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Seppuku
A dead silence followed, broken only by the hideous noise of the blood throbbing out of the inert heap before us, which but a moment before had been a brave and chivalrous man. It was horrible.
Algernon Mitford, Tales Of Old Japan

You're a Samurai and you're either pissed or desperate. If not both things. You've been pigeon-holed into a no-win choice between obeying foolish/evil orders or abandoning your warrior ideals. And no, there's no way to dodge either result: you're absolutely and completely cornered.

Time to send a message. Those gaijin may say it with flowers, but samurai say it with bowels. Their own. For a true Samurai Warrior Poet, this is the only third option you can take and preserve your honor.

Seppuku is a centuries-old Japanese rite of suicide -- literally, 'stomach cutting'. Harakiri (often misspelled as "hari-kari" or worse) is a more in-speech term for the same thing. Many people have incorrectly believed that harakiri is a more vulgar term, but it is not true. The words actually share the same [kanji]: "seppuku" is the on-yomi reading of those kanji, while "harakiri" is the kun-yomi reading. How and why seppuku is to be performed, what it means, and so on depends on the historical era, gender, and context. The Theme Park Version, however, is this:

After a period of meditation, the samurai walks out before the witnesses and sits seiza on a white sheet or platform; a special knife is set before him and a stern-looking dude stands behind him with a raised sword. The samurai says whatever the drama necessitates, then rams the knife deep into his abdomen, curving up into his chest cavity, and slowly pulls it from left to right. The stern-looking dude (kaishakunin, or second) is expected to be a sport and cut off his head before the samurai loses his composure. It's just bad suicide etiquette for the victim to show pain as he's disemboweling himself, after all. Bonus points if he can cut the head off in such a way that a tiny strap of skin still connects it to the body, thus preventing it from rolling on the floor.

Since disembowelling oneself is considered unwomanly, the female version of this, jigai, is a little different: the suicidal woman sits seiza, ties her legs together so they won't fall open scandalously after death, and slices her jugular vein with a knife. It's mainly used when military defeat is imminent, to go out with honor rather than suffer a horrible death (among other things) at the hands of the invading army.

A similar practice, known as "kagebara" is a common dramatic device in Japanese theater. In this, a character comes onto the stage, proceeds to tell off a lord who isn't being particularly smart in his decisions, and then open his robe to reveal he's already slit his belly and "punished" himself for his treasonous act. This is linked to "kanshi," or a retainer committing seppuku to protest an act by his lord.

The reason for wearing white in both cases is because red has such a nice contrast to white. If you're going to die, might as well die in style.

This also counts as the most sincere way to say, "I'm sorry" to society at large. This is Serious Business, people.

For the Wiki's purposes, Seppuku covers a broad range of ritualized suicides. Basically, whenever a Japanese character (or vaguely Asian one) makes a big deal about how, why, and when they kill themselves, this is what's understood to be happening.

In what may or may not be related to this tradition, the World Health Organization ranks Japan ninth globally in reported suicides (the United States is 45th and the UK 60th out of 95). In comparison to countries of similar wealth, these statistics indicate a different attitude toward suicide that might be evident in Japanese entertainment.

In Real Life Japan, it isn't uncommon though still shocking, for disgraced officials and politicians to do themselves in, albeit not according to ritual. When a celebrity kills themselves, expect more than a few fans to follow suit.

Compare Leave Behind a Pistol and Bath Suicide for similarly ritualised suicide methods in the West.

Examples of Seppuku include:


Anime and Manga

  • Princess Serenity, in both the Sailor Moon manga and in Sailor Moon Crystal, stabs herself with Endymion's sword when he is killed. Then she does it all over again as Sailor Moon, with a twist-Mamoru's locket saves her.
    • This is taken to extreme levels in the live-action adaption. Not only does she kill herself, she destroys the entire world.
  • In Love Hina, at one point Motoko offers to help with the ritualized suicides of the Ronin who have not managed to get into Tokyo University.
    • After a failed attempt at femininity, she misinterprets one of Keitaro's comments as suggesting that she kill herself, and she asks Su to be her second. The irony that makes this dramatic scene so hilarious is that Motoko is holding a sharpened knife near her abdomen. A "proper" woman would commit suicide by cutting open her jugular, as stated in the paragraphs above. So if she actually went through with it, she would fail at femininity...again.
  • Ranma's mother Nodoka in Ranma ½ is charged with carrying around the sword to be used by her as the kaishakunin should her son or husband disgrace themselves. Luckily for them, she's not very good with the sword. Unluckily for them, she's dead serious about her duty. What pushes this into Honor Before Reason territory (and would push Nodoka into Abusive Parents territory in any series that took itself more seriously) is that the contract she is so dedicated to following literally consists of a verbal vow from Genma that "I will make Ranma a man among men", and a written contract consisting of "I will commit seppuku", signed with Genma's thumb-print and baby-Ranma's handprint.
    • In the end, she accepts Ranma's female side (it's implied that she forgives the whole "Ranko" deception) on the grounds that, regardless of what Ranma looks like, he's a man through and through. Unmanly behavior can still make her reach for her sword, though...
  • Lone Wolf and Cub's Ogami Itto was the head kaishakunin of the Shogun before they killed his wife and he became a Ronin, and in the story several characters are threatened with (and commit) Seppuku should they fail to capture Itto and Daigoro.
  • Character Kumadori of One Piece would frequently claim responsibility for failures that weren't his fault in the first place, and proceed to attempt seppuku -- only to always subconsciously harden his body and thus survive.

 Kumadori:"...I...I'm still alive!!"

Jabura:" And that's not a good new!!!"

