Assassin's Creed: Blade of Shao Jun - Manga Comic - Review and Summary
Chapter 1: The Return
Sorrosyss & Markuz, November 8th, 2019

Note: Note: Non Spoiler Review, but a full Spoiler Summary and Analysis follows

Assassin's Creed: China is a new Manga comic produced by Minoji Kurata, and its serialization has recently started with its first release in Japan for Sunday GX Comics.
The comic primarily focuses on the story of Shao Jun, and her return to China in 1526 following her meeting with Ezio Auditore in Italy as depicted in the short film Embers. As originally shown in the video game Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, the tale focuses on her exacting revenge against the “Eight Tigers” - a Templar group that two years prior with the help of their puppet, the Jiajing Emperor, managed to orchestrate a national purge of all enemies that opposed them, which included the Chinese Brotherhood. This event ultimately forced Jun to flee from the country. In short, if you are familiar with the game storyline, you will know what to expect of the storyline here. However, there are additional scenes present that offer a little more detail to Jun's backstory. On top of that, there is the welcome introduction of a Modern Day story element based in Japan and a brand new protagonist which is unique to the comic.

If you have never read a Manga comic before, then there are a few things a little different to Western comics. For example, the panels should be read from the top right corner, and anti-clockwise to the bottom left panel. Whilst the first few pages are in colour, as with most Manga the remaining pages are purely in black and white. Fundamentally though, the artwork is functional with the occasional over exaggerated eye size that is typical of Japanese sub-culture art. On certain panels characters do not have faces if they are over a certain distance away, which is most likely down to the artist's discretion but it can look a little strange in places to readers who are not used to this kind of comics. However, it cannot be denied that some of the panels really stand out visually, especially those that display architecture in the background or close up faces.

This first chapter, titled “The Return”, covers the events in the Maijishan Grottoes up until the end of the second sequence of the Chronicles China game, and encompasses 52 pages in total – which is not a bad length for an initial issue. At the time of writing we do not know how many chapters remain in this series, but it gives us a good indicator of how many we can roughly expect as the game only ran to 12 sequences. Chapter 2 will therefore likely pick things up in Macau as the next setting.

This is not Assassin's Creed's first foray into Manga (as there was the Black Flag adaptation “Awakening” a few years back as well) but it is certainly a strong first issue to kick off the series. Shao Jun has remained a popular favourite amongst the fanbase, especially as many view her as Ezio's understudy and a carrier of his training. It is therefore really appreciated to have this character once more receiving some welcome recognition, and indeed being introduced to potential new fans in this comic format. Anyone new to her story will certainly get a lot out of this Manga, and it comes highly recommended if you are not familiar with Jun. However, if you have already played the game, then it is true to say that there is honestly not much new here for you beyond the new Modern Day content – which specifically lasts for 9 of the pages in totality.

Assassin's Creed: China - Chapter 1 is available online now. Naturally this is currently only available in Japanese, though English and French versions are expected at an undefined future date.

PREFACE: Kindly note that the following story summary has been produced with a heavy reliance on translation software. We cannot guarantee 100% accuracy of the details, but we hope this is as close as possible.


SPOILER SECTION - Click here to unhide

In the 14th Century, the Hongwu Emperor founded the so called Ming Dynasty. This era ultimately spanned several hundred years. Under the Yongle Emperor,

the capital of the country changed to Beijing, and the nation amassed a grand fleet of naval vessels to command strength across the Indian Ocean and most of South East Asia. At least, that was until the 16th Century, when Japanese pirates known as Wokou began to threaten the southern Chinese coastlines. To the north there was a different threat, as the neighbouring nation of Mongolia was also reunified under a new leader, Dayan Khan. By the year 1524, a chaotic period had begun within China itself, as the Jiajing Emperor initiated a decade long purge of his political opponents in what would later become known as the Great Rites Controversy. With his ascension aided by the Templars, many of the Chinese Assassin Brotherhood were subsequently targeted and eliminated in this cull.

China, 1524
A fire erupts through a temple. The Assassin Shao Jun runs towards her wounded Mentor, shouting to him. He in turn shouts back that he no longer is in possession of an item, and that she should head west to the Mentor of Florence. Jun vows to return and to revive the Chinese Brotherhood.

Maijishan Grottoes, Gansu Province, North West China, 1526
The Grottoes were formerly the main Bureau of the Chinese Brotherhood. They are visited by Gao Feng, Templar and one of the “Eight Tigers” - powerful eunuchs of the Imperial Court.
Inside a cave chamber hangs a large wooden cage, with a captured Shao Jun contained within. Feng expresses his shock that she would return after two years, but notes that the Assassins are a difficult group to eradicate entirely. She swears that she will never forget those killed, and that she will inflict the same pain upon him. Feng holds up a Precursor Box to Jun, explaining that he knows she was entrusted with the box in Florence. He demands to know exactly what is so special about the box to dedicate her life to its protection and whether it is a Precursor relic. Jun remains silent, and offers no answer – frustrating Feng to declare that she has no blade to escape with and that the Assassins have lost the war with the great Templar Order.
As he leaves the room, Jun raises her hood over her head, and comments to herself that they did not take all of her blades. With a flick of her boot, a Hidden Blade extends from its sole.

