You won’t find a better list of the best sword fights in an Samurai based Japanese animated series than this one. Searching for it on Google will only lead to disappointment becuase it either doesn’t exist or is buried too deep in the search results to be even relevant. As enthusiasts of both the anime and Samurai cultures of Japan we couldn’t simply stand by and watch the world as it crumbles; we went on and made the list on our own.
A lot of research was done into building this list and determining which anime series in the Samurai sub-genre have the best fight scenes. To make the list even more mind blowing, we drilled it down to the following criteria:
1. The Samurai anime series must incorporate the ‘traditional’ sense of weaponry and tactics
2. All fighters must be human and not of alien origins
3. The primary focus for judging will be the fight scene’s wholistic level of intensity and seriousness
4. Secondary focus will be put on the fighters’ abilities and skills
5. Only original arcs will be included in this list
6. Only fights in anime series will be included – movies are excluded
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen any of these anime and don’t want the plots to be spoiled for you, then proceed with caution.
Samurai Anime Sword Fights – Top 5 Best of All Time
Let’s get down to business! List order will be in order of least best to the most mind blowing of them all. Enjoy!
5. Kambei vs. Kyuzo, Samurai 7 (episode 4)
The Samurai 7 series is inspired by the great Akira Kurosawa’s original masterpiece ‘The Seven Samurai.’ If you’re not familiar with the late director or his movie masterpiece, you won’t regret checking out this link.
Unlike its movie predecessor which was was set in a very realistic rendition of Japan history, the animated version plays with futuristic and mythical elements such as robots, magical powers and people with supernatural abilities. Thankfully, the battle between Kambei and Kyuzo is free from all that.
Kyuzo, a bodyguard for hire, is one of the strongest Samurai in Japan. His opponent Kambei, is not too shabby himself and can be ranked among the most skilled Samurai in the series.
After a rather calm start with a very respectful exchange of honor, the two Samurai start to dance, and by that we mean engage in serious combat.
The results of the initial clash is a rather silent stalemate. The silence is broken by Kambei’s admission of being ‘in love’ with Kyuzo’s skills.
The second half of the fight is a masterful animation of the two warriors very craftily using their surroundings with the intent to gain an advantage on the other. After a flurry of exchanges, the two again lock in a winner-less position.
To viewers, it might seem like a draw but to Kambei things are much different. Out of nowhere, he suddenly admits to Kyuzo that he cannot defeat him. He then declares that he is turning his back on his opponent in good honor.
Kambei enlightens Kyuzo on his a promise he needs to fulfill before he is killed. Using this as leverage, he asks if Kyuzo would like to resume their battle at a later time.
Kyuzo didn’t seem convinced and poised his blade in a position to attack Kambei. Luckily, just before he can strike a killing blow, Kikuchiyo interrupts rather clumsily. This causes Kyuzo to attempt doing the fatal blow on the mech Samurai instead.
In another lucky twist in fortune, Kambei disarms Kyuzo saving his would be savior. Kyuzo loses interest in the battle after this. Probably because it was disrupted and the momentum gone.
Nonetheless, this battle was extremely intense!
4. Gintoki vs Takasugi, Gintama (episode 304)
Gintama is very popular Samurai anime due to its great animation of fight scenes as well as its comedic script. A few episodes in and you’ll find yourself quickly attached to the characters and the plot.
One of the best fight scenes in the series is the battle of Gintoki and Takasugi. This is no ordinary fight, it is a very emotionally driven, all out battle to death.
The fight starts in a standoff between an already bloodied Gintoki and a very angry Takasugi.
The exchange of slashes are quick and the blows so strong you can almost feel it from across your computer screen. After a lighting fast clash, both lost their swords.
Gintoki gains an advantage in hand to hand combat here but only for a brief moment. Taksaugi recovers and returns with his own blows, ending with both of them on the ground.
What seems to be an equal match up turns upside down when Gintoki manages to destroy Takasugi’s sword (yes we know it’s origins are alien) succeeded with a heavy blow to the ribs.
Not giving up, Takasugi uses the what’s remaining of his blade to stab Gintoki in the chest causing him to collapse.
Takasugi declares himself the winner of the fight right after acknowledging Gintoki’s true strength and power. He loses consciousness right after.
3. Afro vs. Jinno, Afro Samurai (episode 4)
This was a tough one to include the list because of the nature of Afro’s opponents throughout the show. Afro himself is no problem since he clearly showcases all the traditional traits of a Samurai. However, most of his opponents don’t. It’s a good thing Jinno, an ex-comrade and current rival, possesses enough elements to be considered human. Let us know on the comments section if you think otherwise.
Afro’s quest to avenge his father by becoming the number 1 deadliest fighter in the world naturally puts him along the path of extremely dangerous fights. He is pitted with the strongest opponents some of which are his friends and master.
