Created By: Arha on August 9, 2012 Last Edited By: Arha on September 29, 2013
Troped

Samurai Ponytail

A Samurai Ponytail is a hairstyle used to represent either a samurai or Japanese nobility.

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Trope
This is being split off from Badass Longhair. Input on ways to tweak the description will be helpful.

A common physical trait found in samurai or Japanese nobility is long hair bound up near the back of the head or almost at the top. Generally, this will fall into two categories.

First, when signifying nobility, it shows that a character is cultured, traditional and otherwise showing classical Japanese virtues. In this case, the hair will be long, straight, very clean and neat. Normally, they will be stoic or reserved. Frequently, such a character is also martially adept and it will show in their manner.

The second way this is used is to simply give a quick cue that someone is a samurai. In theory, samural are supposed to be noble and cultured as well, but it is not uncommon for them to have their appearance much less cared for presumably due to not having the time or inclination. The hair itself will also frequently be a good deal shorter. In terms of mannerisms, if someone has this second style of hair they will be less clean and organized and are frequently more gruff, down to earth or aggressive in their attitude.

In both cases, the hair can be seen as a status symbol. Even a thug samurai has a certain level of social class that they are supposed to uphold.

Compare Hime Cut which is another haircut indicative of status. See also Tomboyish Ponytail, which can have similar connotations to the second type.


Anime
  • In the Sailor Stars season of the Sailor Moon anime, the character Kou Seiya (Sailor Star Fighter) had one of these in his civilian form (secret identity). He had short hair in his female Sailor form.
  • The main style of the titular character of Rurouni Kenshin. Lampshaded, as he is often considered feminine looking.

Film
  • Katsumoto's son, Nobutada, sports one in The Last Samurai. When the Meiji government passes laws restricting the rights of the Samurai, he is subjected to a very undignified public haircut by the emperor's guards.
  • Akira Kurosawa displays this trope frequently in this films, especially with the character of Mifune.
    • In Seven Samurai, all seven feature the short-and-straight version, except the drunken badass portrayed by Mifune, who has a short-and-messy version.
    • In the mildly comedic Yojimbo and its more blatantly comedic followup, Sanjuro, Mifune is a poor wandering ronin with a short, scruffy ponytail that sticks straight out of the back of his head.
    • In Throne of Blood, a movie based on Macbeth, Mifune sports a longer and fairly neat one near the top of his head, as a sign of his high rank.

Video Games

Visual Novels
  • In Muv-Luv, Meiya sports this hair style. While she is merely incredibly wealthy in Muv-Luv Extra rather than genuine nobility, in Muv-Luv Unlimited and Muv-Luv Alternative she is directly related to the shogunate. Her twin sister Yuuhi, the shogun, also sports this hair style. The duty and responsibilities come quite naturally to her and she almost seems to fit better in this rather brutal world.
  • Servant Assassin in Fate/stay night fits in well to the first type with his good manners, calm demeanor and polite speech.

Western Animation
  • The eponymous Samurai Jack, naturally. He more closely fits into the first part of the trope.
  • Zuko had one is the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Iroh has something more similar to a topknot. Both of them cut them off after it becomes clear the Fire Nation regards them as traitors.

Community Feedback Replies: 36
  • August 9, 2012
    Xtifr
    Usually anywhere from the back of the head to near the top. High up enough that it visibly protrudes. Definitely not always down the back; sometimes it only reaches the neck. And if we're talking actual samurai ponytails, then iconic films like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and The Hidden Fortress and pretty much anything starring Toshiro Mifune contradict the "elegant and reserved" part. I think it's more likely a sign of superiority, with elegant/reserved being simply one version of that superiority.

    It's often combined with a shaved front of the head.
  • August 9, 2012
    NoirGrimoir
    Isn't it called a topknot?
  • August 10, 2012
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
    • In the Sailor Stars season of the Sailor Moon anime, the character Kou Seiya (Sailor Star Fighter) had one of these in his civilian form (secret identity). He had short hair in his female Sailor form.
  • August 10, 2012
    Astaroth
    Film
    • Katsumoto's son, Nobutada, sports one in The Last Samurai. When the Meiji government passes laws restricting the rights of the Samurai, he is subjected to a very undignified public haircut by the emperor's guards.
  • August 10, 2012
    lu127
    I think this would benefit from a suitable pic.
  • August 10, 2012
    Arha
    It's been mentioned elsewhere that sometimes an actual samurai will have the long hair, but it'll be messy and the character won't be that elegant or high class. I believe that represents the other trope we're splitting off, meaning my current working title for this trope is too broad.
  • August 10, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    Video Games
  • August 10, 2012
    ccoa
    Perhaps what it is is a visual clue that the character either is a samurai, shares character traits or a role like a samurai, or is otherwise evoking something about the time frame that samurais represent?

    This guy is missing the long and neat aspects, but it's definitely telling you this guy is a samurai, or a fantasy equivalent of one.

    This one seems to be evoking a samurai and also combining it with Tomboyish Ponytail.
  • August 10, 2012
    Arha
    Hm, I guess we could broaden it, but that seems like encompassing two different tropes.

