Cover Image: Assassin's Creed: Blade of Shao Jun, Vol. 1

Assassin's Creed: Blade of Shao Jun, Vol. 1

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Member Reviews

Everybody knows of the Brotherhood. In fact, most of us have become part of it, and more than once! Heh, pretty amazing, right? Yes, we’re talking about Assassin’s Creed, the cool game that makes us kill lots of people the cool way. In the game, we assume the role of an assassin sent back in different ages. Our goal? Kill and wreak havoc. That cool game now has a manga adaptation. Without further ado, let’s get into it right away.
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I know very little about the Assassin's Creed video games, other than that they are video games and very popular. Thankfully, I didn't need to understand anything about the series going in to Blade of Shao Jun, as there is ample backstory given. I enjoyed the way in which the author switches back and forth between the present day and the past; I definitely wasn't expecting to see the present at all! The art is nice and the characters are all distinct. Highly suggested for most library collections and especially where video games are popular.
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Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume 1 is a manga adaptation of the Assassin’s Creed spinoff game Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China by mangaka Minoji Kurata. Originally serialized in Monthly Sunday Gene-X, the English translation by Caleb Cook with retouches and lettering by Brandon Bovia is published by VIZ Media.

I love everything Assassin’s Creed, spinoffs and tie-in media and all. So a piece of tie-in media tied to a spin-off really satiates my persistent desire for more expansion to this universe. For those who missed or skipped the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles games, I absolutely implore you to go back and play them. They are very good 2D stealth games that integrate a lot of the most classic elements of Assassin’s Creed gameplay into games with plenty of challenge and a good story arching across all three games.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, and the in-animus story of Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun is the story of a Chinese Assassin Shao Jun who, in 1526, returns home after two years in exile and training for the legendary Ezio Auditore to exact revenge for her family and her brotherhood against the Eight Tigers of the Templar Order. However, upon return, Shao is immediately captured and the precursor artifact she brought with her is stolen. Now she must recover the Precursor Box and slay the Tigers.

Mostly, the manga adaptation does a good job of taking the original story and relaying it in a fashion possibly even more clear than the game did. While the opening is very abrupt and several flashbacks in the first few chapters are slightly confusing, it’s easy to quickly surmise who Shao is and what she is after. Specifically, the whole first chapter helps illustrate the background to the story going forward that, in the game, was summarized in one or two blocks of text.

I only wish the manga spent more time giving Shao more emotion. What Shao has gone through, having her entire brotherhood and family wiped out and being exiled is a lot, and she never really gets to express much emotion. Even her rage, her primary emotion, is somewhat masked underneath the quick but excellently drawn fight sequences. However, some of the added elements from her childhood at least flesh out her motivation and disposition as a character.

As far as translating the gameplay elements into a new format, I really appreciated the way the manga implements some of Shao’s signature weapons, especially her hidden foot blade and her rope dart. I do wish though that she spent more time in stealth mode. As a major aspect of the game is completing levels without being seen or killing any enemies, it’s a tad jarring to see Shao just getting into constant fights. However, the art in these fight scenes is swell and if I’m looking it them on their own rather than as an adaptation, I’m all for the emphasis on action.

I also love the way the manga takes the game’s secondary objectives and makes them into full plot points. It’s a smart way to expand the story without having to reach too far for new material. However, the new material Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume 1 does provide is some of the best parts of the volume. The original game contained no modern-day plotline, unlike every main series Assassin’s Creed title. The manga adds one to the story in the form of Lisa, a teenager who falls into a trap set by Abstergo, the modern incarnation of the Templar Order. She thinks she is attending some type of therapy to help her cope with her violent tendencies. In reality, Abstergo’s Dr. Kagami is manipulating her into using an Animus to relive her ancestor Shao’s memories in an attempt to locate the Precursor Box for themselves. There’s also an Assassin lurking outside hoping to run interception.

I’m a big sucker for the modern stuff in Assassin’s Creed, so any tidbits like this that add more layers to the complexity of the eternal war between Assassin’s and Templars gets me excited. It doesn’t appear in every chapter though in this volume, so it’s too early to tell whether it will be a really cheesy aspect with shoehorned romance or a well-developed new component to this story. From what we have so far though, I’m intrigued. And, it gives me hope that perhaps the other Assassin’s Creed Chronicles games will receive manga adaptations as well, since the three games all tell one larger story about this same precursor artifact. It’s not entirely likely, given both the India and Russia titles were themselves derived from comic books, but I can dream.

