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Corporate Samurai

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The OCP has RoboCop. The Kanemitsu Corporation has Otomo.

"A person in a conflict-oriented profession (i.e. assassin, negotiator, advertising personnel, etc) who follows a samurai-like code of ethics. This generally means limiting collateral damage (whatever that might be, depending on the profession), treating their job as 'just business (not bringing personal animosity into competition),' and respecting competitors in their profession. Coined as a part of the cyberpunk movement in science fiction, and exemplified by Case in Neuromancer by William Gibson, and Hiroaki Protagonist in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson."
— Urban Dictionary
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A Corporate Samurai has talents that are in high demand by one or more of the following: Mega Corps, The Syndicate, The Cartel, Law Enforcement, Inc., warlords, other power brokers or royalty. The Corporate Samurai will associate and interact at the executive level and works for or possibly as a Corrupt Corporate Executive.

Often, the Corporate Samurai will be The Dragon, or The Brute if part of a villainous group.

Corporate Samurai are similar to Street Samurai. The biggest difference is that the Corporate Samurai are not Rōnin, due to the fact that they are retained by or work for a corporation, or on contract in the Private Sector. The Corporate Samurai are often highly trained as Professional Killers, Ninja, Assassins, special ops, Hired Guns, Private Military Contractors, or former intelligence operatives. Like Street Samurai, expect Corporate Samurai to be well-versed in espionage, technology and gadgetry. In Westerns this person may work as a Pinkerton Detective or for the Railroad. Whatever his specific job, expect the Corporate Samurai to be steadfastly loyal to his employer, just as historical Samurai were to their masters.

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Similar to a bag man but at a higher level and with more responsibility, the Corporate Samurai is often responsible for whole operations or campaigns, rather than simple mook wet work. The Corporate Samurai has, through merit and ability, risen above Red Shirt status. He may also be more cerebral and less kinetic with his approach to conflict resolution. He will often be a Man of Wealth and Taste and a Badass Normal, and will usually be a Badass in a Nice Suit. Often the Corporate Samurai is sent to deal with situations and to engineer or arrange outcomes that a simple mook couldn't handle.

Taken from the Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels, and "Market Forces". This trope is found throughout Cyberpunk, Post-Cyberpunk (where they're much more likely to be portrayed as heroic) and hard boiled noir, among many other genres. Will unfailingly be a Consummate Professional.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mifune, Soul Eater's character, Infinite One-Sword Style practitioner, bodyguard and Black*Star's Rival was this in the past, working for a crime family. However, he quit when he was sent to capture or kill a witch that turned out to be a little girl; he released her and devoted his life to protecting her. He ends up working for another criminal organization, Arachnophobia, so they'll provide protection to her.
  • The many shinobi in Tokyo Shinobi Squad are this, bordering on Literal Metaphor.

