X-Men in Japan Circa 1983 — Wolverine’s Wedding and the Seeds of My Love of Japanese Honorifics, Terms, and Culture

A few days ago, I wrote a piece on the 1982 4-issue comic strip series called Wolverine, which the recent anime series used as a foundation for their own story.  Considering how different the comic and anime stories end, combined with the current X-Men anime series which sees the villain character Mastermind lurking around, I thought I would take a second exception to my normal anime/manga blogging and write a piece on the 1983 2-issue Uncanny X-Men sequel to the Wolverine series.  Again, I’m thinking many readers of the blog are unaware of the X-Men’s involvement with Japan (and this isn’t the first time) and may not be aware of some of Mastermind’s ties with Japan.  So, I give you issues #172 and #173 of the Uncanny X-Men for review.

SPOILER Summary/Synopsis:

With Logan having defeated Shigen and Yukio having killed Mariko’s husband, Mariko and Logan get engaged and invite the current X-Men team (Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Kitty Pride with the mini dragon Lockheed, and new member Rogue) to Japan well in advance of the wedding. Since Rogue had been a former foe of X-Men combined with what she did to X-Men member Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel at the time), Logan doesn’t trust her but Mariko welcomes Rogue into their home. However, the Yashida estate is being watched by Silver Samurai and he’s being watched by Yukio, who attacks him. Logan hears this, so he and Nightcrawler head out to investigate.

Logan engages Silver Samurai to help Yukio and after they exchange pleasantries, Silver Samurai manages to toss Logan off of the roof of the building they are on.  Nightcrawler saves Logan by teleporting him to safety. Silver Samurai has escaped and Yukio takes off, only to have an accident herself and nearly fall to her death except that Storm is there to save her. Storm finds Yukio’s carefree attitude amusing.

Meanwhile, Mariko receives word that her half-brother, Silver Samurai, wants a meeting. Silver Samurai’s boss, Viper, infiltrates the Yashida estate and disguises herself as one of the servants, poisoning the drinks. Logan detects it before Storm drinks her tea but the others are out, including himself. Yukio replaces Mariko’s limo driver to take her to the meeting.  At the meeting, Silver Samurai, Viper, and the elderly Oyabun of a rival yakuza clan are there. Silver Samurai states that Shigen promised him the role of head of the Yashida Clan but Mariko rejects this. Incensed, Silver Samurai attacks and when Mariko demands the Oyabun keep his part of the agreement for safe passage, the man states that his agreement was to Mariko, not the person talking to him.

Yukio reveals that she had been impersonating Mariko and as she and Silver Samurai clash, Viper races to Mariko’s limo figuring Mariko to be there. Instead, Storm is waiting and blasts Viper with a massive gust of wind, slamming her into a wall and knocking her out. Storm had not intended for that to happen but as she witnesses Yukio’s fight with Silver Samurai, she tries to help by blasting him with lightning. Her power is too great and she nearly kills him, forcing her to take the lightning back into herself. Lighting shoots everywhere and Yukio uses Mariko’s kimono to wrap up Storm and get the two into the water as the warehouse explodes.

Yukio gets Storm to safety while Silver Samurai emerges from the flames to help the injured Viper and vows to make Mariko pay. Logan, who’s now recovered in a secluded wing of a local hospital, dons his Wolverine costume. Rogue has also recovered and though Wolverine doesn’t trust her, he allows her to go with him on the hunt for the Oyabun Nabatone, who’d arranged for the meeting with Mariko. The plan is to find the Oyabun, then find Viper, which will lead to Silver Samurai.

Meanwhile, Yukio finds she’s been marked for death by the Oyabun and so she and Storm have no shelter. They come under attack by thugs out to get paid for taking Yukio out but Yukio and Storm defeat them.  Yukio’s carefree attitude, even in the face of death, causes Storm to “embrace the madness” and go with the flow.

Wolverine and Rogue track down the Oyabun at his estate but discover he has been dead for more than a week. Since Mariko had supposedly seen the Oyabun earlier and the Oyabun had arranged the meeting between her and Silver Samurai, Wolverine is angry that they’ve been tricked as Silver Samurai now has an open shot on Mariko. Rogue flies them back to the hospital just in time as Viper leads some ninja who kill Mariko’s guards in the wing where the rest of the X-Men are recovering. Rogue takes on all the ninja while Viper escapes.

Elsewhere, Wolverine encounters Silver Samurai and the two fight. Wolverine beats Silver Samurai badly but is prevented from killing him by Mariko.  Viper arrives and is horrified to see what has happened to Silver Samurai. She attempts to blast Wolverine and Mariko with her beam gun but Rogue takes the blast instead, using her stolen invulnerability powers. The gun eventually shatters from continuous use at Rogue so Viper teleports away with the injured Silver Samurai. Wolverine, in appreciation to Rogue for saving Mariko’s life, kisses Rogue so that his healing factor ability saves her life.

The wedding approaches and other former X-Men and allies arrive in Japan. Storm, having shed herself of her “goddess” mentality, now sports a mohawk and wears leather pants and top. Mastermind, who’d been disguised as the Oyabun, implants a suggestion in Mariko’s mind so that on the day of her wedding to Logan, she rejects the unworthy gaijin instead.