Outside the chamber, Gao Feng greets the arriving Qiu Ju – another member of the Eight Tigers. Ju is interested to learn if it is true that an Assassin survivor had been captured. Feng explains as to who Shao Jun is, and how she had originally been a Concubine in the court of the Zhengde Emperor. He dismisses her as being no major threat to them, and that there is no way that she can escape her cage.
Back inside the cave, two guards bemoan that they are not even sure if it is day or night given how long they have remained in the chamber. As they walk with torches to see in the darkness, they are distracted by a noise and move towards the disturbance. Above them, Jun hides by remaining atop a wooden beam and stays out of sight whilst the guards pass by before she herself moves on by.

Feng and Ju continue to discuss the Precursor Box, the former suggesting that its contents were hidden by Jun. Ju expresses that if she has a tongue, then there are ways of making her talk, and that it will ultimately lead to the end of the Assassins, especially if they can recover the missing
“treasure” and bring the Templar dream to realisation.

Jun manages to locate a room with a storage box, within which she recovers her personal Jian sword and equipment. The guards enter the room, but before they can rush towards her, she unleashes a smoke bomb and vanishes from sight. Moments later, both of the men are slain by Jun's rope dart. Within the same room,
a voice calls out from a jail cell. It is that of Hong Liwei, a former teacher to Jun who helped her to learn calligraphy years before, and eventually escape her life as a concubine. At that moment, guards rush the room and Jun's rope dart once more comes into play before then engaging them with her sword.

Ju elects to leave for Beijing, leaving the situation in Feng's hands. The latter returns to the cave, and shouts to a guard to lower the cage. He immediately notices that some of the watchmen have vanished, and a moment later his guards lay slain around him. A blade finds his throat, as Shao Jun clutches him from behind. She remarks that it was her plan all along to get captured, in order to try and find information about the Precursor Box. Feng sadly appears to offer no new information though, and Jun is merely left with the recollection of the instructions given to her by Ezio Auditore to keep the box safe, and to always follow the Creed.

Feng questions how she will find the Box if he is killed, to which Jun states that one of the other Tigers will surely have it and that she will kill each in turn until it is found. She knocks him to the ground, and kills him with a swift stab of her sword through the heart. Guards suddenly rush into the cavern, yelling at Jun. She leaps to one of the cages, swinging her way to safety. Finally, she finds an alcove and opening that leads to the outside cliff face. Clambouring to the edge, she spies an Eagle flying high above her, before jumping out with a Leap of Faith to the land below.

Yokohama, Japan - Present Day
Within an Abstergo lab, Lisa Yang lays upon an Animus. She is startled and brought out of her Animus session by Doctor Kaori Kagami. Kaori reminds Lisa that the simulation is not real, and that even if she jumped from that height, it would not have harmed her in any way. Having moved to Kaori's office, she explains that the Animus allows Lisa to experience the genetic memories of her ancestor Shao Jun. Lisa remains unconvinced, and suggests that is only possible in science fiction.

Kaori reads off of a computer file, which reveals that Lisa is 18 years of age, from Chinese parents, and that she has repeatedly gotten in trouble at school for starting fights with teachers and in some cases even injuring them. Now expelled and stuck at home, she has come to Dr Kagami
for help with her aggressive tendencies. Kaori explains that one potential cure is for Lisa to explore her genetic memories to try and uncover the cause of these violent impulses in her DNA. She implores Lisa to explore the memories together as a team.

Lisa's appointment comes to a finish, and she sets out into the city whilst giving her mother a call on her mobile phone. She states that Dr Kagami was really nice, and that she has decided to continue the therapy.

Meanwhile, back in her office, Kaori is on a bluetooth headset call. She informs the caller that she has located the artifact, and is surprised at the synchronisation levels shown by Lisa. She vows to continue the research as it will provide a chance to get close to “the treasure”, and reveals herself to be a Templar by ending the call with “May The Father Of Understanding Guide You”.

As rain hammers down over the night skyline of Yokohama, Lisa pulls up her hood over her head, and walks outside to head home.

Analysis and Final Thoughts

There are only a few slight lore hiccups present. The first is that Jun's “Mentor” depicted on the first page appears to be Wang Yangming. So far as we know he did not obtain that title until around 1526, two years after this point in the story. However, his name is not specifically given so it could well just be someone wearing a very similar hat...

The second minor difference between the comic and the Chronicles China game is the location where Gao Feng is killed. In the comic, it happens within the grottoes, whilst in the game it occurs on a cliff outside of them. Thankfully the dialogue between the two characters still remains very similar.

