6182 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Katana (DC Comics) (1980s Outsiders) portrait aparo

Katana

(Yamashiro Tatsu) (The 1980s, part #2)


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

Context

This is the second half of the article. So it’s not too long for smartphone-using readers.

The full sequence is  :

  1. Batman and the Outsiders (1983-1986).
  2. The Outsiders (1986/1992).
  3. Halo (Gabrielle Doe) (The 1980s, part 1).
  4. Halo (Gabrielle Doe) (The 1980s, part 2).
  5. .
  6. Katana (Yamashiro Tatsu) (1983-88, part 2). This here profile.
  7. Katana (Yamashiro Tatsu) (The Other History).

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Chronologic

For those who use a non-sliding timeline, our guesses would be in the vicinity of :

  • 1948 – birth.
  • 1968 – drops out of college, marries, has kids.
  • 1972 – Takeo kills Tatsu’s family.
  • 1983 – Katana kills General Karnz in Markovia.

Yamashiro’s kids seem 4 or so in the one panel where we see them. And having Katana be in her mid-30s when she debuts seems about right.

One advantage of this proposed timeline is that Mrs. Yamashiro doesn’t train to become Katana within weeks. 10+ years is still obviously unrealistic, but by superhero comic book standards it seems reasonable.


History (part 2)

Katana agreed to join the Outsiders since Batman promised that he would provide her with a purpose. Though Yamashiro was uncomfortable with the arrangement, Wayne cunningly had her room with Halo (“Gabrielle Doe”).

Wayne also strongarmed Yamashiro into running a bookshop in downtown Gotham, so she’d have something resembling a life. Though this originally irritated her, she came to like operating her business.

The shop, as a small pun, was called “Dragon Books” (“Tatsu” means “dragon”). It carried both Japanese books and books in English about Japan.

Her core clientele seems to have been Japanese-American Gothamites, plus students of the Japanese martial arts. Dragon Books carried an awful lot of books about the fighting arts.


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Tōkyō

In 1984, Takeo ambushed Tatsu in Gotham, stole back Soultaker, and returned to Tōkyō.

There he executed a magical ritual that allowed him to bodily summon souls from within Soultaker. That included his brother.

When Katana and the Outsiders invaded the Noguri offices, Tatsu was thus forced to fight the Soultaker-wielding Maseo. She couldn’t force herself to strike him, and was defeated.

However, the Outsiders quickly rallied. They attacked the Noguri boss as he was meeting with treacherous American gangsters.

Dead again

In the fray, Maseo’s spirit forced Tatsu to kill him by threatening to kill Halo.

Unlike Tatsu, Maseo realised that his brother’s plan was to kill his wife using Soultaker. He would then summon her back from the blade, and force her spirit to obey him in every way. Maseo preferred to die again than to see this happen.

After she struck down Maseo’s spirit to save Halo, Yamashiro killed Takeo. She took his spirit within her blade.


Soundtrack

I’m in the mood for some 1986 Shonentai  (少年隊). It was one of those Johnny’s bands.

Ikimacho ! Also, the video encoding is awful ! But it’s fun !

Not available for download on Amazon, but they have a fair few CDs .


History (part 3)

Halo once set up a surprise date for Mrs. Yamashiro with Mr. Takami, her geometry teacher. This was a naïve attempt at restarting Tatsu’s love life.

Due to differences between super-hero comic books and the Hallmark Channel , this failed. But at least Gabrielle’s “plot” was too childish to genuinely embarrass the adults.

Guardian of light

When Halo was revealed to have been an Aurakles, Katana was instrumental in recovering her from the Aurakles dimension.

She and the Outsiders again attacked the Noguri headquarters. Mrs. Yamashiro forced the oyabun to give her the components to perform the ritual. The one once used by Takeo to summon souls from the blade.

An Aurakle alien had been slain by Soultaker (reinforced with Black Lightning’s electricity). The ritual forced it to serve Katana, and open a transdimensional  path for the Outsiders to recover Halo.