  • In Black Lagoon, Yukio Washimine kills herself with a katana after Revy kills Ginji in the final episode. Could count as seppuku as not only she does it right after the death of her only supporter, but because it follows the traditional suicide rite for women: cutting her throat. Only Yukio, for obvious reasons, does it with a katana instead of a dagger..
    • There was a character who actually did commit seppuku in an earlier episode (albeit in a flashback).
  • This is a common threat from Hijikata of Gintama.
  • In The Five Star Stories, Blreno, wracked with guilt over losing both the war against Colus and his entire battalion attempts Seppuku during an audience with his king, only for the king to knock the sword from his hand. Turns out the king is just glad he made it back alive and wants him to keep fighting to learn from his mistakes so he can improve, rather than kill himself over them.
  • In Utawarerumono the heroes surround and overwhelm a cruel lord's castle. The lord's general, Benawi, realizes that they have lost and he urges his master to "die with honor" and offers to assisst him. The lord doesn't dare, so Benawi kills him himself. Then he unceremenously tries to cut off his own head. The hero stops him and he asks, if he should live in shame. Next scene he's feasting happily with the victorious army.
  • Likely due to changing social mores and Japan's ludicrous suicide rate, it's becoming increasingly common in various Japanese media to deconstruct this. Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei in Japan) features a samurai ordered to kill himself when his master is dishonored; he refuses, and is given a death sentence to be carried out by the title character. Seibei does not particularly hold it against the man that he refuses to kill himself: he simply has been ordered to do something, and he has children and an ailing mother to care for.
  • Likewise, Kenshin Himura of Rurouni Kenshin fame has said outright that he began his life as a wanderer as an alternative to suicide, and encourages others to follow his path of atonement. His reasoning is simply that killing himself helps no one and he can do much more good alive. A similar Aesop pops up in Tales of Symphonia: all life has value, and death solves nothing.
  • In Basilisk, Princess Oboro fatally stabs herself in the chest rather than killing her love interest Gennosuke and continue as a puppet of Smug Snake Ofuku, whose plan would be successful if she killed him. After her death, Gennosuke stabs himself with the same sword she used to commit suicide, holding Oboro's lifeless body in his own arms.
  • In Naruto, Kakashi's father Sakumo commits seppuku, having failed a mission as a result of going to save his friends, and being ostracized for his failure, even by those he saved (the act is not witnessed, but a young Kakashi finds his father's body after the deed is done).
    • In a filler episode, Koumei is ordered to commit seppuku as the sentence for being behind the cursed warrior incidents despite being innocent. Later in the arc, in a flashback Toki, seeing her brother dying, contemplates committing seppuku, but his spirit inspires her to keep on living. The whole arc was in fact full of this - when Shishima is unable to convince the Hokage to accept his mission, he pulls out a knife and stabs himself in the... moneybags? They were tied to his stomach, and the reactions of Tsunade and Shizune are truly priceless.
  • Kiku Honda aka the Moe Anthropomorphism of Japan tries to kill himself through seppuku in the second strip of Axis Powers Hetalia, thinking it's the standard way to reply when captured. He's shocked when his partners, Germany and Italy, react differently.
  • In Urusei Yatsura, There are a couple of manga chapters/TV episodes that end with Shuutaro Mendou threatening to commit suicide out of shame, though he never follows through for various reasons (mostly concerning a cloud of girls who physically restrain him from doing so).
  • In GetBackers, three different characters attempt suicide during the IL arc, but Juubei's the one everyone compares to a samurai. He tries to kill his best friend and "lord," Kazuki, and, when he loses that fight, begs Kazuki to kill him. When Kazuki refuses, he tries to do it himself, and tells Kazuki he always intended to kill himself, win or lose, as atonement.
  • Then there is Kai Suwabara from Yakitate!! Japan, who wanted to commit seppuku because of his inability to win against Azuma, after several tries. He is only stopped because his girlfriend says that she is pregnant and it would bring greater shame to leave her as an alone mother. She isn't. They have, after all, just hugged eachother.
  • Seppuku is referenced, quite appropriately, in Harukanaru Toki no Naka de's first OAV and the TV series, where certain characters wonder whether Minamoto no Yorihisa might do this to himself in case he fails to protect the Miko.
  • In the Chinese manhua, Ravages of Time (an adaptation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms), the idea of a ritualized suicide to redeem yourself is mocked by several characters. The ultimate example would be, Lu Bu, once he was defeated by Cao Cao and was about to be executed. He was even willing to bow and beg for his life at random spectators; Cao Cao respected him, for that since it take more courage to live than to die. The only reason it didn't work was because Liu Bei pointed out his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder to Cao Cao.
  • In Harakiri, a one-shot by Shintaro Kago, is about girls performing seppuku, although it's more of a form of self-mutilation than anything.
  • The cause of Japanese Prime Minister Genbu Kururugi's death, after he fails to stop the invasion of Britannia. Actually, he was stabbed to death by his pre-teen son Suzaku, in the middle of a heated discussion where the kid tried to disuade his dad from destroying Japan itself by leading a last desperate attack on the enemy.
    • Urabe of the 4 Holy Blades did this to save Lelouch from Rolo.
  • The hentai manga Graduation and Beheading Ceremony features something similar, only the kids in question die by ripping each other's hearts out (having been trained for whatever reason to look forward to their impending deaths). That death is but one of many, and it is not the most memorable.
  • The Legend of Koizumi: when Shinzo Abe fails in an attempt to pass the missing Koizumi's son Kotaro off as his father in a mahjong match with Vladimir Putin, he commits seppuku in front of his maid.
  • Performed at the beginning of the first issue of Maichans Daily Life as an exhibition piece. Since the main character has a Healing Factor, she survives the experience, but earns the mockery and abuse of her handler for failing to complete the ritual and chop off her own head before fainting from blood loss.
  • In Hokuto no Ken, Ryuga commits kagebara before his battle with Kenshiro.
    • After definitely losing to Kenshiro, Shin chooses to throw himself off a building rather than letting his former friend finish him. This is used in the Hokuto no Ken fighting game, as seen below.
  • In the Lupin III episode "Kooky Kabuki", Goemon betrays Lupin to help a woman, is in turn betrayed himself, and decides seppuku is the only way he can make amends, with Lupin himself doing the beheading part. Lupin can't bear to behead his friend, so he instead punches him, leading to a fist fight and a reconciliation.
  • In Blade of the Immortal, Kensui commits sepukku after being ordered to betray Anotsu, who acts as his second. Later Hisoka follows with cutting her throat.
    • Hibaki is given a month before he is obligated to commit seppuku after failing to prevent an attack on the castle. He uses it to hunt down the remaining Itto-ryu. During this time, his wife and son kill themselves so they won't be used as hostages.
  • Boys Love Genre Show Within a Show Winter Cicada ends with Akizuki committing seppuku and Kusaka doing the same after finding his body.
  • In episode 4 of Samurai Champloo, a noble Yakuza leader does this as an act of defiance/taking a third option between his son being killed and losing his territory. At the end of the episode, one of his former lieutenants who had joined his unpleasant rival redeems himself by committing Suicide by Mugen.
  • In Ooku The Inner Chambers, a number of retainers follow Shogun Iemitsu into death. The 47 Ronin also make an appearance later.
  • In Bleach no one commits seppuku in the traditional way, but Giselle Gewelle alludes to it when she uses her Blood Magic powers to force several Red Shirts into killing themselves.
  • Several Detective Conan culprits, whether sympathetic or not, will try commiting suicide (in different ways) after being found out and confronted on their murders. Conan will actively work against that, as he still carries over a huge guilt over not being able early in the story to stop a Sympathetic Murderer from doing so to join the murdered family that he commited his crimes for. The most famous case happens in the Naniwa Serial Murders mini-arc, where the Sympathetic Murderer was a policeman turned Serial Killer to avenge his long-dead Disappeared Dad, who tried to shoot himself dead with his service gun in front of Heiji Hattori after explaining himself; Heiji struggled with the guy and managed to disuade him, but was severely wounded in the process.
  • The hilariously infamous "POTATO-DONO!" scene from Dai Mahou Touge is a rather... epic parody of this. "Potato-dono" (Mr. Potato) speaks like an oldschool samurai, is seen sitting on seiza position in front of the peeler in a way that mirrors a samurai preparing to go through seppuku (white blanket included!), then peels himself rather epically to encourage the other talking veggies and ultimately is thrown into the curry pot by a carrot (as a sort-of kaishakunnin). He even gets to Go Out with a Smile as he falls, saluting his fellow vegetables before "dying".

