Katana (Yamashiro Tatsu) is a DC Comics heroine, mostly associated with the Outsiders super-team. She first appeared in 1983.
This article covers a specific version of Yamashiro, seen in the third issue of 2021 series The Other History of the DC Universe. It is a different retelling of her 1980s-1990s adventures.
Unlike the Other History version of Black Lightning, this Katana version features changes with major impact on her capabilities and TTRPG stats.
The recommended reading order is a series of shorter articles :
- Batman and the Outsiders (1983-1986).
- The Outsiders (1986/1992).
- Halo (Gabrielle Doe) (The 1980s, part 1).
- Halo (Gabrielle Doe) (The 1980s, part 2).
- Katana (Yamashiro Tatsu) (1983-88, part 1).
- Katana (Yamashiro Tatsu) (1983-88, part 2).
- Katana (Yamashiro Tatsu) (The Other History). This here profile.
If you aren’t familiar with the The Other History series, I’d suggest also reading the Black Lightning (The Other History) entry. It explains important basics about these retellings.
For now this entry only goes to 1988, since that’s where our main Katana entry stops. It’ll be expanded once the main entry is — but the differences in events after 1988 seem minor anyway.
- Real Name: Yamashiro Tatsu.
- Note: Her name is presumably, tentatively, spelled 山城龍.
- Known Relatives: Yamashiro Maseo (husband, deceased), Yuki and Reiko (children, deceased), Yamashiro Takeo (brother-in-law, deceased), Gabrielle Doe (ward).
- Group Affiliation: Outsiders.
- Base of Operations: Outsiders HQ.
- Height: 5′ (1.52m). Weight: 90 lbs. (41 Kg.).
- Eyes: Light brown. Hair: Black.
Power & Abilities
The changes for this version may have been intended as a firebreak against two orientalist clichés of the 1980s. “All East Asian persons know martial arts” and “katana are invincible magic blades because Cool Japan ”.
Therefore, this version of Katana doesn’t have formal martial training. However, she had good gymnastics training during her youth. So she’s in superior shape and with solid agility and physical acumen.
Likewise, her blade is simply a high-quality, traditional katana forged by a notable smith back during the mediaeval eras.
Yamashiro has zero fear of pain or death, no capacity for guilt, zero inhibition against killing. This makes her move and strike unhesitatingly. Which gives her a crucial advantage in speed and reaction time.
She seems stealthy.
Tatsu is fluent in English.
One panel *might* imply that she opened a bookshop as she did in the main continuity, and might thus have the corresponding skills. But it’s just too poorly supported to draw conclusions.
Shortly after this era ends, she demonstrates an extraordinary will to live. Even though she should be by all rights fatally wounded, she manages to slowly remove the sword that impaled her.
In The Other History, Yamashiro has a character moment when she discovers one of the 1980s’ major pop artists, British-Nigerian singer/songwriter Sade (Helen Fọláṣadé Adú).
Sade’s music was a runaway hit from the first album onward. Tight, jazzy, elegant compositions (by band member Stuart Matthewman), killer bass lines, silky smooth and expressive vocals, and the singer’s beauty and class were a matchless combo.
(Though of course the innovations and savoir faire of Sade Adú and band have long since been digested by the industry).
So anyway, here’s one of the huge hits from the second album.
Yamashiro was likely born circa 1955. She had an ordinary life, married and had twin children.
But her brother-in-law, Takeo, was greedy and lustful. He ended up joining the yakuza.
As Tatsu kept refusing him, an apparently drunk Takeo invaded her home. Maseo tried to stop him using a sword, but Takeo also had a katana and slew him.
He set the house on fire, and forced Tatsu to watch as her home and kids burned.
She managed to grab his blade, and hacked her brother-in-law into cat food.
Yamashiro had lost everything, and couldn’t rebuild her life. There were few jobs for unmarried women, and she seemingly had no relatives.
Furthermore, the tragedy became well-known. She now widely was considered a bringer of bad luck.
Ending up homeless, she tried to sell the only valuable thing she had left – Takeo’s katana. But the sword too was considered cursed, and there was no buyer for fear of ill fortune.
Months later, while rummaging for food in an alley, Yamashiro stumbled upon a mugging. Two yakuza toughs were beating an older man.
Reviling yakuza, somewhat unhinged, and having nothing to lose, Yamashiro killed the two thugs with her blade.
The older man, one Tadashi, was impressed by her killing instinct. He offered to pay her as an assassin. Not caring much, Yamashiro took the job with but few questions.
Her indifference toward her own survival made her strikingly successful. She was active throughout Asia, and Tadashi always had more yen – and more lists of people he wanted dead.
Criminals reportedly being a cowardly and superstitious lot, she acquired a terrifying reputation. She was referred to as “Katana”.
