bruce: Why? He's as much a ninja as Kyodai was.
Yoru: Not so. Batman offered to help his adversary, and a lesser man would have used the knowledge of the [Touch of Death] against his opponent. Batman is the essence of samurai, Wayne-San. You would do well to remember that.

A character that blurs the line between samurai and shinobi, whether in design or behavior.

Samurai are like the Japanese equivalent of Knights; nobles from Blue Blood families trained to be warriors for their lords and Shoguns. They are carefully trained in ancient techniques that emphasize a sense of honor, preferring close combat in open venues. The Samurai follow a Code of Honor known as Bushido ("the way of the warrior"), a moral code that emphasizes chivalry and loyalty to a master, even if it cost them their lives or freedom. Exceptions to this one rule are called Rōnin, who still adhere to bushido but have no master to speak of.

Ninja (also known as shinobi) follow the code of Ninjutsu; a set of tenets and rules that emphasized survival and results. Popular belief state that the ninja sprang from peasant classes, utilizing weapons and techniques born from Mundane Utility with quick and decisive means of incapacitating threats. They were assassins, their targets often high-profile members of society that either posed a threat to the clan, to the people or were unfortunate enough to have a bounty put on their heads, often by samurai.

While historically ninja and samurai have a long and complicated relationship with one another, fiction likes to paint Ninja and Samurai as mortal enemies, one which represented the ruling class and the other which undermined it. The fact that many historical mountain/forest communities in the Sengoku period functioned as ninja clans or armed neighborhoods, resisting against (if not partnering with) the dominion of conquering samurai (the most notorious being, understandably, Oda Nobunaga during the Tensho Iga War) help reinforce this view. Both are warriors born from the same region (though definitions vary between provinces), so a lot of pop culture outside of Japan (and even sometimes within it) tends to confuse the two in a variety of ways. This is often done because combining the two looks cool. More justified examples have In-Universe reasons, born of desperate situations or one defecting to the other.

The Cyberpunk genre often conflated samurai and shinobi in their portrayal of (Japanese) Corporate Samurai: on the one hand, they are portrayed as stealthy, unstoppable assassins, while on the other hand, they are typically employed by a Mega-Corp and bred for Undying Loyalty to whatever clan owns it (or lack of one in the case of Street Samurai).

Sub-Trope of Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot. See also Samurai in Ninja Town, with which this can overlap.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: The Thirteen Court Guard Companies are pretty much ghostly samurai, being sword-wielding soldiers who enforce the law in Soul Society. Yoruichi and Sui-Feng have fighting styles and skills based around stealth and speed, similar to pop culture depictions of ninja. Sui-Feng is also the leader of the Onmitsukido, an organization that is concerned with undercover operations.
  • Shurimon from Digimon Adventure 02 is called the "Samurai of Sincerity", but all of his bells and whistles (the Kusanagi on his back, his heavy use of shurikens, his ability to move undetected in a flurry of leaves) all point to him being a ninja.
  • The ninja protagonists of Kyattou Ninden Teyandee were called samurai when the show was localized into Samurai Pizza Cats. As almost nothing but the dialogue was changed, the "samurai" still used ninja weapons like shuriken and kunai.
  • Goemon Ishikawa XIII of Lupin III is described variously as a samurai and a ninja, and is a direct descendant of the famous ninja Goemon Ishikawa. He serves as the crew's swordsman and Monkey Punch said he wanted to have a character who was quintessentially Japanese to balance out the rest of the cast whose ethnic background and nationalities are totally irrelevant.
  • Naruto: Ninja in this setting function just as much as soldiers in open combat as they do as spies and assassins, if not more so. Add in their superhuman powers and you basically get a weird combination of ninja, samurai, and wizards. Sasuke Uchiha in particular specializes in sword-fighting with a katana and can conjure the Susanoo, a giant samurai tengu made of pure chakra, using his Mangekyō Sharingan. The actual samurai, from the Land of Iron, are mostly set apart by their aesthetic and combat abilities being standardized around swordsmanship (and the latter's mostly just because only a few of them have names).

    Comic Books 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • The Shredder is supposed to be a ninja yet wears samurai-like armor.
    • Leonardo is The Leader of the "Ninja Turtles", however he uses a couple of katanas (a classic Samurai weapon) and follows the Bushido Code of Honour.
  • Wolverine was trained as a samurai and is often associated with numerous samurai-themed superheroes and villains, such as the Silver Samurai and Scarlet Samurai. However, his animal senses and animal-themed abilities also make him a naturally-gifted hunter and stalker, and he has been further trained in covert operations and stealth assassinations. And, as the Trope Namer of Wolverine Claws, he even employs weapons more befitting a ninja.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sacrifice (Ravenshell), Leo admits to being a ninja who practices Bushido and intends on teaching it to his new ward Ace.
  • In Same Difference, Miwa reveals that Leonardo's favorite philosophy is Bushido despite being a ninja.

