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Yoko Tsuno

Yoko Tsuno

(Part #1)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Yoko Tsuno stories are one of the classics of Western European adventure graphic novels. It has been running since 1969 as drawn and written by Roger Leloup.

These Belgian stories are primarily published in French and German. Historically, they received comparatively little exposure in English despite their quality. *However*, Cinebook has been publishing good translations since 2007, releasing about one a year.

Having been created for comics magazine Spirou, they are a good example of the ligne claire style of drawing. It was common in Franco-Belgian comics of that time.

The ligne claire exemplar is Tintin comics, and Leloup is a former associate of Hergé. The art in Yoko Tsuno is unusually detailed and researched, particularly for vehicles and buildings.


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Yoko and her world

Of particular note is the heroine. Not only were female or non-White protagonists vanishingly rare in Franco-Belgian adventure comics of that time, Yoko is a pulpishly  super-competent adventurer from day one.

She had originally been envisioned as a sidekick for another series. But her appeal meant that she was reinvented as a major adventure/exploration heroine by the time the first stories were released. She was also given her own sidekicks.

Yoko Tsuno face closeup

Yoko Tsuno’s adventures take place in a world similar to the real Earth. Yet, a lot of sci-fi activities taking place in secret – including space aliens and time travel. This entry includes a primer about the alien/space travel aspects. See our entry on Yoko’s friend Monya for a primer about time travel.

This article precedes the official English translation. Therefore, it uses my own translations for the graphic novel titles and the story-specific vocabulary. For instance the French name for the planet Vinéa is rendered as “Veneya” for an Anglophone audience, and Tsuno Onoué’s first name was rendered as Onweh (Ohn-way).

This entry is based on everything save the Le pic des ténèbres novel, which I haven’t read.


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Sequencing

The three Yoko Tsuno-related profiles are :

  1. Yoko Tsuno, part 1.
  2. .
  3. Monya Ichida.

Background

  • Real Name: Tsuno Yoko (katakana – ヨーコ・ツノ – and one imagines that the kanji would be 都農 陽子 ).
  • Other Aliases: Yoko has been nicknamed “Daughter of the Wind” by some Japanese scientists due to her father’s research.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Tsuno Seiki (father), Tsuno Masako (née Ichida, mother), Morning Dew Tsuno (adoptive daughter), Ichida Izumi (cousin), Ichida Tōshio (uncle, deceased), Ichida Yukiyo (aunt, deceased), Tsuno Onweh (grandfather, deceased), Tsuno Hikoro (née Lai-Chi, grandmother, deceased), Chizuka (married name unknown, née Tsuno, aunt), Hiroki (married name unknown, née Tsuno, aunt), Ichida Monya (adoptive cousin), Ying (a Chinese cousin in Hong Kong).
  • Group Affiliation: She, Vic and Pol are sometimes called the “Trio of the Uncanny”.
  • Base Of Operations: Implicitly Brussels.
  • Height: 5’5” Weight: 110 lbs.
  • Eyes: Dark brown Hair: Black


Powers & Abilities

Ms. Tsuno is a highly intelligent, observant and quick-thinking woman. She excels at an improbable array of skills.

Her brains and bravery are her primary assets. Yoko is the sort of protagonist who wins by figuring things out, taking clever — if very risky — initiatives, and coming up with cunning plans that actually work.

Her primary qualification is as an electronics engineer, but she also demonstrated superior skills as :

  • An aikika .
  • A swimmer and SCUBA diver.
  • A first aid technician.
  • A sailing hobbyist.
  • A helicopter pilot.
  • A jet airplane pilot.
  • An archer.
  • An audio engineer.
  • A motorcyclist.
  • A glider pilot.
  • A laser cutter operator.
  • A parachutist.
  • A pilot of small Veneyan aircrafts.
  • A windsurfer.
  • A hang glider and ultralight pilot.
  • And a chess player.

Technologic

Back in the early 1980s her rotary wings qualifications were for the Aérospatiale Ecureuil , the Bell JetRanger  and the Aérospatiale Gazelle . But she never had difficulties adapting to unfamiliar aircrafts.

She also had a dozen days of full-time technical training about Veneyan cruiser-sized FTL  spaceships. Plus many hours of “flight” experience with a Veneyan frigate-ish spaceship.

