Blood on the Sand: Yakuza vs. Mafia

May 5, 2009

Tonight at 10, Deadliest Warrior fights dirty when the Mafia squares off against the Yakuza, and we learn just how savage a street fight can get.

Our battle this week is the first really modern matchup we've done. It's also the closest to home we've yet seen. If you stop and think about it, in the course of your daily routine, you might walk past a member of either gang in your daily life, but you'd never even know it.

Those of you who have been watching The Aftermath know that this is what Barry would call a rock vs. rock fight. Or in this case, a submachine-gun-and-explosive vs. submachine-gun-and-incendiary-device fight. We're pitting the tools, tactics, and mindsets of 1920's Mafia toughs vs. post-war 1940's Yakuza gangsters. Tonight, the streets run red.

I've already seen some murmuring about how tonight's opponents aren't warriors in the traditional sense, that they weren't part of a regular army. But both come from the world of organized crime, which may lack military discipline, but adheres to its own particular codes.

But we're not here to delve deeply into what defines the psyche of a Made Man as opposed to his un-made counterpart, nor are we here to debate the finer points of yubitsume, the Yakuza's finger cutting ritual. We're here to talk about carnage.

Tonight's fight is the first time we've tested modern firearms, putting the ballistics (literally) into our ballistics gel. We've also created courses and target ranges to test the effectiveness of our expert's guns, to see how much damage they can lay down before having to reload, and how long it takes them to (accurately) empty a magazine. We're dealing with a variety of vicious close combat weapons, but also two different classes of incendiary device. Because of all the mayhem being brought to bear, we've had to change our formula a little bit.

Tonight's fight isn't going to be a one-on-one showdown, but rather a five-on-five fight at the squad level. We're still running the simulator until we get a thousand kills, but this time the bodies get piled higher and faster.

That's what's new to tonight's matchup. What hasn't changed is our pursuit of the most brutal weapons from each time period. Tonight's matchup can be seen as a comparison between the weapons available to the criminal underworld both prior to and then immediately after World War II.

Consider for a moment that the Thompson submachine gun, which earned nicknames like "the Trench Broom" or "the Chicago Typewriter," played a large role in both civilian (and in this case, criminal) life before making a name for itself in the American military. In fact the Thompson was so beloved that it was used up through the advent of the Vietnam War, with a service record that lasted until 1971.

On the other hand, the British Sten was a weapon of efficiency. Designed in 1940, 22 years after the original Thompson, the Sten was easily mass produced. It was widely available, with roughly twice (and by some estimates, three times) as many guns produced as the Thompson by the end of WWII. Small, light, and easily concealed, the Sten is the underrated workhorse of many a killing field. It, along with the Walther we're looking at in tonight's episode, would have been easily available in the global black market post-WWII.

Indeed, because we're dealing with modern firearms, we've got a whole slew of scientific techniques to borrow from ballistic forensics. If you're inclined to learn more and follow along at home, there are many resources commonly available on the web.

The guns are just for starters. From a scientific perspective, the amount of killing power each side is bringing to bear tonight is the highest it has ever been. This is hard data: the cartridges and explosives brought into tonight's fight contain more potential energy than any of the other weapons we've seen in the series, and that's just sitting on the table.

This battle truly is rock-against-rock. Both of our warriors are fighting on familiar turf. They're urban fighters, used to the tight spaces and lethal possibilities presented in a few city blocks. They're using similar weapons on familiar ground, and with an equal contempt for human life.

As always, let us know what you think tonight's matchup, weapons, tests, and outcomes. We've been reading your comments, emails, and the blogs you guys have been posting on All of them have proven valuable and interesting, and we're looking forward to answering your questions in this week's Aftermath.

Also, because of all the great feedback we've been getting, Dr. Dorian and I were finally able to convince Geoff to get a twitter account. You can talk to us directly as @GeoffDesmoulin, @ArmDor, and @MaxGeiger respectively.

Morituri te salutant,

Max Geiger is a game designer and graduate of USC's Interactive Media Division. If you've got an in with the federal witness protection program, he'd love to hear about it.