Date note Masamune (1567 -1636) is one of the most famous feudal era daimyo of Japan. Nicknamed Dokuganryuu ("One/Single-Eyed Dragon") by later generations, and known for his helmet adorned with a huge crescent moon, he almost single-handedly unified Northern Japan with great ferocity and continued to rule as a political juggernaut for four decades through cunning and insight, especially in regards to foreign trade, Christianity and allegiances. He was an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Battle of Sekigahara and later during the Siege of Osaka.
He was born as Bontenmaru, eldest son of Date Terumune, and generally he showed promise and talent in warfare in his early stages. Though as a child, he suddenly lost his right eye for reasons, mostly acknowledged as being caused by smallpox, and either Masamune or his loyal retainer Katakura Kojuro decided to just pluck that one eye out rather than causing further damage and to not hold him back. Still, it was this deformity that made Masamune's mother, Yoshihime of the Mogami clan, started disapproving him.
He married his official wife Megohime as part of the alliance with a lesser clan of Tamura, and the next year after, he accompanied his father in a battle and had a great success despite his one-eyed state. The marriage with Megohime, however, still revealed to the world that while the Northern Japan were linked with alliance, it still looked rather tenuous and could break into a war of betrayal at any time. And the suspicion came through shortly after Terumune semi-retired and named Masamune the heir: Suddenly, a certain retainer related to Megohime's clan named Ouchi Sadatsuna decided to defect to the Ashina clan. Pissed off with this, Masamune decided that he's had enough with being submissive with these 'false' alliances, even if he has to stomp former allied clans, the whole Northern Japan would be unified under his boots. One particular defeat later, he quickly came back up and started steamrolling through Northern Japan with the combination of Masamune's ferocity and highly adaptive skills in warfare. And thus, he became known as "The One-Eyed Dragon".
Masamune's rampage eventually reached the clan known as Hatakeyama/Nihonmatsu, which he curb-stomped and decided to accept their surrender at cost of them giving up a majority of their lands. The surrender turned out to be staged, when Masamune least expected it, the clan, led by Nihonmatsu Yoshitsugu, took Terumune hostage (in the middle of a banquet while asking Terumune to maybe tell his son to calm down a little, whereas Terumune replied with how he can't stop his son, since he approved his new management) and demanded Masamune to reverse his clan's misfortunes in exchange of his father. Instead of being a complete Distressed Dude screaming for help, Terumune instead just told Masamune to just open fire anyway, killing him along the way. Masamune had to comply on that, and as a retribution later, he made sure not just to re-conquer the Nihonmatsu/Hatakeyama supporters, he'd torture them too, no quarters given anymore.
With his father gone, Masamune continued his conquest, hindered only by a power struggle within his family: his mother, who favored his younger brother Masamichi, allegedly went as far as poisoning him. In the end Masamune killed his brother and disinherited him for seven generations(!) so no descendant of his would be a threat to Masamune's and his heirs' position. Yoshihime fled back to her home and Masamune never saw her again (which apparently did wonders to their relationship, as they seem to have reconciled with time). Afterwards, Masamune resumed his conquest against his neighbors and after one particular battle in Suriagehara (where aside of crushing the Satake and Ashina clan, Masamune had to confront his other aunt, Onamihime), his unification of the north was finally complete.
But by the time he did so, Toyotomi Hideyoshi beat him to a punch and had already risen to power, conquering the rest of Western to Eastern Japan. So, rather than risk a battle he'd never win against, Masamune had no choice but to become Hideyoshi's vassal. Although not really enthusiastic about the prospect, he regardless surrendered while wearing extravagant clothes and carrying a huge cross on his back, since it's just in his nature to be that showy.
Under Hideyoshi's banner he took part in in eliminating the Hojo at Odawara and was rewarded, moving to Sendai (in the region ravaged by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami) as his home base and turning it from a small rural community into a prosperous city. He eventually allied with Tokugawa Ieyasu against an aging Hideyoshi, and aided him in seizing power following Hideyoshi's death. It took a long time for him to give up his dream of ruling all Japan, but after he finally realized he had no chance, he was a loyal and steadfast ally. Although considered a Wild Card and not really trusted by anyone, Masamune did prove his loyalty and even recited a poem when Ieyasu was on his deathbed.
