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Japanese historical people in popular culture

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Japanese historical people in popular culture

This article is about popular culture representations of people in the Heian and Edo periods. For historical figures of the Warring States era, see People of the Sengoku period in popular culture.

Many significant Japanese historical people appear in works of popular culture such as anime, manga, and video games. This article presents information on references to historical people in such works.

Yamato period

Himiko

She appears in Warriors Orochi series, the crossover series of Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors. In WO2, she becomes friends with Da Ji, and she is the key to resurrecting the Japanese demon Orochi.

She also appears in Kessen II, a fictional story with characters from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In this story, she is in love with Cao Cao, but she is jealous of Diao Chan. She goes off in a rage, and she has to be stopped by Wei and Shu.

Abe no Seimei

His name appears in many works of fiction, often as a helpful, wise man, and rarely as an enemy.

  • The 1985 historical fantasy novel Teito Monogatari by Hiroshi Aramata does not feature Abe no Seimei specifically, but greatly features the Tsuchimikado Clan (which owes its roots to Abe no Seimei) in a primary role in the story. The protagonist of the novel, the heretical onmyoji Yasunori Kato (whose name is a reference to Kamo no Yasunori, Seimei's legendary teacher) claims descent from Seimei's clan. Seimei's folklore is also discussed over the course of the novel. The best selling novel is widely credited as having reignited an interest in Seimei, oni, and onmyoji in Japanese popular culture.[1]
  • In 1994, Baku Yumemakura started a novel series named Onmyoji with Seimei portrayed as a handsome young adult male who lived in a Heian-period world populated with mysterious beings. This was turned into a manga by Reiko Okano and became popular with teenage girls. In 2002, an NHK television series was later made, based on the novels. Manga version of Abe has also been rendered by acclaimed Taiwanese manga artist Ethan, who has stated that he is a huge fan of the novel.
  • The movie Onmyoji, starring Mansai Nomura as Seimei, was released in 2001 (2004 in the U.S.) by Pioneer (now Geneon). In 2003, a sequel, Onmyoji II, was produced; both movies are based on the above-mentioned novel and manga series. To capitalize on the success of the Onmyoji films, Fuji Television produced a miniseries in 2004, called Onmyoji: Abe no Seimei. This series has no ties to either of the above two productions.
  • Seimei can also be seen in the anime Magical☆Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. The show's focus was on the Onmyoji practice of changing events to avoid an ill occurrence, and the misadventures of two youths in the resultant realities.
  • One of Seimei's rare appearances as a villain is in the anime series Otogizoshi.
  • Another one of Seimei's appearances as a villain is in the 2005 anime Shin Getter Robo. Abe no Seimei appears as a powerful sorcerer inhabiting a castle and a surrounding township, with powerful magical abilities and thousands of oni under his command. After being defeated in the time of ancient Heiankyo, he returns in the modern era, only to be effortlessly dispatched again. Near the end of the series, the four kami (possibly the Four Heavenly Kings) inform the heroes that Abe no Seimei was an oni they had dispatched to destroy the Getter itself.
  • He appears as a woman simply named Seimei, a heroine of Otogi 2, an Xbox video game.
  • In the PlayStation 2 game Kuon, Ashiya Doman and Abe no Seimei are featured as rivals, the latter as a female.
  • In the anime Harukanaru Toki no Naka de, Seimei appears as Abe no Yasuaki's creator and master. Again, he is portrayed as a powerful onmyoji.
  • In the anime Spirit Warrior: Festival of the Ogres Revival, he appears as a ghost.
  • Hao Asakura in Shaman King (a manga and anime series) seems to be inspired by Abe no Seimei.
  • Abe no Masahiro of the novel, drama, and anime Shōnen Onmyouji is Abe no Seimei's grandson. Abe no Seimei appears in the series as an elderly, powerful onmyoji acting as a combination of mentor and obstacle to the main character, whose goal is to surpass his grandfather's great reputation.
  • The card Sealmaster Meisei from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game is inspired by Abe no Seimei.
  • Abe no Seimei is also featured in Nurarihyon no Mago (anime/manga series) as the evil, twisted mastermind/antagonist of every evil deeds hindering the unification of the human and yokai society desired by Rikuo Nura (main protagonist).

