"Willows are weak, yet they bind other wood."
Hattanzo (who is also known as the Drifter) is a blacksmith who tried to forge the ultimate sword. Thinking his sword couldn't be beaten, he lost it in a duel with the Duelist. Afterwards he lost his will to continue and "drifted" whever the wind would take him.
Hattanzo has a ragged appearance and looks like an anthropomorphic rabbit. His ears flop; his long dark brown hair is messy with bits of twigs or hay sticking out of it; he wears an old duster, a vest, and a scarf; he goes about barefoot; and he constantly keeps a willow vine in his mouth. His fur is tan, and his eyes have black sclera with white pupils.
Hattanzo is a master sword-smith and swordsman, and he appears to be weightless as he can be blown and drifted by the wind as if he were made of paper. He uses this apparent weightlessness to his advantage in dodging his opponents and dancing circles around their moves and attacks, making him extremely unpredictable. His skills with a sword are so great he even used the willow reed in his mouth to counter the Duelist's knife.
The Drifter is a very complicated individual, and very wise though he doesn't seem like it at first. He seems uninterested, lazy, and apathetic to others, telling them to heed or not heed his advice -- he doesn't care which, he'll admit. After his defeat at the Duelist's swords years ago, he became more humble and aware of his limits, and uses the metaphor that "willows are weak yet they bind other wood". The lesson in those words being "Power alone is rigid but if you can bend with the wind you'll never break", a lesson he impressed into Lion-O in whom he presumably saw much of himself when he was younger.
He eventually helped Lion-O by forging him another sword, only this one would break if Lion-O relied entirely on power, which was meant to be a physical representation of the lesson he gave the young king. While giving Lion-O a faulty sword in a duel to the death may sound irresponsible, the fact that the Drifter gave Lion-O such a sword proves he had true faith that the young king would win by accepting the Drifter's lesson. Although the Drifter is a patient character, this was tested when Lion-O kept asking if the sword he was forging for him was ready; he repeatedly screamed, "NO!"
In his youth, the Drifter was arrogant in believing a strong sword makes a strong swordsman and it was this false assumption that led to his defeat at the blade of the Duelist.
The Drifter worked years ago as a master sword-smith, devoted entirely to his craft. Finally, he forged himself a masterpiece, his crowning achievement: the Sword of Hattanzo. With this blade in hand, he felt no one could defeat him. His reputation attracted the attention of the Duelist, who challenged the smith to a duel. They fought fiercely but it soon became apparent the Duelist's skills were superior and he managed to disarm the sword-smith. Having lost the Sword of Hattanzo, his greatest work, the smith was left a broken man and went on being called the Drifter, going wherever the wind takes him.
Years later, he would meet a young Thunderian who wielded the Sword of Omens and in him the Drifter saw himself in his youth. He warned Lion-O to leave the town he was about to enter, a place where swordsmen dueled for keeps, but the young king disregarded the warning. He later learned Lion-O was to face off against the Duelist, a dishonourable swordsman who takes the swords of those he defeats as trophies. He challenged Lion-O to strike him three times but the impulsive young warrior couldn't so much as touch the slippery rabbit. It was then the Drifter subtly revealed his sad tale, and stated that Lion-O could not defeat the Sword of Hattanzo.
Later on, Lion-O returned to him, having lost the Sword of Omens and begging the Drifter to make him another sword to win it back. The Drifter refused, so Lion-O tried to make a sword himself. Seeing the young warrior's perseverance, the Drifter caved in and forged him a sword. He accompanied Lion-O to challenge the Duelist to a rematch and observed the duel. When it seemed Lion-O would lose again, the Drifter shouted to him, "Willows are weak!" and it was then Lion-O understood the lesson the Drifter was trying to teach him, and he overcame the Duelist.
The Drifter admitted the sword he made for Lion-O was meant to break so it would help make his lesson clear, and declared Lion-O had everything he needed to win within himself. The Drifter then stopped the Duelist from trying to kill Lion-O from behind and sent him running like a coward.
Having earned each other's respect, Lion-O thanked the Drifter who thanked Lion-O for helping him find a new purpose: To return all the swords the Duelist had taken to their rightful owners. And with the wind at his back, the Drifter walked off into the sunset.
- ↑ Thundercats Crew blog "If the Drifter's sword was called "the Sword of Hatanzo" does that mean the Drifter's name was actually Hatanzo?"
His name may be a reference to Hattori Hanzo.
- "Willows are weak, yet they bind other wood." - The Drifter's philosophy
- "It took me years to make the Sword of Hattanzo. I made that piece of junk in an afternoon!" - The Drifter's confession
- "You've fought your last duel, begone!" - The Drifter foiling the Duelist