He kept several Christians under his protection (factoring from either his favorite daughter or his general Foreign Culture Fetish) and encouraged travel to foreign countries, even sending a letter to the Pope trying to establish ties for a potential alliance. He was also greatly interested in cookery and art, and possessed a rather flamboyant taste, leading folk etymology to assign the kanji of his surname to the word date (approx. "flashy").
His lasting success, along with his unique personality, means Masamune has remained as one of the more popular historical figures in modern Japan as well as the Spotlight-Stealing Squad when it comes to Tohoku region area of the Japan during the Sengoku Period: It would always be his clan that represented northern Japan.
Notable people that were around Masamune's rule:
- Date Terumune: Masamune's father, as mentioned above. About one of the few people Masamune respected. Killed via a hostage situation gone wrong, but even Terumune knows that he's better off dead that way and tells Masamune to kill him anyway rather than becoming his son's obstacle for greatness.
- Yoshihime: Masamune's mother, and as mentioned, she did not like him, going so far as poisoning him later, then fled to her homeland Mogami (she's the sister of the daimyo Mogami Yoshiaki), though as said, their relationship eventually got better. Most fictions tend to soften this antagonism if they included her, usually making her a Well-Intentioned Extremist and overall just flat out avoids making her an Evil Matriarch.
- Mogami Yoshiaki: The daimyo of Mogami clan, usually becoming the chief ally of the Date by the virtue of being Masamune's uncle, being Yoshihime's brother (she has intervened between Mogami-Date territorial disputes a lot before things could get worse), allowing them to respect each other. Perhaps for that, the Mogami escaped being put on the hit-list on Masamune's rampage and they continue to assist the Date throughout Sekigahara, making the Mogami the second most popular of the northern clans (only beaten by the Date), with Yoshiaki as the main face of the clan. They do sometimes run the risk of Historical Villain Upgrade in fiction, especially when it is implied Yoshihime's assassination attempt against her son was also their idea.
- Date Kojiro Masamichi: Masamune's younger brother, who by most accounts was an upstanding young warrior, but understandably seen as more of a Momma's Boy due to being coddled by Yoshihime. Whenever internal tensions flare up in the clan, he tends to be held up as a better candidate than Masamune (even against his will). This led Masamune to the Sadistic Choice of killing him. His fate remains tragically memorialized.
- Megohime: His wife from the Tamura clan. Their marriage started rocky since a few years after marriage, the betrayal of Ouchi Sadatsuna happened and a pissed off Masamune ended up killing Mego's wet nurse out of suspicion of betrayal. However, unlike many others, Mego still stayed close and their relationship mended in the end, becoming one of the few women that stayed loyal to Masamune while staying close (his mother needed to not see him for awhile to mend the relationship). She also bore him his favorite daughter Irohahime, and there was a time she used to be a Christian, until Masamune's natural death where she later retired as a Buddhist nun instead of staying a Christian (but still supports Iroha being a Christian). Despite being a normal wife for the age and generally not anything of extreme note, Mego is somewhat quite popular in fictions that feature the Date clan, usually portrayed as a little girl because she married at the tender age of 12.
- Katakura Kagetsuna: Better known as Katakura Kojuro, this is without a doubt the most well known retainer of Masamune. They were friends since childhood and he often acted the brains behind Masamune, influencing his actions for the good of the clan, including the surrender to Hideyoshi. He's also noteworthy for saving Masamune's butt in his first battle by fooling the enemy by claiming that he's him so the enemy got distracted. Usually portrayed as the Blue Oni with Masamune being the Red Oni. One of the theories was that he was the man Masamune asked to pluck out his smallpox-ridden eye. He'd later relinquish the title 'Kojuro' to his son Shigenaga, making the name more or less a legacy name like Hattori Hanzō, but for the most part, Kagetsuna is the most well known Kojuro.