    Comic Books 
  • The Specialist from Spider-Man 2099 is a quite literal example, a literal samurai mercenary working for various Mega-Corp organizations in the future. There are many people with that occupation in the comics (referred In-Universe as corporate raiders), and Miguel's job was to design guys like that.
  • Jack Pierce from The Exec by Doug Miers and Carlos Paul.
  • During the years before Iron Man discarded his Secret Identity, he claimed that he was a heroic Corporate Samurai working for Tony Stark.
  • In Thor (2014), the latest version of the Silver Samurai is another literal case - a Corrupt Corporate Executive who can don samurai-themed Powered Armor at a moment's notice.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Vincent in Collateral. He is a hitman with a list of names that need to be taken down in twelve hours. He is discrete and careful in his killings, limiting the collateral damage. The taxi driver he takes hostage to be his driver is treated with respect, as long as he doesn't try to call the police or tell people. Vincent even makes sure he doesn't break routine and not visit his sick nana in the hospital, mainly because it would tip people off something is up.
  • The Operative in Serenity has hints of this. He acts as an enforcer for a government / corporate conspiracy, and firmly believes that his ruthless actions will lead to be a better world - even if he himself will have no place there. He also uses an actual sword, which stands out in the Space Western setting. His Establishing Character Moment involves "suggesting" someone commit Seppukunote  for failing - and then killing him when he doesn't take the hint.
  • Han Cho Bai in Red's sequel, though he subverts it in Frank's case.
  • The South African man sent by Col Coetzee to find Danny Archer in Blood Diamond; Col Coetzee's private army is based on the former company of Private Military Contractors, Executive Outcomes.
  • The current image is of Otomo in RoboCop 3, a robot/cyborg version belonging to the Kanemitsu Corporation, which wants to buy out OCP.
  • The main characters in the film Bad Company 1995 are in corporate espionage, hired to spy on a rival cosmetics company.
  • A more literal example in the film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. The epynomous character is an assassin working for the mafia, but follows a code of ethics based on bushido, including not killing anyone but his targets.
  • Shingen Yashida from The Wolverine. Literally speaking. As the trope's meaning, however, he subverts this.
  • Best Seller is about a former hitman for Kappa Industries, who after being fired approaches detective-turned-novelist Meechum about writing his story.
    Meechum: Corporations don't have people killed.
    Cleve: Corporations deal in two things, period — assets and liabilities. I removed the liabilities. And I provided some of the assets. I was a corporate executive in charge of those two things.
  • Simeon Weisz, the closest thing Lord of War has to a villain, built his career on this. An arms dealer at the height of the Cold War, he aligns himself with the CIA and does business in a way that promotes their agenda: when he appears to sell arms to both sides, as in the Iran-Iraq War, it's because his backers want both sides to lose. The end of the Cold War effectively turns him from a Corporate Samurai into a Corporate Ronin, as there's no need for his services anymore. He doesn't handle the transition well.
  • Mr. White serves in this capacity in Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace. He's an all-purpose middleman, handler, and executioner for Quantum. Most of the organization's leaders are public figures who don't want to get their hands too dirty, leaving White to work on their behalf representing their interests with terrorists and criminals, recruiting and handling spies, and cleaning up loose ends. While he at first appears as an amoral muscleman, he eventually breaks with the organization when it starts to engage in sex trafficking, showing that there are indeed some lines he won't cross.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Lord Cutler Beckett tries to coerce Jack Sparrow into a more conventional version of this role, first by offering him through Turner a job as a privateer for the East India Trading Company (which would ironically make him more of a criminal than the rogue that he currently is) and then by trying to recruit him as his agent among the Pirate Lords, a position that would be rendered, along with his life, redundant, after the war against Piracy.
    • Mercer, Beckett's right-hand man, is a straight example: he kills people that are obstacles to his boss's plans (up to and including a Crown Governor), and represents his interests several times among the pirates. (And, to his ultimate sorrow, on board Davy Jones' ship).