Comic Books

  • At the end of the Tintin story The Blue Lotus, it's stated that Big Bad Mitsuriato committed hara-kiri (as it was usually known in the West at the time).
  • Hilariously parodied in the Latin-American comic strip Mafalda:

 Manolito: I heard that the Japanese slice their bellies open and FWOOOSH commit Ikebana!

Mafalda: What the Hell, that's hara-kiri! Ikebana has to do with flowers! (leaves)

Manolito: That's their wake, you moron!

  • Appears regularly in Usagi Yojimbo, since the series is based on historical Japan. i.e, Yoriki Masuda is forced into this when it's revealed that not only he's a gambler in deep debt, but that he framed people (like Kitsune's friend Noodles) to pay said debt and save his own skin.
  • In an issue of Daredevil (set just before Shadowland), DD is the head of The Hand, a cult of ninjas. One of his lieutenants is getting too ambitious and would rather be the head, so some of DD's other lieutenants kill him, and later claim he committed suppuku since he failed to become leader of The Hand.
  • This is an important plotpoint in Ronin.
  • In the very first issue of Ninja Turtles the four heroes offer Shredder the chance to commit Seppuku so that he may die with honour. Instead Shredder opts to blow them all up with a grenade.


Film

  • In Enemy at the Gates, Khrushchyov relieves his predecessor by informing him that his failure is unacceptable and pushes a pistol across the table, saying "perhaps [he'd] like to avoid the red tape." The officer then shoots himself through the mouth to avoid the shame of an actual arrest and trial.
  • General Hasegawa from The Last Samurai, a member of the samurai class who leads the modernized army against the rebels, commits seppuku after his forces lose the battle. Katsumoto, the opposing leader and one of his old friends, is "honored to take his head". Algren, who sees it from the back, misses the stomach-cutting, and thus thinks it was just Katsumoto murdering an unarmed man.
    • Later, Algren helps the defeated Katsumodo kill himself after the samurai are horribly slaughtered in a charge against a number of Gatling guns. This is in the understanding that he is taking his own life after his service to his Emperor is complete, the samurai rebellion crushed, which, really, Katsumodo knew was going to happen anyway. His sacrifice succeeds: the Emperor finally pushes back against the Westernization of Japan.
    • This is mentioned after Katsumoto is attacked by assassins during a theater performance, when Algren suspects the Emperor. Katsumoto rejects the idea, saying that if the Emperor wants his life, all he has to do is ask.
  • In Serenity, the Operative references both seppuku and Roman generals falling on their swords when talking with a scientist who has screwed up hardcore. When said scientist doesn't take the hint, the Operative forcefully helps him out with regaining his lost honor.
  • In The Story of Ricky an evil minion commits seppuku and then tries to strangle the hero with his intestines. The rest of the movie has the same Gorn vibe.

 "Alright, you got a lotta guts Oscar!!"