However, Katana underwent a mild depression as Halo left to be alone with her thoughts for a while.

This was lifted when the Outsiders rescued Gabrielle from Kobra’s servants.

Los Angeles

After the team moved to Los Angeles, Yamashiro moved her bookstore to the upscale Beverly Center Mall.

After that, ain’t nothing special that hasn’t been covered in the 1980s Outsiders team entries.

Katana (DC Comics) (1980s Outsiders) family photo blues


Description

Officially, Yamashiro-san is 5’2″ and 96 lbs.. I’ve adjusted the numbers based on how she’s drawn during the 1980s.

Yes, her costume’s emblem could lead some to assume that she’s a Macedonian heroine. But that flag didn’t exist yet.

Very early on she had long hair, but these soon got shorter.

Clothing

Out of costume Yamashiro favours conservative suits. Below-the-knee straight skirt, fitted business jacket, blouse and a fluffy pussycat bow . Or a slightly fluffy crossover tie .

Every item of clothing she owns is sensible and proper.

When on vacation, she goes for what we’d now consider business casual (the term appeared later, in 1992, with a Dockers marketing campaign).

Other details

Her living space is always impeccably clean, well-provisioned, tastefully decorated, uncluttered yet comfortable, all these things. Maybe in another life she’d have been Marie Kondo .

Katana (DC Comics) (1980s Outsiders) throws shuriken under fire

Likewise her speech is articulate, formal, and with proper grammar.

Katana always carries her sword, even when out of costume and doing trivial errands. She carries it in a neutral-looking dorsal sheath.

People presumably assume that it’s some kind of musical instrument (a huge soprano sax ?). Or art supplies.


Personality

Yamashiro-san’s original path wasn’t the Way of the Samurai. It was the Way of the Homemaker. She liked managing her apartment and was delighted to raise her children.

(Yamashiro is from a generation where the stock expectation was that a housewife (“shufu”) would manage the entire household budget and activities while her husband was forever away at work.)

Losing her family turned Yamashiro into a stern, intense, severe, demanding, goal-focused, stoic killer.

She remains a particularly private person, even with close friends.

Armed opponents between Katana and her goal will likely be slain. But she’d never kill anybody who surrenders, or otherwise poses little threat. While with Batman she made efforts to strike with the flat of her blade… some of the time.

Oh Gaby, tu veux qu’j’te chante la mère

By 1983, Katana was on a barren, aimless path. Joining the Outsiders changed two important things :

  1. She respected Batman, and saw the good that he was doing. Working with him gave her the means to do good.
  2. She soon realised that Halo was functionally a child, and needed a parent.
    Effectively adopting Halo filled a huge, gaping hole within Mrs. Yamashiro. Though of course parenting does have its downsides.

Katana (DC Comics) (1980s Outsiders) geo-force and metamorpho dramatic

This means that Yamashiro could gradually shed her rigid, po-faced warrior persona to become a more balanced person.

She was still a highly-disciplined, efficient fighter with little patience for nonsense. And a Very Serious Responsible Lady. But now there were other things in her life, allowing her to move to a healthier mindspace after her losses.

Tatsu was quite protective of Gabrielle’s welfare and emotional well-being. Over time, she came to consider her pretty much her adoptive teenage daughter.

Mrs. Yamashiro would also consistently have Gabrielle put her own long-term interests over her immediate satisfaction. But Tatsu also accomplished a lot of emotional work in accompanying her naïve ward through the extra effort she requested of her.

剣 ? כֵּן !

Katana’s characterisation ignores several 1980s Western clichés.

She’s absolutely not the “deferential Asian woman”. Tatsu has zero time for bullshit and is very much an in-your-face person. She can punctiliously respect protocol when necessary, but that has to align with her personal goals.

Though she’s obviously honourable, Katana doesn’t really have arcs showcasing bushidō-as-understood-back-then-by-Western-Japanophiles. The kind that were attempted by leading contemporary writers such as Miller, Claremont or Ostrander.

