Characters: The Last Samurai
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- The Alcoholic: Prior to his captivity. He eventually overcomes it during his captivity.
- The Atoner: Uses his assistance with the samurai to atone for the guilt he carries over his actions in the American military.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: With Katsumoto in the final battle.
- Badass Bookworm: Algren is a highly capable fighter, but he's also an excellent tactician (implied to be a major reason behind Bagley recruiting him for the Japanese mission in the first place), an author and a Cunning Linguist.
- The Captain: Was a Captain in the 7th Cavalry and is still addressed by his rank.
- Death Seeker: Tries to get a recruit to shoot him early in the film (as a Secret Test of Character) and participates in a plan at the end of the film that he directly compares to the Battle of Thermopylae, knowing full well how it turned out for them.
- The Determinator: That's why Katsumoto admires him. Ujio, on the other hand, sees his refusal to accept defeat from his betters to be disrespectful. He comes around eventually.
- Going Native: Occurs during his captivity.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Goes into the final battle without one.
- Death Seeker: Labels himself as one.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Does succeed posthumously in convincing the Emperor of the value of Bushido.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: In the final battle.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: He's an expy of Saigō Takamori, leader of The Satsuma Rebellion, a revolt of ex-samurai against the Meiji government from January 29 to September 24, 1877, 9 years into the Meiji Era. Historically, the reason why the Satsuma Rebellion was so dangerous was because it was an important manufacturing center for cannons. Paintings depicting the revolt show that Takamori's forces had plenty of guns while the well-uniformed Imperial forces mostly only had swords!
- Honor Before Reason: He Does Not Like Guns since he considers then dishonorably for one thing. But in real life, most, if not all the samurai ended up using guns later on. He's also clings to the past.
- The Leader
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Katsumoto is a fictional counterpart to Saigo Takamori, who led the Satsuma Rebellion, and is generally thought of as the "last true Samurai". Of course, the real Saigo wore a Western-style military uniform into battle...
Played by: Shin Koyamada
- Archer Archetype: Composed, independent (within the boundaries of Bushido). On the other hand, his attitude towards Algren is one of the friendlier among the samurai.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Goes down in a lopsided battle to hold off Omura's men and buy time for his allies to escape.
- Samurai Ponytail: For most of the movie, anyways.
- Traumatic Haircut: When the government passes laws restricting the rights of the Samurai, he is subjected to a very undignified and humiliating public haircut by the emperor's guards.
- You Shall Not Pass: After being mortally wounded, holds off Omura's soldiers while the rest of the samurai make their escape.
The Silent Samurai ("Bob")
Played by: Seizō Fukumoto
- Badass: He's definitely the most dangerous samurai in the film.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: In the final battle. Wears one during the cavalry charge, but loses it almost immediately.
- I Can Still Fight: In the final battle he gets shot and falls. Two younger samurai come to aid him, but he pushes them back, spits out some blood and stands up by himself.
- The Lancer: Of Katsumoto.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: A scholar who makes his living translating the lies of Japanese who never quite tell the full truth.
- Quintessential British Gentleman: Though he's more lively than the stereotypical British scholar, a typical trait of whom is generally not a fascination with execution and torture. That said, Algren's vivid description of the process of scalping does seem to scare him straight.
- Stock British Phrases: "Jolly good"
Played by: Masato Harada
- Faux Affably Evil: He comes across as modest and diplomatic when he first appears. Later scenes reveal him to be a Machiavellian tyrant willing to crush anyone or anything who stands in the way of his ambitions.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Notwithstanding his greed and hunger for power, he is astute in recognizing Japan's need for modernization and industralization in the context of the expansionism and imperialism of the westerns nations in the Nineteen Century.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: His character seems loosely based on Okubo Toshimichi, a preeminent Japanese statesman responsible for removing the Samuraii's privileged status in Japanese society who (for better or worse) is considered by many to be the founding father of modern Japan.
- Pride: He and Bagley are far too confident in their firearms and derisive of the Samurai's fighting abilities - after nearly 300 years of peace - early on in the film. Bagley appears to learn the error of his ways, suggesting sending in skirmishers rather than a main attack force at the start of the final battle with the samurai. Omura has definitely not learned a thing, overriding Bagley and sending his men to the slaughter rather than listening to his paid military adviser.
- Smug Snake: Significantly overestimates his own capabilities, and those of his men, and is shown to frequently disregard useful advice, even if it's advice he paid for.
- Suit with Vested Interests: Omura's interest in Japan's modernization has less to do with any interest in the country's well-being and more to do with the businesses that he owns. This also influences several disastrous tactical decisions he makes with the army.
- Underestimating Badassery: Is more dismissive of the samurai than any other character in the film. Even when Bagley starts realising what a threat they are, Omura insists on a full attack.
- Villainous Breakdown: Omura starts losing his smug cool when the Samurai prove to be more of a threat than he thought, and then he finally snaps entirely in impotent rage when the Emperor disowns him.
- Expy: Reviews have noticed Bagley bears a striking resemblance to Custer himself (who is mentioned in the movie), sporting the same sort of hair-style and facial hair, having served in the the 7th Cavalry, participating in the slaughter of Indians and being incredibly arrogant and racist.
- Hollywood Tactics: Superior firepower and a larger force does not guarantee victory.
- I Did What I Had to Do: "I did what I was ordered to do, and I have no remorse", in reference to slaughtering the women and children of a village that raided his and Algren's forces.
- Jerkass: Bagley is a man of the times who believes in his own cultural and racial superiority and has no qualms about massacring "lesser" peoples, inclusive women and children.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: A man who considers Native-Americans and Japanese to be subhuman species certainly qualifies.
- Smug Snake: Is extremely dismissive of "lesser" cultures and individuals, the samurai in particular.
- Underestimating Badassery: Woefully underestimates the samurai, believing them to be no more than "savages, with bows and arrows." Seems to have learned his lesson by the time of the rematch.
Sergeant Zebulon Gant
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: His method of instilling some sense of order into the new Japanese recruits is bellowing at them in a language they probably don't understand.
- Last Stand: Like Algren, likely realises that the first fight against the samurai is going to be a Curb-Stomp Battle, and not in the way they were hoping. Yet when Algren orders him to withdraw with the rest of the noncombatants and advisers, Gant cheerfully responds, "No offence sir, but, shove it up your ass."
- Living Emotional Crutch: To Algren, to an extent. Tends to run interference for him when Algren is drunk or when other characters are unknowingly pressing Nathan's Berserk Button.
- Mauve Shirt: Technically those who get him aren't the villains of the story, but at this point Algren (who is a witness) doesn't yet know about that.
- Old Soldier: Has been retired for quite some time.
- Retirony: He could have well enjoyed his retirement from the army but opted to serve in Japan. He perishes in his first engagement against the samurai.
- Underestimating Badassery: Has a good laugh when he realises the samurai still wear armour. He seems to take them seriously enough in battle, though.
- Weapon of Choice: Good old Winchester Model 1873.
Emperor Mutsuhito (posthumous name Meiji)
Played by: Shichinosuke Nakamura
- The Good King: Katsumoto believes him to be this, until he realizes that the emperor puts his trust in Omura. Truly becomes this after Algren brings him Katsumoto's saber, when he realizes the value of Bushido.