  • Harakiri (1962) is a black and white Jidai Geki and massive Take That to the seppuku ritual and its portrayal in fiction. In it, Ronin request permission of daimyo (local magistrates) to kill themselves and be buried on their property, hoping to be turned away and given sympathy money; one young samurai is called on the bluff and forced to complete the ritual -- with a blunt stick of bamboo. Bloody, poetic justice to follow.
    • To elaborate, the bloody, poetic justice is enacted by the young samurai's father-in-law, who realised his son-in-law had already sold his swords to pay for medicine for his sick wife and child. The entire movie revolves around the father's revenge, although at the end he shows his honour by cutting his belly just before his enemies gun him down. It is an EXTREMELY good movie.
  • Ran includes several instances of seppuku, but perhaps the most significant is the one that Lord Hidetora never commits. He can't, because his sword is broken. Instead he goes insane inside his burning castle.
  • In Liar Liar, Fletcher stabbed himself in the gut with his phone after he accidentally hung up on a judge.
  • In Harold and Maude, this is how Harold stages one of his elaborate fake suicides. Amusingly, instead of scaring off his would-be date, as intended, she recognizes it as a performance and joins in.
  • Tokyo Gore Police has a spoof PSA decrying the practice, filmed in the usual surreal Japanese advertisement fashion. In it, a disgraced businessman is egged on into Hara-Kiri, by both his boss and a man covered in blue spots. He commits it, and is then shown with his intestines pouring out (a deliberate Special Effect Failure), before reminding us that it's actually suicide.
  • When Crassus completely politically outmaneuvers Gracchus in Spartacus he forces him into a position where he has to move to a dump far from Rome where his only job will be to wait until such time as Crassus needs him to support some position he tells him, to and be sent back. All the humiliated Gracchus is left to do in the movie is help organize freeing Spartacus's wife and child, in order to spite Crassus and organize his household. Then, with his women slaves weeping, he picks up the prettiest knife he has and walks off to the bedroom...
  • Seppuku and the legend of the 47 Ronin are spoken about in the (distinctly non-Japanese film) Ronin.
  • Yukio Mishima had an obsession with this as shown in Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters.
  • Played for laughs in Scary Movie 4: The Japanese UN delegate runs himself through after the President accidentally uses an alien weapon to remove his clothes.
  • In Machete, Torrez is run through by Machete in the final battle. Torrez gives up and pulls the blade in deeper.
  • Any movie about The 47 Ronin, logically, includes with their collective seppuku. This includes retellings as different as the Kenji Mizoguchi film from 1941-1942 and the very, VERY fictionalized one from 2013 that has Keanu Reeves as the half-English/half-Japanese Kai, a slave man who befriends the ronin and kills himself with them.

Literature

  • A similar ritual is observed in Tsurannuanni, the Oriental Fantasy Counterpart Culture in The Riftwar Cycle. For example, in Daughter of the Empire, Papewaio asks permission to fall on his sword for entering the family's sacred grove (the alternative being a decidedly less honorable hanging).
  • Several characters in Jessica Amanda Salmonson's Tomoe Gozen Saga, including the title character's husband.
  • Alyzon from Alyzon Whitestarr researches seppuku as part of an assignment.
  • As seen in a textbook example of the act in the novel Warrior: Coupe (and occasionally brought up in later ones), the tradition is alive and well in the 31st century in the Draconis Combine of the BattleTech universe.
  • As one would expect, seppuku is a Very Serious Business Indeed in Shogun:
    • A bunch of samurais on the losing side of a battle do a sort-of express version of this: one fatally injures himself in the stomach, a second one beheads the first and then stabs himself, a third one beheads the second, and so on until there's only one left. The enemies catch up on the group and are impressed enough to allow the last one to commit seppuku too rather than executing him, with one of them even being an improvised kaishakunnin.
    • John "Anjin-san" Blackthorne's attempt at seppuku and posterior survival are life-changing events that win him the respect of the other samurai. Especially because he did it to save a whole village from being razed, and even managed to stand up and take some steps afterwards.
    • Toranaga's entire Batman Gambit hangs or falls on whether Mariko Buntaro commits seppuku or is killed by the enemies. Mariko manages to ultimately goes through, openly stating that her death shall be seen as seppuku before she lets herself die in an explosion, so Toranaga wins.
    • At the very end, this is the fate of the Smug Snake Yabu, after Toranaga decides that he ain't worth keep around anymore. Still, he does get to Face Death with Dignity.
  • Tales of the Otori: A fantasy set in a world based on Sengoku period Japan, also plays this as Serious Business.
  • In the Michael Chrichton thriller Rising Sun, the amoral Japanese executive who was behind all the murder and cover ups of the story asks for a moment alone to collect himself after indisputable evidence of his guilt is presented. When he is left alone, he jumps off the very tall balcony he's on and into wet cement, killing himself. Interestingly, the protagonists (who are LA police officers) knew exactly what he was about to do, and let him do it on purpose (the evidence they had likely wouldn't have held up in trial, due to experimental techniques).
  • Quidditch Through the Ages, a defictionalized Harry Potter book, has a non-fatal version: Apparently Japanese Quidditch players tend to destroy their brooms should they lose a match. Costly, yes, but not fatal.
  • The Corrupt Corporate Executive who instigated a war between the United States and Japan in Tom Clancy's Debt Of Honor, when captured, asks for a few moments alone to prepare himself for capture. His request is refused, however, and the general capturing even says that he is not allowed to have that particular escape.
  • In the Choose Your Own Adventure book Secret of the Ninja, The Protagonist and their best friend Danai pull Time Travel to evade a powerful curse. One of the paths leads them to meet the samurai Sashami, who's about to abandon a village he was ordered to protect since he knows it's a hopeless mission. Choosing to run away with him will lead to a Bad End: the three are caught by a local lord who will give them a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, force the time travelers to become his servants, AND order poor Sashami to commit seppuku as both punishment for his cowardice and the one last chance to keep his honor. (Conversely, helping the guy to fight back will lead to the group's victory and a Good End where Sashami survives, the curse is undone and the protagonists return home safely.)