Yoko Tsuno flying a hang glider

Ms. Tsuno was originally a hardware person. She started studying computer science in 1985, to pilot a heavily computer-assisted mini-jet, the Kolibri. In later adventures she developed an excellent expert system for playing chess. This quite possibly was a personal project to consolidate her programming skills.

She is also highly fluent in French, English and Indonesian, plus of course her native Japanese. She later learned German, the two major forms of Chinese, and Flemish. During a time travel adventure she was mind-taught Balinese, which in the present seems to be a dying language.

Other assets

Yoko can fight well. But she chiefly employs soft techniques and isn’t too hard to knock out. Her main form is aikido, mostly used for evasion and throws to keep her opponents from harming her. Most of her throws are actually basic, reliable judo throws that can be used in the field.

Yoko’s aikido-style disarming techniques are excellent, particularly against handguns. If her opponent is dazed or unaware (for instance after having been thrown, or if she ambushes them) she can do various karate atemi . These can take down even a strong man, but in less favourable circumstances her blows tend to be ineffective due to her low body mass.

Yoko Tsuno does judo

Ms. Tsuno has a strong personality, ample reserves of stubbornness, and obvious decency and generosity. She thus tends to make loyal friends who trust her. Yoko has a good track record at winning people to her side in tense situations. That has included some opponents.

Her father is also admired for his achievements among Japanese engineers and scientists. They will usually and correctly assume that his daughter must be a person they can trust. For some reason, law enforcement agencies tend to get along well with her and to trust her.

Yoko has on occasion used her zazen  training to hide her thoughts from technological mind probes. Our game stats assume she could use the same techniques to resist mind control. In DC Heroes RPG terms these are her Powers combined with high (for her Genre) Mental and Spiritual Attributes.

She’s also real good with kids. She loves children, and kids love her back and easily trust her.


The Trio of the Uncanny

Yoko was hired as an audio engineer by TV producer Vic Vidéo. They were accompanied by their cameraman Pol. The three were sometimes called the Trio of the Uncanny, as their reporting led to eerie adventures.

Vic and Pol are essentially Yoko’s sidekicks, as they aren’t as extraordinarily competent as she is.

Yoko Tsuno's Seawind 3000 amphibious aircraft

Yoko’s Seawind 3000  landing on a lake and getting ashore.

The freelance Trio soon worked as agents for hire rather than stumble upon adventure as part of their television work. They worked for MI5 in 1975, since Yoko was the lightest highly-qualified glider pilot whom the British could find. Their excellent performance instantly gave them an enviable reputation in certain circles.

Half of their missions take place for their Veneyan friends and particularly Khâny. She greatly trusts the Trio’s ability to solve problems.

Vic

Vic is a smart, courageous but responsible guy. He’s athletic and, by any real-life standard, very competent. Still, he wouldn’t cut it as a cinematic  adventurer like Yoko does.

Though Vic doesn’t mind danger, he’s probably the most reasonable and grounded member of the Trio. He isn’t enthusiastic about Yoko diving headlong into peril.

Over time Vic and Yoko developed a close friendship. They appear to have been a couple since the mid-1980s.

Vic is a good driver, and a solid motorboat operator (and sailor, and windsurfer). Furthermore he’s a good pilot of most everything – gliders, prop, rotary, jet, heavy transport…

Vic was even taught to fly computer-assisted U2  military intelligence planes during an adventure. More specifically, it was a unique Swiss evolution over the U2 called the Albatross. He has dozens of hours at the yoke of a Kawasaki C-1  troop transport airplane.

Vic later learned to pilot Veneyan starships, up to and including the Ryu frigate. He also has a good general scientific knowledge, perhaps because of all the science documentaries he produced.

Though he’s thoroughly ethical, Vic isn’t a pacifist in the same way Yoko is. He will use deadly force if that is the least bad solution.

Pol

The bumbling Pol was originally comic relief. But he’s surprisingly resourceful, and may well be the one whose horse sense saves the day. As time went by he stopped being bumbling. Yet he’s still somewhat clumsy and incidents-prone – and pessimistic.

Though he’s generally grumpy, he has simple interests. Money, good food, beautiful women, not getting killed or maimed. Pol is every bit as benign as the other two and is always willing to help anybody in need.

He proved surprisingly good with a rocket launcher and knew how to handle a H&K MP5. Presumably that comes from military service, which was still done seriously in his youth. Pol was also trained to operate the micro-missile launchers in Monya’s supplies.

