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Street Samurai

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The Street Samurai is the classic protagonist archetype in Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk, but also shows up on occasion when those genres are mixed with Dungeon Punk and Urban Fantasy. Hackers, warriors, and anti-authoritarian loners, these characters fight against the dystopian governments and Mega Corps that rule their worlds. They are down-on-their-luck souls that Walk the Earth because their own personal codes of honor make them refuse to sell out to authority. Typical goals for this sort of character are Information Wants to Be Free and bringing down the very society in which they live in order to make a better one.

They are the tech-savvy mercenaries, bounty hunters, assassins, bodyguards, and general badasses of the urban jungle. They're far cooler than standard Mooks, often sporting a Badass Longcoat, Cool Shades, and other stylish gear. Edged weapons are common despite being strange for the era, and Katanas are recommended, but not mandatory. Street samurai by no means eschew firearms however, and are frequently expert gunslingers who use guns and swords together, but expect Cool Guns and Abnormal Ammo. In classic Cyberpunk, the samurai would often be heavily augmented with cybernetic parts, but this is no longer mandatory. Hacking, at least at a rudimentary level, or other similar tech skills (creating prosthetics, building custom weapons systems and vehicles, etc.) is required.

Despite the name, these characters have a lot more in common with Rōnin and even more so with Ninja (see also Cyber Ninja) than they do with samurai, being essentially descendants of recognizable types drawn from hard-boiled private-eye literature and Film Noir.

Compare Samurai Cowboy, Corporate Samurai, and Western Samurai. Note, that merely having the toys of a Street Samurai does not make you one if you don't have the personality and skill set. Not to be confused with the Steel Samurai.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Ronin (1983) is probably the Trope Codifier for comics.
  • In the Crapsack World of Judge Dredd, the Judges of future Japan dress and act like high-tech Samurai warriors.
  • Fray starts out as a freelance cat burglar and saboteur in a cyberpunk future, but one who's fiercely protective of her local community. Then she learns she's also a Slayer.

  • Being inspired by Neuromancer, the human protagonists of The Matrix exhibit characteristics of this, especially Trinity.
  • The main character from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a gangster hitman who lives by the code of Bushido and has a number of anachronistic habits, such as communicating by messenger pigeon. RZA has a cameo as another one of these.
  • Jef Costello from Le Samouraļ. Besides the title, it gets points for having the protagonist wear a Badass Longcoat. And it was an inspiration to John Woo (hence the gun-slinging and Cool Shades elements).
  • Kill Bill: The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad is a group of assassins, some of whom use katanas. While The Bride is in a coma for several years and Bill is in semi-retirement raising their daughter, the group disbands and the members either retire or work solo, essentially becoming Rōnin.
  • In Elysium, the main villain is Kruger, a cyborg for hire who carries a katana.
  • In Avengers: Endgame, Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) goes rogue after his family's disappearance as Ronin, terrorizing Yakuza and other criminals who survived the Snap while innocent people vanished. He even gets a Cool Sword to boot.

  • Molly Millions from Neuromancer and other works by William Gibson is the Trope Namer and Ur-Example. She's a "razorgirl" with cybernetically enhanced reflexes, lenses grafted over her eyes, and double-edged scalpel blades implanted under her fingernails.
  • Hiro Protagonist in Snow Crash is a pizza deliveryman and freelance hacker, but his combat skills, talent for working high-tech espionage, and willingness to take on enemies far larger than himself to do what's right are what make him an example. Raven does work as a mercenary, but he's got his own agenda.
  • Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age has a Decoy Protagonist, Bud, who behaves a bit like one of these. He's mostly just a street hoodlum who spends his money on bionic weapons. He's messily executed in short order.
  • Sri Death from Tais Teng's Memoirs of a Matriarchy and Neon Moon anthologies. Though he is practically invulnerable and possibly immortal by the end of his arc, he still suffers from Badass Decay to make the point that the universe is ruled by forces greater than any single person can control.
  • This is an entire profession in The Cyber Dragons Trilogy by C.T. Phipps. Called "Riders" in-universe, they are armed couriers that use their job as cover for other, illegal, work. They're officially licensed by the government to carry weapons and cybernetics but, in practice, are smugglers who also do a lot of other criminal activities. Many of them dabble in hacking, theft, mercenary work, and assassination. Having no other skills after being trained as a Yakuza assassin for a decade, Keiko "Kei" Springs ends up drifting into this line of work despite how obvious a target it makes her.
  • The Upgrade by Wesley Cross: Criminals routinely find themselves working for corporations in a mercenary capacity in order to intimidate rivals or sabotage their enemies.
  • Called Darksiders in You Can Be a Cyborg When You're Older by Richard Roberts. They serve as mercenaries and hackers for the corporations, performing corporate espionage as well as sabotage. It is a very popular and romanticized job by teenagers who dream of using it to escape poverty. Being as she's only fourteen years old, Ms. Understanding the AI is less than pleased at Vanity Rose wanting to become one.