Live Action TV

  • One episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation had Worf getting crippled from the waist down by a falling crate. Since he's a Klingon, he feels that the only honorable thing for him to do would be to commit ritual suicide, and asks Riker to be his second. Everyone aboard objects strenuously, and Worf is nearly convinced that life is still worth living -- Until a rogue surgeon offers him a possibly deadly operation, which he almost instantly takes them up on, and it works perfectly.
    • Technically, he was almost convinced to live when Riker found out that, according to Klingon tradition, Worf's second was supposed to be his six-year-old son Alexander. Also, the operation is actually botched; Worf only survives because Klingons are Made of Iron, and he hadn't quite hurt himself badly enough for his backup spinal cord to kick in.
    • Worf's brother, Kurn asks that Worf assist him in performing this ritual after Worf dishonors his family in Deep Space Nine. Dax realizes Worf's intent and tries to stop it, just a moment too late. Odo claims that Worf could be charged with murder if Kurn doesn't survive.
  • In the WW 2 period drama Tenko the Japanese internment camp guard Sato commits seppuku rather than acknowledge the allied victory. It's a strangely chilling, yet dignified, scene.
  • Mentioned in Mystery Science Theater 3000 occasionally by Tom Servo, although he was asking for help due to having nonfunctional arms. (This was, of course, a reaction to the movie that week being particularly bad.)
  • Done in a Flash Back in Highlander the Series, when Duncan washes up on a Japanese island after his ship sinks in a storm. During that time, all gaijin were supposed to be killed on sight by order of the Emperor, but a local lord takes him in instead, even teaching him some Japanese ways. When the Emperor finds out, he lets the lord know his displeasure. The lord then asks Duncan to help him commit seppuku, who is, at first, reluctant, but then agrees to do the honor of chopping the head. He gets to keep the sword too, which is what he uses throughout the show.
  • On How I Met Your Mother Barney mimes committing suicide several times when he feels Ted and Robin are being too lovey-dovey with each other; at one point this includes miming seppuku.
  • In one skit on Comedy Inc, a Japanese man is playing golf and misses a visibly easy shot. He then proceeds to break his golf bat and uses it to commit seppuku. His two white opponents watch him with complete composure; once he’s dead, one of them says, ‘Well, there goes the deal.’
  • A (supposedly) Ripped from the Headlines case from 1000 Ways to Die features a Japanese rock star who, after causing the death of his group's lead singer onstage (also featured earlier) and then thinking of himself as a total disgrace for the music industry, kills himself through seppuku. He slits his belly open with a katana, and then one of his bandmates (acting as his kaishakunnin) decapitates him. The case itself is called "Bull-Shido", a Punny Name based on bushido and "bullshit".
  • In the Red Dwarf escape "Back to Reality", one of the Despair Squid's victims kills himself in this manner.

Mythology

  • Minamoto no Yoshitsune committed seppuku to avoid the disgrace of capture or falling to an unworthy foe. His vastly outnumbered followers, because of their dedication, were able to hold off the Zerg Rush of his brother's soldiers, who were inferior not in training but in dedication, and buy him the time for this. (Although Yoshitsune is a historical figure, the accounts of his death are mostly legendary.

Tabletop Games

  • In BattleTech, the Draconis Combine brings back Seppuku, particularly among it's mechwarriors. The "Total Warfare" rulebook contains a passage about a Draconis Commander who very nearly commits suicide after successfully withdrawing his forces from a Lyran blitzkrieg. The crime apparently having withdrawn without permission. The reprieve is apparently that the attack was part of a larger conflict, and the Combine would need every commander and Mechwarrior it had.
  • Legend of the Five Rings, set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to medieval Japan, naturally has seppuku as a plot element, and several cards and even basic game mechanics in the Collectible Card Game revolve around it. It also reinforced the idea that in most cases, seppuku was more to cleanse the family/clan/empire's honor rather than the one who was committing seppuku.
    • The most notable character to commit seppuku within the storyline was Emperor Toturi I, who did so to purify his soul of the Lying Darkness' corruption.
    • Prior he acted as kaishakunin to Matsu Tsuku, who had succeeded him as daimyo of the Lion Clan, only to see the consequences of choosing loyalty to the (corrupted) Emperor rather than to the Empire itself. This allowed the Lion Clan to honorably reverse its stance and join in the overthrow of said Emperor.
  • In Ninja Burger, a ninja who loses all honor has to apologize to his ancestors. "This requires you to go to visit them, and unfortunately it will not be possible for you to come back." (The unfortunate player discards all cards and has to start with a new character.)

Theater

  • Cio-Cio-San in the tear-jerking finale of the opera Madame Butterfly. She commits jigai by cutting her throat with the ceremonial dagger presented to her father by the Mikado.
  • In The Mikado, Nanki-Poo threatens to perform "the Happy Despatch" with a dagger if Ko-Ko tries to prevent him from hanging himself.

