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Ana Ishikawa – Who is Shi?

Shi (Ana Ishikawa) is a fictional comic book character created by writer/illustrator William Tucci. She first appeared in Razor Annual #1 (1993) and has appeared in numerous books by various publishers ever since, most notably Tucci's own Crusade Comics. Shi is a young woman of Japanese and American descent trained as a Yamabushi warrior monk, who struggles to reconcile her Japanese grandfather's martial training with her American mother's Christian teachings. Japanese culture and spiritual themes are prominent, recurring motifs in storylines featuring her, especially as they pertain to this conflict.

The word shi literally translates to death (死) in Japanese, and Shi's signature weapon is the naginata.

Ana's father, Shiro, was a Japanese warrior; her mother, Catherine, is an American Catholic missionary. As a child, Ana witnessed the brutal murder of her father and brother at the hands of Masahiro Arashi, an upstart Yakuza thug. Following this horrifying incident, Ana was consequently spirited away and raised by her grandfather, Yoshitora, amongst the sacred temples of Kyoto. Yoshitora secretly trained Ana in the ways of the sohei (warrior monks of feudal Japan), so that she could seek out Arashi and avenge the deaths of her father and brother.

Arashi wanted to impress the leaders of the Osaka crime syndicate and left a calling card with every murder he committed—a simple coin engraved with the kanji for death; shi. Whilst holding onto the coins left with the bodies of her father and brother, Ana developed a vengeful obsession, as she completely gave herself to shi, becoming the living embodiment of Death. Ana swore revenge on the Yakuza and set out to become one of the deadliest assassins in the world. In order to disguise herself, Ana painted her face white to resemble Tora No Shi (also known as Tiger of Death), a legendary female warrior of medieval Japan. Ana acquired the name Shi because of her ferocity and ruthlessness.

However, Ana was deeply affected by her mother's Catholic teachings; she soon faced a dilemma between her programmed mission of revenge and the Christian faith she secretly harbored. Once her parents' killer, Arashi, was sent to prison, Ana renounced killing and became the manager of an art gallery in New York. From time to time, she still takes on her Shi personality if necessary.

Even with the duality that rages in Ana's soul, she will not allow herself to succumb to the death demon that terrorizes her. In the end, it is Ana's faith and the ethereal visions of her sohei ancestors that shepherd her along the way of the warrior.

Ana was trained by her grandfather in the ways of the sohei. As such, she is a skilled martial artist and swordswoman, the naginata being her weapon of choice.

In the first series Shi: the Way of the Warrior, Ana based her look on "Tora no Shi", a famous female warrior from Feudal Japan. That person is Yuri Ishikawa, actual ancestor of Ana, who wears a similar outfit and starred her own miniseries (Shi: Tora no Shi and Avatar Press' Shi: Poisoned Paradise), who fought against Musashi Miyamoto in Tora no Shi and Ieyasu Tokugawa in Poisoned Paradise, being Yuri part of the Japanese Christian resistance.