Likewise her blade is simply a tool. She takes great care of it, but has no hesitation to use it for menial purposes when necessary. Such as slashing through animated vegetation.

Other traits

Though she comes across as hard and demanding, Katana is actually protective of helpless people. Such as Sapphire Stagg.

Katana (DC Comics) (1980s Outsiders) yakuza battle

This is especially true of children. If there are four kids in danger, Katana will rescue at least six.

Katana hates being sucker-punched, or otherwise being made look bad in a fight. She will vigorously seek a rematch when that happens. Even getting hit once during a duel is seen as a shameful personal failure

Outside looking out

Yamashiro and Emily Briggs (Looker) nigh-instantly became friends. They pretty much had a good rapport at first sight.

However, Tatsu then came to worry that Lia’s presence was attracting Gabby away from her. As time went by, Yamashiro became increasingly jealous. She sought to have Doe spend less time with Briggs.

This deflated once the team got accustomed to Looker. And once Briggs became less neurotic about her appearance.

Other other traits

Katana liked being in L.A., where the Japanese-American population is much larger than in Gotham.

Yamashiro disapproves of so many of her compatriots (and Japanese-Americans, and nisei …) not being interested in pre-Meiji-Era Japanese heritage.

Thanks to her mysterious Far Eastern ancient samurai wisdom, Mrs. Yamashiro realises that cats rule and dogs drool. See ? Wisdom.


Quotes

“I am a samurai, and you are my comrades. My sword is yours in battle, my home is yours in peace.”

(About Bruce Wayne) “What a thoroughly useless creature… How did he ever become involved with the Batman ?”

Katana (DC Comics) (1980s Outsiders) sword guard tsuba

“I know more about children than you might imagine.”

“Enough talk !”

Knife-wielding thug: “Not so tough when you’re facing cold steel, are ya ?”
Yamashiro: “I am merely considering the difference between brandishing a weapon, and being one !” (KRAK !)

Doctor: “You punctured that man’s lung !”
Katana: “That’s what I was aiming for.”

Grateful mother hugging her rescued child: “How can I ever thank you..?”
Katana: “By never waiting to tell [your daughter] how much you love her… for by then, it might be too late.”

“Gabrielle, you’ll catch your death !”

“Gabrielle, it is getting late !”

“Gabrielle, your English composition is due tomorrow !”

Black Lightning: “How long will he be out, Katana ?”
Katana: “He should be awake in time for his trial.”

(After a disarmed Katana provokes her opponent into emptying their guns into the scenery) “Now isn’t that interesting… no more bullets…” (KRAK !)

Halo (unwrapping Looker’s present): “Oh, a bikini !”
Katana (severely looking at the itsy bitsy tiny garments) “Where’s the rest of it ?”



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Katana (1980s)

Dex: 08 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 07 Occupation: Bookstore owner
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 07 Wealth: 005
Init: 024 HP: 065

Powers:
Directional hearing: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:
Directional hearing is a Skilled Power.

Skills:
Acrobatics: 05, Artist (Bonsai tree tending): 03, Martial artist: 07, Medicine (First aid, treatment): 05, Occultism (Occult lore): 03, Thief (Escape artist): 04, Thief (Stealth): 06, Vehicles (Air, Land): 03, Weaponry (Kenjutsu): 09, Weaponry (Thrown weapons, including her swords): 06, Weaponry (Archery): 08

Advantages:
Expertise (Japanese bibliophily), Familiarity (Japanese literature, Japanese folklore, Homemaking, Parachuting), Iron Nerves, Language (Japanese), Lightning Reflexes, Schtick (Fast-draw (Japanese swords), Precise blocker (Soultaker sword), Unfettered Fist).

Connections:
Outsiders (High), Batman (High), Halo (High), GCPD (Low), Looker (Low).

Drawbacks:
Dependent (Halo, 0 pts).