- Date Shigezane: Masamune's cousin, and considered one of his most powerful retainers, pretty much they and Kojuro form a Power Trio amongst the Date armynote . His most noteworthy feature is his helmet that has a centipede ornament on it. It is likely that when portrayed in fiction, Shigezane and Kojuro will be the Red Oni, Blue Oni (respectively) supporting Masamune, especially as they did grow up, study and command the clan together.
- Katakura Kita: Kojuro's big sister. In addition to being highly skilled in warfare and fighting, she was the mentor and foster mother to Date Masamune, as well as the mentor to Kojuro. Without her, Date might have grown up differently when you realize his biological mother was Yoshihime (at her worst)...
- Onamihime: Masamune's aunt, an Onna-musha, but she continuously antagonized him ever since the death of Terumune, and unlike Yoshihime who got over her dislike to Masamune after just not seeing him for years, Onamihime never got over her hatred. She's finally beaten in Suriagehara, and Masamune showed her mercy by letting her live in Suginome castle, but she didn't like it, so she moved to her other nephew, and she lived through the Battle of Sekigahara, and naturally, the Satake clan got on with Ishida Mitsunari and the Western Army, while Masamune and the Date clan got on with Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Eastern army, exactly the perfect scenario for Onamihime who sided with the Satake. But even so, her side lost anyway and Masamune didn't even hear about her anymore, when she died en route to her castle for a more definitive permanent retirement.
- Tokugawa Ieyasu: Masamune's chosen daimyo for alliance during Sekigahara. While most other daimyo didn't trust him for being a Wild Card, Ieyasu distrusted him less than others (despite eerily reminding him too much of Oda Nobunaga and where his Foreign Culture Fetish led him), and his trust was paid well: Masamune helped him by staving off the Uesugi at Hasedo, contributing in his victory at Sekigahara, and when he was on his deathbed, Masamune read him a poem to calm his passing. See his page for his extensive other details (unrelated to Masamune).
Tropes as portrayed in fiction:
- Cool Helmet: Of all the Japanese daimyo in the Sengoku period, Masamune had a flashy set of armor that included a kabuto helmet adorned with a gigantic crescent moon.◊
- Cultured Badass: He was into a lot of Western cultures, becoming a patron for Christianity, reading poems for Tokugawa Ieyasu (also on his deathbed) and he was a badass when it comes to the art of war. He also made sure that the areas he governed would bloom in arts and culture greatly.
- Eyepatch of Power: Subverted - he usually wears an eyepatch in fictional depictions, but there's no record of him wearing one in real life. In fact, he specifically requested that his portraits be painted with him having both eyes. The reason for the latter is a bit of Values Dissonance in the West—in East Asia the body is considered a gift from the parents, and alienating any part of it, even due to reasons beyond one's control, is considered disrespectful. Regardless, even Japanese media can't help but give him the eyepatch.
- Foreign Culture Fetish: He was one of the few Japanese daimyo to embrace Western ideas, even going so far as to send a letter to the Pope and launch a globe-trotting expedition. The other most known daimyo to do so was... Oda Nobunaga.
- Handicapped Badass: Losing eyesight in his right eye to smallpox didn't stop him from becoming northern Japan's most dominant daimyo and an important ally to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
- Iconic Outfit: Anyone familiar with samurai history will recognize Masamune just by looking at his crescent moon helmet.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Muddy moral standing aside, his career is like this in the eyes of many. He's involved with bloody rampaging conquests during his early northern unifications and people looked at him with suspicion that he's a Wild Card ready to betray anytime and Masamune's flashy attitude really didn't help things. But when push comes to shove, he proved to be one of the most loyal daimyo you could ever ask for: He never once tried to betray either the Toyotomi or the Tokugawa when he was under their servitude (and in fact, read a poem for Ieyasu on his deathbed, no strings attached).
- Real Men Cook: He tended to hold banquets, making sure they were elegant to fit his Cultured Badass status and cooking the meals himself.
- Undying Loyalty: After giving up his own bid for control over Japan, Date would align himself with the eventual rulers of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu (the latter of whom he owed his life after Tokugawa convinced Toyotomi to spare him after suspecting he was involved in a potential coup).
