Character History by SFujimoto

Version: 7.0 | Updated: 12/08/05 | Printable Version

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF SAMURAI SPIRITS CHARACTERS v. 7.0

Many of the characters in Samurai Spirits are based on historical
or fictional characters. However, it is important to realize that
these are historical figures seen through the lens of popular culture.
Many legends have been woven around the Yagyu clan. Hattori Hanzo
is considered the archtypal ninja in Japan, and consequently his life
has probably been greatly embellished. Similarly, Musashi is regarded
as the archtypal samurai or kensei. In this case, the popular image
of Musashi in modern Japan has been shaped by Yoshikawa Eiji's book
"Musashi", which is a sort of "fictional biography" of his life. Curiously
enough, the fictional samurai Kyoshiro can be seen as an anti-archetype
of Musashi. At any rate, the game designers have based many of their
characters on their knowledge of famous fighters in Japanese popular
culture.

    Directory (added by Damone):
     * Haohmaru
     * Caffiene Nicotine
     * Ukyo
     * Jubei
     * Hanzo
     * Wan Fu
     * Kyoshiro
     * Charlotte
     * Amakusa
     * Genjuro
     * Nakoruru
     * Earthquake
     * Gen-an
     * Sieger
     * Tam Tam
     * Cham Cham
     * Mizuki
     * Kuroko
     * Sources
       
                        Haohmaru

Based on Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), the classic model of the
samurai. Musashi was a ronin when he was young, roaming the
countryside and testing his skill against various opponents.
(sounds familiar...) His religion was The Way of the Sword, in
which he hoped to gain enlightenment through perfect mental control
and physical skill. (like arcade players today :-) The basis of this
philosophy is Zen Buddhism, which advocates the negation of wordly
attachments and emotions to attain a higher state of non-being. Thus,
this goal came at the expense of everything else, even love (this
sorta explains Haohmaru's ending...) and personal appearance (which
explains Haohmaru's haircut). However, the cocky attitude that
Haohmaru adopts was NOT displayed by Musashi, who viewed everything
with the utmost seriousness.
Musashi developed the fighting technique of using two swords at once
(although Haohmaru only has one). He also eventually became a samurai
of the Hasokawa daiymo, which had previously employed his rival Genryu
earlier. Despite his famous martial prowess, Musashi gradually came
to believe that enlightenment could also be achieved through the arts
as well, and became a notable painter and woodsculptor. He left a
famous book on the art of swordfighting, "The Book of Five Rings",
that (curiously enough) has been used to advise businessmen today how
to become better competitors!

Note on the "Crescent Moon Slash": this may actually be based on the
"Full Moon Cut" used by Nemuri Kyoshiro (see below). In both moves,
the sword is swung in a circle to obliterate all enemies around
oneself.

Note on Oshizu: Probably based on Otsu, Musashi's girlfriend. He was
torn between his quest as a Zen swordsman and his attachment to Otsu,
just like Haohmaru.



                       Caffeine Nicotine

Musashi (at least according to Yoshikawa) did have a Zen Buddhist monk
as a mentor during his early years named Soho Takuan. Whether this is
historically true is debatable, but Takuan was a real person--there's a
pickle named after him! His teachings on Zen also had a great influence
on the historical Musashi's approach to fighting and life. In addition,
he was a personal mentor to both the Shogun and Yagyu Munenori, and
influenced both their Zen approaches to swordsmanship. Of course, Takuan
did not puff joints, drink coffee, or throw talismans around, and he was
NOT a fighter in his early years, like Nicotine. But that's probably the
best basis for him.
The monk named Dakuan (!) in Jubei Ninja Chronicles bears a remarkable
resemblance to Nicotine, although Dakuan is more sinister looking and
not half as wacky (many of the SS designers also worked on that anime).


                        Tachibana Ukyo

Based on Sasaki Kojiro Genryu (1572--1612), Musashi's skilled rival. Genryu
wielded a VERY long sword called the "Drying Pole". He was reputed to be
the most skilled swordsman around, and could slice swallows in mid-air,
according to Yoshikawa. The preface to the Book of Five Rings says that
he developed a sword technique inspired by the movement of a swallow's
tail in flight. This is the basis of Ukyo's "swoop swallow slice". Genryu
even named the school of swordsmanship he founded Tsumabe Gaeshi.
Despite his skill, during their duel Musashi killed him in one blow (two,
according to some accounts). Just like Ukyo and Haohmaru, Musashi and
Genryu fought on an isle off of the coast of Japan, and Musashi showed
up late for the duel as a psychological tactic (this could explain
why Ukyo and Haohmaru are at the same place, but totally different
times). After he defeated Genryu, the island was renamed Genryu Isle
("Gairyu Isle"), although it's actually by Shimonoseki and not where the
SS map says it is. Note that this was Musashi's most famous duel, and is
pretty much a cultural reference in Japan.

