Have you just cleared a bloody swath through From Software’s new game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and developed a taste for blood, swords, and shinobi? Maybe you just need a palate cleanser to unwind after dying countless times? Here’s a list of movies, manga, and anime that fans of the recent sword-swinging game can indulge in to slake their stylish bloodlust.
"Dororo": From the father of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, Dororo is the tale of a wandering swordsman named Hyakkimaru cutting down wave after wave of bandits and demons. Born with no limbs due to a demonic pact his father made, Hyakkimaru is armed with prosthetic limbs containing hidden weapons. A supernatural tale of grudges and revenge set against Japan’s Warring States period, some of the moody set pieces will seem familiar to anyone that fought their way through Sekiro’s dark temples and ominous castles. While the English manga release from Vertical is currently out of print, used copies can still be found for a decent price, and there is also the recent anime adaptation on Amazon Prime Video, and the 1969 anime series published in the US by Eastern Star. Avoid the live action movie.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Born from the overcharged mind of Kazuo Koike (Crying Freeman, Mad Bull 34) and the delicately brutal artistry of Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub is a classic in both manga and cinema. Former Shogunate executioner, Ogami Itto, and his toddler son Daigoro, walk the path of hell to exact their revenge against the Shogun and the Yagyu ninja clan for murdering his wife and stripping him of his honor. Both the manga and live action films are filled with fountains of blood, grim determination, and elaborate trick weapons wielded against eccentric enemies. The manga, released by Dark Horse, is available in digital and physical editions while the film series also received a deluxe Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection and is also streaming on the Criterion Channel.
The Dagger of Kamui(1985, Dir. Rintaro): Expertly animated, The Dagger of Kamui is a film from the great Rintaro (Galaxy Express 999, Metropolis). Set against the dawn of the Meiji Era, A fledgling shinobi journeys from Japan to the United States to learn the truth about his family’s past and the titular weapon. The Dagger of Kamui has long been out of print in the United States, but as of the writing of this article, it is now available on the streaming service Midnight Pulp (albeit with a not-exactly-ideal video transfer). A young Yoshiaki Kawajiri leant his talent to animating Dagger of Kamui, and speaking of Kawajiri...
Ninja Scroll(1993, Dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri): Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s debauched anime classic that captivated a generation of video store renters with it’s lavishly animated bloodshed and gratuitous nudity. While Ninja Scroll has an abundance of carnality that Sekiro lacks, it shares it’s sword slinging, stunning set pieces, and larger than life adversaries. As of the writing of this article Ninja Scroll is available for streaming on Hulu as well as a blu-ray release from Sentai Filmworks.
The Inugami Family (1976, Dir. Kon Ichikawa): While this murder mystery classic about inheritors of a family’s dark history has nothing to do with shinobi or samurai, there is a nod to it hidden within Sekiro. Twitter user @poondonkuspointed out that in the bed of the Mibu River you can find bodies buried with their legs pointing upward, a nod to one of the iconic scenes in The Inugami Family.
Usagi Yojimbo: Stan Sakai’s long running comic series about a rabbit eared ronin (that also occasionally tangles with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) provides issue after issue of tales set in the Japanese countryside (and a miniseries set in outer space) that strikes a unique balance between it’s cartoony art style and nods to Japanese pop culture (such as Lone Goat and Kid, and Zato-Ino, a pig that’s a blind swordsman) and it's high stakes action. Great for longtime fans of Chambara stories or just folks looking for a fun adventure tale.