Assassin’s Creed: Blad of Shao Jun Volume 1 is simultaneously a good adaptation of an under-appreciated video game and a good manga in its own right. The story expands upon the game in engaging ways and helps impart the main character’s stakes more clearly, even if she is not as well-expressed as I could hope for. This is only the beginning of Shao’s story though and there is a lot of evidence already that over time, it will only continue to be more fulfilling to read.
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The Assassin’s Creed series of video games has been a significant staple in many gamer’s lives since it began in 2007. The series has seen its share of licensed media that expand on its various stories, but I can honestly say that the Ezio Trilogy was where the series might have peaked for me. Well, it just so happens that the Brotherhood is being revived with the release of Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Vol. 1, a manga that expands on 16th-century Chinese assassin Shao Jun.

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Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Vol. 1 begins by introducing us to Shao Jun’s story of revenge. Those who have played Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China will understand her nightmares and why she’s returned to China two years after a terrible event that almost eradicated the Brotherhood. After spending time in Italy with Ezio, she is given a box without any clues as to what it does. This box is sought after by the templars, who also don’t understand its contents.

There are a few significant twists in this story, so I’d honestly hate to ruin all of the story beats. In 2019, we meet one of Shao Jun’s descendants Lisa Yang, who is slyly being manipulated by the templars to find the whereabouts of an unspecified object. The way this all plays out is exciting, which makes the story incredibly difficult to put down. You want to see how far the templars will get what they want, but you also want to see how far Shao Jun will go for revenge. It’s a double edge sword in that regard because they both seem to steadily progress at the same pace, which spells bad news for Lisa.

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The pacing of Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Vol. 1 is incredible. I’m not sure how they do it, but they constantly jump forward and backward through time, but nothing comes off as jarring. There are even multiple scenes taking place on the same page, and it just looks so cool in execution. The battles are bloody and fast-paced, causing your eyes to quickly want to start at the beginning of the page to re-experience the brutality of it all.

Shao Jun is impressive. She’s so bright and almost charming in some scenes as you see her smile or speak with her peers. However, she becomes an absolute demon when she puts the hood on, and it’s a complete 180. It’s so believable, though, since you understand where her pain comes from. Interesting, the manga also dives into her younger years to give you an understanding of the world that she’s from.

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Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Vol. 1 is such a fantasy telling of Shao Jun’s story. Even if you’ve played the games, seeing the world through the eyes of Lisa Yang and facing off against the Tigers once again is such a good opening to this manga. I think I’m just glad that it was handled so well. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, the story does an amazing job explaining where these characters come from to catch you up.
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I did not connect with this story at all.  I love the ideas behind the games, but the conceit that a secret rivalry between assassins and templars made it to China stretches my suspension of belief too far.  The action scenes and art were nothing special, and the plot and characters were standard movie/video game tie in standard.  Not the book for me right now.
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Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume One is based on the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China videogame.

Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume One
Written by: Minoji Kurata
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: February 16, 2021

When I saw that this manga was based on a videogame, I was afraid that my lack of knowledge about the game franchise would hamper my ability to understand what was happening in the manga. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The character of Shao Jun is alive during the Great Ming Empire, and the story is set in the year 1526 AD. Shao Jun is an assassin for The Brotherhood, and at the beginning of the story, her comrades have all been killed by the Templar Order. Shao Jun went to Florence to retrieve a special box from her master and is captured by the Templar Knights when she returns to China. We start to follow her adventures as she escapes from her cage.

But just as things start to get interesting, the reader is suddenly transported to the modern day, where a young woman named Lisa is part of an experiment using a machine that taps into the memories of ancestors and allows the person in the machine to relive those memories. It turns out that Lisa, who has violent tendencies, is a descendant of Shao Jun. She is being told by Dr. Kagami, the one behind this machine, that this is a form of therapy to help Lisa overcome her violent tendencies. But as it’s revealed to the reader, Dr. Kagami is part of a modern version of the Templar Knights, and she’s hoping to use Lisa to find out what happened to the box that Shao Jun was supposed to bring back to China. And Dr. Kagami shows just how two-faced she is in this volume: one minute she’s comforting Lisa, and the next tells a colleague she doesn’t care what happens to the descendant of an assassin as long as they get the information they need. Dr. Kagami is truly a despicable character.

While the reader learns that The Brotherhood and the Templar Knights are still around in the modern era, it’s really not explained in exactly what ways or forms these organizations still exist. Obviously, these groups would have had to evolve with the times, but this volume doesn’t go into any detail about this. As things are now, the reader just has to kind of accept it and go with it. Hopefully future volumes will help expand on this idea.

