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, samurai 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, and Barbarian Longhair
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.
- The main style of Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin. Lampshaded, as he is often considered feminine looking.
- Signum of Lyrical Nanoha, The Stoic Belkan knight with Samurai-like mannerisms and fighting style (to the point where Levi the Slasher nicknames her Bushido), wears her hair like this at all times.
- In One Piece, all the samurai from the country of Wa (an equivalent of ancient Japan) do wear their hair in such a ponytail, making them easy to recognize.
- Alto Saotome of Macross Frontier wears one, due to having a very traditional Japanese upbringing and being the son of a very rich and well-known Kabuki actor. When down, it fits Hime Cut more.
- Shugo Chara!'s Nagihiko wears his long hair in this style fitting since a) he is actually Nadeshiko and b) he comes from an old, formal household known for traditional dance.
- 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 characters played by 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. Early in the film, the samurai Kambei allows his to be cut off and his head shaved, so he can disguise himself as a monk in order to rescue a child from a kidnapper. This shows that he'd rather do the right thing than follow samurai "honor".
- 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.
- Made a plot point to go along with the deconstruction of the samurai legend in the 1962 film Harakiri. A warlord and his samurai force a young man to kill himself in the name of honour. His father-in-law takes his revenge by challenging them to duels and taking their ponytails rather than killing them, forcing them to either commit harakiri themselves or reveal themselves as cowardly bullies.
- 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 (Sasaki Kojiro) in Fate/stay night fits in well to the first type with his good manners, calm demeanor and polite speech.
- 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.