Usagi (left), Noriyuki (center) and Tomoe (right)
Cover of Usagi Yojimbo v3

Ame Tomoe is an important supporting character in the anthropomorphic comic book, Usagi Yojimbo loosely based on the famous female samurai, Tomoe Gozen.

She is a samurai of the Geishu clan and serves as Lord Noriyuki's personal bodyguard and closest advisor. She is an anthropomorphic cat.

Tomoe Ame is also a brand of Japanese candy.

Character HistoryEdit

Tomoe's father, Tatsutaro, was a master of the "Falling Rain" style, and the head of a prestigious fencing school in the capital city of the Geishu province. As a kitten, Tomoe was trained by her father out of admiration for her extraordinary skill with the sword, even knowing that, as a woman, she could not succeed him as head of the school. That position would go to her younger brother, Tajima.

In fact, the young Tomoe had an early altercation in her youth with Miyamoto Usagi, whom she ran into (literally) while he and his sensei Katsuichi were on their way to watch a fencing tournament. The young Usagi childishly picked a fight and paid for it when she defeated him soundly. Many spectators applauded, saying it was the best fight they'd seen all day. Tomoe and Usagi never learned each other's names, though Tomoe would later confess to her father, "he was kind of cute."

When she was older, Tomoe was devastated to be told that she could not succeed Tatsutaro as head of the school, though she was Tajima's superior in skill. Instead, her father planned to place her in the court of his daimyo, Lord Mataichi, to keep watch on the politics there. Her father also told her she could no longer spar with Tajima in public, to avoid embarrassing him. Tomoe found some solace in practicing alone.

In particular, Tatsutaro was wary of Counselor Odo, one of Lord Mataichi's advisors, said to be an agent of Lord Hikiji. This suspicion was well-founded, as on the day of Tomoe's presentation to the court, Odo advised that she instead be assigned to the ladies wing. Once assigned, Tomoe proved ill-suited to the traditional servant tasks, infuriating her superior with clumsy accidents.

One day, while practicing with her sword, she was discovered by the Lady and the housekeeper. The housekeeper ordered her to stop, but the Lady suggested that Tomoe be made a guard in the ladies wing, allowed to carry a sword and spear.

This proved most fortituous, as shortly afterward Odo let a company Neko Ninja into the castle to assassinate the Lord and his family. The group sent to the ladies wing attacked Tomoe's unit, killing her comrades, but Tomoe proved more than a match for them. Rushing to the Lady's chambers, she found the Lady and her young son, Noriyuki, besieged by ninja and about to be overwhelmed. With a battlecry, Tomoe attacked the assailants and defeated them with a fury that left the Lady awestruck. She immediately appointed Tomoe personal bodyguard to her son, a privileged position she still holds.

Meeting with UsagiEdit

When Lord Mataichi died, Noriyuki was to travel to Edo to be formally appointed his successor. On the way, the young panda lord's escort was attacked by the Neko Ninja, with only Tomoe surviving. Together, she and her lord fled and eventually met Miyamoto Usagi for the second time, and he was instrumental in helping the pair to their destination safely. This was the first of many adventures Tomoe and Usagi would have together in which a strong friendship developed.

Tomoe and Usagi have had at least two friendly duels; the first was a draw, the outcome of the second was not revealed. It is therefore fair to say that Tomoe and Usagi as adults are closely, if not equally, matched.

Recently, the pair has started to share fleeting moments that suggest a deeper love that both are only now willing to admit. In particular in Vol. 3, #89, Tomoe, after some disturbing dreams, requests Usagi's company for the remainder of the night although the exact nature of that company is not revealed. Furthermore, Stan Sakai noted the stories in the early Fantagraphics Books color specials, in which Usagi and Tomoe shared adventures together were to be chronically placed between #89 and #90.

However at present, Lord Noriyuki has been persuaded by a hostile advisor to arrange for Tomoe to be married, despite the fact that she expressed no such desire to him. Tomoe's initial reaction to this imposition, and Usagi's, has not been depicted yet. However, in #93, the pair partake in a traditional tea ceremony ritual that ends with the pair obviously gripped with a quietly bleak attitude as Usagi departs the Geishu province with a quiet farewell from a distance to Tomoe. As Sakai revealed that the marriage arrangements to a neighboring and unsightly lord will be an underlying plot thread for the future, the question of whether Tomoe will be freed from this painful obligation remains unresolved for now.


In other mediaEdit

  • Ame Tomoe appeared in the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series in the episode "The Real World: Part 1", which she and Usagi are escorting Lord Noriyuki to the Shogun, in the capital city of Edo, to protect him from Lord Hebi, an evil serpent-like creature. Ame Tomoe is captured by Hebi who uses her as bait in a trap, through which her friends survive and fight back. She was voiced by Rachael Lillis.

External linksEdit

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