Katana Is the Female Superhero That Marvel Won't Give You

“My name is Tatsu Yamashiro, and your city is in great danger.”

When I first started watching Arrow, all I knew was that I was going to eventually meet and love Felicity Smoak. What I didn’t expect was a show filled with some of the most incredible women on television, and certainly the most incredible women in any comic book adaptation to date. Before Arrow, the women I’d met, loved and idolized in comic books adaptations amounted to a solid one woman- Black Widow, and even she had her problems. I still loved her, and I loved these adaptations but I never knew how much I longed for more women until I started watching Arrow.

Arrow has given me Laurel and Sara Lance, two women who have been the Black Canary, two women who have fought for justice. One of Sara’s first lines in the series is, “No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men.” I remember that line chilling me to the bone because I had never seen a character work so hard to ensure the safety of other women. Laurel’s strength and her ability to overcome anything life throws at her is a constant inspiration to me. Arrow gave me Thea Queen, now Speedy, a woman who took her life into her own hands and became a pillar of truth and honesty. Arrow gave me Felicity Smoak, a woman who pulls the best out of the people around her and shines brightly in a world of darkness.

And now, Arrow has given me Katana. The show has had these flashbacks to Oliver’s past ever since it aired, and Tatsu, her husband Maseo and her son Akio have been in them for a while now. I always thought that these flashbacks were about Oliver. Tonight, I realized that they were about Tatsu and her family.

A problem with female characters in any form of media is that often they are not given a backstory, they tend to be there as sidepieces to male counterparts, and they rarely have depth. This is not true of Tatsu. She has been a recurring character, but hadn’t had many big parts in the series until she saved Oliver after his fall. We’ve seen her in the flashbacks fighting alongside Oliver and Maseo, and to say that she is adept at wielding a sword is an understatement. I realized somewhere along the line that she was intended to be Katana, but I didn’t know for certain if, or when, it would happen.

The only comic I’ve read with Katana in it is the New 52 run by Ann Nocenti. I was struck by how dark the comic was, and how different it was from anything else I’d read. Tatsu wielded a sword she called her katana, the soul taker. She believed it carried the soul of her dead husband, and she kept it with her to have a part of him.

Tonight, Tatsu Yamashiro became Katana. Tatsu approached Felicity to persuade her to not give up on Oliver, as she had given up on Maseo. She then joined Felicity, Malcolm, John and Laurel on a quest to stop Oliver from destroying Starling City. The fight scene between them and the League is one of the best scenes in Arrow to date, and near the end of it Maseo approaches Katana and they fight. Katana is knocked to the ground and Maseo tries to kill her, but she jumps up and kills him instead. They embrace and he thanks her for freeing him from his prison as he dies in her arms while she weeps. This moment, as grim and horrible as it was, it was beautiful as well.

I can’t think of a person better suited for this role than Rila Fukushima, and she truly showed her abilities in this episode. I can’t believe how well her character was established, right under my nose. I can’t believe that Arrow, yet again, gave me an incredibly powerful female superhero. I can’t believe that she is one of so many incredible women in just one show. I can’t believe that one television show has so far surpassed everything Marvel has done in regards to women in all of their television shows and movies.


“A katana. Passed on for centuries within my family. The first son of each generation.”
“You are not a son, Tatsu.”
“No, I am not."