His battle with Jinno, is one of the best in the series for the intensity both characters showed and the levels of emotion the plot exuded.
After undergoing a survival process of transformation, Jinno becomes somewhat of a cyborg and starts calling himself Kuma. It’s because of this that Afro doesn’t take him as an opponent too seriously during their encounter (or maybe it’s the teddy bear head, we’re not really sure).
Eventually, Jinno is able to force Afro to draw his sword and an epic chase begins. All the while Jinno continually mocks Afro’s hairdo. He lands a solid kick which sends the retro-haired Samurai spin flying to the top of a shrine.
The teddy-headed Samurai attempts a finishing blow which Afro is quickly able to avoid. This, surprisingly, doesn’t irritate Jinno, rather it gives him delight knowing his former buddy is now taking him seriously.
Jinno unmasks himself in a Darth Vader inspired scene (we think) and declares that the last attack will be Afro’s last. A frenzy of blows follow from which the semi-cyborg is able to land several. Just when he is about to land the final blow, his Schizophrenic alter-ego saves him.
In a dramatic turn of events, Ninja Ninja sacrifices himself by blocking Jinno’s fatal attack. This allows Afro to counter and defeat eventually Jinno. There’s a very deep and emotional analysis of this scene which you can find here.
2. Kenshin Himura vs. Hajime Saito, Rurouni Kenshin (episode 29)
While the battle for Japan’s future against Shishio was indeed of epic proportions, Kenshin’s fight with Saito was what we deemed the winner for this list. It was a hard decision but, holy smokes the intensity of this rivalry just takes the cake!
The face off is everything you want and look for in a battle between the greatest Samurai swordsmen of the final years of the Edo period. We only see Kenshin transform into his manslayer self very few times throughout the entire series and this battle is one of them.
The two engage in a top-level Samurai battle which Saito dominates for the first half, injuring Kenshin with several slashes and blows. The tide takes a turn when the red-haired wanderer becomes his old self -Battuosai the Slasher! Kenshin lands a solid attack to the back of Saito’s neck causing serious damage (to the dojo).
The former captain is lucky Kenshin’s sword is reverse-edged otherwise he’ll be headless throughout the remaining episodes.
From here on, it becomes a god-level duel between the most skilled swordsmen in the world! No magic, no powers, no chakra, just pure skill, technique, and the determination to win. Eventually, Kenshin’s more powerful blade crushes Saito’s leaving him with half a katana.
Disadvantaged but unfazed, Saito is a devoted follower of the way of the Samurai. He has no intention of surrender down until his last breath.
They are just about to engage in what seemingly would have be a final and fatal clash of swords. However, the battle never reaches a conclusion because someone interrupts them.
1. Jin and Mugen vs. Kariya, Samurai Champloo (episode 25)
It might surprise you to know that a lot of anime lovers aren’t familiar with Samurai Champloo. Perhaps the Samurai anime sub-genre is less popular than more recent releases. Whatever the reason, we surely think this is one underrated anime series! Each episode is expertly animated with a captivating plot and all fight scenes will blow your mind almost quite literally.
This fight is definitely one of the greatest Samurai battles in an anime series ever created in the history of animation and human kind’s existence. It starts of rather calmly with Kariya and Mugen engaged in a deep discussion abut life.
Things quickly turn around as the fight begins and the scene becomes one of the most masterful choreography of swordsmanships you will ever see.
Mugen’s attacks fail miserably, and the ‘Hand of God’ (Kariya) lectures him about his limits as an untrained fighter. This, of course, only pisses Mugen off more. But after a masterful schooling, the more powerful opponent keeps Mugen at bay, unable to land a single blow.
After disengaging Mugen, Kariya proceeds to challenge Jin declaring he wants to see the skills of the man who killed Mariya Enshirou (Kariya’s friend and Jin’s former master). An epic battle of the best trained Samurai in Japan’s entirety ensues leading to Kariya’s revelation of his relation with Jin through Enshirou.
Jin and Mugen team up against their god-like opponent but defeat comes to them rather quickly. Jin eventually engages the Hand of God one on one but ultimately falls against the better Samurai.
Emotional and weary, Jin accepts that he will never defeat Kariya by skill and power alone so he devices the only plan he knows for beating an impossibly powerful opponent.
Jin sacrifices himself to be able to land a fatal blow on Kariya and he succeeds. Of course, we all know soon enough that Jin lives on, perhaps to fight Mugen once again.
Do you agree with our list of the best Samurai anime sword fights of all time? Let us know in the comments! Also, tell us what mind blowing topic you would like to see next!
Thanks for reading our list of the ‘Best Samurai Anime Sword Fights of All Time’ list!