Supposedly, she was a mistress of all sorts of secret martial arts. And her titular sword was oozing with horrifying, soul-taking magics – à la Stormbringer.
Yamashiro suspected that people had overheard her talking to herself, due to her PTSD . And had leapt to the conclusion that she was talking to spirits within her “cursed” sword.
Eventually, Tadashi sent her to murder one Colonel Karnz, in Markovia. He told her that Karnz had been the one who sold the sword to Takeo. Yamashiro therefore considered Karnz to be partly responsible for her fate.
In Markovia, Yamashiro encountered Batman (Bruce Wayne) and agreed to join the nascent Outsiders.
Murdering Karnz had felt like turning a page, Tadashi’s lists were becoming tedious, and Yamashiro didn’t really care anyway.
She didn’t like the Batman much, suspecting that his reputation was as much hogwash as hers. Yamashiro also saw the team as a bunch of broken misfits that Batman probably sought to keep under watch.
Despite this dour hostility, Yamashiro became friends with the others. She particularly bonded with Gabrielle, becoming her adopted mother.
Wayne pulled rich guy shenanigans for Yamashiro and Doe to become full US citizens, and Tatsu even became Gabby’s legal guardian.
As she cared for Gabby, Tatsu recovered much of the humanity she had lost years ago. She even agreed to the Wham! and Madonna posters. And being dragged by Gabby to a Sade concert led to a revelatory experience.
The Outsiders cases presumably proceeded as they did in the DC Universe, albeit with numerous little tweaks. Such as story elements that relied on Japanese magic, like Soultaker’s enchantments or the egg tengu.
Another difference is that Yamashiro was confronted with anti-Asian racism – whose pervasiveness is routinely underestimated by other communities.
Back in the 1980s, there was a specific spike in anti-Japanese racism. The boom of Japan’s industries was presented as a wicked, inscrutable threat to American jobs, wealth and status.
Clarity of sight
Ms. Yamashiro was particularly bitter over the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin . She thus had little regret when Outsiders enemies the Force of July were accidentally slain – she didn’t trust the US judicial system one bit.
Katana also came to despise Deathstroke the Terminator (Slade Wilson). Though back then the super-mercenary was often admired for his badass masculinity, Yamashiro was more attentive to what he had done to Tara Markov. And thus identified him as a paedophiliac rapist.
After the Outsiders disbanded, Katana made a pilgrimage of sorts to the site of the Manzanar concentration camp .
Yamashiro is steel-hard, particularly lucid about the world, unsentimental and a lone drifter.
She has a so-so opinion of humanity, and welcomes opportunities to remove its most harmful and debased members. And this is *after* she regained most of her humanity with the Outsiders and Halo.
Before that, she was a PTSD-battered, somewhat nihilistic mass murderer.
Yamashiro is a semi-rigid, compromise-avoidant, somewhat fatalistic, cynical, small-c conservative person. She likes it when things are proper, organised and disciplined.
But at the same time she sees things as they are. Tatsu particularly reviles the amount of prejudice, racism, superstition, misogyny and dehumanisation going on either in Japan or in the US.
In this and other respects, the title of outsider fits her well.
She seemed torn about Batman. She found him paternalistic and manipulative, and never quite stopped suspecting that he was a fraud on some level. But she certainly respected his skills and intelligence.
She’s also well-aware that without Batman having her care for Halo, she’d likely have never found her way back from the abyss.
She likes classical Japanese culture. And making sure that nothing bad happens to youths.
Katana has a poor view of herself. She sees herself as but a wounded widow with a sword. But over time, she came to realise that she had rebuilt herself as a person, far away from the early Katana that Tadashi had moulded her into.
DC Heroes RPG
Katana (1980s, The Other History)
|Dex: 06||Str: 03||Bod: 04|
|Int: 06||Wil: 06||Min: 07|
|Inf: 06||Aur: 05||Spi: 07|
|Init: 024||HP: 055|
Enhanced initiative: 04
Bonuses and Limitations:
Enhanced Initiative is Form Function.
Acrobatics: 05, Martial artist: 05, Thief (Escape artist): 03, Thief (Stealth): 05, Vehicles (Air, Land): 03, Weaponry (Kenjutsu): 07
Familiarity (Homemaking), Iron Nerves, Language (Japanese), Stabilization.
Outsiders (High), Batman (Low), Halo (High), Street (Low).
Dependent (Halo, 0 pts).
It’s a pruned, toned-down, de-magic-ed version of Katana.
It’s possible that she retains more elements from the main writeup. But since they’re not demonstrated they were coldly cut down.
Source of Character: The Other History of the DC Universe.
Writeup completed on the 6th of July, 2021.