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Who the heck is Iron Fist’s Bakuto?

The most obscure comic character on the Netflix show

From Daredevil #505 (2010)
Marco Checchetto/Marvel Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Much like Luke Cage before it, Iron Fist make a significant addition to its cast in the second half of its season, with a character by the name of Bakuto. Played by Ramón Rodriguez, Bakuto is an unexpected source of help when Danny Rand and allies find themselves overwhelmed by a particular problem.

The character himself is a deep pull from Marvel Comics continuity — to the extent that he is essentially an original creation in every way but name and affiliation. He was introduced in Daredevil #505 and (spoiler alert for a seven year old comic) killed in Daredevil #507.

If you want to know more about where the inspiration came from for Bakuto, read on. Just note that this post will contain spoilers for the latter half of Iron Fist on Netflix, particularly beginning with the 10th episode, “Black Tiger Steals Heart.”

In Netflix’s Iron Fist, Bakuto is a guy named Bakuto, who works for the Hand but does not appear to have the approval of the existing Hand leadership. This is about all he has in common with the version we’ve seen in comics.

Bakuto was introduced during an unusual period in Daredevil’s fifty-year fictional existence — following a series of events, Matt Murdock had actually taken control of the league of mystical Japanese assassins known as the Hand, his longtime enemy. As shōgun of the Hand, he was attempting to turn its forces against evil doers, and to use the organization to protect Hell’s Kitchen.

But a centuries-old criminal organization doesn’t just turn on a dime, and that’s where Bakuto comes in.

“The Hand has five fingers,” Matt explains to his ally, Angela Del Toro (the vigilante known as White Tiger). “When they close into a fist, the Hand is unstoppable. I need the support of all five daimyo, the regional warlords, before I can execute my plan.”

He already has the approval of four of the daimyo — three are elderly, traditionalist Japanese assassin stereotypes, and the fourth is White Tiger herself, who Matt has appointed as the daimyo of North America.

The fifth is Bakuto, a character clearly inspired by the Yakuza, or at least by the way that the Yakuza have been depicted in modern, Western pop culture. By the way, “bakuto” is not a proper name, but rather a word for the itinerant gamblers that were the precursor to the Yakuza in Japanese history.

Daredevil #505
Marco Checchetto/Marvel Comics

Bakuto vehemently opposes Matt’s call for unity, objecting to the idea that the Hand might be properly ruled by an outsider, a non-Japanese person and a so-called “hero.” But as the only dissenting daimyo, Matt needs Bakuto’s support in order to firm up his leadership so that he can turn the Hand’s resources towards using its profitable shell corporations and influence in global governments to change the world for good — or at least get the Hand to stop assassinating people all the freakin’ time. And Matt is still ruled by his morals — he obviously refuses to kill Bakuto or allow him to be assassinated by others in order to further his goals.

Bakuto’s ambition worries the three traditionalist daimyo — he killed his own master to become the daimyo of South America. Oddly, even though they are presented as the old guard of the Hand’s rigid traditional code, all the traditionalist daimyo support Matt’s rule as shōgun.

So, in order to cement Matt’s place, the three daimyos have White Tiger — who has secretly been their pawn all along — murder Bakuto, and make it look like he committed honorable suicide after his attempt to have Matt assassinated failed. That “attempt” was also secretly orchestrated by the three daimyos.

Because, after all, this is a comic book — while Matt thinks he’s using the Hand for his own ends, these three daimyos are actually manipulating Matt according to their dark goals.

Et tu, White Tiger? (Daredevil #507)
Marco Checchetto/Marvel Comics

So, two issues after his introduction, in which he interrupts a casual archery competition between the three older daimyos by firing his gun into the target, Bakuto is killed in a complicated bout of evil political machinations.

And... that’s sort of it for him, as a character. Bakuto might be a deep pull, as far as infamous members of the Hand go, but Iron Fist seems to have used him simply as a name. As the unruffle-able leader of a ostensibly more moral — but still equally manipulative and violent — sect of the Hand, Netflix’s Bakuto is significantly different.

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