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
- Yato in Noragami had this in his past, although a very short one. After some arcs and his hair has grown so he keeps it that way again.
- 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. Played with, as he is often considered feminine looking and the historical figure he's based on (Kawakami Gensai) successfully disguised himself as a woman and hid out in a brothel after an assassination at least once.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, set as close to the beginning of the Meiji as it is, it primarily serves to show that characters are old-fashioned or not ready to adapt to the new era. Kenshin's master Hiko also sports one, and notably Kenshin has cut his hair by the manga's epilogue.
- 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.
- Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail sports one in her Japanese Cloth outfit.
- In One Piece, all the samurai from the country of Wa (an equivalent of ancient Japan) 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.
- Akeno Shiranui from My Bride Is a Mermaid sports one as well, since she is an honor bound samurai mermaid inspector. sports a Hime Cut when her hair is down.
- 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.
- Kanda Yu from D.Gray-Man sports the tidy kind of samurai ponytail, complete with a katana as a weapon. Turns into a Hime Cut when down.
- Kuroh Yatogami from K, who is often compared to Kanda. In the movie, he wears it down while he's searching for his master.
- Laughing Under the Clouds has Abe no Sosei who, while the story is set during the Meiji Era, comes from a samurai lineage.
- Both styles appear in Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi himself plays with the trope by using Ears as Hair; obviously his topknot is the second, messy version.
- 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".
- The people watching Kambei's haircut are a bit shocked that he's willing to cut his hair.
- The short-and-messy version worn by Mifune's character is the first clue given to the audience that he is not like the others. He's actually peasant pretending to be a samurai.
- 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.
- Heishiro Mitsurugi, the ronin samurai from the Soul Series has the second type of hair.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV The main character sports this.
- Yen'fay in Fire Emblem Awakening sports one, fittingly enough, since the Swordmasters in this game resemble samurai, and his home country has strong Wutai vibes.
- Takumi from Fire Emblem Fates sports a particularly long one as well. However, he fits the "nobility" variant more; he's a prince of a nation that has just as strong Wutai vibes (if not more so) as Yen'fay's.
- Takumi's retainer Hinata is sporting one as well (it's specifically mentioned in supports that he's imitating Takumi), and his base class actually is Samurai (the base form of the Swordmaster class in this game).
- Hakumen from BlazBlue has this type of hair, with a personality mostly befitting the first type. He doesn't stop at simply a samurai though, he's also a walking suit of armor.
- From Dynasty Warriors:
- Lu Meng (pictured above) sported this hairstyle until the seventh installment.
- Sun Quan sports this hairstyle, after his makeover in 7.
- Link sports an understated one in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
- Jetstream Sam of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance wears a ponytail. While he uses a vibro katana =- one forged from a 16th century original, making it the best in the world — and is a Master Swordsman, he's actually Brazilian (of Japanese descent).
- Zero from Mega Man X combines this trope with Rapunzel Hair, falling into the second type. He retains the look in his own series even with the Art Shift. As revealed in Zero 3, his mind is actually inhabiting an allegedly inferior copy of his original body, which is now controlled by an A.I./Cyber Elf personality known as Omega. Naturally, Omega Zero also sports Zero's iconic ponytail.
- Poo from EarthBound fits into the first type, being a prince adept at the martial arts. Though he's probably not Japanese — more like Chinese or Indian or something.
- Cyan from Final Fantasy VI has one, also of the first type. Along with a notable mustache, oddly enough.
- 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.