Samurai Shodown 3/Zankuro Minazuki

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壬無月斬紅郎, Minazuki Zankuro


Zankuro, hefty gentleman that he is, knows that he has a very large back. Thus, he concluded it would be very tactically convenient if getting hit in the back didn’t actually do anything.

Zankuro has a relatively limited and effective neutral game with few mixups to speak of, focused on shutting off avenues of approach so he can tag you with a fireball combo. His kill combos not requiring backhit or the corner combined with his high damage is what keeps him threatening. One mistake against him can and almost certainly will cost you the round, so he demands his opponents play carefully and adapt to the unique challenges he presents as their opponent. But his strongest asset isn’t his combo damage or anything else; it’s his almost complete immunity to being comboed from behind. He’s no swiss army knife of options and versatility. What he does have is simply just THAT good.

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Fastest throw in the game and guaranteed kill combos off of it
  • Strong space control complemented by fast movement
  • DP gives him an easy way to close the distance
  • Cannot be combo'd from behind
  • Grounded heavy slashes are punishable on hit unless they stun
  • Anti-airs, while powerful, only cover specific angles
  • No cancellable normals
  • Has to force himself to approach in bad matchups, notably against Nakoruru

Special Notes

Zankuro has no gameplay differences between Slash and Bust, but each Technique still has a different selection of color palettes. He is not on the character select screen, requiring the player to input a code to select him. This code will only work in two-player matches, and regardless if he wins or loses, both players are booted back to the select screen to pick new characters. This naturally forces the Zankuro player to input the code again.

To select Zankuro, hover your cursor over Haohmaru and hold start. While still holding start, move the cursor:

left, left, down, right, right, up, right, down, right, right, up, left, left

Your cursor should be on Shizumaru. Keep holding start, wait until the timer reaches 3, then press AB. Zankuro will be selected.

There are boss hack ROMs that allow Zankuro to be freely selected without use of a code and don’t force the Zankuro player to input the code again if they win -- the SamSho 3 VODs from Mikado show this hack in use -- but none of the current netplay platforms outside of parsec and other similar programs support them. As it stands, just get used to inputting the code if you want to play as him regularly. It’s pretty easy when you get the rhythm down.

yes he’s fair game in tournament stfu


Damage taken Rage rate Rage duration Throw startup Deflect advantage Deflect disadvantage modifier
95% 98.05% 4 sec 8f +19 -1

Normal Moves

Far Slashes

  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - Low commitment swipe with good horizontal range. Can be a quick way to preemptively snipe jumps or just keep the opponent sitting still.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - Stronger 5A with slower recovery. Still has similar range and applications.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - This move is very extreme, and a staple part of Zankuro's combo and punish game. Extremely long range, extreme damage, and extreme recovery time. In theory it's a very threatening move to throw out when the foe is too far away to respond. If spaced well, it can also be a strong anti-air. But its very long recovery leaves Zankuro quite minus on grounded hit, and it doesn't deal very much pushback. This naturally means he can be punished if it connects, so be careful if your opponent has a quick option to hit you afterwards.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - Crouching 5A. Shares almost all of its characteristics, just covering a zone lower to the ground.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - Crouching 5B. Same deal, just lower to the ground. Stick to 5B.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - This is an odd move with niche use. It starts with a huge upwards slash, and then basically does 5C. Like 5C, it's punishable on hit. You're locked into using both hits, and all of the damage is concentrated on the second hit, so do not use it as an anti-air. Rather, it's another part of Zankuro's combos and punishes, dealing slightly more damage than 5C and starting up absurdly fast. It is a guaranteed stun when comboed from j.D -- this is its greatest use.