    Live-Action TV 

  • The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy song, "Satanic Reverses" has a line:
    Sent Joey to the Supreme Court
    Cause he made a statement, they called it
    Desecration of the symbol that was meant to represent
    The freedom of so-called choice and dissent
    They almost had me believin' it, I was bleedin' it
    He said, "Burn, baby, burn"
    Til the Street Samurai said to my face
    That any flag that's worth shit
    Was woven from fire in the first place.
    • In this context, the "Street Samurai" is likely Rono Tse, fellow Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy bandmate.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Shadowrun, this trope describes the archetypical Shadowrunner, i.e. the Player Character. The title 'Street Samurai' is used in-game for one of the classic runner archetypes, specifically the independent fighting guy who augments his abilities with lots of cyberware, though not so much to the point where they end up killing themselves or worse. Fighters who augment themselves with magic, who augment themselves with corporate backing, or who rely on pure skill rather than augmentation do not legitimately fit this definition.
  • Rifts has a number of these and the Corporate versions in the High-tech cities of Japan. Many of whom clash, ideologically or physically, with their traditional counterparts in the anti-technological countries elsewhere.
  • Cyberpunk has the Solo class, which operate similarly to the Shadowrun counterpart above, but differ in that these characters do not hold a personal sense of moral code and are more ruthless in their pragmatism to get things done.
  • Powered by the Apocalypse game The Sprawl has the "Killer" playbook, the only playbook that starts with more than one implant without sacrificing a special move and gets a custom weapon along with multiple "normal" ones. The "Soldier" operates more on the tactical side of things.

    Video Games 
  • V in Cyberpunk 2077 is this, and is referred to as "Samurai" by Johnny Silverhand on at least one occasion. V is shown in a jacket with "Samurai written on the collar in all promotional material as well... which amusingly turns out to be in-universe merch for Johnny's band.
  • Mass Effect 2 decides to go a bit more cyberpunk, especially on Omega. This is where you can find Archangel, a mysterious vigilante and capable hacker (who is really your old buddy Garrus).
  • Raiden has evolved into this archetype by the time that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance rolls around. The Big Bad of his story is a corrupt United States senator that has plans to devolve the entire world into anarchy. Raiden himself exemplifies old-school warrior codes, even taking on giant robots not with guns or missiles, but with an Absurdly Sharp Blade.
  • There's an obscure PS2 game called Seven Samurai 20XX based on the Seven Samurai set in a cyberpunk world.
  • In SNES classic X-calibur 2097 the player character is this; same as well for his Evil Twin brother.
  • All the player characters in the Deus Ex series can end up this way, depending on the path you choose.
  • You can choose to play this way in E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy if you decide to utilize Sword and Gun style and augment yourself with cybernetics.
  • Batman as portrayed in the Batman: Arkham Series, more so than other versions of the character. He wages a vigilante crusade against a corrupt society, is bound by a strict personal code of honor, and tends to use fighting techniques originating from medieval Japan against foes using modern weapons and tactics. Given this particular incarnation's constant use of advanced computer tech (his mask's detective mode, the disruptor, the remote hacking device) and the notably cyberpunk-influenced plots of the series (City's focus on government control and surveillance, Knight's focus on drone warfare, the prominent role the Bat-family's resident hacker Oracle has throughout the series), this version of Batman is actually one of the purest examples of the trope.

    Web Comics 
  • Dechs, the title Antihero for Hire.
  • The protagonists of Ronin Galaxy take the "samurai" part a bit literally.
  • Daniel, the protagonist of Aqua Regia has a little fun with the archetype — he works as a mercenary, and has the weapon of choice, but just in the first chapter, which ends up broken and with him fatally injured. Also, he quickly ascends to Corporate Samurai.