Video Games

  • Spoofed in Disgaea 2. Yukimaru threatens impromptu seppuku upon losing to the main characters in the Inevitable Tournament. After several seconds of the ninja standing there with herself at knife-point, Taro and Hanako point out that she's obviously expecting someone to talk her out of it for dramatic effect. Adell begrudgingly obliges, accidentally charming the pants off of her in the process.
    • This takes special note because Yukimaru is supposed to be a Ninja, and Adell's suggestion for how she could carry out her assault on Zenon is, ironically, what a real ninja would do; work their way into any group that bests her to ensure that they get close to their mark. Yukimaru shows that she has learned from this by talking Fubuki out of his own seppuku attempt later on.
  • The dwarves in Dragon Age have their own variation of this. When a dwarf has brought disgrace over his family, they have to chose death to redeem themselves and restore the honor of their clan. But throwing away the life of an able warrior would be a waste. So instead they are legally declared dead and given a funeral ceremony. After that, they join the Legion of the Dead in the Deep Roads to fight back the endless hordes of Darkspawn comming up from below. They only fight for the safety of their families back home until they fall down and stop fighting.
  • Evil sports fanatic Harakiri Seppukumaru from the Ganbare Goemon series considers seppuku to be the ultimate extreme sport, making various failed attempts to commit the ritual after being thwarted by the heroes. He manages to go through with it in the anime adaptation, but... the knife turns out to be retractable.
    • Additionally, it's revealed in Ganbare Goemon 4 that if Seppukumaru succeeds, it will cause the powerful bomb inside his body to explode (which would obviously be a very bad thing). He was imprisoned on Planet Impact by his own henchmen before the heroes came along and accidentally freed him by removing the barriers surrounding the planet. But why seppuku, of all things? Because he wanted to try something new. Seriously.
  • Mortal Kombat: Deception has the "Hara-Kiri" as a companion to the Fatality. During the typical "FINISH HIM/HER!" moment where the winner can perform a Fatality, the loser can input a special button combination and do a Hara-Kiri instead, essentially committing suicide in various ways before the opponent can finish them off. These ways include: self-decapitation, self-head blowing, stabbing, using throwing weapons on themselves, etc.
    • Of the above, however, Kenshi Takahashi is the only one who actually performs a seppuku in the "standard" way: he whips out his katana (Sento), kneels down like a traditional samurai, peforms the first stomach cut, places Sento by his side and drops dead, bleeding all over the floor. Then again, he's the only character who resembles an actual Samurai.
    • In Mortal Kombat X, after his killing of Quan Chi for revenge condemns the remaining Revenants (Liu Kang, Kitana, Kung Lao, etc.) to stay as such in Story Mode, Hanzo "Scorpion" Hasashi seriously ponders commiting suicide like this. In his ending he's even seen kneeling on the ground with a ninjato short sword in his hands, getting ready to stab himself in the stomach... He's stopped by (Dark) Raiden, who entrusts him with the Guardianship of the Jinsei as atonement.
  • Soulcalibur IV modeled Yoshimitsu's Critical Finish attack after seppuku, with Yoshi playing the role of the kaishakunin.
    • Additionally, several of his unblockable attacks come in the form of stabbing himself in the stomach. One is done from a stance where he would have his back turned to his enemy, and thus would be able to hit his opponent with the sword coming out of the other side. Another is done from the typical sitting stance one would associate with seppuku, but can be followed up with him ripping his sword out of him and delivering a quick unblockable attack to his opponent. Needless to say, Yoshimitsu is one of the few characters with ways to heal himself, if only because he's also one of the few characters that can do so much damage to themselves.
    • And his Tekken-entering descendant Yoshimitsu continues the tradition with the standing suicide (which can be followed up by spinning like a spinning blade at your opponent--hits do 2 damage to both of you, while the actual stab does 60 to whoever's hit--especially you), and the Turning Suicide (dash in, turn, gut yourself for 100 points of damage)..and the Double Stab (after taking the earlier 100, take another--and you have 140 hit points to play with, at most).
  • In the old Commodore 64 game of Usagi Yojimbo, if the eponymous Ronin's honor got below a certain point, he would commit suicide right there.
  • Done in Tales of Vesperia with Don Whitehorse, leader of the guild Altosk, after learning some bad information given to his grandson, Harry, resulted in the death of the Duce of Pallestralle and longtime friend and ally, Belius. The Cool Old Guy commits seppuku to balance things out and prevent a war between the two guilds. Yuri himself volunteers to be his kaishakunin.
  • In the original Tenchu, one of the missions involves executing a corrupt minister, but if the player is using Rikimaru, he will plead in a cinematic with the minister to take the honourable route and perform seppuku, which he will and Rikimaru will assist by decapitating him. If the player chooses Ayame however, she will insult and agitate the minister until he lashes out, resulting in a boss battle.
  • Occasionally crops up in games of Team Fortress 2 thanks to the Soldier's new suicide taunt: When a round ends, the losing team loses their weapons, granting free kills to any nearby winners. However, they can still taunt. Any Soldiers who had the Equalizer out at the time are liable to kill themselves to avoid adding another point to the opposing team, and occasionally manage to add a point to their own in the bargain (since taunt kills are always fatal when they connect).
  • Due to the high number of Mythology Gags present, the Fist of the North Star fighting game developed by Arc Systems (the same people behind Guilty Gear and Blaz Blue) has the character Shin able to perform a self-inflicted Fatal KO, as a nod to the series on him opting to commit suicide rather than die by protagonist Kenshiro's techniques.
  • In the old, weird puzzle game Boppin, player 1 would commit seppuku every time he lost a life, and player 2 would shot himself in the mouth. It's all an Anvilicious commentary about violence in video games... No, really.
  • In the Duke Nukem semi-sequel Shadow Warrior, the mutant ninja enemies sometimes point an uzi to their heads. The manual states that enemies will commit seppuku if "dishonored."
  • The old Microprose game, Sword of the Samurai, had this as an option if you were ever caught doing something horribly dishonorable, like attempting to assassinate a rival or plant false evidence against them. It would remove the stain on your family's honor, giving your son (who will be your next PC) a better chance.
  • In Gundam Extreme Vs., the Susanoo has a seppuku move much like Yoshimitsu's (above), where the machine turns around and stabs itself with its swords. It does big damage if an enemy is right behind, but whether or not it connects the Susanoo takes damage. Despite the fact that its pilot (Graham) is American, he's also a huge Japanese culture Otaku, justifying the existence of this move.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates, almost at the end of the Conquest route, Prince Ryoma stabs himself through the stomach with his personal weapon (his lightning-imbued katana, Raijinto) right after his last loss at Castle Shirasagi. He does it for three reasons: to avert capture by the Nohrians, to mantain his honor after being definitely defeated, and (most importantly) to keep the Player Character from being forced to execute him with his/her own hands by the Big Bad, King Garon.
  • Hanzo Hattori from Samurai Shodown almost kills himself like this in the first game, after he fails to free his son Shinzo from Amakusa's Demonic Possession.. A bunch of ninja trainés led by a boy named Kanzo convince him otherwise, and he begins training them.