    Literature 
  • John Nike in Jennifer Government.
  • The hitman Kinneavy in Dennis Lehane's short story "The Consumers", who has enough of a code that, when he's hired by a trophy wife to kill her abusive Corrupt Corporate Executive husband, kills his client afterwards as well simply because her willingness to enjoy the financial benefits of his business practices disgusts him.
  • Takeshi Kovacs, an ex-special forces Super Soldier who now works as a mercenary and investigator.
  • In Discworld, Scholarship Student members of the Assassins Guild often seem to be these. The Fifth Elephant has Vetinari's clerk Inigo Skinner who turns out to be a badass assassin, and Making Money indicates that a whole bunch of "dark clerks" work for Vetinari. On the antagonist side, the villain of Making Money has an assassin on staff, who when not doing his job is a calm guy who likes to read for pleasure.
  • Case from Neuromancer, at least before he crossed his former employers and had his ability to access the matrix removed (which Wintermute restored).
  • Turner from Count Zero is referred to as a "Street Samurai", though he's on contract with a Mega-Corp as an extraction specialist.
  • In The Dark Tower, Jake comes to believe that his father was the corporate version of a gunslinger, working as a network television executive. He even referred to decisive actions as "the kill."
  • Honor Harrington: The various operatives working on behalf of Manpower Unlimited appear to be this, and in fact, many of them think they are this, until they are brought in on enough of The Conspiracy to learn they are actually agents of The Mesan Allignment, who are rather less picky about what happens to innocents.
  • The Letters in Agent G by C.T. Phipps are Corporate Samurai in the sense they are assassins, spies, and thieves for the organization. Somewhat off-kilter in the fact they are the service which the International Refugee Society provides to the rest of the world. They're mercenaries-for-hire kept on a leash with their past lives' memories kept from them as a restraint on their obedience.
  • Jack Ryan:
    • Debt of Honor: Kaneda is an unusually seedy version. A former Yakuza, he's now employed as the bodyguard of the Big Bad, megacorporate tycoon Raizo Yamata. It's implied that he views himself as a modern-day Samurai, but this mostly expresses itself in his watching a lot of action movies about them rather than actually behaving like them; while he does have some sense of honor, it revolves almost entirely around obedience to his boss, since he has no desire to be left on his own again as he was after leaving the Yakuza. He does any dirty job his boss requires of him: he murders the mistress of one of Yamata's pet politicians after she becomes a liability, he kidnaps a former Prime Minister when Yamata suspects him of rallying opposition to his covert war with America, and allusions are made to his having assaulted journalists, demonstrators, and labor organizers in the past. All of this combines to make him an extreme Asshole Victim. Clark had no particular plans to kill him, but is unusually pleased that he had the chance to in the heat of combat.
    • Rainbow Six: Dmitri Popov is a more classic example. A former KGB officer, he used to be a handler for extreme-left European terrorists on behalf of his homeland. When he was let go at the end of the Cold War, he ended up employed as a "security consultant" by American CEO John Brightling, who uses his old connections to direct terrorist attacks for his own ends. Popov has no objections to this, at first. However, he eventually turns on his boss after learning that the man is an Omnicidal Maniac planning to release a bio-weapon that will exterminate most of the human race.
  • Modesty Blaise: Modesty is the retired leader of a major crime syndicate, who now Fights Crime with her former right-hand man and Heterosexual Life-Partner, Willie Garvin. Despite her many transgressions in her former life, she did live by a code (refusing to deal drugs, for example), and made a point of never working against the interests of the British government. Because of this, she's become the go-to person for Sir Giles Tarrant of the British Secret Service whenever he needs help from someone on the other side of the law.
  • James Bond:
    • If the man Bond encounters in Casino Royale is any indication, the hitmen for SMERSH, the Soviet government's assassination department, are extremely disciplined sticklers for protocol. After executing Le Chiffre, their agent in France, the man comments to Bond that he should by all rights have orders to kill him as well. However, since Bond's presence wasn't anticipated, he has no such orders, and leaves him alive.
    • Subverted later on by Red Grant, the SMERSH hitman in From Russia with Love. Failing to act professionally, and indulging his class resentments and sociopathic nature instead, is precisely what dooms him. Instead of killing Bond quickly while he's still unsuspecting, he can't resist gloating and savoring his victory, and therefore gives Bond a chance to turn the tables on him.
    • Ernst Stavro Blofeld, of all people, actually qualifies. He and his organization, SPECTRE, have their own operations, but they're also regularly hired by governments on both sides of the Iron Curtain, as well as criminal organizations, for extremely high-risk acts of theft, sabotage, assassination, and the like. There is literally no job too dirty for him to touch; however, he strongly believes in strictly honoring his agreements, not only with clients but with victims, and demands high self-discipline from his men. At the beginning of Thunderball, it's brought to his attention that a girl he recently had kidnapped was raped while in his custody, despite his promising to return her unharmed. He reacts by refunding a portion of the ransom money to her parents, immediately executes the offending employee, and giving the following speech to his men:
    Ernst Stavro Blofeld: I am not concerned with morals or ethics, but members will be aware that I desire, and most strongly recommend, that SPECTRE shall conduct itself in a superior fashion. There is no discipline in SPECTRE except self-discipline. We are a dedicated fraternity whose strength lies entirely in the strength of each member. Weakness in one member is the death-watch beetle in the total structure.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Boba Fett is a corporate samurai at large for any number of entities, from governments to corporations to criminal organizations. The galaxy's greatest bounty hunter, he lives by a strict code, honors his contracts, and (almost) Always Gets His Man. He's sufficiently impressive that Darth Vader himself retains his services when he needs someone who knows the criminal fringe well enough.
    • In the The Han Solo Adventures, Gallandro fulfills this purpose for the Corporate Sector Authority (the conglomerate with a monopoly on trade and governance in its sector of space). He was once a straightforward gunslinger, but "gave up sleeping with one eye open" in order to become an Authority enforcer.
    • Unusually for this series, Talon Karrde is a heroic example. The greatest smuggling kingpin in the galaxy, he's often relied on when the New Republic or Jedi need help from a friend on the other side of the law. He abides by a fairly strong moral code, which manifests in the way he treats his employees, the way he fulfills his obligations and repays his debts, his reverence for the laws of Sacred Hospitality, and his refusal to touch the more malignant forms of crime, like slavery or racketeering. Part of his code of honor was originally a strict political neutrality, but being coerced, betrayed, kidnapped, and otherwise abused by the Empire pushed him into the New Republic's camp. After the two powers end their war, he returns to a more impartial stance, officially offering his services as a Knowledge Broker to both sides so each can verify that the other is abiding by the terms of the peace treaty.
  • The Dogs of War. Simon Endean is the chief hatchet man of British mining magnate Sir James Manson. Though he hires a London Gangster as muscle when going to Africa, it's made clear that he's capable of handling the rough stuff himself when needed.
