|“||Do you know what it is like to have two fathers and not be loved by either of them? Of course you don't. Everyone loves you, Tomoe.||„|
|“||Noriko is my cousin - the daughter of my mother's younger sister. Aunt Haruko married the swordmaster of the Sanada Clan. They had a daughter they named Noriko. We played together as children, but she always had a mean streak in her. For her, it wasn't enough to simply defeat her opponent. She had to humiliate him or her as well.||„|
|~ Tomoe Ame, describing Noriko to Usagi|
Noriko is a villain in the Usagi Yojimbo comics. She is Tomoe Ame's cousin but it is later revealed to be her half sister. She was hired by Lord Sanada to mine for gold and she enslaved numerous peasants to accomplish her goals, abusing them every step of the way.
She ran a secret gold mine with slave labor and worked the slaves to death. If any slave slowed down, she would behead a slave to threaten the others. She enslaved Tomoe and Usagi in her plot, but they later escaped with the slaves to foil her plans. Later she tried to blow up the mine with the slaves inside it when all the resources were gone.
Noriko was born in an illegitimate fashion. Tomoe's father, Tatsutaro, was in love with a young woman named Haruko, but had an arranged marriage with her older sister instead, while Haruko had one with the swordmaster of the Sanada clan. However, Tatsutaro had an affair with Haruko, and Noriko was born from it. As Noriko grew, she developed hostile and brutal tendencies as seen when she killed a few tokage in her youth. Haruko hated her husband and after she died, the Sanada swordmaster sent Noriko off to live with Tomoe's family due to being unable to withstand her. While she was living with Tomoe, she would spar with her constantly, beating her every time, and then viciously attacking her afterwards. She was hated and shunned by both of Tomoe's parents either due to being of illegitimate birth or due to her sadism.
One night, she became desperate to convince Tatsutaro to acknowledge her as his daughter, but he said that doing so would dishonor both himself and the Sanada swordmaster that raised Noriko. He told her that he already had a daughter and just walked off, making Noriko absolutely furious, so she stabbed him from behind. Later, she poisoned the Sanada swordmaster, killing him as well.
The Mother of Mountains
After being employed by Lord Sanada, Noriko poisoned the wells in villages in the southern Geishu province in order to keep anybody away from her gold mining operations in the Mother of Mountains to provide a pretext for Sanada's clan to invade. When Usagi and Tomoe find her organizing the mining, they spotted her beheading a slave that got tired and was unable to continue working. After her troops capture Usagi, she sends one of her henchmen, known as "Orphan Maker" to fight him, but Usagi took out one of his eyes in the process. Noriko tied Usagi to a wooden cross and threatened Tomoe that she would cut off parts of his body if she doesn't surrender herself to her. When Tomoe did arrive, Noriko attempted to cut off Usagi's fingers, but he closed his fist quickly enough to prevent them from being sliced off. Noriko then enslaved Tomoe and Usagi along with the other peasants. After enslaving Usagi and Tomoe, Noriko invited Tomoe for a small drink just so she could psychologically abuse her by telling her that she was in fact her half-sister rather than her cousin, and that she killed Tatsutaro. As an enraged Tomoe tried to attack her, Noriko kept dodging her strikes, telling her that Tatsutaro callously rejected her, motivating her to kill him, and said that his death was Tomoe's fault for being the one that Tatsutaro favored. She beat her up, and ordered her guards to bring her back to the slave pens.
A week later, after Tomoe and Usagi discover gold, she ordered the mine cleared out much to the suspision of Tomoe and Usagi. She ordered her slaves to bring out what Tomoe and Usagi soon discovered was black powder, and killed one peasant who messed up carrying it. It turned out what while she intended to leave Usagi at Orphan Maker's mercy and give a "special" execution to Tomoe, she wanted to blow up all the other slaves in the mine. After word got out that there was a slave revolt, Noriko furiously charged after Tomoe killing a few other peasants along the way. When she finally caught up to her, they clashed with each other and after Motokazu distracted Norko, giving Tomoe an upper hand in the battle, she begged Tomoe to spare her life. Tomoe hesitated to finish her off, then Noriko kicked Tomoe away, but saw herself surrounded by Tomoe and Usagi, and decided to flee, unaware that she was going down a tunnel lined with black powder that detonated, causing a cave-in, supposedly killing her.