In the book "Musashi", Genryu comes off as a totally selfish and arrogant
person. Yoshikawa made him the symbol of a swordsman gifted with "mere"
technical virtuosity, to contrast him against Musashi's spiritual
strength. He's not a womanizer either. However, later Murakami Genzo
wrote a best-selling novel about Sasaki Kojiro, depicting him in a more
heroic light. This Genryu was an aristocratic, dignified swordsman, who
was a hearthrob with the ladies. His amorous affairs, fancy clothes, and
sophisticated air were contrasted sharply with Musashi's rough-and-tumble
look and attitude. He also had a sense of -aware-, a Japanese word meaning
a deep understanding of both the briefness and sweetness of life. This is
probably the portrayal of Genryu that Ukyo is based on. However, neither
Yoshikawa's nor Murakami's Genryu had blue hair :-)

Note on Ukyo's sword and fighting style: I strongly suspect that these
two aspects of his design are not based on Genryu, but instead the blind
swordsman Zato Ichi, a character in a series of popular movies. For one,
Ukyo's unusual sword looks EXACTLY like Zato's "cane sword." Zato kept

the blade sheathed in his cane most of the time, but could draw it at
lightning-quick speeds to dispatch his enemies, just like Ukyo. Being
blind, he used sound to locate his enemies. Ukyo is obviously not blind,
but his quirky style of facing away from his enemy may be inspired by
Zato's blind technique.

Historically, during the duel with Musashi, Genryu was wearing an
-iga-bakama- (skirt) and straw sandals, just like Ukyo.
Incidentally, a tachibana is a type of mandarin orange.

SS2--As for Ukyo having tuberculosis, Genryu never came down with it.
He didn't live long enough.


                      Yagyu Jubei

The Yagyus were a famous line of samurai. Yagyu Muneyoshi was a samurai
renown for his skill with the sword and his general samurai prowness.
His son, Yagyu Munenori became the personal sword instructor of the
Tokugawa shoguns. The son of Munenori was Yagyu Jubei Mitsuyoshi
(1606-1644), who also started out as the shogun's sword instructor but
was dismissed for unclear reasons. It was rumored that this was actually
a cover for Jubei to go on covert missions for the shogun or the emperor
(hence his nickname in SS, "The Emperor's Secret Servant"). Because of
this, popular legend holds that that Jubei actually became sort of a
samurai-ninja. He was supposed to have roamed the countryside in the guise
of a ronin, hiding his face behind an -amigasa- (straw hat). He searched out
threats to the Shogun's rule, and often revealed his true identity right
before finishing off enemies. He later "officially" re-entered into the
service of the Shogun, and wrote many books on the Yagyu style of
swordsmanship. It was during his exile years during which many tall tales
are woven around him.

He is often depicted with an eyepatch, said to be the result of a childhood
accident when his father threw a stone at him to determine his reflexes
towards fencing. Nice father... :-)
Nothing said about Jubei using two swords, although Musashi was said to
have introduced this technique.

Interestingly, in the book "Musashi", Yagyu Muneyoshi had retired from
ruling his domain, and lived in seclusion in a small house nestled in a
bamboo grove behind it! Perhaps Jubei inherited his grandfather's hideaway?
Note that while Jubei is placed at Tosa, Kochi, the actual location of the
Yagyu fief is between Kyoto and Nara.


                      Hattori Hanzo

Hattori Hanzo (1541-1596) actually existed, and was the most
famous of the ninjas of Iga (Iga province has been connected with
ninja activities throughout history). Hattori Hanzo Masashige's
nickname was "Devil Hanzo," and he engaged in such ninja-associated
activities as night raids on enemy castles. Through complex
circumstances, Oda Nobunaga felt compelled to invade Iga, brutally
crushing all resistance and using scorched-earth tactics. This may
explain the desolate background in Hanzo's stage, although SS puts him
in Yamada, not Iga, for unknown reasons. Ieyasu Tokugawa later welcomed
the ninjas as his allies. As a result, Hanzo and other ninjas fought for
Ieyasu Tokugawa in his quest to reunite Japan.


