Finally, we’re going to deal with the one who will (possibly) be the main antagonist of The Wolverine: the fan favorite Japanese mutant Silver Samurai. Despite his name appeared on William Stryker‘s computer in X2: X-Men United, the Samurai himself never had any live action appearance, until now: Will Yun Lee will portray him in the upcoming movie, but, at least for now, it’s uncertain how much the character will resemble his comicbook counterpart. While hoping for a worthy portrayal, let’s see together who the Silver Samurai is in the comics.
The man who would have become the Silver Samurai was born Keniuchio Harada, illegitimate son of Lord Shingen Yashida, one of the most powerful and influent criminal bosses in Japan. Being illegitimate, Keniuchio couldn’t hope to inherit his father’s empire, especially after the birth of Mariko, a trueborn daughter of the Yashida Clan, but was nevertheless considered part of the family. Outside of the official family tree, Keniuchio was trained as a bodyguard for his father and sister, just like in the Medieval Age; from his first childhood, he was taught the strong discipline of the old times samurai, and trained both his mind and body to reach perfection. When he was a teenager he also discovered he was a mutant, and developed the power of channeling a self-emitted and self-sustained energy, something like a tachyon field, through anything. Training as a swordsman, he found out that channelling his energy through a blade made it capable of cutting through any known matherial (with the only ecception, as he would have discovered some years later, of adamantium), thus becoming and incredibly useful asset in Yashida Clan’s ranks. After serving for some times under his father, Keniuchio, now dressing in a silver armor and calling himself the Silver Samurai, was sent to the United States, so that he could not claim any right over his sister, who was to be married to Noburu Hideki, another crimelord, and to inherit the Yashida Clan’s lead. Once in the US, without acquaintances, without a job, without a clear knowledge of the country he was in, he ended up starting a mercenary career, selling his abilities and powers to the best offerer.
The first hiring came from Jerome Beechman, a fellow mutant known as the Mandrill, a monkey-like man who used his pheromones to control women. Along with him and his allies, the female squad known as Black Spectre, the Silver Samurai tried to find his way in the criminal underground, but ended up being defeated by Daredevil. It was after he abandoned the Mandrill, who got arrested, that Keniuchio met the woman who would have changed his life: the Viper, leader of the terrorist organization HYDRA. Viper hired the Silver Samurai as her personal bodyguard, and the two together became quite a formidable couple. At the Viper’s service, Silver Samurai fought many heroes, such as the Black Widow, Spider-Man, the master of kung fu Shang Chi, the New Mutants, even Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. when he and Viper tried to take over his hovering base, the Helicarrier. When Lord Shingen died at the ends of Wolverine, news arrived also in America, and Viper convinced Silver Samurai to claim for himself the place of leader of Yashida Clan, taking it from Mariko: the woman, in fact, was dismantling very criminal activity of the Clan, something that risked, in Keniuchio’s eyes, to weaken the Yashida name. The Silver Samurai came back to Japan with the Viper, and fought against the X-Men and Yukio, one of his father’s assassins, for the control of the Clan, but was ultimately defeated. Seeing the strength of his half-sister, anyway, Keniuchio decided he would have accepted her leadership, and left Viper’s service, starting to do only honorable deeds for his country and his clan. He also won Wolverine’s trust when the Canadian mutant, trying to save Spider-Woman from the evil influence of a cursed sword, the Black Blade of Muramasa, fell under its spell: the Silver Samurai saved both him and the superheroine, and, among them, he was found the only one worthy of wielding the blade, which couldn’t affect his noble spirit. Wolverine was so impressed by Keniuchio’s sense of honor that he decided to entrust the training of his adoptive daughter, Amiko Kobayashi, to him, and when Mariko Yashida died, Keniuchio finally became the respected Oyabun (the leader) of the Yashida Clan, with his old enemy’s blessing.
Keniuchio Harada is a man driven essentially by his honor code, which makes him follow any direct order from his master, even if it collides with his own morality or if it leads him to his own death. Not always acting according to the law, Harada acts nevertheless following what he thinks can bring power and benefit to his clan. As the Silver Samurai, he is a tremendous fighter, a master of any form of Japanese swordmanship and hand-to-hand combat; his mutant powers allow him to channel a special form of energy through any object he wants, making it capable of cutting through anything. A honorable and unbreakable warrior, the Silver Samurai is just as formidable as an enemy as he is as an ally.