The rest of the volume sees Lisa undergoing more sessions and reliving more of Shao Jun’s memories. However, since Dr. Kagami has no control over what memories Lisa will see, she ends up jumping around to various times of Shao Jun’s life. For example, one of the memories is from when Shao Jun was five years old. Obviously, this memory isn’t going to help Dr. Kagami accomplish her goal, but it was a nice thing for the reader to see in order to learn a little more about Shao Jun. In a later scene, as Lisa goes through a session, we see that Dr. Kagami learned something interesting that she hadn’t known about before.

At one point in the volume, Lisa asks about The Brotherhood and the Templar Knights, and Dr. Kagami gives her an explanation. This was important for Lisa, obviously, but also important information for the reader.

My favorite parts of this volume were right at the beginning and right at the very end, when we get extended portions of Shao Jun’s story. I really like Shao Jun as a character because she’s a strong, kickass woman. I found myself wishing that this manga just focused on Shao Jun’s story and didn’t have the modern day angle with Lisa in it. Yes, I know there’s a search for the missing box in the modern world, but Shao Jun’s story is so interesting and riveting on its own that it makes the modern day portions feel like an intrusion. Hopefully future volumes will expound more on why the modern day version of the Templar Knights is desperately searching for this missing box.

I really liked the art style of this manga. The depiction of motion is fantastic, and some of the panels have some great detail in them. This is especially true for the portions that take place in Shao Jun’s time period. The panels that take place in the modern day don’t look quite as impressive to me.

Even with some of the nitpicks I had, I still enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Volume One. While I may not be familiar with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, I have a feeling that fans of that game franchise who also read manga will enjoy this series. I would also recommend this series to manga readers who may not be familiar with the game franchise, but enjoy stories set in ancient China that feature a strong female lead character.
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As a fan of manga and the Assassin’s Creed games, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun. Although it was a quick and easy read, I feel like it’s a good start to the rest of the series. I haven’t played the game this manga is based off of - Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China - but I’m excited to learn more about Shao Jun through subsequent installments. Needless to say the artwork was beautiful and the layout was clear, so the transition between panels and the word bubbles was effortless. Looking forward to the next volume!
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As a fan of the games, I really enjoyed this manga. I love that you can explore different points in history and cultures through these assassins. However, for those who haven't played the game, it can be a bit confusing. It doesn't really explain what abstergo is and just gives a vague idea of what assassins and templars are (through the bias of an abstergo agent). If you've played the games, you'll really enjoy this manga. If you haven't, you might be missing some key information. Overall, it's really enjoyable.
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Having read a lot of manga, I have pretty high standards for the story and artwork, and Assassin's Creed: Blade of Shao delivers on both accounts. I am recommending to our school librarian that we purchase this volume, as the fast-paced action, political intrigue, and realistic artwork will definitely appeal to our students.
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As a relative newcomer to the world of Assassin's Creed (I have a limited amount of knowledge from my husband's love of the videogames), I didn't really feel confused by the plot, characters or world of this manga. There are certainly things that I am missing due to my overall lack of having read anything else in this world, but it wasn't enough that it took away from the enjoyment of the story. The artwork was fantastic and, while a bit light, the story was a good teaser for more volumes to come.

For Libraries: While not marketed as a YA graphic, this volume didn't have any content that was too alarming. Certainly nothing that makes it worse than some others that populate myself-it might actually be quite tame compared to others.
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This is a very good read for those that enjoy the Assassin's Creed gaming universe, but are a little bit too young for the larger novelisations. The art was easy to follow and it did have the Assassin's Creed air to it. It read like one of the game missions; set on revenge, save some people in a fort, escape with minimal casualties. The present day Templars are very much like those in the game, not really caring about any individual as long as they meet their goals. Though the art is in the traditional manga style, they got the Assassin's clothing spot on and I really liked the hidden blade, not just on her wrist but on her foot as well. I liked that the main character is a girl so I think young people of all genders would enjoy this if they like ninja's and adventure. It is good for a reluctant reader as well because the story is not too complex, and it doesn't waffle on about things as it keeps in with action and things happening so as not to distract. Excellent book, I will definitely want a copy for my school library, I think it will fly off the shelf!
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For those who didn't know, the manga is based off the game 'Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China' which came out in 2015. 

Though I myself haven't played much of the Assassin's Creed series, I thankfully had enough information to follow between the current and past time lines. The story follows Shao Jun, a member of the Brotherhood, and her story of vengeance against the Templars. While Shao Jun's story takes place in the past, we follow Lisa Yang, Shao Jun's descendant, as she attempts to figure out Shao Jun's past with the assistance of a clinic used to uncover past memories.
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It's hard to rate a manga on it's first volume... you barely have the storyline or purpose, but I will do my best. What I can comment on: I think the fights scenes were done well; I am curious where the story is going; I think the art is done well, and Shao Jun is a pretty badass female character. 