SS2--The historical Hanzo did not have sons named Kanzo or Shinzo.
He did have a son named Iwani-no-kami Masanari who was, of course,
*not* possessed by the spirit of Amakuza or anyone else.


                      Wan Fu

Wan Fu seems to be a combination of two famous Chinese warriors.

The first is a famous Chinese swordsman who was a rebel during the Ch'ing
Dynasty. His name was Wang Ts-bin Wu, but he became known as Da Dao Wang
Wu ("Big Scimitar Wang Wu"). He was from a well-off Peking family, and
studied first Kung Fu and later swordsmanship under a different master. His
nickname came from the giant dao he wielded in combat, and he became one of
the greatest swordsmen of China. He also had a red complexion. (note that
Wan Fu is red much of the time...) Wang Wu was also a just man who fought
for the poor and oppressed against the Ch'ing Empire. Because of this, he
is still a folk hero to many Chinese. Wang Wu died in the Boxer Rebellion
while trying to save a woman from being raped by a soldier. The connections
between Wang Wu and Wan Fu are the similar names and time periods in which
each person exists, and the fact that Wang Wu wielded a big scimitar, just
like Wan Fu. (I am indebted to "Roach" for this information)

The second lead bases Wan Fu upon the ancient, almost legendary,
founder of the Chou Dynasty, King Wu Wang. At this time (1100 B.C.)
China was a fragmented country of kingdoms and kings. King Wu became
famous for his martial prowess when he conquered the rival Sheng
Kingdom and incorporated it into the Kingdom of the Chou. He moved the
capital of his kingdom to Hao, now called Sian. There is evidence that
King Wu wanted to unify all of known China, but he died before that
could be accomplished. Confucious cites him as an example of a strong
and virtuous king. The connections between King Wu and Wan Fu are that
both are king ofs Sian and both are military conquerors. It also explains
the historical discrepancy of "King" Wan Fu (during the time period of
SS, China was unified under the Ch'ing dynasty so Wan Fu can't be a king).

SS2--the short blurb about Wan Fu says that he is destined to unify all
of China, which furthers the incongruity with the SS time period and
offers more support to the "King Wu" theory, as King Wu also wanted to
unify China. For further confusion, Wan Fu has a pigtail, which the Manchus
required all Chinese to have. So does this mean that "King Wan Fu" is still
under the domain of the Ch'ing Dynasty? Someone should ask him...


                      Senryo Kyoshiro

Kyoshiro is based on a fictional character named Nemuri Kyoshiro.
"Sleepy-Eyed Kyoshiro, Notes on Villany," by Shibata Tosaburo was a novel
serialized in a post-war magazine and later made into a film series from
1963-1969. Kyoshiro was a 17th-century skilled swordsman who was haunted
by his violent origin. He was conceived when his mother was raped by a
Portuguese missionary. Kyoshiro himself was estranged with society, and
had a hatred of both Christians and women. Despite this, or because of it,
he was also a complete womanizer--he often disrobed women by slashing
their garments with his sword before...err...getting to know them better.

Kyoshiro means "deranged fellow", while Nemuri means "sleepy", reflecting
his blase attitude towards life, and his cynical and cold posture toward
others. Nevertheless, he also pursued the Way of the Sword, and sought a
Zen-like detachment from emotions and thoughts, just like Musashi.
Note that Nemuri Kyoshiro had NOTHING to do with Kabuki, and was dressed
in black, to reflect his personality. He also was traditionally armed with
a sword, not a naginata. He DID have red hair, though.

Kabuki notes: Senryo Kyoshiro is in the Kabuki costume of a lion. Also
note that fans are an essential part of Kabuki theater, and used in dances
and such.
"Senryo" referred to a Kabuki actor who was famous enough to earn a thousand
ryo as a salary. This implies that Senryo Kyoshiro is a top-of-the-line
Kabuki actor to be earning so much money.


                         Charlotte

In 1972, Riyoko Ikeda wrote a famous manga (Japanese comic) series
called The Rose of Versailles. It concerned the various dealings in
Versailles right before the French Revolution. The main (fictional)
character was Oscar Francois de Jarjayes, an aristocratic woman who
wore men's clothing and a sword, and became the head of the guard at
Versailles. Despite her background, she later turned on her employers
and joined the French Revolution. Note that Charlotte throws a rose
every time after winning a fight.
As far as I know, Oscar never visited Japan. ^_^

SS2--Charlotte throws roses again. Also in her scene, the carpet has
a giant rose on it and there are bowls of roses at the ends of the hall.
And she's still at Versailles. "Rose of Versailles." Hmmm...