Minamoto no Yoshitsune

  • Yoshitsune's feat of cutting leaves as they fell from a tree has been referenced many times in Japanese pop culture. In some instances, characters attempt the feat to compare themselves to Yoshitsune, as in the beginning of Blade of the Immortal. Sometimes, variations upon this motif are seen, such as in the manga One Piece where Zoro the swordsman achieves the ability to cut steel because he can hold a falling leaf on his sword's edge without cutting it, or in Hajime no Ippo, where the main character is facetiously given the task of catching falling leaves with his bare hands before he will be allowed into a gym. Ippo's eventual ability to indirectly mimic Yoshitsune is seen as a sign of great potential by the other characters.
  • In an episode of Lupin III, it is revealed that Yoshitsune did not commit seppuku, but instead fled to Mongolia and became Genghis Khan. This is based on actual story believed by some Japanese. (義経=ジンギスカン説)
  • Yoshitsune appears in Warriors Orochi 2 where he ends up joining the Wu force and forming a rivalry with Lu Bu, he wields a gauntlet that houses a blade of light. His main enemy is Kiyomori Taira.
  • Yoshitsune appears in the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo as a zombie, he is called by his childhood name Ushiwakamaru.
  • "Shike" by Robert Shea features a somewhat fictionalized account of the Genpei War in which Minamoto no Yoshitsune appears to be represented by the character Muratomo no Yukio. The names of the two rival clans have been changed, "Minamoto" to "Muratomo" and "Taira" to "Takashi".
  • Yoshitsune's friendship with Benkei is referred as a symbol of true loyalty to in the Detective Conan movie Crossroads of the Ancient Capital.
  • Akira Kurosawa's film The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail dramatises a legend about Yoshitsune, based on the kabuki play Kanjincho.
  • NHK's 2005 taiga drama Yoshitsune is a fictionalized account of the samurai's life and the political intrigues that sealed his fate.
  • Game Republic's 2005 PlayStation 2 video game, Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is another fictionalized account of the story of Yoshitsune and Saito Musashibo Benkei.
  • Sogo Ishii's film Gojō Reisenki Gojoe retells, with considerable reinvention, Yoshitsune's encounter with Benkei at Gojō Bridge.
  • Yoshitsune appears in the "Civil War" episode of Osamu Tezuka's manga cycle Phoenix. The story is a retelling of the Gempei war with fictional and mystical elements interspersed in the narrative.
  • In an unusual twist, Yoshitsune along with Benkei and two Minamoto clan members, Yoritomo and Yoshinaka, are the villains of an old Namco arcade game Genpei Toumaden. The hero of the game is Taira no Kagekiyo, who was portrayed as the villain of Genji: Dawn of the Samurai. All of them make an appearance in the crossover game Namco X Capcom.
  • In Hirofumi Sawada's manga Shana Ō Yoshitsune and its sequel, Shana Ō Yoshitsune: Genpei Gassen, the weak and sickly Ushiwakamaru is replaced by a body double, the acrobat Hyouta. After Ushiwaka dies, Hyouta takes on the name of Yoshitsune and lives on as the original to fulfil his dream of vengeance against the Taira.
  • Yoshitsune appears as "Ushiwaka" (or "Waka") in the videogame Ōkami as a Taoist Prophet who often gives the main character (the incarnation of Amaterasu as a wolf) prophesies in the form of unusual riddles.
  • Minamoto Yoshitsune is the protagonist during a campaign on the Nintendo DS game, Age of Empires: The Age of Kings.
  • Yoshitsune appears as the main character of the manga Kurozuka by Baku Yumemakura, serialized in Jump Comics Deluxe.
  • Japanese doll and figure company Volks have released a SD10 sized Super Dollfie Ushiwakamaru based on Yoshitsune as a child.
  • Though not a direct representation of Yoshitsune, the general of the Air Treck team Trident in the manga Air Gear by Oh! great is named Yoshitsune and served by a second-in-command named Benkei.
  • The videogame Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3 by Koei features Yoshitsune as one of the main characters, and one of his combat abilities is based on slicing leaves in midair. Other main characters are Benkei and Yoshitsune's 'oni' swordsmanship teacher.
  • He appears in the eroge Sengoku Rance as a generic-faced captain. His brother Yoritomo is, too.
  • Is known as Yoshitsune is the game Persona 4, he is one of the protagonists higher level persona and is known for having one of the strongest physical attacks in the game called Hassou Tobi.
  • In the online card game, Urban Rivals, there is a card of the Nightmare clan who is called Oshitsune, whose name is obviously a play on Yoshitsune's real name. His bio has him being resurrected from the dead by Ielena, and forced to wear a cursed pendant that turned him into a zombie.
  • Yoshitsune is shown in the twelfth book of Usagi Yojimbo in the fourth prologue, where the Battle of Dan-no-Ura is being fought.
  • He appears in Kouta Hirano's new work Drifters as an Antagonist character, helping the black king end all humans as an Offscouring.
  • Yoshitsune as "Ushiwaka" is one of the two protagonists in Rando Ayamine and Yuya Aoki's ongoing manga series Oniwaka to Ushiwaka: Edge of the World with Oniwaka as Benkei.
  • Yoshitsune and his brother Yoritomo are featured in the Amiga game Lords of the Rising Sun.