He’s a solid radio technician. Furthermore, Pol apparently learned the trade of a flight engineer and navigator, serving as Vic’s co-pilot. Pol is in a relationship with Mieke, a florist he met in Bruges in 1545 and who accompanied him to the present.

Vic and Pol occasionally and jokingly call Yoko “mousmé” (mooh-smay). This is a dated French slang term for a young woman (a bit like “lass”) that is derived from the Japanese musume.

Bring a few toys

The Trio originally had a station wagon (a Citroën DS21 Break ) filled with video recording equipment. This is because their job was initially television reporting and documentaries (which back in the 1960s was cutting-edge, exciting modernity). They would often pack additional equipment such as SCUBA diving suits, or other supplies adapted to their current projects.

By pooling their resources if necessary they can deploy sophisticated equipment. For instance in 1986 they were flying a monoprop recon drone with live infrared video feed. It was closer to a big RC plane than a modern military drone, but still… 1986.

Yoko Tsuno's Tsar experimental aircraft

Czar experimental anti-gravity aircraft.

Their specialised gear is usually reconnaissance gear or vehicles, and their adventures frequently involve airplanes.

Bring a few toys – super-tech gear

When they are working for the Veneyans, they are usually issued advanced alien gear. This includes vacuum suits, laser cutting torches that can be used as beam weapons, high-performance antigravity light atmospheric flyers, etc.

Their Veneyan friends will also issue them with light headsets enabling telepathic communication, to overcome the language barrier.

During time travel expeditions, Monya will usually equip them with paralysis pistols. These are energy weapons that stun senseless for about 15-20 minutes, depending upon body mass.

Yoko and Vic eventually borrowed one of Monya’s tech scanners. It looks like sci-fi binoculars and can analyse unknown technology. They have this when they’re not working with her.

The Trio and their associates originally never carried weapons, though they might have to procure some during their adventures. This slightly relaxed as time went by, and they increasingly took Veneyan torches with them.

Still, weapons usage remains uncommon. It is chiefly done to get past obstacles and destroy robots. Having to shoot aggressive animals is a rare occurrence and not the preferred approach. Killing people the absolute last resort.

Bring a few toys – Yoko and the jets

During the 1980s, an associate of the Western German intelligence services let Yoko keep as payment an experimental mini-jet, the Kolibri (“Hummingbird”). It is a sort of miniature jet fighter with exceptional in-flight agility.

The Hummingbird can jettison its engines to become a glider. There is even a vehicular parachute so it can land on a dime in glider mode. It is a two-seater, but one doubts that the combined weight of the passengers can exceed 120kg or so. The Kolibri has two underwing pylons, usually bearing fuel tanks for long flights.

Though it is not armed, the Germans had originally equipped the pylons with pods holding mini-missiles. These are capable of reliably intercepting enemy missiles between the Kolibri’s 5 and 7.

Yoko Tsuno flying her Colibri mini-jet

Kolibri prototype mini-jet.

Much later, Yoko was gifted a Seawind 3000. This is a modern light amphibian plane with a dorsal propeller. In 2012, she and Emilia McKinley did unsupervised test flights for a unique Russian anti-gravity plane, nicknamed the Czar. This was presumably on the strength of their experience with Veneyan anti-gravity flyers.

Ms. Tsuno also owns a cutting-edge FTL Veneyan frigate, which she christened the Ryu. It is staffed by a powerful AI whom she called Akina. Both Yoko and Vic have learned to pilot and a friend of theirs, the flying humanoid mini-robot Myna, apparently lives aboard the Ryu.


A question of time

Yoko Tsuno exists in a sort of sliding time scale. As of this writing she is listed as having been born in 1969, which is the year of her creation as a character. Originally she was born circa 1948 (her mother Masako was 13 in 1943), making her 22-ish during her early adventures.

She doesn’t age much over decades of graphic novels, and now seems to be about 28.

The first four stories in the fourth graphic novel, Electronic Adventures, actually take place before the first graphic novel, The Trio of the Uncanny – but were collected later. They also present Yoko as a more action-ish heroine than the graphic novels will, and the tone was more humourous.


History

Yoko Tsuno grew up on a small fictional island in Japan, called Reverie Island by the locals. Her family was traditionally in the pearls cultivation business. They built a coastal manor over several generations.

