Onna Bugeisha. Scion of a long-line of female samurai, recently arrived from a secretive location in the mists of Japan's Kuril Islands!
by andrez bergen and gareth colliton
The Kuril Islands [クリル列島/Кури́льские острова́], comprising about 56 isles that stretch northeast from Hokkaido (Japan's northern main island) to Russia, were seized by the Soviets in the closing stages of World War II, and remain under Russian control.
The timeline here is a bit fuzzy; all Russians referred to, namely the soldiers, belong to the USSR.
Onna Bugeisha combines conventional Japanese history and mythology with a bit of the enigma of Wonder Woman and Paradise Island.
In our story the remote islet is called フシギ島 Fushigijima [Mysterious Island; "fushigi" meaning mysterious, "jima" meaning island], tucked away somewhere in the Kurils but fiercely independent. It's run by a female warrior caste.
The head of this order is Gozen-Hakase [御前博士], an ageless woman said to be one thousand years old.
Gozen is unsurpassed in her skills at traditional Japanese archery, or kyūjutsu (弓術), the “art of archery”. “Hakase” is an honorific meaning professor or highly-learned person, and she’s partially based on Tomoe Gozen, a late twelfth-century female samurai warrior.
Fushigijima itself is a bleak, mystical place that the Russians neglected to invade when they took the rest of the Kurils. No doubt the ring of concealing mists helped, not to mention a dire lack of decent fishing.
A bevy of other characters are lined up for future issues.
Tahei Matashichi [太平 又七] is a fisherman who lives destitute on a tiny island nearby Fushigijima. He survives on uni [うに], or sea urchins, which he’s now sickened and disgusted by. He’s not allowed to set foot on Fushigijima, but is used for carting around Onna on her missions in his beaten-up small boat.
Incidentally Tahei and Matashichi were the unruly peasant pair in Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress (1958) — upon whom C-3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars were roughly based. The boat is a tenmasen, a 6-meter-long cargo boat whose name derives from tenma (an Edo period pack horse) and sen (boat). This vessel’s name is Fūjin (風神), after the Japanese god of the wind and one of the eldest Shinto gods.
Kaizoku-Gari no Toro [海賊狩りのとろ] is an aged grand master of the three-sword katana [刀] technique, and the only man on the island. Onna’s teacher, he's perpetually craving fresh sashimi.
He's loosely based on Kaizoku-Gari no Zoro from One Piece, with a pun on changing Zoro to Toro — the Japanese name for the oily belly of the tuna, especially used with sushi and sashimi.
But are hero here is Onna.
ONNA BUGEISHA [女武芸者], referred to as Onna-chan [女ちゃん], has two katana swords strapped to her back, and a smaller wakizashi [脇差] at the waist.
She will eventually become a key member of superhero group the Fenders in Heropa.
=> 女 [onna] = woman / ちゃん = girl child / 武芸者 = master of martial arts.