Saitō no Musashibō Benkei

Main article: Saitō Musashibō Benkei
  • Benkei appears in Okami, where the main character has to help him fish for a cutlass fish as his 1000th "sword".
  • Benkei along with Yoshitsune has appeared in the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo as zombies.
  • He appeared in Namco arcade game Genpei Toumaden as a villain while he is portrayed a hero in Genji: Dawn of the Samurai.
  • The character Benkei in Air Gear is named after him.
  • Benkei Kurama from the Getter Robo series is named after the historical Benkei. In New Getter Robo, the character Benkei Musashibō is not only named after the historical figure of the same name, but also the character's name is the combination of two of the series' major characters - Benkei Kurama and Musashi Tomoe.
  • Benkei appears as a playable character in Koei's Musou Orochi Z for the PlayStation 3. In battle, he utilizes a wooden mechanized fist on his right arm.
  • Benkei appears in the twelfth book of Usagi Yojimbo shown serving Yoshitsune at the Battle of Dan-no-Ura in the fourth prologue.

Taira no Kagekiyo

Main article: Taira no Kagekiyo
  • Taira no Kagekiyo, like most figures in the supremely famous and popular Heike Monogatari, features in a number of traditional dramas, and in modern pop culture as well. In addition to the Noh play Daibutsu-kuyō, he is featured in performances and plays called Kagekiyo, which differ across a variety of disciplines, including kabuki, kyōgen and kōwakamai.
  • A number of jōruri puppet plays feature Kagekiyo, including Shusse Kagekiyo by Chikamatsu Monzaemon.
  • Kagekiyo features as the main character in the Japan-only 1986 Namco beat 'em up arcade game Genpei Toumaden and its sequel Samurai Ghost, as well as appearing in Namco x Capcom. This version is unique in that this version is undead and thus happens after his life.
  • He is the main villain in Genji: Dawn of the Samurai.
  • The Virtuaroid Kagekiyo is named after Taira no Kagekiyo.
  • Takumi Fujiwara from Initial D manga is named after Taira no Kagekiyo's real name, Fujiwara no Kagekiyo.
  • In the video game Soulcalibur II and Tekken 6, Kagekiyo is an alternate weapon for the character Yoshimitsu.

Taira no Kiyomori

Main article: Taira no Kiyomori
  • Taira no Kiyomori is also the main character in the Kamakura period epic, the Tale of Heike.
  • In video games, Kiyomori appears in Warriors Orochi 2 fighting for Orochi's army and using prayer beads as weapons.
  • Kiyomori also features prominently as a sympathetic villain in Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix series in the first half of the ninth volume, Turbulent Times (retitled as Civil War in English), another Genpei War epic. Like most villains in the series he desires the titular bird for its immortality granting blood, due to his desire to continue to lead & protect the Taira clan & lack of confidence in his successors, but winds up being tricked into buying an imported Peacock instead.
  • He appears in the eroge Sengoku Rance as a generic-faced captain.