Visual Novels

  • In Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow, the arrival of Okita and Hijikata from The Shinsengumi prompts several allusions to seppuku. In fact, Hijikata is downright obsessed with it; having him tell other people to disembowel themselves when he's angry is a kind of Running Gag regarding him, and his profile has him listing seppuku among his "likes".
  • Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kittan is an otome game about The Shinsengumi, so this comes up more than once. Namely, Sanosuke Harada (mentioned below) has a scar on his abdomen coming from him attempting seppuku and failing, and later the group's quite distressed when their Commander Isami Kondo not only is NOT allowed to commit seppuku, but is beheaded instead.

Web Comics

 "Uncle, what's the smallest sword for?"

"I'll tell you when you lose."

Web Original

  • Keiji Tanaka's death in Survival of the Fittest was basically seppuku. Oddly, Lenny Priestly, the one who fatally wounded him to begin with, acted as his second.
    • Shinya Motomura also committed seppuku in V1. However, he did not have a second.
  • In the Flash cartoon The Ultimate Showdown by Lemon Demon, Mr. Rogers commits seppuku after being the final pop culture icon left alive.
  • Parodied in Real Ultimate Power, where seppuku consists of bending a lubricated Frisbee in half and swallowing it after "getting really super pissed".

Western Animation

  • Parodied in a Dexters Laboratory episode dealing with a group of mute newspaper-throwing vandals with a "ninja" motif. In the end, one of them loses in a contest to actually deliver more papers than Dee Dee (final score: 1-0). In the aftermath, he is left alone with a newspaper. After his fellow jerks leave, he falls to his knees, stares at it, sweating, and swats himself in the head, knocking himself unconscious.
  • In Beast Wars, Dinobot once attempted seppuku but backed out at the last minute, allowing him to go on to his Heroic Sacrifice. While suicide was never overtly mentioned (this is a kid's show, after all), kneeling while holding your sword upside down towards your body and trembling in intense concentration is a bit hard to interpret any other way.
  • In Family Guy when Brian and Stewie enter the universe when Japan conquered the world, Meg, being the Butt Monkey in every universe she's in, commits seppuku when Peter told her of being ugly and dishonorable.
  • In Code Monkeys, after Gameavision breaks Protendo's one-day efficiency record, every Protendo employee still on the Gameavision premises simply pulls out a katana and rams it into their stomach, 22 in all. This also puts the final nail in the coffin of Mr. Larrity's plan to sell Gameavision off so the company can be liquidated.
  • Parodied at the end of the Popeye Wartime Cartoon, "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap" when the last remaining Japanese officer commits suicide by drinking gasoline and swallowing fire crackers.