  • Played for Laughs in Discworld, where the portrayal of Agatea causes all the Japanese and Chinese tropes to bleed together promiscuously and randomly. If it is viewed in the West as a Weird Japanese Thing, it will turn up in Terry Pratchett's Agatea. In Interesting Times, the almost-hero Rincewind spends a lot of time evading warriors, guards, and generally annoyed people who combine aspects of samurai, ninja, regular footsoldier, and even sumo wrestler.
  • Tales of the Otori : Takeo Otori has the training and blood of both a noble house and a clan of ninja within him. Although he much prefers to be honorable in his dealings and in battle, he will slip into the deceit and magic his ninja relatives taught him if it means protecting his people.
  • Young Samurai:
    • 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.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Goro Takemura from Cyberpunk 2077 has been scouted, augmented, and employed by the Arasaka Mega-Corp to be the personal bodyguard of the patriarch CEO Saburo Arasaka. After Saburo is killed by his own son, Takemura goes rogue and his story arc is essentially that of a Rōnin. On the other hand, he is of "peasant" birth (i.e. recruited from the streets), specializes in assassinations and other dirty work, and, notwithstanding his Undying Loyalty to the Arasaka clan and his snobbish disdain for any culture other than Japan's, is basically a cyborg ninja.
  • Getsu Fuma is a post-apocalyptic samurai demon, but he does have some Stock Ninja Weaponry.
  • Ghost of Tsushima, the Player Character Jin Sakai starts out as a samurai who adheres to the samurai code of honor, only to be forced to take on less honorable means of freeing Tsushima from the Mongol Hordes (using stealth and underhanded tactics). As the game goes on, he learns more stealth techniques and even acquires weapons that are stereotypically ninja. While his growing resemblance to ninja in his appearance and technique are never openly stated — instead referring to him as a "Ghost" and the ninja weapons being referred to as "Ghost weapons", both of these mainly because the concept of ninjas wouldn't exist for another 300+ years from when the game takes place— he can be considered a transitional warrior between both.
    • This can also be enforced by the player: the game places little restrictions on how you choose to approach situations and never overly rewards one playstyle over another, so Ghost assassinations followed by samurai standoffs is very possible, especially on the easier difficulties. However as the game goes on, this becomes less viable as the Mongols get more and more difficult to deal with, encouraging the player to use Ghost tactics to even the odds.
  • Impa from The Legend of Zelda series, particularly her more Action Girl portrayals in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Hyrule Warriors, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, has a very ninja-inspired appearance and skill set like the rest of her Sheikah tribe, including stealth-enhancing clothes, Deku Nuts that function like stun grenades, and a form of Smoke Out teleportation. However, she also defends the Royal Family of Hyrule by wielding swords like katanas in close-quarters combat, which more closely resembles a samurai.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raiden combines his skills and tech as a Cyborg Ninja with a samurai-inspired ideology, quoting the bushido code and referring to his sword as a "tool of justice". While fully capable of stealth, the game's greater leaning toward action-oriented combat gives Raiden a bigger lean toward samurai.
  • Ni Oh: While he initially rejects being called a samurai, William can specialize into different skill trees, two of which are the samurai-oriented kenjutsu and the shinobi-oriented ninjutsu.
  • Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden has little use for stealth, often fighting openly as he carves a bloody path through his enemies. He also often espouses the importance of virtues such as honor and courage and is more like a Supersoldier than an assassin or spy.
  • Shinobu of No More Heroes is an Occidental Otaku (a lot like the protagonist), who combines aspects of Ninja and Samurai while living a double life as a schoolgirl (at least until the second game, when she's graduated and becomes a full-time assassin). Notably, her outfit and fighting style suggests a stereotypical ninja, but she uses a katana and is fond of at least giving lip service to honor and duty (such as avenging her father). It's made clear this is because she's invoking the trope in-universe as part of her aesthetic.
  • Ninjamurai has the protagonist, Takezou Nishimura, a young warrior who is the offspring of a female ninja and a male samurai. He can switch between the ninja-based Stealth mode and samurai-stance Attack mode. The former grants the ability to Double Jump, move faster, and turn invisible for a limited amount of time, but it makes sword slashes slower. The latter doesn't have those movement options, but the sword slashes are faster and let him do combos.
  • Samurai Shodown:
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice likes to invoke this trope a lot.
    • The protagonist Wolf is literally referred to as "shinobi", and has a whole array of stealthy tricks and clever tools to help even the odds against his foes. That said, the man also possesses a lot of stereotypically "samurai" traits. For one thing, while stealth is usually an option, the game encourages players to utilize more directly aggressive combat styles centered around swordplay against particularly tough enemies. Indeed, Wolf's mode of dress (bright orange and yellow) tends to stand out no matter what environment he's in, and his philosophy in life is based around a code of absolute loyalty to his masters (though this is more due to the machinations of his adopted father Owl).
    • One of Wolf's mentors is Isshin Ashina, a famed samurai warlord and swordsman who nonetheless lives by the philosophy of "win by any means necessary". In fact, the first time the player meets Isshin, he's assassinating enemy infiltrators while disguised as one of his own subordinate ninjas. In the routes where he's resurrected back into his prime, he'll even make heavy use of a pistol during his boss fight.
    • The black-caped Red Guard swordsmen are just as heavily armored as the frontline Red Guard troops but seem to specialize in stealthier operations, as evidenced by them being the only Red Guard to take part in the initial infiltration of Ashina Castle alongside the Interior Ministry's dedicated shinobi. Gameplay-wise, this is mostly reflected in them having a tendency to skulk behind walls and corners.
  • Streets of Rage 3: The Stage 4 boss, Yamato, wears samurai armour and utilises Iaijutsu with a large No-Dachi, but he also throws shuriken, turns invisible and can split into multiple clones.
  • Tekken: Yoshimitsu is an example of this. He's the leader of the Manji ninja group yet he wears some armor that makes him look like a samurai. This is also true for his ancestor in Soulcalibur.
  • Warcraft III: The Blademaster hero has elements of samurai in his design (giant sword, banner with a flag on his back, and a Critical Hit ability) and ninja (one of his skills creates illusions of himself, the other lets him go invisible and deal extra damage on his next attack).