Tomoe Gozen

Main article: Tomoe Gozen
  • Her first appearance in literature is of course in the Heike Monogatari. She has been written about by and fictional authors alike, and has been incarnated as characters in various anime. In the 2005 NHK taiga drama Yoshitsune, Tomoe Gozen was one of the main characters. Her story is quite fictional. She was portrayed by actress and model Koike Eiko.
  • Jessica Amanda Salmonson wrote "The Tomoe Gozen Saga", a trilogy of fantasy novels respectively titled Tomoe Gozen, The Golden Naginata, and Thousand Shrine Warrior. The first was reissued in a corrected and revised edition as The Disfavored Hero.[2]
  • Saisei, a character in the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, turned out to be the resurrected Tomoe Gozen. She is accurately portrayed, wearing beautiful armor and being highly skilled with her naginata
  • In the comic book Usagi Yojimbo, a major supporting character is Tomoe Ame, a female samurai loosely based on Tomoe Gozen.
  • Tomoe Gozen is the Persona of Chie Satonaka in Persona 4.

Tokugawa/Meiji Period

Main article: Edo period

Harada Sanosuke

Main article: Harada Sanosuke

Harada Sanosuke appears in Shiba Ryoutarou's novels Moeyo Ken and Shinsengumi Keppuroku. He is depicted in the drama series Shinsengumi! (played by Yamamoto Taro). In addition, Harada appears in the manga and anime series Peacemaker Kurogane. He is also featured in Kaze Hikaru (manga), Getsumei Seiki (manga) and Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi (video game series) and is shown in flashback sequences in Rurouni Kenshin (the character designs for him and the character based on him, Sagara Sanosuke, are similar).

Hattori Masanari

Main article: Hattori Masanari

Hattori Masanari is portrayed in the anime series Shinshaku Sanada Juyushi as a ninja warrior serving beneath Ieyasu initially during the Sekigahara Campaign (within this campaign, Masanari attempts to kill the main character Sarutobi Sasuke, not only for the sake of protecting the Tokugawa contingent upon which the former had been spying, but also to avenge his father who had been slain by ninja of Sasuke's Kōga clan, though this wasn't the case in actual history). He was also portrayed by Sonny Chiba in Shadow Warriors I.[3]

Hijikata Toshizō

Main article: Hijikata Toshizō

Hijikata is depicted in the 1999 film Gohatto (played by Takeshi Kitano), the 2004 NHK Taiga drama series Shinsengumi! (including the single-episode sequel Shinsengumi!: Hijikata Toshizo Saigo no Ichinichi), as well as being one of the main characters in Peace Maker Kurogane (anime/manga), Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan (video game/anime) and Kaze Hikaru (manga).

Hijikata is the protagonist in Morita Kenji's manga Getsumei Seiki, and in Mibu Robin's Baragaki ("Red Demon").

Hijikata (as well as other members of the Shinsengumi) also appears in the yaoi manga Soshite Haru no Tsuki.

Hijikata appears in the TV series Shinsengumi Keppuroku, and is played by Hiroaki Murakami.

Hijikata is also featured in the anime/manga Shura no Toki and in the short OVA Hijikata Toshizou - Shiro no Kiseki.

He also has a part in the anime Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto.

He is a minor character in anime Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi as well.

Hijikata was also featured prominently in the 2-part anime: Unkai no Meikyuu (Mask of Zeguy)

In the anime and manga Gintama, a character by the name of Toushiro Hijikata is loosely based on the historical Hijikata.

  • He appears in the eroge Sengoku Rance as a hanny captain of Imagawa family named Hijikata H. Toshizou (with H = hanny).

Inoue Genzaburō

Main article: Inoue Genzaburō

Inoue is featured in Kaze Hikaru (manga) and Getsumei Seiki (manga). He is also depicted in the 1999 film Gohatto and NHK's drama series Shinsengumi!.