Real Life

  • Kusunoki Masashige, the chief general of Emperor Godaigo, after defeat in battle.
  • Oda Nobunaga, his supporters and his rivals zigzagged the trope around to dizzying degrees, culminating with Nobunaga himself commiting seppuku after Akechi Mitsuhide double-crossed him in the Honnouji incident of 1562.
  • Oshio Heihachiro, after a failed revolt.
  • Saigo Takamori, one of the leaders of the Satsuma Rebellion, is said to have done this at the very end of it. Some historians, however, believe that he was fatally wounded in battle but his supporters beheaded his corpse and then said he commited seppuku, so he would not be dishonored after death.
  • Subverted with Katsuie Matsukura, a cruel daimyo from Shimabara. After the bloodily infamous Shimbara Rebellion, he was sent to Edo for investigation... and then was executed by beheading for his misruling and crimes, meaning his behavior was so atrocious that even after the suppression of the rebellion itself, the government considered Matsukura's behavior beyond reprehensible. Apparently the shogunate did want him to commit seppuku, but the corpse of a peasant was found in Matsukura's residence and the sentence was changed to execution.
  • A very, very common cause of death among Japanese generals and politicians towards and right after the end of World War Two. It didn't always fill the traditional streps, however:
    • Prime Minister Hideki Tojo attempted to shoot himself dead. He was saved by a blood transfusion. Then was hanged, which he's alleged to have taken with quite the dignity.
    • Admiral Takijiro Onishi, who came up with the bright idea of kamikaze planes, refused to use a kaishakunin for his seppuku after Japan surrendered. It took him some 15 hours of agony to die. The note he left apologized to all the pilots he'd sent to their deaths.
    • General Korechika Anami, one of the high officials who opposed the surrender, committed Seppuku on the morning Emperor Hirohito was to announce the surrender. This was realistically portrayed in the World War Two documentary movie Hiroshima. He also left a suicide note which read: "'y death, is my apology for my great crime.''
    • During the Battle of Saipan, over 10,000 civilians committed suicide rather than be taken captive by U.S forces, this was so word would not get out that they had little to fear from the Americans and would be actually treated rather nicely as prisoners. Over 5000 Japanese soldiers stationed on the island also committed suicide. This also happened later in other conquered territories (like Manchuria/Manchukuo or Sakhalin/Karafuto), where Japanese civilians and military members chose killing themselves (or killing others) than allowing foreign armies to take them prisoners, especially the Red Army.
    • Aversion: General Kotoku Sato, who had the thankless task in the Burma offensive of 1944 to take Kohima without supplies and support from HQ, declined the opportunity to commit seppuku and insisted on a court-martial so that he could expose the incompetence of his superiors. He survived the war and died in 1959.
    • Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto wanted to do this when he learned of how the Pearl Harbour attack went off. He was denied permission by his superiors, and he later died when his own plane was shot down in Bouganville.
    • Yamamoto's former chief-of-staff Admiral Matome Ugaki, who survived the same incident where Yamamoto died, intended to do this via crashing his plane in a sort-of kamikaze attack. Said plane, however, was shot down by the Americans.
    • One of Tojo's biggest political adversaries, Seigo Nakano, commited seppuku in 1943 after losing his political struggles with Tojo himself (he didn't want the Empire to continue its expansion, fearing that it'd be too costly for Japan as a whole and preferring to focus on the areas already 'conquered'; Tojo disagreed and wanted to keep expanding the Empire's territories).
    • Tojo's successor as Prime Minister, Fumimaro Konoe, was suspected of having participated involved in war crimes after he refused to collaborate with the American's plans to exonerate the Imperial Family of prospect criminal responsability. He replied via killing himself via a Cyanide Pill in 1946.
    • On one hand, General Mitsuru Ushijima and his Number Two, Liutenant Isamu Cho, commited seppuku after the Battle of Okinawa. On the other, right before kicking it Ushijima forbid his chief-of-staff Colonel Hiromichi Yahara to follow him and Cho in death, ordering him to stay alive at least enough to tell the public what happened in the battle itself. Yahara was imprisoned, wrote a book about all of this and lived for several decades onwards.
  • In 1970, the nationalist author Yukio Mishima visited a Self-Defence Force base in Tokyo and, together with his private army, the Tatenokai, took the commander hostage. From the balcony of the commander's office, Mishima gave a speech urging the soldiers to overthrown the government and restore the powers of Emperor Hirohito, but they mocked him. He then went inside and committed seppuku instead. Mishima's biographer believes that the coup attempt was simply a pretext for the act of seppuku, which he had been planning for at least a year.
    • Mishima's Number Two, Masakatsu Morita, fumbled to cut Mishima's head off so his fellow Tatenokai member Hiroyasu Kouga (an ex kendo champion) did it instead. Then Kouga was Morita's kaishakunnin in his own seppuku, since Morita had already said that he was willing to die with Mishima.
  • The 47 Ronin staged a Gambit Roulette to punish the cruel lord who forced their Benevolent Boss to commit seppuku. After they murder the evil lord and explained their situation to the shogun, he allowed them to commit seppuku instead of being executed: while they did kill a nobleman and horribly dishonored themselves, they didn't do it for their own benefit but out of loyalty to their once-leader, which in these times was the ultimate proof of fidelity to their master.
  • In 1986 the Idol Singer Yukiko Okada, who suffered of severe depression, once was stopped from killing herself via either slashed wrists or gas poisoning in her apartment (apparently, over having been romantically rejected by the actor Tooru Minegishi). She was taken to the Sun Music building and, while her manager and the staff discussed how to handle the upcoming scandal, she took off her shoes and threw herself off the building's roof. This inspired both a wave of copycat suicides and the term "Yukiko Syndrome" to describe such copycats.
  • An American example: Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania state treasurer, was charged with receiving kickbacks of $300,000. On January 22, 1987, the day before his sentencing, Dwyer called a press conference in which he put a .357 revolver in his mouth and shot himself. Before doing it, he said: "Please leave the room if this will offend you." His very last words were "Don't, don't, don't [try to stop me]. This will hurt someone."
  • While not involving Asians there are many examples of this from Roman society, the most famous being the suicides of the killers of Julius Caesar at the Battle of Phillipi (dramatized by Shakespeare) and the case of General Quintilius Varus falling on his sword during the defeat at the Battle of Teuteborg Wald. This cued Augustus' famous Big No response of, "Varus give me back my legions!"
    • Another Roman example, and one that is almost exactly like the Japanese example, would be the suicide of Marcus Porcius Cato after the disastrous defeat of the Republican forces at the Battle of Utica in 48 BC. After the loss, Cato feared being captured by Caesar... and then pardoned, therefore having to live the rest of his life in debt to the man he most loathed. He spent his last night reading Plato's Phaedo (a rumination on the immortality of the soul, supposedly a dialogue held by Socrates before his judicially-imposed suicide by hemlock), then plunged his shortsword into his gut. Slaves and friends were able to find him before he died, and tried to bind his wounds. But after they had left, Cato ripped out the bandages and stabbed himself again, this time succeeding in cheating Caesar's clemency. This scene features in Rome.
      • Roman nobles in general, in fact, were expected to commit suicide to avoid shame or to redress big wrongs. This is where the idiom to fall on one's sword ultimately originated. Also the Roman state, like many others, seized the property of convicted criminals. By killing oneself rather than being executed, a Roman could insure their family kept their wealth.
  • A highly unusual form of suicide was chosen by German politican Jürgen Möllemann in 2003. He was well known for his love of parachuting, which he had frequently used for publicity in his election campaigns. He was just about to board a plane for a jump when he was informed that police was raiding his office and home on charges of corruption. Apparently he chose not to open his parachute.
  • There's a controlled cell death inducing gene in humans, actually called harakiri, it's protein hrk.
  • Sanosuke Harada from The Shinsengumi was born in a very low-ranking samurai family, and as such he was mocked and bullied by others. Once, a retainer of the Matsuyama clan told him something that basically amounted to "you surely can't even kill yourself like a warrior would"; Harada then attempted seppuku to prove them wrong... and survived. He still used the horizontal scar he "gained" from this as the base of his family crest, as a way to boast about having tried ritual suicide and living through it.
  • During the filming of the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, the Japanese actress Mie Hama had extreme difficulties to learn English and suffered a breakdown, threatening to kill herself if she was fired. The situation was defused via having her switch roles with the other Japanese lead, the already fluent in English Akiko Wakabayashi, so Hama would have less English lines to deal with.
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