It’s no secret that Warhammer 40,000’s Tau race have been influenced by Japanese anime and especially the ‘mecha’ robot suits found in many Japanese works, but how many other aspects of Japanese or Chinese culture influenced their design? Let’s list them:
- Mecha battlesuits and heads with antenna calling to mind Gundam, Patlabor and Appleseed
- Tau infantry, the Fire Warriors, wear armour that includes the loose, baggy trousers and circular helmets of the Ashigaru – the samurai’s foot soldiers
- The Water caste are similarly shown to wear a sugesaga conical hat
- The Tau use high technology – skimmers (like maglev trains), drones (like factory robots) and state of the art weapons
- The Greater Good could be said to be a somewhat “Communist” philosophy and even before communism there has long been a culture of the needs of society and family being greater than needs of an individual in China
- The word ‘Tao‘ in China means ‘the way’ in the context of a philosophy. Similarly, in Japanese, to or do means a way or method, such as the religion Shinto (new way) or Bushido (war of the warrior)
- Dialogue in the game “Fire Warrior” was spoken in ‘asian’ accents, despite speaking English, with a cast that included British-born Chinese actor Burt Kwouk, known for his thick ‘Chinglish’ accent
- The Tau employ a caste system, found in medieval China and Japan as well
- One of the Tau septs features white armour with a red circle motif, just like the flag of Japan
- The Tau come from the ‘galactic’ east, with their latest Codex starting with references to the rising sun. Japan is in the far east and of course the name literally means land of the rising sun
- Many Tau heroes’ names start with O’ – in Japanese a noun starting with o means ‘big and important’ or ‘honourable’ such as o-cha (tea), o-sake (rice wine) and o-genki (the health of the person you’re talking to)
- The Tau castes – fire, air, earth, water and Ethereal are similar to the Chinese elements of the Wu xing – fire, earth, metal, water and wood (as well as similar to the ancient greek base elements and the elements of Captain Planet)
- Many of the Tau’s vehicles have designations named after fish. Japan is well known for it’s love of seafood!
- Commander Puretide’s training temple is on Mount Kanji – Kanji is the Japanese word for their character set that is inherited from Chinese characters
- Tau’s larger battlesuits have names after strong sea winds – Riptide, Stormsurge. Japanese believe that ‘divine winds’ called kamikaze saved them from invasion by sea in the past (and reused that name for their aircraft carrier attacks in WW2 of course)
There is one way the Tau are not seemingly based on Japanese, the ethereal bodyguards seem to be based on Aztec civilisation.
What asian stereotypes can you spot with the Tau? Comment below!