                       Shiro Amakuza

Shrio Amakuza (1622-1638) was also known as Masuda Shiro Tokisada. He
led a Christian-inspired uprising in the Shimabara region of Japan. His
father (Masuda Jimboye Yoshitsugu) was, ironically enough, a samurai.
Heavy taxation and persecution caused the peasants and ronin of the
Shimabara region to revolt, the last challenge to Tokugawa authority
until the opening of Japan in 1868. Amakuza became their charismatic
leader, and they gave him such titles as "Heavenly Master" (his nickname
in SS is "The Child of God"), which is of course unorthodox, at least to
European Christianity. The rebellion was eventually crushed, although
Amakuza's body was never recovered. Note that a lot of Amakuza's quotes
make sense once you consider his background...


                       Kibegami Genjuro

Genjuro is inspired by the Japanese Hanafuda card game. Thanks go
to Greg Kasavin, Kenichiro Tanaka, and Spencer Olson for originally
posting information on this:
The Hanafuda (flower card) game is made of a deck of 48 different
cards where you try and match suits to make high scoring combinations.
There are 12 suits, each representing both a plant and a month. They
are pine, plum, cherry, iris, wistaria, peony, clover, grass, chrysathenum,
maple, willow, paulownia. There are also four different ranks: the plain
one with nothing but the plant (1 point), the plant with a fuda (paper
strip with poetry) (5 pts), a picture with the plant and another object
(10 pts), and an even more elaborate picture (20 pts). Virtually EVERYTHING

about Genjuro is a reference to the Hanfuda deck:

--Genjuro's Sanren Satsu consists of three different attacks, the Boar,
the Deer, and the Butterfly. When he completes the three slashes, he
shouts "InoShikaCho!" which are the three respective animals. Look
closely and you'll see those animals on the cards, which are exactly as
they appear in the Hanafuda deck (10 point wistaria, maple, and peony,
respectively). In Hanafuda, these three cards are together a high-scoring
combination.

--Genjuro's Card Throw when it hits shows cards from the cherry blossom
suit. An A is a plain cherry blossom, a B is a 5 pt cherry blossom, and
the AB is a 20 pt cherry blossom, the same card that's used in his weapon
breaker.

--Genjuro's uppercut briefly shows a pheonix's head at the arc of the slash.
The head surrounded by the purple slash (actually wings) is an image from
the 20 pt card in the paulownia suit.

--Genjuro's Power Special displays either the highest or lowest cards of
each suit. When blocked, the lowest cards fly out. When he hits, the five
"lights" (highest ranking cards) are shown. The five lights are the highest
combination you can get in the game:
1. Crane--pine suit
2. Man with umbrella and frog--willow suit
3. Pheonix's head--paulownia suit
4. Moon over hill--grassy suit
5. Curtain with cherry blossoms--cherry blossom suit

--Genjuro's stage itself is right out of Hanafuda. An entire suit of the
grass cards consists of a grassy landscape at sunset with a big moon over
on the left. The 1 pt cards have only the grass, while the 10 pt card
show the flock of birds that fly across Genjuro's background. The 20 pt
card has the moon over the hill. The grass, incidentally, is called Sekagi
and that's why his stage is appropriately titled Sekagigahara. However,
Genjuro's scene takes place in November, while the grass suit is August.

--When Genjuro is split open, 1-pt cherry blossom cards spill out.

--When Genjuro puts on his kimono, there is an image of a paper with
poetry on it, lined on either side by blossoms. This is from the 5 point
cherry blossom card. The wine dish is from the 10 pt chrysanthenum suit.
The pose with him holding an umbrella with a frog nearby is an image
directly from the 20 pt willow suit.

Note: The main character in Jubei Ninja Chronicles is called Kibegami
Jubei. Hmmm...


The following characters probably don't have a historical or fictional
basis:

Nakoruru--She's basically your typical kawaii anime character with a
knife.
Nakoruru wears the typical dress of the Ainu, as does her family.
The Ainu believe all natural objects and creatures are manifestations of
kamui (gods or spirits). This is probably the basis of Nakoruru's nature
worship.


