Jin Sakai Deep Dive, the Samurai turned Ghost of Tsushima

by Daniel
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Ghost of Tsushima is a brilliant game. There’s no argument there. It’s a game that conveys heavy themes such as the tragedy of war, the importance of tradition, and even loss. It does all this while presenting you with a vast, luscious, and beautiful open world filled with things to do. From cutting bamboo to petting foxes to beheading generals, Ghost of Tsushima is the complete Samurai experience. But all of these amazing features wouldn’t be as amazing if it didn’t have a memorable cast of characters to present them. Jin Sakai, the protagonist of Ghost of Tsushima, is one of those characters. His character goes through significant changes by the end of the game. It should go without saying that this article filled with spoilers for Ghost of Tsushima. For non-spoiler content, check out our article on what makes Ghost of Tsushima so great.

Jin Sakai Origins

Jin hails from Omi village and is the son to Kazumasa Sakai, the Samurai Lord of Clan Sakai, and his wife, Lady Sakai. He was orphaned at a young age, losing his mother to illness and his father to Bandits. As a young teenager, he became severely traumatized having witnessed his father’s death. To add to that, the final words he heard from his father was a plea for help. Comforted by the family caretaker, Yuriko, alongside the other Samurai lords, including his uncle Lord Shimura, Jin solidifies his resolve to become an honorable Samurai. Shimura takes Jin under his stead, to which he develops a paternal love for.

While training him, Shimura grows attached to Jin due to his undying valor and determination. To Jin, as a samurai, honor means “protecting people, the ones that can’t fight for themselves.” This is a value that Jin would continue to hold close to him, even after becoming a dishonorable “Ghost”.

Jin Sakai, Lord of the Sakai Clan

The game starts off with Jin Sakai, alongside 79 other samurai, on Komoda Beach, defending against a Mongol invasion of thousands of men. Despite the overwhelming odds against their favor, Jin doesn’t falter when offering his life to defend their home. He’s a proud samurai, inseparable from Samurai tradition, and would proudly embrace a warrior’s death.

God, or Sucker Punch, however, has other plans in store for him. In what should’ve been a suicidal attack to take down the Khan, Jin gets blown away and shot in the back twice, rendering him unconscious. Through sheer will and determination, or “resolve”, he survives by the skin of his teeth.

He’s nursed to health by a thief named Yuna. Though thankful for her aid, he is still distraught and upset. He still feels resentful that he did not die alongside his allies on Komoda Beach. He gets a new gust of motivations upon knowing that his uncle survived the attacked. Subsequently, he strikes a deal with Yuna: He’ll help save her brother, and in return, they help him rescue Lord Shimura.

As he recruits his allies, he remains loyal to his code, and fights his battles as a samurai. He fights his enemies with honor, alerting them with visual and audio cues before drawing his sword to instigate traditional showdowns. He often brings it up when challenged to do otherwise.

However, as he spends more time with Yuna, he slowly begins to realize the reality of the situation. The Mongolians have prepared themselves to face the Samurai; they know their culture, their morals, their language, their code, and will not hesitate to use it against them. If he were to continue his “traditional way”, then he would only be getting himself, the last Samurai of Tsushima, killed. Additionally, he would also endanger all of the people he swore to protect as a Samurai. Jin ever so slowly begins to accept this reality. In time, he realizes that to uphold his definition of honor, he has to “bend” his Samurai code.

His Samurai Journey

Ghost of Tsushima’s main focus may be of Jin Sakai’s transition from an honorable Shogun servant to a maverick assassin for the people, but throughout the game he still keeps in touch with his skills as a samurai if not improves on them. His prowess with a sword and bow is still top-notch, and throughout the game his skills improve with each camp he liberates. He is also proficient in Equestrianism. These are all staples in the Samurai tradition.

As Jin Sakai progresses his journey in driving out the mongols, he learns more Samurai techniques. Stances to break different enemy defenses, archery techniques for debilitation, and even journeying through extraordinary heights and hidden locations to learn long-forgotten mythic arts.