Kondō Isami

Main article: Kondō Isami

Kondō was portrayed in the drama series Shinsengumi! by SMAP singer Shingo Katori. Kondō is also featured in the anime/manga Peacemaker Kurogane, the manga Kaze Hikaru and the Rurouni Kenshin OVA Samurai X. On film, this character has appeared in the 1999 film Gohatto and in the 2003 film Mibu Gishi Den (also known as When The Last Sword is Drawn); Kondo Isao from Gintama is loosely based on Isami.

  • He appears in the eroge Sengoku Rance as a hanny captain named Kondou H. Yuu (with H = hanny).

Kondō appears in the popular otome game/anime Hakuouki: Shinsengumi Kitan along with other Shinsengumi members.

Nagakura Shinpachi

Main article: Nagakura Shinpachi

Accounts of Nagukura's time before and during his Shinsengumi period appear in novels, period dramas and anime/manga series. For example, Nagakura is featured in Peacemaker Kurogane (anime/manga), Kaze Hikaru (manga), Getsumei Seiki (manga), the drama series Shinsengumi!, Shinsengumi Gunrou-den (video game series), and Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi (video game series).

Nezumi Kozō

Main article: Nezumi Kozō

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa wrote a short story, Nezumi Kozō Jirokichi (translated into English as "Nezumi Kozo, the Japanese Robin Hood"); at least two films have had the same Japanese title. Nezumi Kozō is an inspiration for the video game character Ebisumaru, who commonly stars in a video game series Ganbare Goemon. A descendant of his appears in the second anime Lupin III. Nezumi Kozō was also parodied on Tomica Hero: Rescue Force as a present day thief named "Nurenezumi Kozō".

Okita Sōji

Main article: Okita Sōji

Like the other members of the Shinsengumi, fictionalized accounts of Okita's life and actions appear in novels, period dramas and anime/manga series. Although his given name is sometimes pronounced as "Soushi" in the fictional world, it's actually "Souji." The popular Japanese conception of Okita is that his character and his swordsmanship were of the highest purity. In Shiba Ryotaro's novels, he joined the Shinsengumi not because of his political beliefs but rather out of his loyalty for Kondo Isami and his (fictional) friendship with Hijikata Toshizo.

His anime, manga, and TV appearances tend to depict him as a handsome young man, sometimes a bishōnen. The Latin American dub of Rurouni Kenshin, even mistook Okita for a woman. In fact, in a 1991 movie, Bakumatsu Jūnjōden (幕末純情伝), he is portrayed as a boyish woman, and in a 2003 theatrical production of the same name, the character was portrayed by actress Ryōko Hirosue.

On the 2004 NHK Taiga drama Shinsengumi!, actor Tatsuya Fujiwara played Okita.

Okita is a main character in the anime/manga Peacemaker Kurogane, which takes more liberties with history.

Okita is mentioned in the anime/manga series Rurouni Kenshin, which takes place during and after the Meiji Revolution in Japan. He makes a major appearance in the OVA and is briefly shown during the Kyoto Arc (before the character based on the Okita Sōji from novel Shinsengumi Keppuroku, Seta Sōjirō, makes his appearance); in the manga, Okita is also shown during the Jinchū Arc.

In the anime series, Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto, Okita is depicted as an old acquaintace of the protagonist, Akizuki Yōjirō.

Okita is one of the main playable characters in the Xbox video game Kengo: The Legend of the 9 Samurai.

In an episode of the anime Ghost Sweeper Mikami, ghost-hunter Mikami Reiko gets inside of a haunted movie about the Bakumatsu and meets Okita, who is depicted as a crazy guy who thinks only of killing people (obvious pun on his usual portrayal, which also is a foil to the show's rendition of Hijikata.) In the anime/manga series Shura no Toki, Okita's (fictional) final duel before succumbing to his sickness is with a warrior from the Mutsu Emmei Ryuu, an unarmed martial art. Okita appears during a flashback in Kido Shinsengumi: Moeyo Ken (which features Okita's fictional daughter Kaoru as one of the three main characters of the series.)