Galford--First, San Francisco did not exist during the time of SS. Second,
there were of course no ninjas in America at that time. Galford is
probably an original creation by the designers.


Earthquake--Texas also did not exist at this time, and he's an
anachronistic ninja too, as his nickname says. Musashi did fight a person
skilled with a kusari-gama named Shishido Baikin, who was also portrayed
as somewhat of a roguish character. But that's probably it as far as

background goes.


Gen-An--Gen-An is not a tengu, because: 1) tengus may be mischievous, but
are never evil, 2) They have beaks and wings, 3) They live in dense,
mountainous forests, not caves. Gen-An is not an oni, because they have
horns and fangs, and traditionally wield spiked clubs and mallets. If
anything, he's probably a generic Japanese hobgoblin or some sort of
degenerate human.


Nienhalt Sieger--As many people have pointed out, his name is sort of a
joke. It means "No Halt Victory."
Historically, Sieger would most likely be a Teutonic Knight, a Germanic
order of knights. However, their symbol was a black cross on a white
field, not a lion. Also, they were not allied to either the Holy Roman
Emperor nor the Prussian King, but were basically an autonomous order.
The "Knights of the Red Lion Knight" that Sieger belongs to is probably
a total fiction as well.


Tam-Tam--The FAQ states the inconsistencies pretty clearly. Tam-Tam
supposedly is Incan but: 1) Quetzacoatl is an Aztec god, 2) the Incans
didn't have steel, 3) he looks like a Maori from New Zealand, 4) his
dress looks Aztecan.


Cham-Cham--To my knowledge, boomerangs were not found in the New World.
Paku-Paku also looks like a chimpanzee, which are not found in the New
World either. And of course, there's her green hair....
However, as a possibility, there was a pre-Incan society called the Chimu,
whose capital was called Chan Chan. They fished and traded for a living.
After hiding from the Spainards, they overfished the nearby water sources
and eventually were starved out of existence. Not a definite lead, but
many interesting coincidences nevertheless...



Sources Unknown:

Mizuki Rashoushin--No idea whatsoever.
Mizuki is dressed in the traditional white blouse and red skirt of a
Shinto priestess or priest-assistant (the Shinto priesthood is
predominantly male).
Note that the weapon she uses is a gohei, which is used both as a
purification device and a symbolic offering to the kami in Shinto rituals.
Of course, it isn't nearly as dangerous a weapon in real life. ^_^



Special Note:

                         Kuroko

Koroko are an essential part of Kabuki. They are best described as a
cross between a stagehand and a personal assistant to the actors.
Their many tasks include adding or removing props when needed, wiping
persperation off of an actor's face or bringing him water, assisting
an actor in changing a costume while on-stage (!), and other necessary
tasks to ensure a Kabuki performance runs smoothly. They are dressed in
black so as not to be seen (traditional backgrounds were often dark so
they blended in) and wore a black flap over their face to signify that
they were not "real" people in the play. They did their work as quietly
and quickly as possible, so as not to be noticed.
The red and white flags that Kuroko waves are used by referees in kendo
matches in exactly the same manner--when a hit is scored the appropriate
flag goes up.


Sources: Lives of Master Swordsmen
          by Makoto Sugawara
         Ninja, the True Story of Japan's Secret Warrior Cult
          by Stephen Turnbull

         Samurai, the Story of a Warrior Tradition
          by Harry Cook
         The Heart of the Warrior
          by Catharina Blomberg
         Musashi
          by Eiji Yoshikawa
         The Book of Five Rings
          by Miyamoto Musashi (introduction: Victor Harris)
         China's Imperial History
          by Charles O. Hucker
         Manga! Manga! The Story of Japanese Comics
          by Frederik L. Shodt
         The Samurai Film
          by Alain Silver
         Archetypes in Japanese Film
          by Gregory Barret
         The Kabuki Theatre
          by Earle Ernst
         Japanese Mythology
          by Juliet Piggott
         Hanafuda: The Flower Card Game
          compiled by Japan Publications
         Totally Obnoxious Notes to Urusei Yatsura, vol. 15
          by Animiego
         The SS1 FAQ
          by Mark Maestas and Ewan Ng
         Greg Kasavin, Kenichiro Tanka, and Spencer Olson (Genjuro info)
         Shawn Holmes (Amakuza info)
         Michael Rusignuolo (Sieger info and Cham Cham tantalizer)
         "Roach" (Wan Fu info)
         Roger Lai (proofreading the whole thing)

--Scott Fujimoto