Yoko’s roots

Ms. Tsuno is actually part-Chinese. Her grandmother Lai-Chi was from an impoverished Chinese family. Lai-Chi was sold to Onweh Tsuno, then in Lai-Chi’s native Hong Kong, as a servant. He wed her after returning to Japan. To dampen the scandal of a Chinese woman joining the family, Lai-Chi’s name was changed to Hikoro.

Yoko Tsuno flying a special jet into a typhoon

Yoko and Aoki flying Mr. Tsuno’s typhoon-breaker jets.

Yoko’s dad Seiki, presumably born in the 1920s, is the youngest of Hikoro and Onweh’s three children. He’s the only one who remained on the island. His two older sisters married away as soon as they could. That was because Onweh’s obsession over growing a perfect pearl, which he called the Spray of Dawn, was destroying the familial business.

Seiki became a geophysicist and married one Masako. Much of his work was in universities on the mainland, as the island’s only other industry was fishing. Nevertheless, Seiki established his geophysics lab on the ancestral property to remain close to his mother.

After Hikoro’s death, Onweh essentially retired from life. He lost interest in the world and his family. He lived as an hermit in a corner of his property.

Daughter of pearls

Some years after the second World War, Masako and Seiki had a child. Though Masako wanted a son it was a daughter, whom she named Yoko. Yoko turned out to be an active, curious and turbulent child. When she was five, she accidentally entered the forbidden house of her eremitic grandfather.

Unexpectedly, meeting his granddaughter made the scary old man return to the world and his family. He even helped raise little Yoko. He taught her about sea life, calligraphy and other familial skills. Onweh also introduced her to Buddhism when she accompanied him to one of the ancient temples on the island.

Yoko Tsuno training in archery as a girl

The monk Aoki teaching kyudo to a young Yoko.

When she was 8, Yoko asked Onweh for a special pearl. Thus, the aged man taught her the basics of pearl farming. He also prepared a set of five oysters, using the last five experimental seed nuclei remaining from his old obsession with the Spray of Dawn. He had Yoko tend to these for the usual five years.

Weeks later, a typical hare-brained childhood scheme of Yoko’s band of friends nearly resulted in the drowning of a small child. He had insisted upon accompanying them at sea on their makeshift “secret raft”. Always a good swimmer, Yoko rescued the kid in the nick of time.

Aoki

Yoko became the friend of a buddy of Onweh, Aoki. A Zero  pilot during the war, Aoki had become a monk after a failed attempt at dying a kamikaze.

As Yoko showed interest in martial arts-based sports education, Aoki had her take regular aikido courses. He was himself an instructor in kendo  and kyudo . Aoki agreed to train Yoko in kyudo given the strong interest the little girl had in the discipline. He also built a small training bow for her.

A scene from ancient China

Yoko and friends in ancient China.

As the energetic kid wanted more, he eventually gave her an education in age-appropriate kendo and judo techniques, and zazen. After she insisted, he added commando stealth training that had been given to his unit during the war, derived from ninjutsu.

Kyudo in particular taught the previously hyperactive and impulsive kid to focus and grow up. Yoko also was an attentive and hard-working student in school. That was because she did not want to depend on a husband later on.

Yoko spent some of her annual holidays in Borneo, where her older cousin Izumi ran a logging company. This company chiefly employed elephants to move the logs, and Yoko was taught to work with an elephant named Gunda when she was 10. She also mentioned a cousin in Java, but it likely was a continuity mistake between the two islands.

Spray of Dawn

As Onweh was aged 81 and near death, Yoko recovered the last surviving oyster from the set prepared when she was 8. Her grandfather’s last-ever pearl-farming experiment had worked. The oyster held a huge transparent pearl – the Spray of Dawn had finally been grown.

Onweh had everyone swear secrecy about the invaluable jewel, so as not to attract thieves. But Tsuno-san passed away not long after seeing his old life’s dream come to fruition, which greatly affected his grand-daughter.

After a youthful romantic disappointment, Yoko decided to leave her provincial area. She attended an accelerated college course in electronics in Tōkyō. After three zestless years, she was an engineer.

Meanwhile her father, whose research in earthquake detection had been a boon for Japan, received ample governmental funding. His new task was to prevent typhoons.