Works that reference Masamune:
- Mitsuteru Yokoyama — of Sally the Witch, Giant Robo, God Mars and Gigantor fame — wrote a biographical manga called Date.
- The NHK Taiga dramas would usually feature Masamune himself (or the Date clan at large) during the latter stages of the Sengoku period. Notable and recent ones would include:
- Dokuganryū Masamune (独眼竜政宗, 1987). Adapted from the novel of the same name by Sohachi Yamaoka. Having been released in the aftermath of the reconstruction of the Zuihoden (which was destroyed in World War II and rebuilding beginning just around 1979), the series also integrates then-recent archaeological findings about Masamune and the Date clan's holdings. It notably casts his succession drama with his mother and sibling (which ended in the execution of the latter) as instigated by his uncle Mogami Yoshiaki. These days, it is remembered for starring a young Ken Watanabe as the adult Masamune.
- Sanada Maru (真田丸, 2016) features him in the latter half of the series—just as he surrendered to Toyotomi Hideyoshi and begin to figure in the rise of the Tokugawa. He outwardly presents himself as a pretty fawning Yes-Man to Hideyoshi, while secretly admitting his desire to rule Japan for himself (even noting that if only his domains were not too far from Central Japan, he could have done what Nobunaga and Hideyoshi accomplished). He finds a kindred spirit with Nobushige/Yukimura, and has to deal with the fact that they would almost always be on opposing sides from Sekigahara onwards. He is portrayed by Tomoharu Hasegawa.
- Samurai Warriors included him in the first game as a Bratty Half-Pint who'd interrupt nearly every battle and beat the crap out of both sides. He Dual Wields two bokkens in that game. From the second game onwards, he got a Plot-Relevant Age-Up and now wields a saber in one hand, and two pistols on his side. His focus changed about finding the right time to fulfill his ambition of taking over the land for himself and then making it prosper.
- Warriors Orochi has a rather interesting take on Masamune. Chronologically, he's a steadfast ally of the Tokugawa, but the Orochi forces trampled the united force of Tokugawa-Date easily, casting doubts that Masamune was capable of uniting Japan. He thus surrenders himself to Orochi, becoming his Number Two, as he slowly felt some sort of kinship. He continued to act like he's worshipping Orochi while showing that the heroes, humans like them, were no better than him as they chose to prolong the war in the merged realm rather than being at peace, something even the heroes note. In 3, however, once Masamune realized that Orochi's incarnation, Hydra, no longer had the mindset of the Orochi he called friend and instead was a mindless monster bent on destruction (personification of his power), he just called it quits and then joined the good guys (which, when it was revealed that Orochi's consciousness went to Shuten Doji, who's a good guy, it makes Masamune's allegiance to Orochi seemed less evil as he seems to find kindship on his consciousness that would become Shuten Doji). In 4, he sticks to the good guys because of the memory reset. That portrayal of him is voiced by the one and only Hot-Blooded Nobuyuki Hiyama. Ironically, unlike most hot-blooded men, he uses the elder "washi" pronoun for himself despite his young age.
- This version of Masamune appears as one of the major Warlords of Pokémon Conquest. Despite still using the "One-Eyed Dragon" moniker, he is instead a Flying-type specialist from the kingdom of Avia.
- Sengoku Basara's version has attained infamy, wherein Masamune is a Gratuitous English-speaking Blood Knight who can wield six swords at once. He wants to take over the world and is The Rival of fellow poster boy Sanada Yukimura. And his horse is a motorbike.
Masamune: Are you ready guys?! Put ya guns on!
- This incarnation is famously voiced by Kazuya Nakai, who is also famous for voicing two characters/historical figure portrayals in the above franchise, (Xiahou Dun and Dian Wei).
- The Basara version is so popular that Miyagi prefecture (the area he used to control) used this image on posters encouraging people to vote in local elections.
- Samurai Deeper Kyo included Masamune who uses the nickname 'Bontenmaru' (historically his childhood name), and while a Boisterous Bruiser and ambitious, he remained as an ally of Kyo. Also he's voiced by Norio Wakamoto.