Thoughts/Review: 

I have a very special connection with these two issues of Uncanny X-Men.  I actually started reading the comic book series with issue #170. However, it was this story in Japan (and the continuing story of Mastermind manipulating the X-Men into thinking that Dark Phoenix had risen again in the form of Scott Summers current girlfriend Madelyne Pryor) that not only gave me a love of the X-Men as a title and group, but also implanted seeds that would affect me greatly some twenty years later when I began my journey as an anime and manga fan.  What were those seed?  A respect of Japanese culture in Western literature, starting with Japanese honorifics but also working with appropriate Japanese terms when applicable.

Back then, my 13-year old self had no clue what “Logan-sama” meant nor “Mariko-san” (as examples).  I didn’t know what “gaijin” meant either and I certainly wasn’t “pronouncing” it correctly in my mind as I read the term nor any other Japanese term used.  However, I could tell that “gaijin” was an insult of some kind and that “-sama” and “-san” were important ways of addressing Japanese people even if I didn’t understand exactly how they were significant.  Marvel should have had a page defining terms and such but Chris Claremont’s story was allowed to carry things in such a way that the extensive usage of Japanese terms and honorifics wasn’t a hindrance, even if not properly defined.

Regardless, this became a favorite story arc of mine and I can’t tell you how many times I reread these specific comics, starting with the trip to Japan and through to Scott’s own wedding.  In an odd way, this prepared me for my own 2-year stint in Japan by having the seeds of how honor and respect were so important to the Japanese people.  As such, I had no problems adapting to life in Japan and as you guys know, Japan is still a big part of me and a part of me is still in Japan.

Anyway, when I became a fan of anime and manga and started switching from watching anime in English to watching it in Japanese with subtitles, the seeds these two comic books planted further germinated so that as I became more conscious of Japanese honorific usage being ignored or force-translated, the more irritated I became about it.  It wasn’t until a few years later when I bought and read the graphic novel X-Men: From The Ashes, which also covers issues #172 and #173, that I realized why I was so angry with Western publishers of anime and manga for rejecting Japanese honorifics and often downplaying Japanese culture aspects.  After all, if Marvel Comics could be so hardcore when it came to Japanese honorifics, terms, and culture in 1983 (and actually earlier, as I mentioned in the 1982 Wolverine comic review) and the result was a very popular story, then why were Western publishers in 2002 so afraid when fansubbers and scanlators were not?  Why are so many STILL afraid today?

Now that I’m done ranting, onto the actual story review.

When the Wolverine anime came out, I was really hoping Silver Samurai would be a part of that because of my experiences with the character in these two comic books. Silver Samurai wasn’t just a typical villain. He truly believed himself to have been wronged when Mariko took over as head of the Yashida clan.  He was extremely loyal to Viper. To me, he would have been a better choice of opponent in the Wolverine anime than Kikyo was.  Plus, he had a family connection to Mariko and Shigen which would have been more interesting to pursue IMO.

Mariko’s rejection of Logan served as a means by which Chris Claremont could get Wolverine back into the active X-Men rather than be stuck in Japan enjoying the good life.  Issue #175 dealt with the aftermath of this story by having Logan return the sword Mariko had given him at the end of the Wolverine comic book series and though Mastermind’s plot was revealed and Mariko again found her love for Logan, sadly the two would never marry from what I understand.  I’d hoped for something similar in the Wolverine anime but alas, those writers went for a completely different kind of tragedy which didn’t set well with me.

This is also where Storm went from being a “meh” character to actually being a real leader and fighter.  I never really knew the character of Storm prior to her transformation here.  Later, when I went back and back-collected many older X-Men comics to get more of the stories prior to when I started collecting the comic book, her transformation took on more significance to me but at this point in time when I didn’t know that history, Storm was just a bottom kicking, take no prisoners leader of X-Men and certainly not wishy-washy like Cyclops could be.

Finally, there’s Mastermind.  I don’t know if the current X-Men anime will have Mastermind be an illusionist or not. I’m guessing they will based on how we’ve seen him to date.  Assuming he is an illusionist, I’m guessing he will do things in the anime that he did here, namely disguise himself as other people and manipulate the situations as best he can to force the X-Men into some sort of trap.  I was never really a fan of the character, but I do admit that his character certainly helped this story be interesting.

As I said, this part of the Uncanny X-Men has a special place with me on a number of levels.   If you’ve never read this part of the history the X-Men have with Japan, you can buy the Wolverine graphic novel or the X-Men: From the Ashes graphic novel.  I recommend both to get full stories.  ^_^

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2 Responses to “X-Men in Japan Circa 1983 — Wolverine’s Wedding and the Seeds of My Love of Japanese Honorifics, Terms, and Culture”

  1. […] a longtime fans of the X-Men, going back to 1983. I admit that I haven’t read the comic book since the mid-90′s but I did rather enjoy […]

  2. […] was at? Believe it or not, it was Marvel Comic’s Uncanny X-Men in 1983. (Update: My 2011 review of said comics is here.) I don’t remember exactly which issue I first noticed them used in […]

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