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Mutants: There sure are a sh*tload of them. Just check out any "X-Men" movie and you'll realize that, statistically speaking, just about every other person you know would have to secretly be a mutant in order for there to be that darn many of them. And the other half of the people on Earth? Apparently all secret agents, robots from the future or Stan Lee. Weird is the new normal.
Which is great for the movies but is pretty darn confusing for movie fans. Just who the heck all are these people? It can be overwhelming, and nobody wants their summer blockbuster to feel like a research paper.
Well, don't worry, because we're here to help with our official guide to Who's Who in "The Wolverine." Can't tell your Yukio from your Mariko? We've got you covered. So check it out — and head to the theater with confidence.
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Okay, so chances are if you're reading this, you already know who Wolverine is. After all, he's the main character (hence, you know, the movie's title). Plus, this is the sixth (!) time star Hugh Jackman has played the mutant with the super healing power and the bad attitude. But that's where things get a little tricky: While "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009) was a prequel to the original "X-Men" trilogy, this one is a sequel to the trilogy, meaning all three original "X-Men" movies take place between the two "Wolverine" films. So ... that's not confusing at all, right?
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Most movies fans are familiar with Frank Miller due to the fact that he created both "300" and "Sin City." And some unfortunate souls are also familiar with his work as writer and director on the epic fail "The Spirit" (2008). But way back in the day, he first rose to fame as a comic book artist thanks in part to his work on the classic 1982 "Wolverine" limited series from Marvel, which he created alongside writer Chris Claremont. That storyline, which sent Logan to Japan to face off against ninjas, is the basis for this film, meaning Frank Miller's signature style is embedded in every action-packed set piece.
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Debuting in the aforementioned comic book, Shingen Yashida (played by action icon Hiroyuki Sanada) is a Yakuza boss in Japan, meaning he's a badass crime lord. In the film, he's also got an added wrinkle: Way back during the dark days of World War II, Wolverine saved the head of his clan from an atomic bomb blast. So he has a debt to repay. But given that he is — in case you missed it the first time — a crime lord, it's safe to say that his idea of paying his debts is probably very different from yours. Plus, he likes to cheat, so watch out for this guy.
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Despite all the sexual tension between Wolverine and Jean Grey in the original "X-Men" trilogy (more on this later), all comic book fans know that there's only one true love in Wolverine's life: Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto), the daughter of the aforementioned Yakuza a-hole Shingen Yashida. As you might expect, this causes all sorts of complications for ... well, everybody, as Logan tries to prove himself worthy of her affection the only way he knows how: by killing a bunch of ninjas. Can he earn her love? And can he save her from her own father? That's kind of what the whole movie is about.
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Oddly enough, Silver Samurai first appeared as a Daredevil villain in the comics, though we have a feeling Ben Affleck won't mind sitting this one out. That's because Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee) also happens to be a mutant himself, with the power to make his samurai sword cut through any substance on Earth. Any substance except one, that is — the adamantium that laces Wolverine's bones. Silver Samurai abides by a strict code of honor, but as the son of Shingen Yashida, he is sworn to destroy his father's enemies, which makes this a classic case of the immoveable object meeting the irresistible force.
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Silver Samurai also has a weakness for black-hearted evil mutant witch women, which in the grand scheme of things is a fairly specific and unfortunate moral failing. Especially since he falls under the sway of Shingen's latest hired gun, the toxic killer known as Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). In the comics, Viper is a criminal mastermind known for running the secret society called HYDRA, but in the film she seems to be more of a classic femme fatale assassin. And since one key plot point from Frank Miller's "Wolverine" comic involves the timely application of a powerful poison, expect to see her very much involved in the proceedings.
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You've probably seen her in all the trailers already, but in case you were wondering just who that lady with the sword is in all the clips for "The Wolverine," she's Yukio, one of the top Yakuza assassins. Played by Rila Fukushima, Yukio is sent by the Yakuza to bring Wolverine back to Japan. But when Logan finds himself at odds with the Yakuza, Yukio has a crisis of conscience and must decide which side to take. Yukio has been a favorite of comic book fans from the moment she first appeared and will likely be a favorite of film fans as well. She's just too cool for school.
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And finally, there's Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, aka Dark Phoenix aka a character who very clearly died at the end of "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006). But despite that minor setback, Famke Janssen is still reprising the role of the mutant whom Logan loved and then had to kill. Of course, it seems from the trailers that she's mostly a dream. But given that her name is Phoenix, it's always possible she could rise from the ashes to make a return, especially with next summer's epic mutant reunion "X-Men: Days of Future Past" on the horizon. Of all the characters in "The Wolverine," we're most curious to see how her storyline plays out.