Okita is the male protagonist in the manga Kaze Hikaru, a fictional story about the Shinsengumi during the late Tokugawa shogunate, in which Okita trains a young girl to be one of the Shinsengumi in order to avenge her father and older brother. He is also featured in the manga Getsumei Seiki.

He also appears in the H-manga Femme Kabuki after his fault name Soji.

In addition, he is depicted in the 1999 live-action film Gohatto (sometimes known as Taboo), the 2003 Japanese film When the Last Sword Is Drawn, video game series Shinsengumi Gunrou-den (as the protagonist), video game series Fu-un Shinsengumi, and video game series Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi.

Okita Sougo, from the anime/manga Gintama, is loosely based on Okita Souji.

Saitō Hajime

Main article: Saitō Hajime

Saitō has become a better-known figure among young anime fans in the West since several anime and manga series used him as a character. The popular Rurouni Kenshin series portrays him as somewhat of a rival character, Saitō Hajime, once a mortal enemy of protagonist Himura Kenshin, and eventually an uneasy ally. As portrayed in Rurouni Kenshin, Saitō is very tall and plain-looking compared to the other characters and has a cold and quiet disposition, following some of the very few descriptions of his personality in real life. In Rurouni Kenshin, Saito is granted special permission to carry a katana. The Gatotsu sword technique that he uses in the series is similar to the description of his original sword technique, but is purely fictional, and not entirely accurate to real swordfighting. The real left-handed thrust is used, in most sword styles, as a surprise maneuver. It is executed as a tsuki or thrust while stepping through, releasing the right hand at the last moment, leaving the left holding the end of the hilt. The grip-change and the step grant an extra foot or more of reach, completely changing the spacing of the fight, but it must be done suddenly to be most effective. The "Aku Soku Zan" motto he lives by (悪即斬, most literally, "Kill those who are evil immediately," but more poetically translated as "Swift death to evil," or "Slay Evil Immediately.") is similarly unverified beyond its use in Rurouni Kenshin, but fits with Saitō's reputation for killing corrupt Shinsengumi members.

In Peacemaker Kurogane, Saitō appears as the captain of the third troop and is rather laidback and mystical (like a shaman), with a perpetually sleepy expression.

He also appears in Kaze Hikaru, in which he is portrayed as a quiet and serious character, who was friends with (and bears a striking resemblance to) the main character's older brother.

Saito is the protagonist of the manga Burai, a fictional story about the Shinsengumi during the late Tokugawa shogunate.

In the 2003 Japanese film When the Last Sword Is Drawn (Mibu gishi den), Saitō is played by Kōichi Satō. At first, Sato portrays Saitō as a cold, dark, uncaring captain of the Shinsengumi. However, Saitō changes as a man through his interactions with Kanichiro Yoshimura (played by Kiichi Nakai) during the last years of the Shinsengumi.

In the 2004 jdorama Shinsengumi!, actor Joe Odagiri played the role of Saitou.

A Kenshin series look-alike named Keiichiro Washizuka was featured in The Last Blade series of games. Again, he was characterized by a cold and quiet persona, along with a fierce loyalty to the Shinsengumi. His appearance was consistent with the Saito featured in the Rurouni Kenshin's Trust and Betrayal OVA, and fights with a series of "sliding charge" attacks resembling the Gatotsu.

Saito is also featured in Getsumei Seiki (manga), Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi (video game series) and in Code of the Samurai (Video game series)

Saitou Hajime is also shown in later episodes of the anime "Shura no Toki: Age of Chaos."

Serizawa Kamo

Main article: Serizawa Kamo

Serizawa is featured in Shiba Ryotaro's Moeyo Ken (Burn O Sword) and Shinsengumi Keppuroku (Shinsengumi Bloody Record). He is also featured in the manga Kaze Hikaru as Commander Serizawa (pictured as a jolly man, often red nosed from drunkedness but below his comic and often perverted nature is also a fierce opponent that should not be judged upon). Serizawa's assassination was portrayed in the anime version of Peacemaker Kurogane.

