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Brothers at odds: Overwatch’s Hanzo and Genji origins

Although the Omnic Crisis was the major driving force that originally brought the Overwatch team together, the successful end of the Crisis didn’t spell the end for Overwatch. Instead, the team evolved into an international peacekeeping force, entering a golden age of heroism and thriving in the public eye. Much of this post-Omnic Crisis period was spent on innovation, exploration, and discovery, but not everyone was involved with science and research.

The peacekeeping part of Overwatch was hard at work as well. And as new agents were continually pulled in for Overwatch, it carried out operations against numerous threats — terrorist organizations and crime syndicates alike. For two brothers, Hanzo and Genji Shimada, this introduced a string of events that would change their lives forever.

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The Shimada Clan

The Shimada Clan was established centuries ago, and over time it grew in both power and influence, eventually building a vast criminal empire. Based in Hanamura, the clan utilized its connections to successfully build its wealth through illegal trade of weapons and drugs, as well as assassination jobs. Members of the Shimada Clan were skilled in weapons and fighting, presumably trained from a young age.

And the leader of the Clan was chosen through family lines. When the Shimada Clan leader died, his son would automatically inherit the position from his father, carrying on the legacy of the family name…and all criminal activities that went along with it. In the case of Hanzo and Genji’s father, he had two sons who could potentially lead — but of course the role of leader would automatically go to the eldest, Hanzo.

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Brothers in battle

Hanzo Shimada was a prodigy — not only did he possess a natural affinity for leadership, strategy and tactics, he also had an uncanny knack for martial arts, swords, and bow. Hanzo was destined to lead the Shimada Clan, and groomed for the position pretty much from the moment he was born. His brother Genji Shimada, on the other hand, was a completely different story.

Like his brother, Genji excelled in his training, but unlike his brother, he had little use for the family legacy. A playboy of sorts, Genji enjoyed his life of privilege, but didn’t really care about the family business at all. After all, why should he? It wasn’t as if he were going to be leading the Shimada Clan, that was Hanzo’s job.

And when Hanzo and Genji’s father died, Hanzo willingly stepped up to lead — but with that leadership came responsibility. The clan elders, wary of Genji’s wayward attitude, asked Hanzo to straighten out his brother and force him to help lead the Shimada Clan. Hanzo agreed, but Genji flat-out refused to take any kind of active role.

Become a Watcher

Just like that, the eldest Shimada son found his hands tied. Pressured by the elders on one side, on the other, his only brother — and there was only one choice Hanzo could make. The two brothers fought in a violent confrontation, and when the dust had settled, Genji was dead.

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Overwatch intervention

Or at least, Hanzo thought Genji was dead…and although this may have pleased the elders of the Shimada Clan, it left Hanzo heartbroken. Wracked with grief over what he’d done, Hanzo abandoned the Clan and left for good, wandering the world and searching for a way to restore his honor, and atone for what he’d done. The Shimada Clan was left without a leader…but continued on with its illegal activities regardless.

But Genji wasn’t dead. On the brink of death, he was rescued by Dr. Angela Ziegler, a.k.a. Mercy, and brought back to Overwatch, who had been watching the Shimada Clan’s activities for quite some time. As the son of the former Shimada Clan leader, it was thought that Genji could be a potentially valuable asset, if he could be healed, and if he could be persuaded to help.

Overwatch offered to rebuild his body in exchange for that help, and Genji agreed, not at all opposed to the idea of dismantling his family’s criminal empire — after all, they’d tried to have him killed. With his agreement, the scientists and doctors of Overwatch rebuilt Genji’s body, enhancing his speed and agility in a manner similar to what Morrison and Reyes had gone through in the government’s soldier enhancement program. Only this time, it wasn’t genetics, it was all cybernetic.

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Cyborg with a soul

The Shimada Clan didn’t stand a chance. With all the improvements, Genji was an unstoppable living weapon — and with Genji’s knowledge of the inner workings of the Shimada Clan, Overwatch had an advantage the Shimada Clan couldn’t counter. Just like that, it was over, and the Shimada Clan was no more…or so Overwatch and Genji thought. After all, it’s difficult to crush an organization the size and reach of the Shimada Clan, so there are still pockets of criminal activity in Hanamura today.

As for Genji, once the Clan was dismantled, he left Overwatch — his mission was completed, his duty fulfilled. But beyond that was a sense of dissatisfaction and self-loathing. Enough of Genji’s body had been duplicated with cybernetics that he no longer felt fully human. Repulsed by his mechanical body, Genji wandered the world, eventually coming across an omnic monk named Zenyatta.

Where others might have faltered, Zenyatta didn’t give up on Genji, eventually becoming his mentor. And although Genji rejected Zenyatta’s words of wisdom at first, he eventually reconciled his existence as both man and machine. After all, he may have had a robotic body, but he still retained his human soul — and that made him unique in a way, the ultimate unification of omnics and humanity.

Blizzard released the first of Overwatch’s animated shorts this week with Recall, a story that mixes Winston’s early years on the lunar colony with the decision he faces in trying to reboot the Overwatch team, years after it was dismantled. According to Blizzard’s post detailing upcoming Overwatch shorts, stories and comics, the tale of Hanzo and Genji Shimada is going to get the animated treatment as well — although we don’t know exactly when we’ll see it released, nor what the animated short is about just yet. But if Recall was any indicator, it’s possible we’ll see some flashbacks to that fateful day when two brothers violently clashed and began the slow fall of an empire driven by greed.

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