Pop Culture and Japan

The Way Of The Ronin: Yukio And Overcoming Disability

There’s a great variety of Asian characters in comics, and one of the most underrated is Yukio. Best known for her connection with Wolverine, Yukio was born in Japan and operated as a thief and rōnin, a masterless samurai.

She worked as an assassin for the Yashida family, but was eventually crippled and became wheelchair bound. This didn’t stop her from living her life, which demonstrated how strong Yukio is. Most people will be familiar with the character because of 2013’s The Wolverine, where she was played by Rila Fukushima. Although the film did her justice, there’s far more depth to her.

Walking on the wild side

Wolverine and Yukio first met when she was working for Shingen Yashida and she developed feelings for him. At the time, Logan was in a relationship with Mariko Yashida, but Yukio still helped him take down Shingen. Wolverine and Mariko were set to be married, yet the ceremony was ruined by Viper and the Silver Samurai. To stop the Silver Samurai from assassinating Mariko, Yukio posed as a decoy.

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After Mariko’s death, Wolverine and Yukio developed a friends with benefits kind of relationship. Logan trusted her enough to leave his adoptive daughter Amiko Kobayashi in her care and Yukio grew into her role as a mother.

Rising above adversity

This happiness was interrupted when Sabretooth targeted Logan’s friends and hired Omega Red and Lady Deathstrike to kidnap Amiko. Yukio fought against them, but was paralysed from the waist down. She begged Wolverine to kill her because she couldn’t stand the thought of living in a wheelchair, only for him to refuse. Eventually, Yukio regained her inner strength and didn’t define herself by her injuries. She set up a nightclub in Osaka and used her underworld connections to help mutants in need.

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Yukio has developed relationships with other X-Men, such as Storm and Gambit. Her friendship with Storm is an important part of her character, as she inspired Ororo to create her iconic mohawk look. Yukio’s dynamic with Gambit can be described as a rivalry. They’ve often tried to steal the same objects and Yukio once framed him for a crime she committed.

Although she isn’t a mutant, Yukio is a skilled combatant and specialises in using a scalpel-like shuriken. Being disabled hasn’t stopped her from being a fighter. If anything, it’s only made her more determined to hold her own. She’s developed from a care-free and adventurous woman to a strong, maternal figure who hasn’t lost her zest for life.

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Yukio is one of Wolverine’s best supporting characters. She’s also a great reminder of how strong a disabled person can be.

(This article originally appeared on The Comic Vault.)

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