The first question you may ask after reading the title of this post is "What is Chanbara?" Simply put, chanbara refers to samurai films in Japan and must include three things: samurai, sword fighting, and a historical setting. Samurai are differentiated from other warriors by their code of honor, and they must be skilled fighters to qualify. The historical setting is typically the Sengoku Era (1478-1603), the Tokugawa Era (1603-1868), or the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Obviously this post is about manga, not films, but the categorization of chanbara applies to lots of things outside the cinema!
So if you're wanting some action, drama, and samurai, check out these series!
Rurouni Kenshin: Set in the Meiji Period, Kenshin Himura was the famed battosai assassin and helped bring about the fall of the Japanese government. Now, in a time when samurai are no longer needed, Kenshin seeks a path of redemption and peace after all the lives he took. But that isn't easy when every powerful warrior in Japan is set on fighting and killing him.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Set in the Tokugawa Era, Ogami Ittō held the role of executioner for the shogun. Disgraced after false accusations and forced to flee, he takes on the role of assassin and seeks revenge, all while caring for his 3 year old son.
Lady Snowblood: Lady Snowblood Oyuki (a Japanese play on the name of Snow White) becomes an assassin, using her feminine looks to lure in her targets. Set to the task by her imprisoned mother, Oyuki seeks vengeance on the men that killed her family and imprisoned her mother.
If you're not in the mood for reading manga though, here are some anime titles that the library has that are classified as chanbara!
Sword of the Stranger: A young boy and his dog are fleeing from a mercenary group on mainland China and come across a ronin (former samurai) who has a mysterious past and refuses to draw his sword.
Samurai Seven (the anime series based on the famous film The Seven Samurai): A group of seven samurai are brought together to help defend a poor village from bandits, but this leads them on a journey to overthrow the corrupt and power-hungry Emperor who has risen to power.
Sengoku Basara: Super over-the-top fighting action and totally worth the watch. Based on a series of video games by the same name.
Afro Samurai: Afro is a master samurai, seeking to obtain the legendary Number 1 headband from the man who killed his father, thereby giving him revenge and the power of a god that comes with the headband.
Shigurui: Competing in a tournament hosted by the daimyo, this story follows two unique individuals-The one-armed swordsman Gennosuke and the blind warrior Seigen.