Blue Eye Samurai is a French-American animated series that takes place in the Edo period of Japan, The story revolves around Mizu, the daughter of a Japanese mother and a European father. Living in a time when Japan is closed off from the outside world, Mizu has been shunned and hated her whole life, thanks in part to her blue eyes. Wanting revenge, Mizu seeks out four men who may just be her long-lost father, all so she can kill him.
Fans of the series may also find themselves enjoying a few Japanese anime with similar themes. While Mizu technically isn’t an actual samurai, as she herself acknowledges, she is still addressed as such. Likewise, the imagery of the samurai permeates many well-known anime series. Similar stories abound of anti-heroes seeking revenge and learning about their mysterious pasts. Likewise, many popular anime have also made use of Japan’s history to weave a good story, including other works set in the Edo period. Of course, some like to take artistic license with history.
10 Dororo (1969, 2019)
Dororo revolves around the title character, an orphaned thief, and a ronin named Hyakkimaru. The ronin’s father made a deal with 48 demons to gain control of the land in exchange for his son’s limbs, facial features, and internal organs. Having been given prosthetic parts by a medicine man, Hyakkimaru is on a journey to reclaim his stolen parts and slay the demons. It is through this journey that brought Dororo into Hyakkimaru’s life.
Why Blue Eye Samurai Fans May Dororo
The dark historical fantasy comes from famed mangaka Osamu Tezuka. The original series was also notable for being the first entry of World Masterpiece Theater series. Another adaptation of the series also came out in 2019. Taking place in Japan’s Warring States period, the story is also one of revenge and sins of the father. There’s also a character disguised as the opposite gender, much like Mizu, though under different circumstances.
9 Gintama (2011-2013, 2015-2016, 2017-2018)
Gintama takes place in an alternate version of the Edo period where humans coexist with aliens. The samurai once fought against them, after an attack, only for the shogun to allow them to enter Japan. During this time, Gintoki Sakata, is a samurai turned freelancer. After saving his sister from aliens, Gintoki gains a freelance apprentice in the grateful Shinpachi Shimura. Joining up with an alien girl named Kagura, they form the “Yorozuya Gin,” or “The Anything Store.”
Both Series Offer Insight Into Foreign Influence in Japan
Gintoki is an anti-hero who, in spite of his vices, is a good person at heart. Once known as the “White Demon,” who fought in the Joi War, he is driven by a desire to protect others, something he feels he was unable to do during the war. However, he feels he is in a world where samurai are no longer needed. The series also takes a look at foreign influence in Japan, just through a more otherworldly lens.
8 Katanagatari (2010)
Katanagatari is an anime series based on the light novel series of the same name. Kiki Shikizaki is a famed swordsman whose swords are so legendary that wars were settled by how many one side had over the other. All but twelve of his swords have been reclaimed, and a shogunate agent, Togame, is tasked with recovering them. After being swindled, her only hope is Shichika Yasuri, who comes from a remote island and doesn’t use a sword in his fighting style.
Katanagatari Is a Must-Watch
The anime adaptation is notable for a variety of reasons. The characters are animated with a simplistic design, allowing the series to emulate the original light novel illustrations. Each episode is also around fifty minutes long. As with Blue Eye Samurai, a character’s origin involves them being isolated from others in some form. It also turns out that a character wants revenge concerning their father, though this time it’s avenging his death.
7 Yasuke (2021)
Yasuke is a Japanese-American anime series based on the eponymous historical figure, an African-born samurai who came to Japan during the Sengoku period. Despite being based on a real-life figure, the story takes place in an alternate version of history with supernatural elements. Once a merchant’s servant, Yasuke goes on to become part of the inner circle of the warlord Oda Nobunaga. After Nobunaga’s death, with the land falling into the hands of the diabolic Yami no Daimyō, Yasuke tries to make a new life for himself, until he is tasked with protecting a young girl with supernatural powers.
Why Yasuke Belongs on the List
The series uses history as a starting point, but weaves a story involving things like mages and robots. Characters who seem to be made up for the story, even the more fantastic ones, may just turn out to be historical figures. The series is also noted for its music, provided by Flying Lotus, as well as its voice cast, such as LaKeith Lee Stanfield and Ming-Na Wen in the English version.
6 Bright: Samurai Soul (2021)
Bright: Samurai Soul is an anime film, spun-off from the 2017 Bright film, that starts off during the Bakumatsu period at Edo Castle, where a Bright puts an end to a battle between the Isshin Shishi and the Shogun. Moving onto the Meji Reservation, a former samurai, Izou, finds himself working at a brothel, where he encounters an elf child, Sonya, sold to the place. Joining up with an orc, Izou hopes to return the elf to an elf colony.