    He came from an impeccable background and, behind the veneer, had the morals of an East End thug. Going with the polish and the ruthlessness was a certain cleverness. He needed a James Manson to serve, just as James Manson, sooner or later on his way to the top or in his struggle to stay there in big-time capitalism, needed the services of a Simon Endean. Endean was the sort to be found by the score in the very smartest and smoothest of London’s West End gambling clubs—beautifully spoken hatchet men who never leave a millionaire unbowed to or a showgirl unbruised. The difference was that Endean’s intelligence had brought him to an executive position as aide to the chief of a very superior gambling club.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Michael Westen in Burn Notice. He is a rare example of this as he doesn't work for the rich or powerful, usually, but rather the little guy the rich, powerful, and corrupt take advantage of. He aims to be discrete and limited in his collateral, but isn't above using explosives when things get rough. He aims to be dispassionate and disconnected, as he was trained as a spy, because when a guy might be shooting at you one day, the next he could be your ally. The major antagonists of the show all try to convince him, by either force or gentler methods, to be this on their side.
  • Similar to Michael Westen, the heroes of Leverage are a crew of thieves that hire themselves out to those who have been victimized by people above the law (usually Corrupt Corporate Executives or Sleazy Politicians). In Season 3, however, they're coerced into being more classic Corporate Samurai for "the Italian," a very powerful woman whose motives and affiliation are unknown, who needs an underworld ally to bring down a seemingly untouchable criminal banker. In Season 4, corrupt businessman Jack Latimer tries to similarly coerce them into working for him, with much less success.
  • The A-Team is an earlier version of the archetype incarnated by Michael Westen and the Leverage crew. They're supposed to be mercenaries, but they never take any jobs that they view as unethical and in practice function as a We Help the Helpless organization, hired as muscle by various victimized people that the law has failed to protect. In Season 5, they become a more classic example when a CIA spymaster coerces them to perform off-the-books missions for him, but they abandon this role at the end of the season.
  • From the same era as the A-Team, The Equalizer gives us Robert McCall. A former CIA field officer, he retired from the life after tiring of its moral ambiguity. He now offers these same skills to victimized people through ads in the newspaper's classified section. He hasn't completely cut off his ties to the CIA, however, and will still do favors for them from time to time while they, in turn, will oblige him when he occasionally needs help or information on one of his cases.
  • Takatora from Kamen Rider Gaim, an amusingly literal example given the obvious samurai inspiration for his Rider form. He manages Yggdrasil's operations in Zawame City, in particular taking responsibility for Project Ark, but his greatest single talent seems to be that he's the World's Best Warrior and nigh-unbeatable in combat. He fits the code of ethics part to a T, stating that in his position of privilege, he has a responsibility to those less fortunate, even citing it by its formal name of noblesse oblige, and the way he undertakes Yggdrasil's operations against the Invess suggests that he wants to limit collateral damage and prevent mass panic. His code of ethics is so strong that when he's presented with an option other than exterminating six-sevenths of the world's population to let the rest survive, he is more than willing to take it even though it comes from someone who's opposed him from day one.
  • The Hands of Blue perform this function in Firefly. They dress and act like The Men in Black, but are actually enforcers for Blue Sun, the megacorporation running the facility that experimented on River. After their failure to bring her in, their duties are taken over by the Operative, a government assassin, in the movie.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller: Several Megacorporations, Noble families and the Imperium maintain a number of these. Their nature is up to the taste of the GM and PCs and not much is told about them. It is told that on occasion Megacorporations will have an interchange of sabotage. One notable example of this is the feud between the Oberlindes and the Tukera Family Business'
  • Shadowrun has a literal example of this with the Renraku Corporation's Red Samurai which are employed as an elite security force. They even wear classic samurai-looking armor and wield katanas. This trope can also technically apply to anyone who gives up their lifestyle as a Runner and then go legitimate by working for a corporation.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • The Turks, Shinra's black ops unit.
    • Sephiroth himself was arguably this before he discovered the truth about his origins and snapped. He had a composed, aloof manner, fought with a massive sword, and worked for SOLDIER, Shinra's elite fighting force.
  • Shadow Warrior is set in a world of corporate ninjas. Lo Wang was once Zilla's most loyal corporate ninja until he learned that his employer was summoning monsters from the netherworld and planning to take over the world and quit, resulting in Zilla taking out a Contract on the Hitman.
  • Adam Jensen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution serves as such for Sarif Industries, though it's worth noting that Adam specifically doesn't like being in this role, and, as a former SWAT-officer, personally objects to any less-than-legal orders his boss gives him. He mainly serves Sarif's interests because it's his job, and eventually because it gives him the resources to hunt down the conspiracy, but at the end, he's given a chance to defy his boss (and canonically takes it). Meanwhile, the conspiracy itself (eventually revealed to be the Illuminati) have their own personal enforcers in the form of The Tyrants.
  • Colonel Richard Vanek in FEAR 2: Project Origin as the commander of the Armacham Black Ops units. In FEAR 3, the Phase Commanders in general serve these roles as commanders of Armacham's mercenaries.
  • Conrad Marburg in Alpha Protocol, serving Halbech as former chief of security and current chairman of the allied Veterans Combat Initiative.
  • In the X-Universe series, taking jobs with any of the MegaCorps, such as OTAS and Strong Arms, effectively turns you into this trope. They initially give you grunt work, but contract rewards steadily rise up until you're assassinating high-ranking pirates and other executives by blowing up their Mile Long Ships. The more you work for a corp, the better the rewards, all the way up to giving you prototypical and advanced versions of standard production ships.
  • Syndicate: Agents function as these in both the original games and the 2012 reboot.
  • Mass Effect 3's Kai Leng certainly fits this trope, wielding a sci-fi katana and having undying loyalty to Cerberus, a pro-human research-group-come-private-army by the third game who operate many shell companies.
  • Symmetra of Overwatch is officially an architect for the Vishkar Corporation who uses her Hard Light technology to build cities. Unofficially, she performs clandestine operations such as stealing important items/documents for the corporation's interest. Her loyalty to Vishkar means that she does not get along with Lúcio, who is a freedom fighter working against them.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 features several individuals who have a Corporate Samurai background and work for the Arasaka corporation, notably Goro Takemura, Sandayu Oda, and V themselves if you play the Corpo lifepath. The treachery of the corporate world is underscored by the fact that of these three, two end up being betrayed by their superiors and spending most of the game as either Street Samurai who have left the corporate world for good or Rōnin seeking revenge and a return to the good graces of the corporation. There's also Adam Smasher, who as head of security for Arasaka deals with the dirtiest of work for the company.