Shortly after she got her diploma, Yoko discovered that the Spray of Dawn had been stolen. Her father had had a copy done to protect the original, but the jeweller had made two copies to dupe him. The scoundrel then fled Japan to sell the invaluable Spray of Dawn in Hong Kong.

Though she was barely 20, Ms. Tsuno left for Hong Kong. There, she cleverly repossessed the pearl. Her inability to accept herself as a thief, and subsequent revelations about the jewel and its role, let Yoko depart Hong Kong as a grown woman. She left her childhood memories and debts behind her.

To Belgium

Ever since she was a teenager, Ms. Tsuno had wanted to travel to other countries. She was already fluent in English and presumably Indonesian.

Interested in research in electronics done at a Brussels university, she moved there. Apparently she couldn’t join the project right away. One assumes that immigration and security issues delayed that by months. She started doing odd jobs to have a revenue, and by that point was already speaking a flawless French.

During her early months in Europe Yoko :

  • Was invaluable in helping the Brussels police stop well-organised and technophilic robbers.
  • Helped an unemployed welder find a good job.
  • Stopped a man who had stolen a strength-amplifying exoskeleton .
  • Thwarted an attempt at terrorism using hacked postal rockets in Austria.

Trio of friends

In 1971, Yoko helped test the security of a Brussels electronics labs by breaking in.

Yoko Tsuno and family working on the Tsar aircraft

Front: Morning Dew and a Veneyan doll droid ; back: Yoko and Vic refuelling the Czar.

Her ingenious intrusion was spotted by two employees of the Belgian National Radio-Television as they were leaving work. These were the dauntless TV producer Vic Vidéo and his usual cameraman, Pol Pitron. The two men apprehended her, only to discover that it wasn’t a real crime.

Admiring the remote-control rig that Yoko had built for her test burglary, Vic hired her for his team. He and Pol were frequently doing TV reporting in difficult areas, and a resourceful electronics engineer would be invaluable to help them film. Plus, they needed to hire an audio engineer anyway. Yoko took the job.

This was the beginning of a series of fantastic adventures.

Friends from another planet

Days later, they were shooting a science documentary about underground rivers. The trio discovered a hidden civilization of blue-skinned aliens. These were the survivors of the planet Veneya.

Yoko saved them from an evil energy intelligence. But the Trio soon had to leave the grateful Veneyans. The air within the aliens’ underground bases was slightly toxic for humans, preventing a lengthy stay.

During this adventure they became good friends of Khâny, a Veneyan woman with whom they would often collaborate.

Lands of adventure, part 1

More adventures followed, as the trio :

  • Discovered the secret history of the so-called Satan’s Pipe Organ in Southern Germany. During this adventure they met the young but famous organist Ingrid Hallberg, who became a close friend of Yoko.
  • Prevented a conflict between Veneyans and Terrans — and kept the existence of the Veneyans a secret — by shutting down the Forge of Vulcan.
  • Uncovered a traitor at an atomic research centre, who used bees to smuggle out microfilms.
  • Stopped a criminal who had forced the inventor of a sophisticated arachnid robot to become his accomplice.
  • Worked for the British intelligence services on an incredible operation to recover secret documents lost in Afghanistan during the 1940s.
  • Was recruited by the Veneyans to accompany them to the M33 galaxy  (the Triangulum) to establish whether their homeworld, thought lost two million years before, had again became habitable. There, they proved indispensable in retaking control of the planet as the aliens restored the Third Sun of Veneya.
  • Determined who was stealing Ingrid Hallberg’s blood in Rothenburg and replacing it with artificial blood – and the amazing underground surgery that this betrayed.
  • Returned to Veneya to help analyse alien life forms resembling terrestrial ones, and discovered the nature of the Titans.
  • Struggled along with Yoko’s father and the monk Aoki to destroy the artificial typhoons created by Seiki-san’s sworn rival before they would hit Japan.
  • Returned to Veneya to discover the secret of the light on Ixo. Ixo was an ice satellite on which the weapons of mass destruction from Veneya’s ancient past had been discarded, but where some mysterious activity was taking place every 5 years.

This profile is continued in

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    By Sébastien Andrivet.

    Source of Character: Yoko Tsuno graphic novels by Roger Leloup.

    Helper(s): Ethan Roe ; fr.wikipedia for identifying the Seawind 3000.

    Writeup completed on the 1st of September, 2013.

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