    Western Animation 
  • The Batman: The Animated Series episodes "Night of the Ninja" and "Day of the Samurai" spotlight the line that Batman walks between following in the footsteps of his samurai master, Yoru, and his fellow pupil Kyodai Ken, who embraces the path of ninjutsu. At one point, Kyodai attempts to persuade Batman to embrace the same path, as the Caped Crusader's methods are very ninja-like, only for Batman to reject it and identify himself as a samurai. When Kyodai is defeated and seemingly dies, Bruce Wayne and Yoru further discuss the differences.
  • The titular protagonist of Samurai Jack is primarily a samurai, though he was also trained in ninja-style stealth and assassination techniques. This is best shown in the episode "Jack vs. the Ninja" when Jack encounters a robotic ninja; which leads to a stealthy duel where both of them fight with ninja gear and moves.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Karai is trained in ninjutsu yet is also an aspiring practitioner of bushido.
  • Cyber-Ninja Corps in Transformers: Animated are a Cybertronian brotherhood that operates as a security apparatus, guarding their technology and performing long-distance missions. While their martial arts are very much ninja-seq. — relying on stealth and Processor over matter — their loyalty to the Autobots in the war effort is more like samurai. Older Cyber-Ninja masters like Yoketron wear armor and helmets that resemble real-life samurai armor.

    Real Life 
  • Surprisingly, there is actually a grain of truth for this trope. There were samurai that were trained in the art of ninjutsu and upheld the code of bushido. The most famous example is Hattori Hanzō who was a samurai for the Tokugawa clan during the Sengoku Period of Feudal Japan. He was also a ninja who saved Tokugawa Ieyasu from the Imagawa clan during the Siege of Kaminogo Castle, and again from the forces of Akechi Mitsuhide by escorting him through the perilous Iga village and using his ninja connections to secure a path, and frequently wore samurai armor as a frontline soldier who would ride into battle with a spear despite his occupation.
    • Generally speaking, ninjutsu (as in, art of stealth as a whole) was one of the fields that a samurai would be trained in, or at least had enough knowledge. If not to use said practice, at least to be able to counter it.
  • Broadly speaking, the real-life historic examples people tend to think of as ninja were truthfully this trope, called the Jizamurai of the Iga and Koga regions. Jizamurai were not a distinct profession or warrior class, but samurai of a lower political and economic caste which had integrated with the peasant farmers. Because they were few in number, they had to be extremely scrappy and resourceful to punch above their weight class during the Warring States periods for the sake of self defense. They'd sabotage and spy, but just as often meet the enemy in open combat after carefully choosing the area for battle. Essentially, they were the samurai equivilent to a Mountain Man. After the Warring States period, Jizamurai practices were exaggerated to a degree by myth making historians, as fantastical writing is not new, and became known as the ninja clans we call them today.


Video Example(s):



The Orochi are the Imperial assassins of the Samurai. They roam the battlefield like ghosts, terrorizing and slaughtering those unfortunate enough to cross their path. Lightly armored and trained in the arts of stealth and deception, the Orochi dispatches enemies with a katana. Usually loyal beyond reproach, the Orochi holds the darker samurai secrets of dealing death in myriad ways, from throwing deadly knives to using a poisoned blade.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SamuraiShinobi

Media sources: