Chizu is a character from the Usagi Yojimbo series; she is an anthropomorphic cat and is kashira (chief) of the Neko Ninja clan. Chizu is considered a possible love interest for Usagi, but she is an obvious longshot to Tomoe Ame, in part because the Neko Ninja are servants to Lord Hikiji. She first appeared as a messenger in The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy.
Although Chizu is a high ranking ninja warrior of the Neko ninja, she is not a heartless killer. She shares her brother Shingen's sense of honor, and considers the Neko Ninja as a family; when she becomes the kashira, she considers herself the matriarch of an extended family, as opposed to the leader of a secret spy ring. It's her warm disposition that allows her to be "friends" with Usagi, despite the fact that the Neko ninja serve Usagi's hated enemy, Lord Hikiji; and it makes her a fan favorite in the series. However, while her motherly approach earns her the admiration of the Neko Ninja, it also entices rebellion from those who believe she is too soft to hold the role. In the end, her heart is what makes her strong and weak; it is why she is so devoted to the Neko Ninja, but it breaks her heart when one of her own is killed on a mission. She firmly believes in the adage that a ninja's life is death, but only because it makes the frequent losses bearable.
Chizu first appears during the Dragon Bellow Conspiracy, but it isn't until the Mirage series that she is formally introduced. She is initially a chunin (executive officer) of the Neko ninja, and sister to the current kashira, Shingen; after he sacrifices himself to stop Lord Tamakuro, Chizu assumes the role of kashira. Chunin Gunji is not pleased that Chizu has chosen herself to be the new kashira, and openly challenges her while the Neko ninja are trying to rebuild after the Dragon Bellow Conspiracy.
Their rivalry grows bitter during an operation to abduct Kakera, an old rat sorcerer who possesses magical powers, including the ability to summon a band of kame ninja (turtle ninja, who are actually the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) to fight the Neko ninja. Gunji believes that they can use him to bolster the weakened Neko ninja; but Chizu doubts that the rat would be very useful, and it would be too much of a hassle to abduct him. Gunji gets his way and succeeds in capturing Kakera; Chizu accepts him as kashira, but still questions his abilities. Gunji is unwilling to put up with a potentially treacherous officer, and decides to do away with Chizu.
Gunji, Chizu and a handful of Neko ninja don peasants' clothing to bring Kakera back to their village, hidden inside a wood cart. While stopping at a river, Gunji reveals his plot to assassinate Chizu in order secure his position as kashira. It is then that Usagi appears, having followed their cart to save Kakera. Gunji sends the Neko ninja after Usagi while he dispatches Chizu; but neither fight goes as planned, as Usagi bests the ninja and Chizu defeats Gunji.
Chizu reveals to Usagi that she is Shingen's sister and has heard much about the ronin; she tells him that the Neko ninja are no longer interested in the old rat, and leaves with a kiss.
Chizu crosses paths with Usagi while on a mission for the Neko ninja, to procure the formula of a powerful new black powder; however, she is ambushed by the Komori ninja (bat ninja) who also want the formula. She is injured and finds her way to an abandoned temple where she is found by Usagi; despite the fact that she is employed by his greatest enemy, Lord Hikiji, he tries to help her. Eventually, the komori ninja get the formula from Chizu, but they are unaware that the instructions exclude a verbal component as a security precaution for just such a situation. Not knowing the secret to reading the document, the komori ninja are killed in the resulting explosion. Chizu notes that the Neko ninja and komori ninja are even, as neither got the formula, then leaves Usagi with another kiss.
Later, Chunin Kagemaru acquires a contract signed by eight lords who secretly oppose the shogun; Chizu decides to keep the document, thinking it might come in handy, little realizing that Kagemaru also has his eye on the document's potential. He uses part of it to curry favor with Lord Hebi, one of Lord Hikiji's allies, in the hope of using his assistance to take over as kashira of the Neko ninja. Later, Kagemaru grows impatient with Chizu, who decides not to execute a young couple who try to desert the Neko ninja to get married; instead she lets them leave, but Kagemaru hunts them down himself and kills them. One of them, Saruko escapes, and promises revenge, thinking Chizu ordered their execution despite her mercy.
In the Grasscutter II saga, Chizu finds out that Usagi is trying to transport the Kusanagi to Atsuta Shrine where no one can get it; she and Kagemaru split up to follow the two paths that Usagi might have taken, and Chizu is the one who finds him first. She meets up with him, but Ikeda doesn't trust the woman, and rightfully so; Chizu steals the Kusanagi, but runs into Saru, who wants revenge for killing her fiancé. Chizu beats her and convinces her that she had nothing to do with his death, they put aside their differences when they are besieged by the komori ninja. Usagi, Gen and Sanshobo arrive to get the Kusanagi back, and find themselves in a threeway battle against the Neko ninja and the komori ninja. The komori ninja end up getting the sword, but Saru sacrifices herself to stop them, and the sword plummets into the sea, again lost. With the mission over, Chizu leaves, again, giving Usagi a kiss.
Later, Kagemaru finds Usagi still making his way to Atsuta shrine; Ikeda didn't trust the ninja, and switched the Kusanagi before Chizu stole it. He tries to get the blade, but Sanshobo is able to deliver it while Usagi, Gen and Ikeda delay the Neko ninja. Although he fails to get the sword, Chizu's belief that the sword was lost is just the opening Kagemaru needs to usurp her as kashira.
Chizu is summoned to Lord Hebi to explain a recent rash of failures, namely the Conspiracy of Eight, the black powder, and the Kusanagi. When Chizu tries to explain herself, Kagemaru reveals that the sword was delivered to Atsuta shrine, forcing Chizu to admit that she is either a traitor or incompetent. She tries to challenge Kagemaru, but he has another surprise: a band of Neko ninja that surrounds Chizu; she has little choice but to fight her way out. During the fight, Chizu is poisoned by some shuriken, and her body fails her; she is discovered by Kimi, one of the few Neko ninja still loyal to her. Kimi distracts the Neko ninja long enough for Chizu to recover and get away.
Chizu is now a nukenin (fugitive ninja), and her clan is after her head; as long as she's alive, Kagemaru can never fully claim to be the kashira. Later she runs into Usagi who is traveling with Jotaro, after making a brief appearance when a child is endangered by a runaway horse. This draws the attention of a pair of women who approach Usagi and Jotaro; they are actually Neko ninja, and use a sleeping Jotaro to extort Chizu's location from Usagi. Usagi has no idea where Chizu is, but the ninja in question comes out of the shadows to save Jotaro. Outside, Chizu explains that she now understands Usagi's life as a ronin, as she is a wanderer as well; and she leaves with a kiss—from Usagi.
Being run out of the clan is the hardest thing to ever happen to Chizu; not only was she betrayed by her "family", but she is now fighting—and killing—those she considers her brothers and sisters. She is also distraught by how the clan is falling apart; without a decided leader, there is a power struggle within the Neko ninja as various ninja are vying for the role of kashira. It pains her even more to see her family collapse into such disarray.
Stories where she has appearedEdit
- The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy
- Blood Wings
- Shades of Green
- Bats, the Cat and the Rabbit
- The Conspiracy of Eight
- Grasscutter II: Journey to Atsuta Shrine
- Out of the Shadows
- Fever Dream
- The Thief and the Kunoichi
- Tatami: Part 1 (IDW #8)
- Tatami: Part 2 (IDW #9)