Sidekick:
Maseo’s Spirit [INT 04 WIL 04, Detect (His family): 17, Telepathy: 00, Drawback: the spirit can only exist within Soultaker, Limitation: Telepathy only with the blade’s wielder].

Equipment (core):

  • Soultaker [BODY (Hardened) (ML) 16, Hypnosis: 13, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 12), Telepathy (ML): 00, Descriptor: Slashing, Piercing, Limitation:
    • Hypnosis is limited to forcing spirits conjured from within the blade to serve the wielder.
    • Telepathy only between the spirits in the blade and the wielder.].
  • Wakizashi [BODY 06, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Descriptor: Slashing, Piercing].
  • Throwing stars (x5) [BODY 02, EV 03, Dart Bonus].

Equipment (rare):

  • Mini-bola (left bracelet) [BODY 03, Snare: 04, Insta-Change, Grenade Drawback].
  • Right bracelet [BODY 04, EV 03, Ammo: 01]. Chiefly of interest because it does Bashing Combat damage, unlike most of her ranged options.
  • Blowgun [BODY 01, Range: 02, Limitation: only to propel darts or pellets of the correct diameter].
  • Suggestibility drug [BODY 01, Gift of Gab, Bonus : the Gift of Gab bonus is received by anybody interacting with the target. However, the drug must be ingested, then gain RAPs (AV/EV 05/05 vs. BODY/BODY, Systemic antidote applies)]. This was delivered as a pellet from the blowgun, shot into the target’s drink.
  • Knockout dart [BODY 01, Poison touch: 06, Ammo: 01, Ammunition Load for the Blowgun].
  • Ninja climbing claws [BODY 04, Enhance (Acrobatics (Climbing)): 01 (cap is 08)].

Ritual:
The ritual to summon a soul from the blade doesn’t seem to require an Occultist roll. You just have to have all the components, and be fluent in Japanese (to read the incantation).

I suspect that you need to sacrifice Hero Points (15 ?). But it’s not substantiated.


デザインノート

Maseo’s spirit is written as a Sidekick so it can operate independently of Tatsu. For instance to guide Halo, holding Soultaker, to a captive Katana.

He’s also considered the one with the Telepathy APs, since all communication during that era with Soultaker souls is with Maseo.

The souls-summoning thing is considered a Ritual in which Soultaker is a component – not a property of Soultaker. That’s cleaner. Ditto for entering the dimension  within Soultaker.

Mayfair had a Spirit Drain mechanic for Soultaker absorbing souls, but I don’t quite see the point. If a person is slain by the blade, then they’re dead. And there ain’t no hint of Yamashiro gaining temporary spiritual durability whenever she kills somebody.

More design notes

Like Halo’s, Katana’s “secret identity” represents too little hindrance to be game-coded.

At least one of the Outsiders has to have robust wilderness survival skills, given their weeks of being marooned on a desert island. The two clearest candidates are Metamorpho and Katana. But it’s a tad too speculative for inclusion in her stats.


Make mine martial

There isn’t much material to benchmark Katana’s martial talents during this era.

We know that she’s good, but she never fights a person whose skills are firmly established. So justifying peak human numbers would be difficult.

If the team was created in a RPG on a budget, Yamashiro would likely end up with maxed out combat numbers. The martial artist Player Character  archetype in M&M is a good example of this. But it’s not RPG character creation – it’s comic books.

(Katana fights Lady Shiva in 1995, and is manifestly outmatched. That’s outside of the scope of this chronological writeup, but it did inform being careful with Yamashiro’s numbers.)

We briefly see her clash with Wildcat (Yolanda Montez), and Yamashiro doesn’t seem radically faster than Montez. Who isn’t all that.


Intensive training poster child

We seldom use Intensive Training. Since we seldom bother with character creation points (outside of Player Character profiles and the like).

But here it is so blatant that Katana is the Intensive Training type. “I’m the Skills-based guy on the team, and I had to spend my points somewhere, so I also took some Thief and Vehicles and Occultist… it’s cheap… what ?! I have a mysterious background !”

