The Lazy but Helpful Samurai
One of the best things about Japanese manga is the characters. From the heroes and heroines to their sidekicks and enemies, every character in a manga has his or her own personality. The manga artists' detailed depictions of the characters draw readers deep into the stories. Let's meet some characters from two manga that are popular with Japanese kids right now.
The hero Sakata Gintoki from Gin Tama. (C)Sorachi Hideaki/SHUEISHA Inc., TV TOKYO Corporation, DENTSU Inc., SUNRISE Inc.
The first manga is Gin Tama. In this story, aliens suddenly arrive in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868), when samurai warriors were still active and the city of Tokyo was called Edo. A long battle begins between the people and the aliens, but the aliens are so strong that the leaders of Edo have to accept their demands. The aliens walk around Edo, looking down on the people. Meanwhile, the samurai who fought against them have to give up their swords, and many of them lose the will to live . . .
The hero of this story is Sakata Gintoki, who keeps his samurai courage alive amid the despair. Gintoki runs an odd-job shop, where people come to ask him to solve all kinds of problems. He has a habit of prying into any sort of trouble that happens in Edo. Although he's generally lazy and is always cursing, what Gintoki values above anything else is giri-ninjo, or the spirit of keeping promises and being compassionate. He lends a hand whenever he sees someone in trouble and sometimes has to fight to help people out.
(Left) A scene from the TV anime Gin Tama features characters bursting with individuality. (Right) A scene from Gin Tama, in which real historical figures appear. (C)Sorachi Hideaki/SHUEISHA Inc., TV TOKYO Corporation, DENTSU Inc., SUNRISE Inc.
The cover of Gin Tama. (C)SHUEISHA Inc.
Gin Tama is a fun, joke-packed manga that is a big hit with Japanese kids, who think Gintoki is cool for being so kind. Among the other colorful characters are a girl called Kagura, who loves eating and is amazingly strong, and Shimura Shinpachi, the son and heir of a sword-fighting master.