Tomiko, or Inazuma, is a master swordswoman whose ferocity and skill are almost unmatched. She was the wife of a low-level samurai who had trouble getting work in the new age, and took to drinking and gambling, he ran afoul of the local gamblers, and was killed. Inazuma sought revenge on the head of the local gamblers, and earned herself the ire of his father, Bakuchi, leader of the gamblers' association. Bakuchi put a reward on Inazuma's head, and she has been on the run ever since.
She was eventually confronted by Gen; they fought, and Inazuma clearly had the advantage, until she slipped in the mud and hit her head against a rock. Before Gen could claim Inazuma, a band of thugs tried to steal his reward; during the fight, Inazuma woke up and stumbled away, eventually collapsing on the road where she was found by Jei and Keiko. Keiko convinced Jei to help her, and they took Inazuma to a nearby temple, run by Sanshobo. Jei and Keiko leave, but Jei soon finds himself called away by the Kusanagi, leaving Keiko behind. After Jei is killed by Usagi, a strange change takes place in Inazuma, and she kills most of the priests at the temple, save for Sanshobo and two others who went out and found Usagi and Gen lying in the forest. Later, she runs into Keiko, who starts calling her "Auntie", as she has become the new Blade of the Gods. Inazuma continued Jei's quest to smite evil, and ultimately kill Usagi; her quest is helped by the price on her head that lures bounty hunters and thugs to her, but she also gained the attention of Sasuké, the demon queller while Sanshobo has also vowed to hunt the murderer of his brethren.
In Dreams and Nightmares, we see that Inazuma herself did not become the Blade of the Gods, but is now possessed by Jei's soul, and at times she regains control of her body. She tries to fight off Jei, but invariably loses control, and again becomes the Blade of the Gods. Stan Sakai has never explained exactly what Jei was—if he was some supernatural being, or simply possessed—so it is uncertain if Inazuma is possessed by Jei himself, or by whatever it was that possessed Jei in the first place.
As a result of the gangster raising the bounty to speed her death, the hunt for Inazuma let to Gen and another bounty hunter has confronting her, but were beaten off and inexplicably left conscious. Realizing their quarry is much more dangerous than they imagined with the obvious possession, they decide to find help to bring her down. To that end, Usagi, the monk Sanshobo and an egnmatic warrior named Isamu joined the hunters. Later on, Inazuma is attacked by bounty hunters who manage to mortally wound her before being killed themselves. Although the black soul managed to maintain her strength to some degree, its grip on her body weakened with her personality reasserting herself more often, although she could not understand the nature of her predicament.
Eventually, the hunters found her slumped in a temple while a horde of competing bounty hunters surrounded the building. While the ronin held them off, Sanshobo exorcised Jei from the woman who then dies in the arms of Isamu, revealed to be her brother who had sought her out to bring her home to her forgiving father. However, while the swordswoman died free, the spirit of Jei escaped.
Inazuma was originally Tomiko, the daughter of a samurai. As she came of age, she caught the eye of a high ranking councillor in her lord's court. Her ambitious father was quite willing to marry her off to the older man in order to gain the extra prestige; Inazuma wanted no part of it, her eye was for a younger more handsome samurai, Hisashi. Her father was not about to let his daughter marry a low-level samurai, and was going to force her to marry the older councillor, so she and Hisashi eloped and moved to Edo. In the time of the Shogun's peace, Hisashi found it hard to find work; unable to find service under a lord, he tried entertaining passers-by with his swordsmanship, but he didn't put on much of a show. He became despondent, and even blamed Inazuma for their bad fortune.
Inazuma wanted to try to make some money the same way, thinking a swordswoman would be more novel, and asked Hisashi to teach her how to use a sword; with little else to do, he agreed. When Inazuma took his swords for the first time, she felt a sudden urge flow through her, as if the swords were meant for her. She learned very quickly, and soon her skill far surpassed Hisashi's; she took the name "Inazuma"—meaning "Lightning Flash"—as her stage name, bleached a lightning bolt into her hair, and was a hit with the town. Hisashi grew even more bitter that it was his wife who was supporting them, and turned to drinking and gambling, favoring the game cho-han bakuchi. Inazuma didn't like the way Hisashi was destroying himself and confronted him about it, but she lacked the strength to do it, she loved him too much to stand in his way.
After one very bad night at the local gambling hut, Hisashi grew furious over his bad luck and threw the dice at the wall, breaking them open. The dice were loaded, so he took his grievance to the leader of the gamblers, Masakazu. Hisashi wanted to blackmail Masakazu and he was foolish enough to make his threats in the gambler's own home, but the gambler would have none of it. He had his men capture Hisashi and Hisashi's fate was sealed by one roll of the dice.
Several days later, Hisashi's body was found, and Inazuma felt her heart sink. After a few days to collect herself, she sought out the ones who killed him. On New Year's Eve, she walked into the gambler's hut with her swords and hunted down Masakazu; all who stood in her way fell like dominoes. When Inazuma cornered the boss, his fate was sealed with another roll of the dice, and she presented Masakazu's head to her husband's grave. Masakazu's father, Bakuchi, the leader of the gambler's association, was enraged that his son was killed, least of all by a woman. He put a hefty price on her head, and Inazuma has been on the run ever since.