However, it turned out that Noriko survived the cave-in somewhat but was trapped in the process. She found a small opening to crawl out of, went down an underground stream, and when she was washed ashore, found herself pecked away by tokage, but drove them away killing two of them. She then found a way out of the tunnels, and vowed revenge on Tomoe. However, this turned out to be a nightmare Tomoe was having, but it's still unknown if it actually happened or not.
Unlike the other villains, she enjoys humiliating defeated opponents and she killed her father. She is incredibly sadistic and isn't satisfied with simply defeating her opponents. For example, in the flashback to her sparring matches with Tomoe, after she knocked the wooden sword out of Tomoe's hands, Tomoe declared Noriko the winner. Unsatisfied with simply winning the battle Noriko proceeds to continue beating her up, telling her that she'll decide when the match ends. She refuses to let her opponents die quick and honorable deaths and instead prefers make their deaths very brutal. When one of her henchmen asked if she intends to let Usagi and Tomoe die in the explosion along with the slaves, she said she instead intends a "special" death for Tomoe.
She also thinks like a petulant child. Whenever something doesn't go her way, she tends to go into an explosive rage, usually at the cost of the life of someone around her. For instance, when her biological father, who is also Tomoe's father, rejected Noriko as a daughter, she snapped and murdered him. And when Tomoe refused to pick up a basket for labor in the mines, Noriko killed a nearby peasant and threatened to kill more and more of them until Tomoe gives in and submits to her will. And she became absolutely furious when Tomoe and Usagi started a slave rebellion. She's also very impatient as she is quick to kill an exhausted peasant just to get the others to keep working. She also called out to Tomoe threatening to cut off parts of Usagi's body if she didn't surrender herself to her quickly enough, and when Tomoe did finally arrive, attempted to cut off Usagi's fingers to punish Tomoe for taking too long. She also hates failure as whenever a slave fails a task or gets too tired, she'll kill him or her without hesitation or remorse.
She also has a seething grudge against her sister Tomoe, due to how jealous she was of how Tomoe was loved and cared for by her parents as opposed to how Noriko was scorned and shunned not only by Tomoe's parents, but her own as well. In addition to beating her up during their sparring matches even after winning a match, Noriko glefully enslaved both her and Usagi and forced them to work in the mines. When she demanded Tomoe to pick up a basket for the mining, and Tomoe refused, even stating she'd rather die than do her, and by extension, Lord Sanada's bidding, Noriko decided to put the lives of innocent civilians on the line instead, killing one and threatening to kill more of them if Tomoe doesn't obey her orders, and blamed her for the death of the peasant she killed. When she told Tomoe that she was in fact her illegitimate sister and that she had murdered their father, Tatsutaro, she blamed Tomoe for his death as well, while beating her up. She insults and belittles her frequently, and, assuming she actually survived the cave-in, vows to kill her after escaping the collapsing mine. She also at best mocks Tomoe's compassion and at worst, she exploits it. When Tomoe picked up the basket for the mining just to stop her from killing more pesants, Noriko sneered at her, calling her a "soft-hearted fool" for readily acting to protect a person of low birth. She also used Usagi as bait for Tomoe, threatening to mutilate him if she didn't surrender herself to her and become her slave. And when she begged for mercy, and Tomoe hesitated, she kicked her in the stomach calling her a "sentimental fool." She also mocks her for being emotional, pointing out to her that it was her greatest weakness, especially when they clashed during the slave revolt, and attempted to goad her into chasing her while she fled.