Japanese Anime Mythology (Topic)

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Japanese Anime Mythology


In many successful anime, creators use Japanese mythology as a source of inspiration, or even as a basis for a plot. Using Japanese myths in anime, they reimagine them in order to turn them into a media product. They remain unnoticed for a wide audience, or, on the contrary, people see them in the wrong place. But the fact remains: folklore is cleverly interwoven by anime authors into history, thereby giving birth to unique products. We will tell you about examples of Japanese myths and folklore in anime.

Youkai in the anime

Youkai are probably the most common type of spirits from Japanese mythology in anime. Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" involuntarily immediately comes to mind. However, in this anime, Miyazaki himself invented most of the Youkai and Kami. So, sorry, but the Faceless or Yubaba has no mythological basis.


But I assume that in "Princess Mononoke" Sun, abandoned by her parents and raised by wolves, is Miyazaki's interpretation of the concept of "mononoke" as such. In mythology, this was the name given to people who turned into youkai under the influence of strong negative feelings and were very strong. Mononoke often killed people who exude strong negative emotions or simply deceived them. And although Sun is a person, and "mononoke" is just a nickname, we can draw certain parallels. But again, this is my guess.


The anime "Into the forest, where fireflies twinkle" has a similar concept. The scene where the events of the picture take place is a forest inhabited by various kinds of youkai. Plus, Gin himself is somewhat mononoke. When his parents abandoned him in the forest, the forest god turned him into a youkai out of pity.

In Japanese mythology, this is a fairly broad concept and youkai are called almost all supernatural beings. You may have seen different youkai in many titles, ranging from harmless spirits to evil demons.

For example, during the production of InuYasha, Rumiko Takahashi used the myth of a creature known as an inugami when creating the characters. Dogs who had their heads cut off could become Inugami, and they had a spiritual body.


It is believed that such a ritual could fulfill a wish. Inugami themselves were considered excellent loyal protectors, and some of them could turn into handsome men who were excellent warriors and loyal friends. The main character himself could not turn into a dog, as he was a half-demon, but his brother and father could.


Yokai in the anime could also be creatures of different sizes and shapes, such as Mushi, Kodama, and Shikigami. The first are creatures from the anime "Master Mushi". You saw Kodami as the little spirits of the forest in Princess Mononoke, and Shikigami are shown as airplanes in Spirited Away.

Japanese mythology in Naruto

When creating "Naruto" Masashi Kishimoto put the myth of the kitsune into the basis of the lore of his universe, as well as several other traditional Japanese myths. Naruto is a jinchuriki - the person in whom a kitsune named Kurama is sealed. In mythology, the number of tails in a kitsune is correlated with its age, wisdom, and strength. Masashi uses this aspect of the myth to visually symbolize how powerful each tailed beast is. The nine-tailed foxes inside Naruto are considered the most powerful of them all.


The rest of the tailed beasts were also inspired by various mythical creatures, for example, Shukaku was inspired by tanuki - these are dog-like raccoons who were werewolves. However, unlike the same kitsune, tunaki are devoid of any negative coloring and bring good luck in the production of good sake. Also, the tanuki themselves were used by Isao Takahata in his anime Pom Poko, where they fought against deforestation.


The two-tailed beast, Matatabi, is inspired by bakeneko, a type of feline youkai and nekomatama. Any cats that have lived for more than 30 years could become bakeneko. They could walk on two legs, create fireballs, and also transform into their master after eating it. They could also revive the dead simply by jumping over.

The four-tailed beast Son Goku is inspired by the Monkey King from Chinese mythology, who was born from a magic stone. He is a skilled fighter, able to defeat the greatest warriors of heaven. Each of his hairs was capable of becoming a clone of the Monkey King, or transforming into various animals, weapons or other objects.

The Eight-Tailed Beast, Gyuki, is a combination of a bull and an octopus. It is named after a monster from Japanese folklore, Ushi-Oni. These are demons that live near the coastline and feed on sailors.


Besides the tailed beasts, Kishimoto also based on the mythology and technique of the Uchiha clan. Itachi was one of the strongest in the use of Sharingan, and possessed three powerful techniques Susanoo, Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi - all named after Shinto gods.


Only two techniques of Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi are based on mythology, while Susanoo is a free interpretation of the author. All three are three divine children born of the god Izanagi. Tsukuyomi, the moon god, was born from drops of water after Izanagi washed his right eye during a purification ritual. In Naruto, Tsukuyomi is an illusion technique in which the victim becomes her prisoner and goes insane. Amaterasu is Tsukuyomi's sister and wife, she is the sun goddess. Amaterasu and both of her brothers are said to have created ancient Japan. In Naruto, Amaterasu is a jutsu of the highest level of the fire element, which creates a black flame that cannot be extinguished.

Susanoo in mythology is the god of the sea and thunder, when in Naruto it is a technique when a person's body is covered by armor in the form of a samurai.

Kappa from Sarazanmai

The Kunihiru Ikuhara anime can be viewed in many ways, but the fact is that his latest Sarazanmai anime is based on the kappa legend.


Kappas in Japanese mythology are a mixture of frog and turtle with a saucer on top of their heads, which gives them mystical power. The saucer is always filled with water, as their strength depends on this. Kappa's favorite food is cucumber.


In the anime of Ikuhara, three schoolchildren break a statue of a kappa, for which the king of kappa named Kappi transforms them into their own kind and forces them to hunt for Sirikodama. This is a spiritual ball, which in mythology kappa steal from people through the anus. The kappas did it for prank or to give Sirikodama as a tax to the Dragon King. But if in myths after this a person became a fool, Ikuhara draws an analogy with cleansing from complexes.


Probably another most common Japanese image from myths in anime is Shinigami, or soul guides. They are a central or at least an important part of such anime as Death Note, Soul Eater, Bleach, Yu yu hakusho.


Shinigami were the gods of death in Japanese mythology. They are described as demons, fallen angels, or even death itself. In Buddhism, Shinigami is a demon possessed by people, making them want to commit suicide. They also made decisions about which people would die and who would not.


In Bleach and Soul Eater, we are shown the characters who are in charge of human souls after death. In Bleach, Shinigami are called "Reapers of Souls", they are tasked with protecting people from evil spirits called hollow and guiding the dead to the afterlife. In Bleach, the Shinigami have their own military hierarchy with lieutenants, captains, and the main Shinigami.


Soul Eater is a more free interpretation and there students of the academy of death must kill 99 evil human souls and one soul of a witch to awaken a powerful weapon known as the Death Scythe.

In Yu yu hakusho, the protagonist dies saving a boy, after which he is made a spiritual detective who must fight demons.

But perhaps the most famous image of a Shinigami was in Death Note. There they were the gods of death, who spent ages in their world, killing people from time to time to prolong their lives.

These are just the most famous images of Japanese mythology in anime, and there are actually many more of them.

The Topic of Article: Japanese Anime Mythology.
Author: Jake Pinkman