One night while taking a bath, Inazuma was confronted by Gen, who failed to sneak up on her because of his own lack of hygiene; they fought, and Inzauma clearly had the advantage, until she slipped in the mud and hit her head against a rock. Inazuma was knocked out cold. Before Gen could claim his bounty, a band of thugs tried to steal his reward; during the fight, Inazuma woke up and stumbled away, eventually collapsing on the road where she was found by Jei and Keiko. They bring her to a nearby house and contemplate what to do with her; Keiko says that she's not evil, and that they should help her. In a surprising act of charity, Jei agrees, but they are unable to take care of her, so they deliver her to a nearby temple. When Inazuma awakes, she is in the care of Sanshobo; the priest tries to help her, but her mind is now clouded by visions of a dark man with horrible empty eyes.
After the battle between Usagi and Jei over the Kusanagi, a brilliant light is seen in the sky, so Sanshobo takes a few priests out to investigate. But the strange light has a vile effect on Inazuma; when she wakes up, she goes on a rampage. Later, Inazuma is found stumbling through the woods wearing only a robe and her swords, by some thugs looking to collect the bounty. When they call her out, she looks back with empty eyes, a twisted smile, and answers in a deathly voice, clear signs of her possession by the black soul of Jei.
Keiko finds her shortly after, and immediately starts calling her "Auntie". The pair head out to continue Jei's journey to smite evil, and ultimately kill Usagi; her quest is helped by the price on her head that lures bounty hunters, including Gen and Inukai, and thugs to her, but she also gained the attention of Sasuké, the demon queller and Sanshobo who were determined to find her. Jei did not completely consume her consciousness. Inazuma's mind tried to fight back, and occasionally regained control of her body, though it's usually at certain weak points like when going to sleep or just waking up; but Jei's soul was too strong, and he eventually resumed his control over her.
The Blade of the GodsEdit
Eventually Gen and Inukai faced the possessed swordswoman in open battle, were defeated while inexplicably left alive and decided to call for help to bring her down. To that end, the pair soon meet Usagi and the monk Sanshobo and another hunter named Isamu who all agree to join the hunt.
Later on, Inazuma is attacked by bounty hunters who are after the recently increased reward for her death. Although she slays them all, she receives a mortal abdominal wound. Although Jei kept her alive, Inazuma soon weakened until she slumped in a hut where an opportunistic informer manipulated an amateur accomplice to attempt to kill her. The possessed Inazuma dispatched the assailant and the informer fled to instead sell the information of her location to as many bounty hunter he could.
Eventually, Usagi's company found Inazuma and he and Sanshobo convinced their companions to allow Jei to be exorcised from the woman before they claim her for her bounty. That proved more difficult than anticipated since a large horde of competing bounty hunters converged on the hut and threatened to storm it to get to Inazuma. While Usagi, Gen and Inukai held them off, Sanshobo struggled to remove the spirit from Inazuma while Isamu insisted on staying for his own reasons.
When the exorcism was complete, Isamu suddenly embraced her and revealed that he was her brother who had been searching for her for some time with the message that her father forgave and wanted her to return home. Unfortunately, Inazuma lived long enough only to thank him for the good news and his trouble seeking her out to bring it and died, free of the spirit tormenting her.
Both to conclude the battle outside and to avoid his sister's body from being abused for her bounty, Isamu set the hut on fire. When the bounty hunters realized this made both bodies of the dead bounty hunter inside and Inazuma impossible to individually identify for the price on her head, they stood down and departed.
As for the gangster who commissioned the bounty on Inazuma, he lost all creditability and was swiftly assassinated by his ambitious subordinate. Meanwhile, the spirit of Jei took full possession of another monk, Hama, reunited with the child Keiko, and they resumed their murderous pilgrimage.
Stories where she has appearedEdit
- A Meeting of Strangers
- Lightning Strikes Twice
- Three Seasons
- Dreams and Nightmares
- Unlike other characters, Inazuma's skill with a sword is almost all natural talent, as opposed to years of training.
- Her name (稲妻 in kanji) means "lightning."
- Inazuma's real name was never given until her final appearance.
- Inazuma is the last original character introduced in the 2nd volume of Usagi Yojimbo, published by Mirage Comics.
- In the notes at the end of Grasscutter, Stan Sakai revealed that Inazuma was created specifically to be the new Blade of the Gods, instead of corrupting an existing character like Tomoe Ame.
- Many fans have suggested that a romantic subplot involving Inazuma and Gen, and Stan Sakai has admitted that the idea sounds interesting. However, Sakai declined to change his intentions of making Inazuma's life a complete tragedy and killed her off.
- According to Stan Sakai, Inazuma is the most powerful swordsman/woman introduced in the series.