But *in practice*, the observed Skills and Attributes levels do not quite match. So if you like Intensive Training, you’d need to fiddle with those numbers that are within 1 AP of each other to add Links.


Older notes

So, this profile was actually my second attempt at writing 1980s Katana up. *Years* before, I had done a first attempt that was cut short (oh oh) by health and other unpleasantness.

The approach to Soultaker was a bit different, and markedly less streamlined. I prefer the version above.

But heh, for those readers who are EXTREMELY ENTHUSIASTIC about Katana, here’s an unedited dump of the old, deprecated approach if you like it better.

Soultaker

BODY 16, EV 05

Note:
Can be used for Bashing Combat, but this is a Trick Shot

Powers:
Control: 13, Extra-Dimensional Storage: 05, Regeneration: 01, Suspension: 12, Telepathy: 02
(Edit after all – Extra-D storage became Dimension Travel (Tesseract Only) in its next design iteration.)

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Control can only be used on persons in Extra-Dimensional Storage, though it is normally used when they have been brought back.
  • Control requires an Occultist (Rituals) roll – see below.
  • Extra-Dimensional Storage can Store Other Living Beings, but only if they have been fatally wounded by Soultaker and are dying.
  • Using Extra-Dimensional Storage to have Soultaker bodily manifest one of the souls therein first requires an Occultist (Rituals) roll – see below.
  • Suspension is Useable on Others and Only Useable on Others. It is further restricted to the persons within the Extra-Dimensional Storage, where it is used automatically.
  • Suspension can be turned off when it comes to the mentality of the persons therein (but not the bodies).
  • Regeneration is Useable on Others and Only Useable on Others. It is further restricted to the persons within the Extra-Dimensional Storage, where it is used automatically.
  • Telepathy is Useable on Others and Only Useable on Others. It is further restricted to the persons within the Extra-Dimensional Storage.
  • Telepathy has a Range of Touch (must be touching the handle of Soultaker) and can only be used for communication.

Advantages:
Misc.: If Soultaker’s wielder has a propensity toward evil, the sword will subtly and gradually exacerbate it

Rituals

Bodily manifestation
Effect:
Allows to use Soultaker’s Extra-Dimensional Storage to physically return a person in the blade to the real world. The difficulty of the Ritual is 05/05, one RAP is sufficient.
Casting Time: 7 APs
Components: 5 APs in consumables, and requires specific items – a dragon-shaped sword rack forged in the same flame as the sword, specific herbs grounded to powder to serve as incense, specific incantations (the original scroll might be necessary), and being fluent in older Japanese

You shall serve
Effect:
The difficulty of this Ritual is 05/05. One RAP is sufficient to activate Soultaker’s full Control Power.
Casting Time and Components: As per the Bodily manifestation Ritual above. The two are normally chained.

Maseo

Maseo Yamashiro is among the “inhabitants” of Soultaker. He seems roughly comparable in terms of Attributes and Skills to his wife, though his Mental and Mystical Attributes are probably capped at 5 or 6 APs and his Skills likely are one AP below Tatsu’s. Likely HP total is 025.

As a spirit within Soultaker, Maseo had learned to remotely sense the precise location of specific individuals, even through walls and the like. This is Life Sense: 06, with a Bonus to allow pinpointing certain persons.

How much information he needs to work is unrevealed, but one assumes that a simple description and short biography are sufficient to “lock in” once he gets within Range.

This ability apparently appeared immediately after Maseo was slain and taken by the sword, as he could sense amidst the fire that his children were dead. At such it is more probably a property of the sword, and other persons taken by Soultaker may be able to also deploy it.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: 1980s Outsiders comics (DC)

Helper(s): RPG.net’s tangency (Japanese check for the Muramasa incantation), Boston Moss, Darci, Michael Ficklin.

Writeup completed on the 18th of May, 2020.