Takuan Sōhō

Main article: Takuan Sōhō

He features in Yoshiaki Kawajiri in his enormously popular animated film Ninja Scroll, created one of main characters Dakuan as a homage to Takuan Soho.

Yamanami Keisuke

Main article: Yamanami Keisuke

Yamanami is featured in Peacemaker Kurogane (anime/manga), Kaze Hikaru (manga), Getsumei Seiki (manga), Hijikata Toshizou - Shiro no Kiseki (OVA), and Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumii' (video game series). In addition, he is portrayed in Shinsengumi! (drama series) and Shinsengumi Keppuroku.

Yagyū Jūbei

Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi might likely have been relegated to obscurity in Japanese history were it not for the mythos his name developed from the authors, artists and filmmakers who attempted to fill in the gaps of Yagyū Jūbei's many missing years.

One of the earliest examples of developing the story around Yagyū Jūbei was from Japanese author Fūtarō Yamada's 1967 book, Makai Tenshou (Resurrection from Hell), which featured Yagyū Jūbei involved in the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637 and 1638. This story was eventually adapted into a live-action picture called Samurai Reincarnation in 1981, directed by Kinji Fukasaku.

Jubei was the main character of a Japanese television series entitled the Yagyu conspiracy starring Sonny Chiba in the 1980s. Jubei was a defender of the Shogun and leader of a covert ninja group. Sonny Chiba later reprised this role in the TV series sequel to Yagyu Conspiracy called Yagyu Jubei Abaretabi.

The story of Makai Tenshou was also turned into a manga by Shouko Toba as Makai Tenshou: Yume no Ato (Resurrection from Hell: Sign of Dreams). This was then adapted into two anime OVAs (although originally planned for four) as Makai Tenshou Jigokuhen, later released in the U.S. under the name Ninja Resurrection.

Director/writer Yoshiaki Kawajiri in his enormously popular animated film Ninja Scroll, created the lead character Jubei Kibagami as a homage to Yagyū Jūbei. He is voiced by Japanese voice actor Kōichi Yamadera. The movie also had a sequel - Ninja Scroll: The Series - that features a recurring character named Yagyu Renya, a one-eyed master swordsman from the Yagyū Clan.

Yagyū Jūbei is also featured in other manga, anime and video games, ranging from the epic work, Lone Wolf and Cub, Gosho Aoyama's shōnen manga series Yaiba and the modern parody Jubei-chan (where a young girl from modern times becomes the successor to the 300-year-old Yagyū clan) and Gintama as Yagyū Kūbei.

Several other movies were also created about him, including Darkside Reborn and Shogun's Samurai, which both featured Sonny Chiba as the part of Jūbei.

In the fighting game series Samurai Shodown (1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and RPG), Jūbei Yagyū (in western order) is a playable character, and the only actual samurai in the series. His voice is provided by either Takayuki Sakai, or Kiyoshi Kobayashi, depending on the installment he appears in.

An interesting facet of Jūbei's perception among people is that Jūbei is almost always depicted as being a hero of the common people, so much so that nearly every work about him contains at least one scene where he saves innocent peasants from the wrath of overly proud samurai. In Jūbei's time, samurai had the right to cut down peasants for any reason with little or no consequence, especially if the peasant disrespected them in some way. While certainly heroic, considering the strict caste system of the time, this would be considered inappropriate for someone of the samurai caste like Jūbei, which in turn provokes speculation about how this perception began, and if there was something about the real Jūbei that inspired it, or if it is a case of film makers and writers making Jūbei yet more heroic. Samurai Legend features a fictionalized account based on the little-known history of Jūbei Yagyū, and the main character in Onimusha 2 is named "Jūbei" but is in fact heavily based upon Jūbei's grandfather Yagyū Muneyoshi. A secret trailer at the end of the first game, however, saw a lead character with an eyepatch, suggesting that Yagyū Jūbei was originally intended as the sequel's protagonist.

Yagyū Jūbei is referenced in the anime Hyakka Ryōran Samurai Girls as a girl named Yagyū Jūbei who is the first master Samurai discovered by Yagyū Muneakira

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