Rare hand-colored photos of Japanese samurai in the late 1800s

Mashable (by Alex Q. Arbuckle):

The military-nobility caste known as samurai — roughly meaning “those who serve” — emerged in medieval Japan as provincial warriors, and rose to control the country in the 12th century.

As the enforcement arm of the ruling shogunate, the samurai were elevated to a position of privilege. They followed a code of honor called bushido, informed by Confucianism and Zen Buddhism. Bushido emphasized martial fearlessness, discipline and loyalty, as well as general kindness.

These photos, made in the years after Japan finally opened its ports to international trade, capture samurai in their final days. With the 1868 Meiji Restoration and the end of feudalism, carrying swords was prohibited to all but the new national armed forces.

The samurai class was dissolved, but bushido survived as the national moral code of the new Japan.

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Two samurai in firefighter dress.

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How to Forge the Hattori Hanzo Katana from ‘Kill Bill’

Given the gravitas that the katana wielded by Uma Thurman’s Black Mamba character in the cult Kill Bill franchise was afforded, it is no surprise that the weapon — forged in the films by the legendary Japanese blacksmith Hattori Hanzo — still captures the imagination of blade enthusiasts worldwide.

In the Man at Arms: Reforged YouTube series, Baltimore Knife and Sword enlisted the help of master armorer and engraver Ilya Alekseyev, accompanied by a five-man swordsmithing crew, to recreate the awe-inspiring blade by which no small number of baddies met a gruesome end in Quentin Tarantino’s epic.

Watch the video above and explore the rest of the series here.

A robot and Japanese sword master square off in the Yaskawa Bushido Project

In a matchup you do not come across everyday, a programmed Motoman-MH24 industrial robot and five time world record holder, samurai master Machii Isao face off to determine the better sword wielder. Commissioned by Yaskawa Electric Corporation, the robot’s manufacturer, the video depicts the advancement of technical engineering, coupled with the incredible skill of Isao.

Check out the amazing footage by hitting play on the video above.

Historical Japanese swords turn into battle-hardened Blade Boys in new mobile game

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RocketNews 24:

These days, one of the quickest and most popular methods for stocking a video game with a cast of attractive anime-style characters is to pick a class of item and anthropomorphize the heck out of it. There’s currently no hotter mobile game than Kantai Collection, in which players command a fleet of pretty girls who’re all modeled after World War II-era Japanese warships. If naval history isn’t your thing, you can also find titles featuring comely cars and moe mushrooms.

There’s a new entry in the subgenre though, and judging from its all-pretty boy roster of characters, it’s been designed with female otaku gamers in mind. As such, it’s no surprise that the men of Touken Ranbu are all based on something long and hard…plus sharp, as they’re all anthropomorphized swords.

Smartphone game publisher DNN released Touken Ranbu, or Violent Blade Dance, on January 14. With such a warlike title and development being handled by Nitro Plus, the same unit behind busty anime mascot Super Sonico, you might expect Touken Ranbu to be a testosterone-dripping smorgasbord of boobs and swordfights, but the truth is very different.

In recent years, there’s been a surge of interest in historical samurai among young Japanese women, who find themselves drawn to their old-school stoicism and gallantry. More than anyone else, it’s for that demographic that Touken Ranbu’s cast of dudes with smooth facial features and elaborate hairdos was crafted.

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The game’s plot actually starts in 2205, when historical revisionists stage a literal attack on the past in order to alter Japan’s history. The player steps into the role of the saniwa, an entity with the power to awaken the souls of inanimate objects and imbue them with fighting strength. As such, it’s your job to transform the swords of Japan’s feudal era into an army of Touken Danshi, or Blade Boys.

▼ Mikatzuki Munechika, the Heian Era sword (left) and Blade Boy (right)

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Early reviews describe the game as easy to pick up and play, with a streamlined system for equipping characters with special items and simple combat system. While the player assembles squads of up to six members and issues commands to advance or retreat in battle, the Blade Boys will do the rest of their fighting more or less automatically.

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Female otaku in Japan are generally drawn to male characters with tragic pasts, and Touken Ranbu’s theme gives the creators ample sadness to mine. Since the cast all started as inanimate killing instruments, they’ve seen numerous deaths, oftentimes including those of their owners. A few were even used for seppuku, the samurai act of ritual suicide, and carry the psychological burden of having been party to the act.

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As a result, gamers can expect plenty of scenes in which they try to help the Blade Boys work through their emotional baggage. But while many games would use this as a springboard to a romantic relationship, Touken Ranbu keeps such rumblings of the heart low-key, which should help it appeal to the widest possible female fanbase in Japan.

By never definitively stating who the characters have a crush on, Nitro Plus can simultaneously appeal to the three major groups of pretty boy game fans, the fujoshi(who want to see the guys hook up with other guys), the danjo kapu mono (coming from danjo kappuringu mono, or “heterosexual coupling fans”), and the “dreamers”(who’d like to imagine themselves as the object of the affections of the hot guys on screen).

▼ Mixed in among the 19 sword-based characters announced so far is Otegine, who’s actually a Muromachi Period spear.

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The lack of explicit romantic content means that as long as they can get past the female-oriented character designs, heterosexual male gamers should be able to get some enjoyment out of Touken Ranbu’s story too. Serving as world view director and main writer is Yuri Shibamura, who wrote the script for video game-tuned-anime Gunparade March.

Also contributing to the project is Norimitsu Kaiho, whose previous credits include a handful of Guilty Gear games and episodes of mecha anime TV series Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.

Regardless of which facet of the game strikes your fancy, Token Ranbu can be downloaded here directly from DMM.

New video “Ikusa” from Wagakki Band mixes rock, traditional instruments, and swords!

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RocketNews 24:

Since the release of Wagakki Band‘s first original song “Hanabi” last year, we’ve been holding our breath waiting for more. Okay, that’s not completely true–we’ ve been sneaking little gasps since then–but we were definitely excited to hear the the group was recording both the opening and closing song for the new anime Sengoku Musou, based on the game of the same name. But unless you actually tuned in to watch the show you’d be hard pressed to find the song–until now!

Today, the band released a music video for “Ikusa,” the show’s opening theme song. Check it out below but be careful that you’ve cleared your room of pointy objects first so you don’t hurt yourself headbanging.

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Opening with a crunchy guitar riff, thunderous drums, and the haunting voice of the shakuhachi, it’s obvious that this track is full steam ahead–a clear fit for an anime about people stabbing each other with swords. Sengoku Musou, also known as Samurai Warriors outside of Japan, started earlier this month and is based on the long-running video game series of the same name. Tapping the Wagakki Band to do both the opening and closing songs was both an obvious and brilliant choice!

Though the opening song, titled “Ikusa,” hasn’t been released for purchase yet, the band just released a music video featuring the musicians performing in a war-torn landscape. It also shows them fighting each other, because who doesn’t love sword fights??

“Ashigaru Stormtrooper”: Bandai to release Samurai Stormtrooper collectible action figure

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Freshness:

Bandai has unveiled official images of its upcoming Ashigaru Stormtrooper, and the collectible looks unabashedly badass.The 7-inch figure will launch in May 2015 and come packaged with an old-school E11 blaster rifle and an even more old school Katana. The Samurai connection makes sense when you consider that filmmaker George Lucas took inspiration from Akira Kurosawa epics like Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress when he first developed the script for the original Star Wars.

Retail for the Ashigaru Stormtrooper is listed at 9,504 yen (around $65).

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure