"As your leader, I encourage you from time to time, and always in a respectful manner, to question my logic. If you're unconvinced that a particular plan of action I've decided is the wisest, tell me so, but allow me to convince you, and I promise you, right here and now, no subject will ever be taboo... except, of course, the subject that was just under discussion. The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or American heritage as a negative is... I collect your f-cking head. Just like this f-cker here. Now, if any of you sons of bitches GOT ANYTHING ELSE TO SAY, NOW'S THE F-CKING TIME!" ― O-Ren Ishii's most famous quote as she delivers a threatening speech to her associates shortly after beheading Boss Tanaka.[source]
O-Ren Ishii (Jap. オーレン石井) was a major antagonist in Quentin Tarantino's film series Kill Bill, serving as the main antagonist in the 2003 film Kill Bill: Volume 1 and a cameo character in the 2004 film Kill Bill: Volume 2. She was a former assassin for the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, the supreme leader of the Tokyo Yakuza, and the first victim in Beatrix Kiddo's "Death List Five"; Her codename in the Viper Squad was Cottonmouth.
O-Ren was portrayed by Lucy Liu, who received an MTV Movie Award in the "best villain" category in 2004.
O-Ren Ishii was born on American-Japanese military base in Tokyo. Her father was a Sergeant Major in the United States Army and her mother was a faithful housewife. It is presumed that her very early childhood was untroubled as little is known about her infancy.
However, at the innocent age of nine, her life had forever changed when her home was intruded by assassins led by the ruthless crime boss, Matsumoto, Japan's cruelest Yakuza boss, and his goons.
Whilst hiding under the bed for protection, young O-Ren witnessed her father, a brave man and skilled martial artist, disarm and kill two of Matsumoto's kumi-in. Although he fought fiercely and valiantly, his blind rage clouded his focus, and was subsequently caught off-guard when Matsumoto's right hand man, Riki, surprised him from behind and thrust a katana through his heart.
Immediately after her father's death, Matsumoto dragged her mother and threw her on the bed. Riki handed him the katana, Matsumoto personally executed Mrs. Ishii himself. Afterwards, the mob made a hasty departure. Riki, acting quickly to cover up the evidence of that night's horrific events, set the house ablaze.
Thankfully, despite her emotional state, O-Ren noticed the fire and managed to escape. As a result of witnessing the killings at such a young age, she was left psychologically and emotionally traumatized. With her childhood and loved ones having been ripped away from her, she became obsessed with exacting revenge against Matsumoto and avenging her parents by any means necessary.
After spending 2 years training in assassination and marksmanship, O-Ren, now aged 11 and knowing that Matsumoto was a pedophile, lured him into a compromising position by disguising herself as an innocent school-girl. She then used a sword to dig deep into Matsumoto's gut, applying such intense pressure that his teeth cracked while she asked him if he remembered her before disemboweling him. The sheer force of the bleeding killed Matsumoto instantly and the entire room was nearly drenched in his blood with O-Ren being covered in it.
Soon after killing the boss, O-Ren used Matsumoto's corpse as a shield and hid under the bed. 2 of his henchmen attempted to shoot her but she evaded them and used her Desert Eagle magnum to blow off the henchmen's knees before her second and final shots decapitated both of them instantly. Decapitation would later become her preferred method of killing, not just of enemies, but henchmen who were rude enough to question her past and mixed heritage.
9 years later, at the age of 20, O-Ren had become one of the top female assassins in the world and was seen assassinating a Latin American political figure with just a single shot from her position of a rooftop.
Life as an assassin
By her twenties she was between the top female assassins of the world (it was proved by the fact that O-Ren shot an unnamed ambassador in head, through the windshield of the moving limo). Her knowledge of the martial arts and the wielding of the samurai sword was the merit of Bill.
During her time as the D.V.A.S member, O-Ren was extremely loyal to Bill. As she was coldblooded as ever, she took part in the vicious attack against Bill's former best friend and now a pregnant woman - Beatrix Kiddo, who left the squad and faked her death to ensure her unborn child's future. At the latter's wedding rehearsal, O-Ren helping to kill 10 (though it was really only 9, considering The Bride survived) innocent people and being partly responsible for putting the Bride into a coma. O-Ren and her fellow assassins (with the exception of Elle Driver) showed some discomfort and measure of regret after the massacre.
Becoming a yakuza boss
Bill rewarded his former protégé by financial support to her ambitions of becoming a Tokyo Yakuza boss and the leader of the Crime Council; The only man that protested O-Ren's reign to power, was Boss Tanaka, who said that O-Ren has perverted the council by being a "Chinese Jap-American half breed bitch". Seconds later, Tanaka was decapitated by O-Ren herself, who stated that she'll collect anyone's head for bringing up her Chinese or American heritage as negative.
O-Ren's little criminal empire was made out of her lawyer/translator and best friend Sofie Fatale, her personal bodyguard Gogo Yubari, and her personal army of elite fighters, Crazy 88, lead by Johnny Mo.
Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves
However, recently awoken from the four-year-old coma, Beatrix Kiddo, who swore to get her revenge on each member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, decided to start from O-Ren, (because of her notorious criminal reputation, O-Ren was the easiest target to find).
After getting a samurai sword forged by Hattori Hanzō in Okinawa]], Kiddo travels to Tokyo to face O-Ren. The crime boss is now at the House of Blue Leaves for a time of relaxation with Crazy 88. There, O-Ren is greeted with exuberance by the owners, who would not dare to upset the Yakuza leader. The group spends the evening in a separate part of the restaurant, but O-Ren suddenly feels watched and throws a dart through the room divider, which almost catches the spying Beatrix. O-Ren sends Gogo Yubari to investigate, but she finds nobody. When Sofie Fatale leaves the group a little later to go to the toilet, Kiddo is already hiding there. While she is washing her hands, Sofie is called and Beatrix, who only wanted to prepare there for the attack on O-Ren, recognizes the ring tone. She overwhelms Sofie and leads her out into the main room of the restaurant, where she loudly challenges O-Ren. O-Ren hears the noise and she and her companions leave the room where they are and enter the main room. There you see the Sofie imprisoned by Beatrix, behind whom Kiddo reveals himself. O-Ren recognizes this of course, but does not show her surprise. However, O-Ren finally shows emotions when Beatrix cuts off Sofie's arm.
O-Ren orders one of her bodyguards to attack Beatrix, but the henchman is immediately killed. O-Ren then orders the others to attack, but Beatrix cannot withstand them either. After her remaining henchmen have fallen, O-Ren sends Gogo into the fight and although she can hold her own against Beatrix much longer, she ultimately dies.
Before Beatrix can devote himself to O-Ren, reinforcements appear - the rest of the Crazy 88 clan have arrived. From her elevated position, O-Ren mocks without emotion that Beatrix couldn't have hoped that it would be so easy. The 88 then storm the restaurant and O-Ren watches the fight between them and Kiddo. However, when she realizes that Beatrix will win the fight, O-Ren leaves the room without turning around. Meanwhile, the Bride massacres the entirety of the Crazy 88, killing or severly wounding all except one (a young member who hardly had any sword fighting skill at all, Beatrix simply spanks him with her sword and sends him away), before dueling with O-Ren in the snow.
Fight against Beatrix and Death
O-Ren awaits Beatrix in the snowy back yard of the restaurant. At first she refuses to believe that the Bride's sword is of Hanzō make which prompts Beatrix to show the Hanzō emblem just below the guard of the sword. O-ren says, "That while a sword doesn't get tired, the Bride must be." The two trade comments and blows. O-ren first gains the upper hand (presumably due to Beatrix's previous efforts in defeating her subordinates) using both her katana and its scabbard. Using the scabbard to block, it gets destroyed by Beatrix which causes O-Ren to initiate an offensive stance and fully commit. The two then cross katanas and resume their fighting. O-Ren deals a heavy slash on the Bride's back then teases her by saying, "Silly Caucasian Girl likes to play with samurai swords," as the wounded Beatrix lays on the floor. However, despite her wounds, the Bride manages return to her stance and defend a strike. Beatrix then continues to retaliate and the two trade strikes until she slashes O-Ren's right shin. O-Ren cautiously limps backwards and checks her wound. She is surprised and realizes her mistake in underestimating Beatrix and apologizes for her earlier remarks. The Bride accepts her apology and asks whether she is ready. They then return to dealing slashes met with counters, until O-Ren is overwhelmed and is forced to regain her footing. O-Ren then deals a heavy blow to which Beatrix counters and swiftly retaliates with one swift horizontal slash, effectively removing O-Ren's head. It is then seen flying in the air and landing on the snow. As O-Ren stands headless, and then pick up her severed head by the hair, her final thoughts are of regard for the Hanzō Sword saying, "it was truly a Hanzō Sword." She then falls to her knees and onto the snowy ground.
A victorious Beatrix walks over and sits on a snow-covered bench, exhausted and blood-covered as well as remorseful at having to kill her former best friend.
Presumably, as a child, O-Ren was happy and carefree, living an ideal life. However, after witnessing the deaths of her parents at the age of nine, she became a closed-off, emotionless being, sacrificing her very childhood and innocence to avenge her dead parents.
As she grew older, O-Ren still retained the original ruthlessness and cold-blooded that she had developed as a child.
For being born an American, O-Ren was very skillful in speaking English as well as Japanese, her native language. She was extremely proud of her heritage and will not hesitate to kill anyone especially her own subordinates who dared to insult her family heritage because she loved her parents very much and would not tolerate being spoken to in an ill mattered way. Despite this, she was calm and level headed most of the time. She even encouraged her subordinates to speak their minds about her plans if they are not too convinced, as long as it is in a respectful matter and does not have anything to do with her background. For being a female, she was an expert in business leadership. She did show some concern for her close subordinates. This was shown when she saw Sofie Fatale, who had her left arm cut off from Beatrix with her sword.
Bill's choice for O-Ren's viper codename, was Cottonmouth.
The aggressiveness of Cottonmouth has been exaggerated by many people. This refers to the conflict between O-Ren's reputation as an assassin (and later as the Boss of all Yazuka Bosses) and her generally docile personality. The Cottonmouth delivers painful, potentially fatal bites, in reference to how O-Ren kills a victim in 2 strikes (if she does not kill them in one), one disabling and the next fatal (Beatrix, a strike to the back and would be a decapitation; after killing Matsumoto, she proceeds to shoot his henchmen in the knees and then in the head, respectively.)
Before striking, the Cottonmouth bares its fangs and shows the white lining in its mouth that earns it the name "Cottonmouth", this could be explained as O-Ren being quite a show-woman when it comes to combat, utilizing stylistic, flashy moves as seen in combat with Beatrix.
O-Ren Ishii was a slender woman with an average height, dark blue eyes and black hair;
In anime flashback we see several outfits, that O-Ren wore during her youth;
As a child, she wore a short dress with bright green, pink and blue stripes. After two years, she wears a blue schoolgirl uniform
as an assassin, she wore a bright red latex suit, but after she left the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and become a queen of the Tokyo underworld, she wore a traditional Japanese white kimono, which characterized her personality as white is the color of perfection and O-Ren always had the craving for it...
O-Ren Ishii's specialized fighting style was the sword combat. She had a long practice as she was preparing to take revenge for her parents' death... At the age of twelve, she already was able to mercilessly decapitate a person with a katana.
O-Ren preferred aikuchi sword; easily weldable but an extremely deadly weapon.
She showcased barehanded fighting skills, while beating of Beatrix on her wedding day. she She was most likely somewhat proficient in martial arts.
O-Ren was a highly capable sharpshooter, killing at least one target via sniping from a long distance. The target was killed inside a automobile and neither of the people sitting next to the target were injured. She also was able to quickly kill two thugs with a handgun in quick precision.
Look at me Matsumoto; take a good look at my face... Look at my eyes... Look at my nose... Look at my chin... Look at my mouth. Do I look familiar? DO I LOOK LIKE SOMEBODY YOU MURDERED?!" ― O-Ren Ishii kills Matsumoto
Boss Matsumoto was the main reason of O-Ren's path of the crime life; However, the motivation, behind why Matsumoto killed Mr. and Mrs. Ishii is still not revealed at all...
Matsumoto was the most ruthless yakuza boss in Japan, but beside that, he was also a pedophile, which was the perfect circumstance for an eleven-year-old O-Ren to seduce him and eventually assassinate him, while he was trying to have sex with her; by which accomplishing her path of revenge.
As much as she despised Boss Matsumoto, O-Ren's main streaming in life, was to become a yakuza boss, herself. She saw the position as the peak of the criminal power.
Matsumoto was seemingly O-Ren Ishii's first victim as she was only an underage, when she killed him...
"It was one year after the massacre in El Paso, Texas, that Bill backed his Nippon progeny, financially and philosophically, in her Shakespearian-like power struggle with the other yakuza clans over who would rule vice in the city of Tokyo." ― Beatrix Kiddo
It is known that O-Ren was loyal to Bill, while working for the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and her loyalty was rewarded...
Bill played a huge role into helping O-Ren, conqueror the criminal world of Tokyo and achieve her ambition of becoming a yakuza boss. However the relationship between two, was still mysterious.
After the death of O-Ren Ishii, Beatrix Kiddo captured her right-hand woman Sofie Fatale and forced her to reveal the current locations of all of the D.V.A.S members including: Vernita Green, Budd, Elle Driver and Bill. Sofie wasn't able to tell only the location of Bill; which proofs the fact that Bill wasn't fully trusting even his best students.
Fans theorize that Pretty Riki, was in fact young Bill, working as the main henchman for Boss Matsumoto or possibly as an assassin for hire; as they wore extraordinary lookalikes, in their features, knowledge of the martial arts and manner of dressing; However, this theory is extremely unlikely, but still possible.
"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 Kiddo
O-Ren was the most powerful member of the squad after Beatrix Kiddo; some might say that they wore equally strong in martial arts; which served as the factor of their close friendship.
Beside O-Ren and Beatrix, a friendship wasn't developed between anyone in the entire squad.
O-Ren was the only member of the squad who, left only because the group was already separated;
"The pretty lady to O-Ren's right, who's dressed like a villain on Star Trek, is O-Ren's lawyer, best friend and second lieutenant; the half-French, half-Japanese - Sofie Fatale." ― Beatrix Kiddo
Sofie Fatale was O-Ren's second in command, personal lawyer, translator and best friend.
Because of her decency, Sofie was an expert speaker on French and Japanese languages which made her the perfect assistant for O-Ren. but beside the professional interest it is unclear how exactly is their friendship, with O-Ren that strong; It is known that Sofie was Bill's protégé (although she didn't knew any martial arts) and often assisted the D.V.A.S at their operations; including the Massacre at Two Pines...
However the two most likely developed their friendship because of their Japanese heritages and their professionalism, but it's also possible that Bill Personally attached Sofie to O-Ren to assist her in her path as the yakuza boss and their friendship started from there...
Sofie was loyal to O-Ren however and even admired her boss' doings; as she was seen smiling while translating O-Ren's sadistic speech to the Crime Council, after killing Boss Tanaka.
"The young girl in the schoolgirl uniform is O-Ren's personal bodyguard, 17-year-old Gogo Yubari. Gogo may be young, but what she lacks in age, she makes up for in madness."
Gogo was the most loyal and the most ruthless minion of O-Ren. Serving her mistress as a personal bodyguard, Gogo was seemingly harmless schoolgirl, but Despite her appearance the level of her madness and lust for blood was over the top...
During the Showdown at the house of the blue leaves, Gogo was the only serious threat Beatrix and came even closer than her mistress, to killing her; But she failed and died from the hands of Beatrix, while protecting O-Ren.
"You tellin' me she cut her way through bodyguards before she got to O-Ren?" ― Budd
The Crazy 88s wore O-Ren's personal clan of highly skilled fighters.
But beside their loud name, it was established that the group sustained out of 44 members (45 if including Johnny Mo) and yet they wore all slayed by Beatrix Kiddo, while trying to protect their mistress.
"Silly Caucasian girl likes to play with samurai swords?" ― O-Ren Ishii
The relationship between two was extremely complicated; they most likely wore close friends, while working for the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. But during the Massacre at Two Pines, O-Ren was seen, taking a part in beating up her pregnant former friend and not showing any sort of emotion. But beside that, she was the only person, who honestly apologized to Beatrix for mocking her...