Near Slashes

  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - Quick pummel with the sword's hilt. Very quick. Panic button that's incredibly good at disrupting offense and starting your own.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - An odd button that starts like n.5A and goes into an upwards swipe. Might make a decent anti-air if the opponent is too close for a Mugen Hou to connect -- it's not worth using if they're on the ground.
  • (Properties) - Air blockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - Huge upwards swipe -- the first hit of 2C with no followup, essentially. You might notice that it's air blockable. That alone means this move is incredibly risky to use as an anti-air despite looking like a complete beast of an option. If it's air blocked, you can be punished. Rather than gamble on your life like that, use it for close range punishes and combos, because it's fantastic for those.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable.
  • (Description) - Hilt jab panic button, now aimed lower and not deflectable. It's slightly plus on block, too.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - It's basically crouching n.5B, which means any air attack that beats you out will put you in deep hitstun for your assailant to happily go to town on. For what it's worth it starts up quicker than n.5B.
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Deflectable.
  • (Description) - Same as 2C.


  • (Properties) - Hits high.
  • (Description) - Absolutely massive overhead with a high hop. The reach alone makes this move better than most other overheads, and when spaced well is very difficult to punish. Great option to crush pokes and general midrange attacks.
  • (Properties) - Hits high.
  • (Description) - And we're back to "punishable overhead". Get your sword back.


  • (Properties) - Air unblockable.
  • (Description) - Long range high angle kick. If they're at too awkward a spot for a 5A/5B anti air and you can't get out a Mugen Hou, put this out. Niche move because other anti airs are still overall better.
  • (Properties) - Hits low. Air unblockable.
  • (Description) - Why is this a low.
  • (Properties) - Hits low. Air unblockable.
  • (Description) - Pretty dinky kick compared to the others, but it's quick and hits low. Generally decent low-risk way to check their ability to block.
  • (Properties) - Knocks down. Air unblockable.
  • (Description) - Funky leg sweep that simply refuses to hit low. Nice angle for awkward anti airing.

Jumping Normals

  • (Properties) - Hits high.
  • (Description) - Quick horizontal air-to-air swipe. Outclassed in this use, however.
  • (Properties) - Hits high.
  • (Description) - Like j.A, it's a horizontal air-to-air. Also like j.A, it's completely outclassed for this purpose.
  • (Properties) - Hits high.
  • (Description) - The air button you should know about. It covers the area in front of Zankuro for a long period of time, making it an air-to-air monster that is very difficult to contest. It's not the greatest jump-in, but it can be used for that purpose all the same.
  • (Properties) - Hits high.
  • (Description) - The other air button you should know about. Arguably the better jump-in than j.C thanks to its lower angle and easier combo followups. The angle also lends it to use as an occasional instant overhead. You can easily combo a jumpin j.D into 2C for a stun. That by itself makes this move deceptively threatening.

Dashing Normals

  • (Properties) - Deflectable. Air unblockable.
  • (Description) - Remember n.5B? Now you can do it off of a run. Also it restands on air hit. And does more than enough hitstun to let you hit them with n.5B/n.2B consistently afterwards. This is your primary cross-under anti-air. On front anti-air hit, you can combo into 236C, effectively winning you the game if you don't drop the easy part. If you run under them and anti-air from behind you don't get fireball.
  • (Properties) - Deflectable. Air unblockable.
  • (Description) - 5B but during a run. Retains the great range of 5B, but has seriously slow recovery.
  • (Properties) - Deflectable. Unblockable.
  • (Description) - Surprisingly active and long range for the standard running unblockable. Thanks to Shippuuzan's travel speed, especially on the light version, you can use this after chasing behind it to catch the opponent freezing up.
  • (Properties) -
  • (Description) -

Unarmed Normals

  • (Properties) -
  • (Description) - Classic Zankuro punch. Get your weapon back.
  • (Properties) -
  • (Description) - Classic Zankuro punch feat. crouching and a singular plus frame on block.
  • (Properties) -
  • (Description) - Jumping punch and yeah get your weapon back.
  • (Properties) -
  • (Description) - Dashing punch. Not at all related to the dash punch special.

