THE SILVER CASE: What Is Uehara Kamui?

Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked – Perhaps they have actually become kamui

One of the few licensed titles Grasshopper Manufacture has developed is Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked, a hack-and-slash game published by Bandai in 2006. As a budget title for an established property, the creative freedom of all parties involved was limited. Even so, Suda and Ooka, along with Sagara Nobuhiko, a Grasshopper employee, wrote an original scenario that occurs partway through the Samurai Champloo TV series. For those unfamiliar, the show follows an amoral thief named Mugen, a ronin named Jin, and a former waitress named Fuu, who travel an anachronistic version of Edo-period Japan.

A few hallmarks of the Kill the Past titles are present in Sidetracked. This includes multiple simultaneous storylines the player can switch between. One stars Jin, one stars Mugen, and a secret third scenario stars the original character Tsurumaki Worso. There is no Uehara Kamui, but the story does involve kamuy (usually spelled “kamui” in the English subtitles), and Worso is a Kamui analogue.

Screenshot from Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked. A distant shot of Jin, Mugen, and Fuu walking through a snowy tundra, arms folded in front of them, looking down, freezing. They walk slowly through the vast, empty landscape but in a comical manner.

Seeking free room and board, Jin, Mugen, and Fuu end up Ezo, a historical region that included what is now Hokkaido. There they have a series of adventures that involve killing hundreds and hundreds of suicidally fanatical identical hit sponges. Derived from a two-part episode of the anime series called “Idling Your Life Away: Lullabies of the Lost,” the conflict relates to the colonization of Hokkaido, incorporating a version of the historical Matsumae clan involved in establishing Japanese control of Hokkaido under the Tokugawa. There is a war between them and the Ainu Tsurumaki clan, shamans whose “old blood” enables them to use kamuy-related powers. However, Europeans under the leadership of Lord Antonioni, the “red-eyed, blue-haired aristocrats,” ally themselves with the Matsumae and later usurp them in a quest to finish the conquest and claim Ezo for themselves.

Screenshot from Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked. On an earthen road on a grassy hill dotted with trees, Worso and Nochiyu stand together. Worso is in profile on the left side of the frame, looking to the left. Nochiyu is on the right, farther from the camera, looking at Worso. Worso is a young man with gray-white hair. He wears a white robe with a purple collar and a blue headband. Nochiyu is shorter. Her hair is the same color. She wears a similar headband bearing the same abstract design, the color matching her robe, as well as a turquoise necklace. Her robe has red trim with further white abstract designs.
Tsurumaki Worso (left) and Tsurumaki Nochiyu (right).

The two key Tsurumaki characters are their leader, the young Worso, and his sister, Nochiyu, who possesses a strong connection to the kamuy. Another important Ainu character is Rei the Invincible. The “truth” of Rei as a kook in the chapter “Waiting to Pounce: Lousy Liar” gives way to the “facts” of his role as the stern leader of the White Tengu insurgency against the Matsumae.