The final fight between O-Ren Ishii and Beatrix Kiddo was in the snowy gardens of the House of Blue Leaves...
O-Ren knew that Beatrix was tired, from defeating all of her subordinates, but she was still aware, about her opponent's rank and still used her scabbard, along with the sword as defense... The two trade comments and blows, but after O-ren was injured in her oot and finally weakend; The Bride killed her enemy, with horizontal slash, effectively removing O-Ren's scalp and starting her path of revenge, by scrolling the first name in her death list.
"The half-Japanese half-Chinese-American army brat, made her first acquaintance with death at the age of 9... lt was at that age she witnessed the death of her parents, at the hands of Japan's most ruthless yakuza boss." ― Beatrix Kiddo
O-Ren's father, was an (ethnically Japanese) American military soldier and extremely skilled hand-to-hand combatist; as he was seen killing and/or at least heavily injuring Boss Matsumoto's men completely armless, during their invasion into Ishii residence; however, Mr. Ishii was eventually killed by Matsumoto's most deadly minion - Pretty Riki, decapitated Mr. Ishii died, in front of her hiding daughter while whispering something unintelligible to her and after the final strike with katana into Mr. Ishii's head, O-Ren was scarred for life.
Shortly after the death of Mr. Ishii, Boss Matsumoto himself grabbed O-Ren's mother (who was ethnically Han Chinese), borrowed Riki's katana and killed horrified Mrs. Ishii by stabbing her on her own bed. The drops of blood, wore soaked by mattress and slowly dropped on already scarred O-Ren's face. After the Ishiis wore dead, Matsumoto left the residence, which seconds later was put on fire. O-Ren sneaked out on time and watched her house being covered in flames; this symbolized O-Ren's inner flames of rage and lust for her vengeance, in the name of deceased parents.
- Chapter 2: The blood-splattered BRIDE (debut; flashback)
- Chapter 3: The Origin of O-Ren
- Chapter 5: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves (death)
- Chapter 7: The lonely grave of Paula Schulz (mention)
- Ending credits
- O-Ren's surname Ishii means "stone" (石) (ishi) and "well, mine shift, pit" (井) (i).
- In 2015, Lucy Liu named her son Rockwell Lloyd Liu in possible reference to the character, as the Japanese surname Ishii can translate to "Rockwell".
- O-Ren was the only member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (except Bill) who was almost equally as strong as Beatrix; But she still lost the fight with her.
- The reason O-Ren's past was told in an anime sequence was because it had themes so controversial that live action with real actresses would have pushed the whole movie to an NC-17 rating, at the very least.
- O-Ren had dark blue eyes, like her father.
- O-Ren was developed from the character called Lady Snowblood from the movie with titular name. Lady Snowblood also was an assassin and shared with O-Ren her basic traits and manner of dressing. Also when O-Ren's scalp was ripped off, the soundtrack music was "Flower of Carnage" (Shura No Hana) - 1973, which was sang by Meiko Kaji; the portrayer of Lady Snowblood.
- It's rumored that in the early stages of filming, O-Ren was originally decapitated at the end of her battle with Beatrix, but it was kept because had she been decapitated, she would have never known that the Bride's sword really was a Hanzō sword.
- O-Ren's death was supposed to be, ironically - decapitation; but this script element was changed because, of her last lines; for more dramatic effect.
- The death's scene is a homage to Canto 28 of "Inferno" by Dante Alighieri, which tells part of "The Divine Comedy". In that canto, a demon slices off the head of a sinner named Bertand de Born with a sword, to which Bertrand holds his severed head like a lantern, and then wanders around the ninth bolgia of Malebolge. Along the way, he encounters Dante and Virgil, and then tells him about his life story of how he got separated from his father, hence his punishment in the ninth bolgia.
- In the 2008 video game, "Saints Row 2", in the Ronin mission, "The Kanto Connection", the player must travel to the sushi house "Kanto" and kill one of the game's villian "Jyunichi". After the player enters into the sushi house, Jyunichi would bow and say, "Die with honor". Listen carefully to the background as sometimes, one of the bodyguards would quip, "We will protect this boss better than we did O-Ren!" This is a clear and obvious reference to O-Ren Ishii and the movie.