Command Moves

- 「Tenchu」 - j.2C
  • (Properties) - Hits high. Knockdown.
  • (Description) - Big stall-then-fall slash that covers the area next to and below Zankuro. Can be done at the apex of a jump, or during a backdash. Like with Kyoshiro's j.2A, it can be done immediately after air blocking, but it's a lot slower and less useful for that purpose. This move is primarily utility, allowing you to fall down in place, cross up the opponent, or catch them chasing your backdash. Can also be used to overhead out of backdashes, but this isn't exactly a good mixup.

Special Moves

- 「Shippuuzan」 - 236S
  • (Properties) - Sword hit is air unblockable.
  • (Description) - It looks like a standard fireball and pretty much is, but it carries a great deal of upsides that make it one of Zankuro's most dangerous attacks. It inflicts massive hitstun to open up combos into basically anything, forming the crux of his combo game. Zankuro’s sword also has a hitbox when throwing it giving it increased damage and stun at close range and the ability to possibly anti-air bad jumps, it hits multiple times, and it's almost completely safe if blocked. The hitstun lets it easily loop into itself at most spacings -- five in a row at point blank will stun. Heavier versions travel faster and deal slightly more damage, but the increased speed makes it harder to combo from them.
- 「Mugen Hou」 - 2146S
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Knockdown.
  • (Description) - The biggest anti air in existence. All versions have the same total frame count, but heavier versions are active for longer and thus have shorter recovery, so just use 2146C. You cannot beat this head on but it has a blind spot closer to Zankuro. If they’re in that range, use 5A/5B to anti air instead.
- 「Tenpouzan」 - 623S
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Second hit knockdown.
  • (Description) - Trademark Zankuro shoulder charge into slash. Generally what you’ll do if you hit with a fireball from too far away to combo another fireball. If done from far enough away, Zankuro won't do the followup slash, after which you can land a n.5C. This even occurs on block, but it's still easily punished after the shoulder regardless of spacing. Heavier versions charge farther forward.
- 「Ittouzan」 - 412AB
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Knockdown.
  • (Description) - Weird little autocombo for okay damage. Has a step forward during startup, doing it too close will often make Zankuro step through the opponent and whiff. Will consistently do this in the corner, giving you a funny little gimmick. Interestingly, if they block the initial hit and stop holding back, Zankuro will still perform the two followup slashes. This followup animation is also completely invincible, so the only way to punish it is to deflect the third hit. Noncommittal overall, might snipe an empty jump. Style points, I guess.
- 「Muhouken」 - 46A (can be used unarmed)
  • (Properties) - Air unblockable. Knockdown.
  • (Description) - Quick rush punch. Generally your last line of defense when disarmed. Thankfully it’s not too bad. Knocks down on hit and moves deceptively fast. Misses crouchers so be careful.
- 「Fudou」 - 41236D
  • (Properties) - Knockdown. Bad.
  • (Description) - It's like Bust Ukyo's catch counter except it's bad. Catches airborne and grounded slashes but, as with Bust Ukyo, not specials. Catches starting on frame 9 and is active for four frames. Recovers for a full 40 frames after the active window (yikes). Hardly deals enough damage to be worth the risk or tiny catch window.
- WFT「Musou Shingekizan」 - 22236AB
  • (Properties) - First hit low. Second hit air unblockable.
  • (Description) - Large low-hitting earthquake stomp into slash combo with relatively slow startup. The stomp will hit from much farther away than the slash and is very active, but all of the damage is on the slash itself. It’ll quite happily end whatever fireball loop you have going, with the usual slew of benefits that you get for connecting with a WFT. It can also be a very preemptive very gimmicky anti air. You’ve got better options, but god damn is it cool.



The first thing you'll notice when swinging a Zankuro button is that he can't cancel any of them. Keep that in mind, because it means any Shippuuzan you connect will be in the neutral, a raw punish, or off of a throw. None of these situations are particularly remiss for Zankuro, because he's blessed with the fastest throw startup in the game (8f) and 236S is completely safe on block.