- While not appearing directly, in Persona 3, the main character's historical teacher Mr. Ono is an obvious Date Masamune fanboy. He teaches his class wearing Masamune's helmet (and probably eyepatch too) and thinks history lesson isn't cool until you get into the part about Masamune.
- Battle Girls: Time Paradox give us a gender flipped version of Masamune. Who's actually Hideyoshi's teacher in the present day, Date-sensei. It's later revealed that Date Masamune is her ancestor and that she and Hideyoshi end up in a world where Date Masamune did not exist for some unknown reason.
- Date Seiji/Sage Date of Yoriden Samurai Troopers (Ronin Warriors) is explained to be a descendent of Date Masamune in supplementary materials.
- Total War: Shogun 2: In any maps, Masamune would have been just born and growing up, so the player manages the Date clan with Terumune until Masamune comes to age and ready to lead the clan (lack of prescripted events also means that Terumune is spared from his tragic death). Masamune lacks any indication of being one-eyed, but he does retain his trademark crescent helmet.
- Gate 7 gives us a grade student as the newest version of Date Masamune. And not just that; he's a yandere crazy jealous guy towards the main character, Hana, is a Bratty Half-Pint towards anybody else and tried to kill the poor Naïve Newcomer twice. But still, when he's in the battlefield, he's a hell of a good swordfighter.
- Masamune Date is mentioned in Yaiba: apparently he was the owner of the "Victory" Orb, required to discover the location of the legendary Orb of Ryuujin. He hid the orb in a small temple... along with other 99999 fake ones.
- A Gender Flipped version appears in The Ambition of Oda Nobuna. She's a Large Ham Bratty Half-Pint here too. Given her youth, she's still going by Bontenmaru and thus the time-traveling Yoshiharu doesn't realize who she is at first.
- He's sort of the main character in Tono to Issho, where he's an idiotic Manchild with an eyepatch fetish.
- Another Gender Flipped version appears in Sengoku Collection, where she got involved with the Yakuza and is currently on the run from police.
- The manga Neo Dragoon chronicles the life and times of Date Masamune alongside retainers like Katakura Kojuuro, Date Shigezane and Harada Munetoki. Also featuring Masamune's wife Megohime, here turned into an Action Girl.
- Team Fortress 2 references Masamune rather vaguely with a hat for the Demoman called the Samur-Eye, which looks exactly like most media depictions of Masamune's iconic helmet. The reference goes a bit further since the Demoman is also missing an eye (albeit the opposite one to Masamune and that it was lost to injury rather than Smallpox).
- He also appears as an old man in Shigurui, where he meets Tokugawa Tadanaga, Ieyasu's grandson.
- Masamune appears in Nioh for the Downloadable Content titled "Dragon Of The North", serving as the Big Bad. Accompanying him are Date Shigezane and Katakura Shigenaga, who's the second to bear the name Kojuro, the son of Kagetsuna (the usual bearer of the Kojuro title we see everywhere else), who died before the events began. Masamune had a HeelFace Turn after William beat him and revealed that he saved Shigezane while revealing Maria's manipulation of him, so in the next DLC (featuring Sanada Yukimura), he became an ally.
- Makes an appearance in SD Sengokuden Bushin Kourin Hen via Date Masamune Gundam... as a Ninja rather than a Samurai.
- Masamune appears in Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga reincarnated as a French bulldog named Boo, with a black spot over his right eye.
- While Masamune hasn't appeared as a Servant in Fate/Grand Order, the fourth GUDAGUDA event had him being represented by the swimsuit version of Jeanne d'Arc Alter, who already had a dragon-summoning Noble Phantasm (as well as being referred as 'The Dragon Witch'). She took on the mantle because she thought it sounded cool, though when pointed out that there's also the famous Dragon of Echigo, she ridiculed that one as a 'try-hard' (reminder that this event for the most part had the Sengoku Period Played for Laughs). Fighting her also involves the default version of Jeanne (in a swimsuit) representing Katakura Kojuro, and the child-version of herself in Santa outfit representing his wife Megohime.