    Okay, perhaps the central core between both ideas is that it's a mark of someone upper class and holding to samurai ideals to some extent or another whether or not they act upon their class or ideals?
  • August 10, 2012
    Doryna
  • August 10, 2012
    Treeckosawesomeness
    Samurai Jack would qualify.
  • August 11, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^^ That was basically what I was trying to suggest when I said that it suggests a sort of superiority. Samurai were below the nobles in rank, but above pretty much everyone else. Also, I think that similar hairstyles were often found on the nobility, but to westerners, it probably mostly boils down to the same thing.

    eta: the scruffier types of samurai are probably mostly ronin--masterless samurai who didn't have a noble lord to support them and keep them fed and well-groomed. Ronin were often poor, and many were little more than bandits, but they were still higher class than peasants or merchants.
  • August 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Moby Dick (1956 Film, IDK about the novel since I've never been able to finish it): Captain Ahab has a few asian whalers hidden belowdecks who only come out when they might have an opportunity to go after the eponymous whale, who have these as part of their "otherness."
  • August 12, 2012
    Xtifr
    I mentioned them in passing earlier, but they really are examples:

    • Common in Akira Kurosawa's period pieces, especially those featuring Toshiro Mifune:
      • In Seven Samurai, all seven feature the short-and-straight version, except the drunken badass portrayed by Mifune, who has a short-and-messy version.
      • In the mildly comedic Yojimbo and its more blatantly comedic followup, Sanjuro, Mifune is a poor wandering ronin with a short, scruffy ponytail that sticks straight out of the back of his head.
      • In Throne Of Blood, a movie based on Macbeth, Mifune sports a longer and fairly neat one near the top of his head, as a sign of his high rank.

    eta: (Just to be clear, those all go under Film. I know some people automatically assume that Japanese = Anime, so I thought I'd better specify.)
  • August 12, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
  • August 12, 2012
    Arha
    ^ I think it's related, yeah.

    So, are there any other suggestions for the description? Anything else I need to tweak?
  • August 14, 2012
    Arha
    If there are no criticisms of the definition then I think this can be put on hold while examples are gathered from the Badass Longhair page, though the other half of the split will also need to go through YKTTW.
  • August 14, 2012
    JonnyB
    The style that is laquered and folded back up on top of the head is generally known as a topknot.
  • October 26, 2012
    lu127
    I don't think the Sailor Moon example fits. It's not signifying nobility, nor is it a cue that the character is a samurai.

    Did some namespacing for you.

    • Fate Stay Night has the Servant Assassin. He sports a neat version of this hairstyle as he supposedly is Sasaki Kojirō, the longtime rival of Miyamoto Musashi. Assassin is noble, honourable and takes his job of guarding the gate to the RyÅ«dō temple as a duty he must uphold.
  • October 26, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Non-Japanese example: Judge Dee wears his hair in a topknot, it saves his life when he's attacked from behind. He's a traveling judge, not a samurai, but the usual heroic themes apply.
    • Kanbei in Advance Wars.
  • October 26, 2012
    Arivne
    Samurai Topknot?

    Film
    • Futureworld. While Chuck and Tracy are snooping around inside Futureworld they accidentally activate some controls that create several robots. The robots look like samurai and have topknots.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons. On page 41 of the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures supplement there's a picture of a samurai with a topknot.
  • October 26, 2012
    shimaspawn
    The style is called a topknot so Samurai Topknot would be better.

    Comic Books
    • While Usagi Yojimbo doesn't have long hair being a rabbit, the ronin does tie his ears into the traditional topknot.
  • October 26, 2012
    Tallens
  • October 26, 2012
    saintdane05
    • The main style of the titular character of Rurouni Kenshin. Lampshaded, as he is often considered feminine looking.
  • November 5, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
  • November 5, 2012
    Arha
    Okay, a page image should be fairly easy. I have this for the rugged hair look and this for the elegant look. We could combine the two and then we have both types illustrated.

    Oh and I still want more examples.

    Edit: If people feel strongly that it should be Samurai Topknot instead of Samurai Ponytail I can change that. Either one will become a redirect for the other.
  • November 6, 2012
    shimaspawn
    Those are terrible pictures for the trope and don't look at all like it's usually portrayed in media. In the first the hair is indistinct and hard to make out. It's also not the traditional style. The second is much much longer than it normally is and in addition has bizarre bangs. I would advise against using either image.
  • November 6, 2012
    Arha
    Really? Hm. I felt the elegant one got across the point pretty well. The hair is very distinct and centered, he obviously has martial skill and he looks very neat and clean. He's even wearing traditional clothing. For the other, I admit it lacks focus on the hair.
  • November 17, 2012
    shimaspawn
    The elegant one is much longer than they tend to be and just looks like generic pretty boy hair. It's not the standard traditional elegant style. It's a weird variation. Just because his hair is done nicely into the style doesn't mean it's the standard presentation.
  • January 7, 2013
    Arha
    I'd still like more examples but at this rate we're not going to be getting many more and we need to get this launched. I'll give it until the tenth and then it's launching.
  • January 8, 2013
    Chernoskill
  • January 8, 2013
    JonnyB
    The name for this hairstyle is a chonmage (chone-ma-geh).
  • January 8, 2013
    MokonaZero
    A non-samurai example in Blaz Blue. Bang has a pony tail which possibly symbolizes his status as a ninja.
  • January 8, 2013
    Arha
    He doesn't sound like a samurai or nobility to me.
  • January 9, 2013
    Arha
    One more day before launch.
  • September 29, 2013
    Fyrmer
    Western Animation
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