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The Iga Province of Japan is the birthplace of a race
of martial arts masters of ninjutsu, known as Shadowmasters.
While the true origins of the legendary race of Japanese
warriors are shrouded in mystery, Japanese legend states
that the Shadowmasters were half human and half demon,
and possessed mystical talents. For centuries, the Shadowmasters
served as protectors of Iga Province and its people in
times of internal strife in feudal Japan.
After the surrender of the Japanese at the end of World
War II, U.S. Army Captain James Richards took command,
overseeing the government in the Iga province. The mayor
of Ueno, a small town in Iga, was Shigeru Ezaki, one of
the last of the Shadowmasters who still regularly patrolled
and practiced his ninja art. Ezaki's tengu demon mask
protected his identity, allowing him the anonymity to
practice his art in a post-war Japan where all martial
arts were outlawed. Richards and Ezaki became friends
following a daring rescue from the path of a driverless
Army jeep of Ezaki's son, Saiih, by Richards. Ezaki repaid
his debt to Richards by protecting him from a band of
renegade Japanese soldiers who had refused surrender.
During his battle with the renegades however, Ezaki's
tengu mask was knocked off, revealing his identity to
both Richards and the escaping renegade leader, Kantaro
Umezu. Seeking to stop the renegade activity, and not
wanting to arrest his newfound companion, Richards forcibly
enlisted Ezaki's aid in tracking down Umezu and his renegades.
Endlessly harassed and randomly slain by the ninja, the
renegades finally surrendered the violence of the past,
appearing to disband, in favor of conquering the world
Over the next decades, the former renegades formed themselves
into the Sunrise Society, a group of highly powerful and
successful Japanese businessmen, under the direction of
Umezu. Ezaki and Richards continued their friendship,
and Ezaki began tutoring Richards' son Phillip with his
own son Sojin and daughter Yuriko in the art of ninjutsu.
However, after spotting Ezaki in a newspaper photograph,
Umezu sought revenge. Umezu killed Richards and kidnapped
Ezaki's family hoping to trap the Shadowmaster. Ezaki
saved his family, but apparently at the cost of his own
Years later, the Sunrise Society again struck at the
Ezaki children, sparking them to renew their Shadowmaster
training and continue the hunt for their father's killer.
Phillip Richards, after leaving for several years to study
in America, returned to Japan to join the Ezaki's in their
In a final confrontation between the young Shadowmasters
and the Sunrise Society, the Ezaki's learned that their
father had been held prisoner by the Sunrise Society,
and subjected in the years since his "death"
to Society cloning experiments.
In recent months, the family of Shadowmasters have crossed
paths with the Punisher, assisting him without his knowledge
in his war on crime. Most recently, thought, an attaché
by the Sunrise Society caused the Punisher to fight alongside
the Shadowmasters and the Superhero known as Black Widow.
In the ensuing battle, the Shadowmasters defeated the
Sunrise Society soldiers, but realized they were unsafe
in their present position, thus they fled.
The Shadowmasters fled to Japan in search of a new master
to teach them the ninjutsu art of the Shadowmasters. They
become the pupils of Hatsu Yakamoto. The Sunrise Society
changed its name to the Eternal Sun and still pursued
the Shadowmasters when the Punisher came to Japan, at
the request of Yakamoto. The Punisher had gone through
a training camp with the master's daughter and Yakamoto
wanted the Punisher to bring his art of ninjutsu to the
Yuriko, Phillip, and Manzo reintroduced themselves to
the Punisher after he recognized them as the people he
had helped on the streets of New York. Kathryn Yakamoto
was also there. The Shadowmasters planned an attack on
the new Eternal Sun base complex.
The local officer of the Eternal Sun turned out to be
Iris Green, a nurse whose trail the Punisher had been
following for a long time. The Shadowmasters infiltrated
the headquarters in order to destroy their records and
inflict as much damage as possible-- they blew the whole
complex up. In retaliation, the Eternal Sun assassinated
the elder Yakamoto.
The Punisher and Kathryn followed Iris Green to the U.S.,
but the Shadowmasters stayed in Japan to continue their
fight against their fathers' killers.