The Great Villain Blogathon – O-Ren Ishii

One of my favorite movies of all time is Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1. Released in 2003, it’s about a woman, The Bride, who wakes up from a coma to find that the child she was pregnant with is gone. She goes on a journey to seek revenge on the assassins, her fellow assassins, who beat her and killed her child. 

At a time when I knew the least about my enemies, the first name on my Death List, O-Ren Ishii, was the easiest to find. But of course when one manages the hard task of becoming queen of the Tokyo underworld, one doesn’t keep it a secret, does one?

– Beatrix, The Bride, about O-Ren at the end of Chapter 2: The blood-splattered BRIDE

The first of the assassins, and my favorite villain and character in this film, on her “hit list’ is O-Ren Ishii, known by the code-name Cottonmouth. O-Ren, played by the amazing actress Lucy Liu, is my favorite because she is a total fucking bad ass!

She is the half Chinese, half Japanese American child of a Sergeant Major in the United States Army. Her mother was a faithful housewife. At the age of nine, from her hiding place under a bed, she witnesses the murder of her parents by the a Yakuza crime boss named Matsumoto. After the murder Matsumoto set fire to the home but O-Ren was able to escape and immediately began planning her revenge.

For two years she trained and at the age of eleven, knowing that Matsumoto was a pedophile, she lured him into bed with her and stabbed him deeply with a sword through his gut. There was so much force behind the stabbing that Matsumoto’s teeth shatter and the entire room is sprayed with blood. It was awesome!

The entire scene was shown as an anime flashback due to it’s graphic nature. If they had tried to make it live action as the rest of the film was the rating would have shot up to NC-17 at the least.

By  the age of twenty, O-Ren would become quite proficient in marksmanship and sword fighting. She quickly rose through the ranks and become one of the top female assassins in the world and the head of the Tokyo Yakuza.

My favorite scene is just after the anime flashback. At this point in the film we are back to live action and showing the first meeting of the Yakuza. Everyone seems to be celebrating her taking leadership but one of her fellow crime bosses, Boss Tanaka, seems obviously irritated. When asked what is wrong Tanaka accuses O-Ren of degrading their council with her ”half-breed” heritage. What follows is pure awesomeness:

In the second most awesome scene, Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves, the bride catches up with O-Ren. She quickly realizes the fight will not be as easy as she had hoped. O-Ren possesses her own small army know as the Crazy 88, and a personal body guard, a vicious teen-aged killer named Gogo Yubar.

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In this scene The Bride fights and first fights The Crazy 88. The men just keep coming at her and it seems like the fight might never end, but that’s ok, because you don’t want it to! Swords flying, blood spraying, and a display of impressive, yet at the same time quite cheesy, martial arts moves.

You didn’t think it was gonna be that easy, did you?

– O-Ren Ishii

After the long battle The Bride must fight O-Ren’s personal body guard. The scene is great I only wish it had lasted longer but we had to get to the epic one-on-one battle between The Bride and O-Ren. When I first watched it I remember thinking how unfair it seemed that The Bride had to fight a small army, crazy ass Gogo Yubar, and now O-Ren, who was clearly going to be quite the opponent.

They fight their way outside to the snow-covered garden of the House of Blue Leaves. They discuss The Brides sword which O-Ren does not believe is true “Hattori Hanzo steel”. This seems to give her confidence and for a bit she seems to be winning the fight. She injures The Bride by slicing the sword across her back. O-Ren mocks her but The Bride gets back up and injures O-Ren in the leg. This breaks her confidence and she apologizes for mocking The Bride.

They began fighting again one more time and in the end O-Ren loses. We hear the sword move, we see a line of blood spray into the snow, we see O-Ren who utters her last words “”That really was a Hattori Hanzo sword”, and falls into the snow. The top of her head had been sliced off and her brain is exposed.

I can’t help but feel a little sad every time I watch the movie and O-Ren dies. She had been through so much and fought her way to the top. Yes she was a villain, but so was The Bride if you think about it. I am glad she was given so much screen time in the movie and that her character was so well written and developed. O-Ren deserved that respect.

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Lisa

Hello! My name is Lisa. I find the human condition fascinating and I often write stuff about that. I blog at zenandpi.com but you can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and if you like what I do, consider signing up for my newsletter. Thanks :)

16 thoughts on “The Great Villain Blogathon – O-Ren Ishii”

  1. Loved this movie! My favourite scene is actually the anime flashback! I don’t know why, but I just love it. Maybe ‘cos I really get to understand her motives for being the way she is… Or just the graphics which are brilliant. :)

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  2. The anime flashback scene sounds like a clever idea. I’ve not seen this film, but I know several people who are devoted fans.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon with this tribute to Lucy Liu and O-Ren Ishii!

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  3. Awesome!! Her section of the movie is always my favorite, I love it. The whole dialogue of the speech in the board room is on the soundtrack… I’ve been known to—on occasion—recite along with it when I’m alone in my car. People probably think I’m getting a mad case of road rage, but I’m having fun :) Great write-up!

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  4. Great choice, her parts are my favourite too, she’s a perfect example of how important it is to have a charismatic villain for a battle to be interesting. Thanks for joining us with both posts!

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    1. Thank you! I definitely enjoyed writing it and getting to watch that boardroom scene a few times lol

      I agree that the villain in any story has to be just as interesting as the hero in order to make for a great battle scene. Luckily Tarantino understands that too :)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Inspired villain(ess?) choice and one of my favourite Tarantino creations. That boardroom scene is one of the best in the two volumes, she’s just so masterful and commanding. It’s just a shame she had to die in such a gruesome way – but perhaps it wouldn’t have worked any other way!

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    1. Totally agree! Sadly, I imagine it couldn’t have gone any other way but I do like that she was given a lot of time in the movies. I think that speaks to the relationship between her and The Bride.

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