Red Hot Chili Samurai is a manga that feels like it’s not sure what it wants to be. The manga follows samurai Kokaku Sento as he fights various criminals in rural Japan during the Shogunate. Kokaku’s strength and weakness is his dependance on hot peppers, which he eats regularly, and which strengthen him, like Popeye.
Like Kenshin, Kokaku and his comrades, bespectacled Ento, ninja manservant Shou, and girly-girl of action (if that makes any sense) Ran refrain from killing at all times, even if by all rights it doesn’t make sense for them to do so. However, like Samurai Champloo, the series is filled with anachronisms. Ran is introduced wearing spike-heeled knee-high leather boots with stockings and garters under her kimono. Kokaku is also introduced to a young kid who invents the Polaroid camera, the squirt-gun (modeled after the Colt M1911A), and aerosol pepper spray. Additionally, Kokaku wears a distinctive tattoo, something that would have been taboo for a historical samurai.
With the various chapters in this volume, they all have a comedic tone. Even when Kokaku is infiltrating a brothel which is drugging the women with opium (and occasionally over-dosing them), and whose owners are responsible for several murders, the tone of the story tries to stay incredibly light. This leads to a cognitive dissonance, particularly when it comes to more serious subject matter. Hopefully later volumes will take things slightly more seriously, but this volume is simply average. It’s not great, not terrible, just average.