The First Kill

While Jin had been shying away from the true Samurai’s path ever since he was rescued by Yuna, his first drastic action into becoming the dishonorable “Ghost” was during a mission to rescue Yuna’s brother, Taka. Yuna pleads to Jin to {bend honor}, and states that challenging an entire camp would only get himself killed, and risk the Mongolians killing off hostages as retaliation. Jin reluctantly realizes this, and in true “dishonorable” fashion, stabs his first Mongol in the back.

After getting a severe PTSD episode, he finally gets himself together. He successfully saves Taka, and finally accepts that for the safety of his people, he must deviate from the Samurai way.

Jin Sakai: The Man of Many Emotions

Jin grew up with the severe burden of not being able to save his father. As a result, he devoted his life from that point on to becoming a Samurai warrior worthy of his uncle’s praise. His uncle acknowledges and appreciates Jin’s tenacity and valor. He is also very caring towards Jin, showing concern towards the bruises on his face that he got from other children. Instead of relying on his uncle’s authoritative power, Jin channels his anger into practicing his swordsmanship. Lord Shimura tells Jin that to be a masterful Samurai, Jin needs to master his emotions, to which Jin respects.

As time goes on, Jin learns to master his emotions more, which an adult Jin projects well. Despite so, he is still the valiant and witty Jin from so long ago. He also has a snarky sense of humor. He doesn’t show it very often, but every now and then he’ll deliver a devastating one-liner to break the tension.

In a related note, he is clever and soft-spoken with his words. Even to “common peasants”, he treats them with the utmost respect, and even bows to his enemies after defeating them. He knows when to speak to give his allies a push. But also as when to give them a moment to themselves. This makes him an excellent negotiator, as seen when he rallies the people of Yarikawa. Despite being related to the resentful Shimura, he still manages to get their respect. Not only out of fear and status, but also out of compassion and empathy.

Even though he is a master at masking his emotions, there are times where he will break. Most notably during his first attempt at rescuing Lord Shimura, when he faces off against Ryuzo, and when Taka gets executed.

Jin Sakai, The Ghost of Tsushima

To many of his peers, his ways of the “Ghost” are dishonorable and breaching of the Samurai code. Sensei Ishikawa, his caretaker Yuriko, and Lord Shimura have all expressed their displeasure with Jin’s new “path”. To them, it is not the way of the Samurai, not the way of order and respect that honors the Shogun rule. To quote Shimura, “Terror is not the weapon of the Samurai”. If Jin, a prestigious and respected member of the Samurai were to betray the principles set by them, the people would no longer look up to their protectors with respect.

However, to Jin, this isn’t a matter of simply maintaining the Shogun’s image. As he has witnessed first-hand, the enemies are using the Samurai’s tradition against them, and the only way to counter that is to explore new methods of combat.

Honor has no Place in War

He begins to expand his arsenal of tools, from distracting wind chimes to deadly poisons. Through these new methods and tactics, he manages to pull off objectives and tasks that would otherwise seem impossible. He no longer displays hesitation when carrying out these brutal tactics, even going as far as utilizing poisons and beheading a Mongolian general in front of his uncle to clear a path.

Behind all his newfound brutality, however, is still a warrior at heart that wishes only to protect his people. To execute a full-frontal assault and reclaim Castle Shimura, Lord Shimura demands his soldiers to repair the bridge. Jin realizes that this will only result in more deaths of their soldiers. Ignoring his uncle’s instructions, Jin poisons the Mongolians’ milk supply. He successfully eliminates and liberates Castle Shimura, though his uncle orders his arrest for disobeying the Shogun and tarnishing the Samurai’s code.

All in all, Jin Sakai is a warrior who has his own definition of honor, and sticks to it. He may have started off as a servant to the Shogun, but those idealogies, to him, died on Komoda Beach. He is a man of undying resolve to protect his people, and will go through extreme lengths to do so. Beneath the ruthless, deceptive Ghost persona, lies a sensitive and humble warrior that serves the people. In fact, we can even say that Jin Sakai didn’t change throughout the course of the game, but merely changed perspectives.

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