    Web Comics 
  • Marcus Madeira in Metacarpolis, though Marcus is more of a Daimyo then a mere samurai.
  • Speed-O-Sound Sonic starts out as one in One-Punch Man.

    Western Animation 
  • Dethklok's manager/lawyer/CFO Charles Foster Ofdensen in Metalocalypse.
  • In one episode of Samurai Jack, Jack joins a crime organization in order to meet with Aku, attire and all.
  • Ducktales 2017 has Falcon Graves, a corporate saboteur for hire who serves as a recurring antagonist.

    Real Life 
  • A number of governments including the US and China maintain cyberwarfare specialists. During one incident in which the internet of Estonia was shut down, alledgedly by Russia, several of these were sent to clean up the damage.
  • The arms trade is oftentimes bogged down with various embargoes. In order to keep profiting in this environment, many countries oftentimes do business with go-between arms dealers who sell arms to various entities that the state cannot do direct business with. These middle-men oftentimes abide by strict codes of conduct which can involve things like not interfering with other middle-men or only doing business with one government.
  • Many major corporations retain lobbyists and policy analysts to do much of their work in the political sphere. They likely operate on a strict code of conduct.
  • People involved in the conflict diamond trade can be compared to this. Many major corporations don't want to be associated with blood diamonds and will therefore hire middle-men dealers so as to not raise suspicion. Many of these people are highly versed in everything from gemology, to smuggling, to military skills.

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