UPDATED: ComingSoon throws a real wrench in (some of) our awesome speculation with news that Will Yun Lee has joined The Wolverine as Kenuichio Harada, otherwise known as the Silver Samurai. Read on, though, as we can still have a lot of fun with our initial thoughts.

Casting appears to be underway for James Mangold’s upcoming entry into the X-Men franchise, the Japan-set solo story of the world’s scruffiest mutant, The Wolverine. Of course, we already know that Hugh Jackman is on board to once again star as the title character – that’s pretty much the only thing that’s been set in stone about this project since development began an eternity ago – but now ComingSoon has some scoops on the names that will be making up the gaijin’s supporting cast, and if you know anything about Wolverine’s Japanese past, these are some big roles.

Ralph Lauren model Tao Okamoto is set to play Mariko Yashida, a young Japanese girl who Wolverine falls in love with and becomes engaged to, while relative newcomer Rila Fukushima is on board to play Yukio, a sort of ninja-trained thief who often works as the clawed Canadian’s ally. The next bit of news is a little bit confusing. Listed as being cast are two more characters, one named “Shingen” and one named “Yashida.” In the Wolverine comics, the young bride Mariko has a father who is named Shingen Yashida – the head of a once great clan who disgraced their name by turning them into a criminal empire – and surely one of these characters is going to be him, but who is the other? The announced actors’ ages give us some context clues.

Veteran actor Hal Yamanouchi (Sinbad of the Seven Seas) is listed as playing “Yashida,” so it’s not hard to imagine that his character will be the father, especially seeing as Lost’s Hiroyuki Sanada is listed as playing “Shingen,” and he would seem to be much too young for the role. But that begs the question, who is this other Shingen?

Most likely he’s going to be a version of the Wolverine villain the Silver Samurai. In the comics, Silver Samurai is a powerful mutant whose real name is Kenuichio Harada. He has the power to charge inanimate objects (usually a katana) with energy that allows them to cut through anything else. Also, he’s the illegitimate son of Shingen Yashida, which makes him the half-brother of Wolverine’s bride, Mariko. Why might this character be the one listed as “Shingen” in ComingSoon’s report? Because eventually Harada dies in the comics, and the mantle of the Silver Samurai is taken up by his son, Shingen Harada.

Either this is a simple naming mistake in the original report and Shingen Yashida is still going to be one character, some muddling with the timelines of the comics is happening, the second Silver Samurai is somehow going to be involved in this tale, and Yamanouchi and Sanada are playing younger and older versions of the same character, or all of this is completely off-base and the two actors are really playing two characters named Shingen and Yashida who might not even have anything to do with the comic books when all is said and done. The important thing to note is that Wolverine is really going to Japan, he’s really going to be interacting with Japanese actors, and he’s probably going to be slicing up about one million faceless ninjas. Awesome!


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