Shao Jun gets her equipment
back (manga vs game)
In overall conclusion though - As mentioned prior, if you have played the Chronicles game, a lot of the comic story will already be familiar to you. There are even some direct references to sections of the game, like Jun finding her equipment or Hong Liwei appearing in the Maijishan Grottoes. [Image 12a] Thankfully there are a few moments that embellish the plot, such as Jun being able to dance on a top of a cage with a leopard inside it while she was a concubine, and the background dialogue between Gao Feng and Qiu Ju, which is actually new lore once compared to the game’s storyline. In the end though, it is the Modern Day element that is the most radically new here, and that is the strongest element that fans will likely be most interested in.

Yokohama Tower
There does not appear to be a specific date for the Present Day setting, but from what we can tell it looks like an older style Animus is being used, and that it appears to be based in Yokohama – given the easily identifiable Yokohama Landmark Tower shown on the final panel of the comic. Dr Kagami mentions finding the “treasure” from the Animus session, but the only treasure that really gets mentioned is that of the Precursor Box itself. Therefore, we initially wondered if this story was set a few years back from when Abstergo was originally searching for the box. It would make some sense, as from all that we currently know it just suddenly appears in the existing lore in an Abstergo facility in Rotterdam in 2014. (Subsequently in 2015, it ends up in Álvaro Gramática's hands for the Phoenix Project.) One could easily conclude then that the comic storyline is simply showing us Abstergo's hunt for the box, and that meant in theory the events in Yokohama are actually occurring in 2014. However, after a quick check with Ubisoft, we confirmed that the Present Day depicted is indeed occurring in 2019 (and while we were at it, we also got confirmation of Lisa Yang's name). Thus, it opens up questions as to exactly what they are referring to with the “treasure” mention. Jun's necklace perhaps? Was there something originally in the box as it was hypothesized so many times back in 2011 after Embers was released? It is, at this point, unclear.

Álvaro Gramática and the Precursor Box

Another possibility is that we are again looking at a storyline involving ancestor imprinting. This concept has been around the franchise for awhile, and really came to the fore ironically with Shao Jun too, when her consciousness appeared to briefly overpower Anastasia when she touched the Precursor Box during the events of the game Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia. The process has recently been prominent again within the Bloodstone comics, where it is all but confirmed that a Piece of Eden has the capability to unlock the genetic memory and consciousness of an ancestor within their Modern Day descendant and effectively overwrite their mind. Could this be a fate for our new protagonist? Will Shao Jun effectively take over her body? Lisa would not be Jun’s only current descendant either, as you will recall the character Lin who was present in the Assassin's Creed movie too. It does beg the question as to why Abstergo needs Lisa though, as by previously possessing Lin's DNA they already have Shao Jun's genetic history stored in Helix – indeed this is already a created Abstergo simulation as shown in the Chronicles game. One could counter that Lin's DNA may have been lost when the Madrid facility was destroyed in 2016, but we start to digress...

Speaking of the movie, Doctor Kagami also mentions utilising the Animus as a potential way to find out the cause of Lisa’s violent impulses. This area of research was a primary focus of both Alan and Sofia Rikkin within the movie, even going so far as to them wanting to find the original sins of Adam and Eve from an Apple of Eden. In this particular case it is unclear if it just Kagami misleading Lisa to get her back in the Animus, but it certainly raises some questions on how deep this Abstergo project may have actually gone. Are they indeed hoping to resurrect Shao Jun? Given how many direct Assassin descendants were present in the Madrid facility for example, you do have to wonder if Abstergo was already heavily pushing the field of the Bleeding Effect to its ultimate conclusion and aiming at resurrecting fallen Assassins of the past. To what end though? We may have to wait until Chapter 2 for some further answers as to whether this is the direction we are heading with the comic storyline.

La coscienza di Shao Jun sottomette quelladi Anastasia Romanova [Fonte: Assassin's Creed Wiki]

As a final point, it is interesting to note that this is the second transmedia project to recount Shao Jun's game storyline in recent times. A Chinese language novel titled “Storm in the Ming Dynasty” actually released in the Chinese market in April 2019. Ubisoft therefore seems intent on making sure this character is known to both the Chinese and Japanese markets, which is pretty interesting considering that the character has been pretty absent from the franchise for a few years now. It is worth pointing out that Yves Guillemot (Ubisoft’s CEO) recently stated that he would like to see a mainline Assassin's Creed game set in China at some point. Ubisoft has certainly been putting a lot of focus onto the growing Chinese videogame market, and has even released Chinese variants of some of its major titles exclusively to that market – such as Rabbids: Adventure Party. There has been some speculation amongst fans that China and Japan may be a good pairing of titles to release back-to-back, given some obvious similarity in architecture that could make for sensible and repurposeable assets between them. Perhaps this sudden heavy focus on the Eastern Asian markets is in preparation of having Jun in a future mainline China set game, with her travelling to Feudal Japan in a sequel? Time will tell, but it would certainly please a large number of fans.

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