Why You Should Watch Bright: Samurai Soul
Likely due to the switch to animation, the anime film makes more use of the supernatural elements when compared to the original film. While historical license is taken, a few historical figures and events also appear in the story. While Sonya initially appears to be a character who needs to be rescued by others, as the story unfolds, she reveals herself to be a much more powerful force, similar to Mizu.
5 Blade of the Immortal (2008, 2019-2020)
Blade of the Immortal revolves around Asano Rin and her bodyguard, Manji. Living in an alternate version of the Edo period, Manji is immortal, thanks to sacred worms that can regenerate his body parts. Manji sees this as a curse, but there are only three ways to break the curse: beheading, a rare poison, or slaying 1,000 evil men, meant as a penance for those he killed in his past. Meanwhile, Rin seeks to kill Anotsu Kagehisa, head of the Itto-Ryu sword school, who she blames for her father’s murder.
Blade of the Immortal Also Has Themes of Revenge
Much like Mizu, Rin is a heroine living in the Edo period, or at least a version of it, who is driven by revenge. The story is one of both revenge and redemption. Manji was once a samurai who claimed 100 innocent lives for the sake of his lord, and is now driven to find a way to break his curse. The story has had two anime adaptations, in 2008 and 2019.
4 Onimusha (2023)
Onimusha is an anime adaptation of the video game series of the same name. Taking place in the early days of the Edo period, a famed but aging swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, takes on a mission to fight evil entities, armed with the legendary “Oni Gauntlet.” However, every time he uses the device, he risks being consumed by the darkness himself.
Onimusha Is Another Netflix Masterpiece
Fans of the game have already waited for the anime adaptation to be released, and fans of Blue Eye Samurai can enjoy the depictions of swordsmanship displayed. One interesting element of the series is that Musashi Miyamoto, the main character, is based on actor Toshiro Mifune, who is known for appearing in Rashomon and Seven Samurai, as well as the NBC miniseries Shōgun. In fact, Mifune had played the figure of Musashi Miyamoto in Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy.
3 Rurouni Kenshin (1996-1998, 2023)
Rurouni Kenshin, also known as Samurai X, takes place after the Meiji Restoration. Kenshin Himura is a former assassin who wants to make a new start in life. He gets his chance when he aids Kaoru Kamiya, the head of a kendo school, who offers him a place to stay after he protects her dojo. While Kenshin seems a lot more friendly than his reputation suggests, and he begins to make new allies in the area, both new and old enemies are out to get him.
Rurouni Kenshin Is an Inverse of Blue Eye Samurai
Kenshin is based on the historical figure of Kawakami Gensai, a swordsman and assassin of the Edo period. In an interesting inverse of Blue Eye Samurai, which sees Mizu disguised as a man, the real-life Gensai was often mistaken for a woman. Despite the series’ alternate title, however, Kenshin was technically never a samurai. The series is considered a classic in the shonen genre, though it defies many conventions, such as having an older hero who wants to put his fighting days behind him.
2 Afro Samurai (2007)
Afro Samurai is an anime miniseries that takes place in a futuristic version of Feudal Japan, where the title character, Afro, wants to defeat the world’s strongest warrior in the hopes of avenging his father’s death. In this world, the strongest warrior is the one who wears the “Number One Headband.” This person can only be challenged by someone wearing the “Number Two” band, which happens to be Afro himself. Unfortunately, this also means that anyone can challenge Afro for his headband, too.
Why Afro Samurai and Blue Eye Samurai Compliment Each Other
Afro Samurai is famous for having Samuel L. Jackson voice both the title character and Ninja-Ninja, Afro’s only friend and sidekick on his journey for revenge. Afro is comparable to Mizu, being characters searching for revenge in a story involving his father, though Afro witnessed his father’s death as a small child. That said, the series doesn’t paint revenge in a positive light. Many of the characters Afro faces off against are likewise shown to have sympathetic and tragic backstories. Even finally finding his father’s killer doesn’t necessarily bring about the conclusion Afro hoped for.
1 Samurai Champloo (2004-2005)
Samurai Champloo takes place in an alternate version of the Edo period, which is now heavily influenced by hip-hop culture. The plot starts when three people meet during a fight in a tea house. Of the three, a waitress named Fuu convinces the other two, a ronin named Jin and a vagrant named Mugen, into finding a mysterious samurai. The three must journey throughout Japan to find this samurai, who has a scent like sunflowers.
Samurai Champloo Is a Must-Watch for Blue Eye Samurai Fans
The series is famous for its soundtrack, which combines hip-hop music with traditional Japanese music, such as shamisen music. Overall, the series is known for blending the two different cultures in an anachronistic manner. Even the fighting employs breakdancing and Capoeira. In fact, the “Champloo” of the title is derived from an Okinawan word that refers to mixing and blending things up. For fans of Blue Eye Samurai, it also eventually comes to light that Fuu shares an important goal with Mizu: finding her lost father.