Zankuro's strong control of horizontal space is complemented by his incredibly fast walk speed, particularly when walking forward. He has one of the fastest walk speeds in the game, so he can effectively approach while swinging with 5A/5B to keep the opponent antsy. Place your buttons carefully during the neutral -- purely using fireballs leaves you a very big, very open target to any jumpin. Instead, use 236S in situations when the opponent will need to take a risky option to escape or else just block it. Having it blocked is not a bad situation for Zankuro, because he can then choose between throwing out another one or using one of his anti-airs to stop them from jumping in.

Getting combo'd from behind

"But he's immune to combos from behind!" Yes, but there is a particular rule that still can leave him vulnerable in certain matchups. The back hit invulnerability triggers specifically when he is hit with a medium slash or a heavy slash. It does not trigger for kicks or light slashes. With this in mind, characters with repeated 2D combos can still do these specific combos from behind. It won't lead to any extra reward for them, but it is something to keep note of if you are against any of these characters.


Yup, you heard that right, Zankuro can get hit while knocked down, but only on his backroll. This is due to him not having any invulnerability on backroll. It's an exploit you wanna keep mind of, due to characters being able to knock you back down, thus putting you in a vortex and/or dealing more damage than you need to take. The worst scenario is that you get hit with a front-hit ToD or a stun combo into death. The window your opponent has to hit you is generous, so be wary of that when you're knocked down.

The characters you really need to worry about though is S.Genjuro, B.Haohmaru and Zankuro; who can actually kill you off of you not keeping that in mind. Another annoyances include S.Shizumaru's Parasol and Rimu's Puddle.

Using the hitstop glitch to your advantage

Zankuro doesn't exactly rely on the hitstop glitch to win, but it's very useful if you want to deal a lot of damage pre-stun or having a very easy stun punish (as simple as just pressing 5C at best). If a fireball lands, the world is your oyster; you can link 2D/5A into anything you want, and i mean anything. 2D/5A into 236A? go ahead. 2D/5A into 5/2C? If there's a will, there's a way. It essentially gives Zankuro the "cancellable normals" he was so desperately lacking, but it only works off of fireball. While you can do it for actual damage reasons, there are alternate uses for it, like making timing fireballs a lot easier or just pure style.

At a more advanced level? This also allows Zankuro to do 100% combos off of front hit without relying on stunning his opponent on most characters (On high defense characters, all you have to do as a stun punish is 5C). It's not exactly the easiest thing to do, or the most optimal either but it definitely adds a new layer to Zankuro's combo game.


Stun ToD: 236Ax2 5C [stun] 236Ax2 5C
Very consistent ToD as long as at least one of the fireballs lands from close enough range for the sword hitbox to connect -- if the 5C doesn't stun, you're in trouble. You can do it off of a throw, you can tag them in the neutral with a fireball, you can do anything. This is Zankuro’s entire combo game. If the opponent is cornered all you have to do is throw more fireballs. It’ll stun. If you want swag, try circle stepping while the opponent is in hitstun and start doing it from behind. You can also link 2D/5A into fireballs and make your combo just the tiniest bit fancier. Hell, if you really want, you can end it off with 2D 2C.
High Defense Stun ToD: 236Ax3 5C [stun] 236Ax4 5C
Against characters with 95% defense values (Basara, Gaira, Genjuro, Shizumaru, Ukyo, Zankuro), this is the optimal ToD. Like the above, it still works off of throws.
66A Anti-Air ToD: Anti-Air 66A, 236C, 5C [stun] (Stun Ender Of Choice)
66A has to anti-air from the front so you can't crossunder 66A for 236C to connect. This also works on trade-hit. Situational somewhat, but useful to know.
Jumping stun ToD: j.D 2C [stun] 236Ax4 5C
Very easy confirm, can be done as soon as the round starts even against clueless players. Don't do j.D too early and you'll land the combo every time.

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