What I understand thus far: Lisa is seeking out a theorists to help deal with some inner demons. In her sessions she is hooked up to a machine where she visits an ancient relative named Shao Jun, an assassin. There is a treasure that was entrusted to Shao Jun, she is not supposed to open it until "all other paths are exhausted". So Lisa keeps going to back to the life of Shao Jun to understand what makes her who she is and what is in the box. 

Thus far, I am intrigued... what is in the box? And why people the present day are using Lisa/Shao Jun to get the box back. I am interested enough to pick up the second volume when it is available. The first volume offered enough substance to draw the reader in and make them curious where the story is going. 

Thank you VIZ Media and Netgalley for the ARC of this manga. I look forward to where the story goes next and adding this series to my library upon it's release.
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I have not played Assassin's creed much, but only a general knowledge seems to be required to understand what is going on. I am excited to see where this series will go!
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This was extremely quick and enjoyable. There were smooth transitions with an interesting start. We see past life and present life of a character. Past assassin present regular girl who is getting in trouble. Looking forward to the next.
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Beautiful art all throughout this title. It is also a nice addition to the video game's story. If your library has a strong teen/ya graphic novel community I would strongly recommend this.
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This book was received as an ARC from VIZ Media LLC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

Every page I turned while reading this manga novel, I could not help but think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but now its the protection of the brotherhood and the Creed in 1526 A.D. Ming Dynasty. I am a huge fan of Manga and the brilliant artwork that goes with it and this book was no different and lived up to its name. Seeing the images brought the story to life and it felt like you were in the battle along for the ride protecting the assassin's creed seeking vengeance with Shao Jung (the last of the assassins). Like all of our other Manga books in our collection, this one will sure circulate well.

We will consider adding this title to our Graphic Novel collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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Thank you to NeGalley and the publishers for the free copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. My opinion was not affected by the free copy.

I'm a fan of Assassin's Creed but I'm not familiar with this particular story. After reading this first volume, I really want to play the game that Shao Jun is featured in. She seems like a really intriguing character and her story looks interesting. I also want to know about the modern-day stuff with Lisa. I'm wondering if this is part of the story of the game or if this is all new stuff.

The only real negative I have for this manga is that I don't think it's for casual manga readers. I feel like it caters more to fans of the series, though it's hard to say for sure since I do understand things like the Animus, Abstergo, the Precursor items, et cetera. I don't want to judge based on this first volume but some of these things aren't really explained. Then again, I feel like other manga just throws stuff at the reader that is explained in pieces. It just might be harder for people not familiar with Assassin's Creed to read this.

The other negative is that it ends on a cliffhanger. I can't believe I have to wait so long to see what happens next! But I could say that's also a positive, since I'm going to read the next volume the second I'm able.

As for positives, like I said earlier, the characters are interesting. The art is nice, the action is engaging, and the story I feel is paced well between modern-day and the historical sections. Abstergo manipulating Lisa is a chilling change of pace and I want to see where that goes just as much as Shao Jun's journey. I really hope they show Florence (pretty sure that's referring to her being trained by Ezio) but if not, then I have even more reason to play her game.

So I'd recommend this to fans, and while I think eventually non-fans might like it, I'd say wait until there are more volumes.
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I’m going to mention that I’ve never played the Assassin’s Creed games, nor have I seen the live action movie, and I think that impacted my enjoyment of this manga. The synopsis sounded interesting enough for me to pick it up, but I honestly think you need prior knowledge of the AC universe to understand most of what is happening. As it stands on its own, I think it relies on you knowing much of the lore before you delve in. I spent much of it not understanding much of what was happening.

However, a manga or any type of media needs to stand on its own, and Blade of Shao Jun feels like an extension. That can be good for fans of Assassin’s Creed, it doesn’t give a crux to new fans with the world. Many of the explanations felt surface level, and much of it was left unexplained, so the world building felt thin, but like I mentioned before I think it relies on you knowing the lore beforehand.

The art is lovely, the settings and action scenes are eye catching and pleasing. I really wish I had more to say, but it’s nothing amazing. If I had been an Assassin’s Creed fan then maybe I would like it more. That’s why I’m giving it a three, because I think this is a ‘it’s a not for me’ situation.
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As someone who's played the series, I was intrigued by it. I was more intrigued that the protagonist is a female, especially since it's mostly male protagonists. I find it refreshing to see that, and am looking forward to the next volume.
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