The Wolverine fills out its Japanese cast, including a villain

Ever since it was first announced, The Wolverine has been hit with a string of delays. Originally, fans of Marvel Comics’ most popular antihero were intensely excited to hear that Darren Aronofsky would be directing the film. His skill as an auteur might do for Wolverine what Christopher Nolan had done for Batman, fans hoped. Sadly, Aranofsky was forced to leave the project, causing many people to lose faith in the project.

Those who held out hope however, were bolstered by the inherent promise of the film’s plot. While some would argue that Wolverine has been overexposed on the big screen, one big aspect of the character’s history has never been explored by Hollywood: His time in Japan. Comic book fans likely know what we’re talking about, but for those of you unaware, the short version is that Wolverine spent years in the Land Of The Rising Sun, learning martial arts and attempting to quell his more feral instincts with the disciplined teachings of the samurai. He even fell in love with and married a woman while there (though she later died, leaving him free to put the moves on Cyclops’ telekinetic girlfriend). The Wolverine, as far as we know, focuses primarily on this period of the character’s life, which is great news given that the comics version of Logan’s time in Japan read like some awesome Clint Eastwood samurai movie that was simply too rad to exist in reality.

Now that the backstory is out of the way, we can get to the news: The most important members of the film’s Japanese cast have been assembled. ComingSoon reports:

Hiroyuki Sanada (“Lost,” Rush Hour 3, The Last Samurai) is set to play Shingen; veteran actor Hal Yamanouchi (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Push, Sinbad of the Seven Seas) plays Yashida; and new discoveries Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima will star as Mariko and Yukio, respectively.

What ComingSoon fails to mention is that Hiroyuki Sanada’s character also has an alter-ego. In superhuman circles, he’s more commonly known as the Silver Samurai. The character (pictured above) should be familiar to fans of Wolverine’s comic book escapades, or anyone who has played Marvel Vs Capcom 2. Additionally, Tao Okamoto’s character Mariko is that woman Wolverine falls in love with and eventually marries (assuming the film follows established comic book canon).

While we don’t expect you to be familiar with the names added to the cast of The Wolverine (most are unknown outside of Japan) it is nice to see the production reaching out to authentic Japanese people to fill these roles. Hollywood has a long history of playing fast and loose with race when it comes to casting its big budget films — in no reality is John Wayne a viable Genghis Khan — though it remains to be seen how possible language barriers might affect this film. Can all of these actors speak clear enough English to appease the director? If not, will fans tolerate subtitles on what they likely expect will be a simple comic book action movie? We’d like to think audiences can overlook a minor inconvenience like subtitling, but it’s been proven time and time again that American movie goers simply will not tolerate having to read text during a film. The Constitution guarantees us the right to be lazy and illiterate, and no movie studio can take that away from us.

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