How do you introduce people to folklore and fairy tales? Introducing people to mythology can be easy when they are young or in school, as such stories can sometimes be used to teach morals, introduce concepts that might be difficult for people to otherwise understand, act as warnings and get imaginations working. Once folks get older, it can be more difficult to get them engaged and interested in legends. Fortunately, some Japanese video games can step in to bridge the gap. Through their storylines, enemies and allies, developers can introduce people to stories they might otherwise have never have heard, keeping these tales alive.
Okami is one of the more notable and far-reaching titles. Amaterasu is the goddess of the sun and universe in Japanese mythology. In this action-RPG, she takes the form of a white wolf to banish evil from Japan. Why? Because the Yamata no Orochi has descended on Japan to spread its evil influence again. In the game, Amaterasu saves the day, with the help of people like Susano, Sakuya and Waka, and protects a young woman named Kushi. In legends, this eight-headed, eight-tailed dragon was still a terror, but Susanoo was the expelled brother of Amaterasu who saved Kushinadahime, a goddess of rice, from being devoured by Orochi like her sisters. While artistic license is taken, it still retains important elements from the legend and introduces elements of an iconic story to a larger audience.
God Wars: Future Past is another series that helps expose people outside of Japan to Japanese mythology. Lots of legends and fairy tales make appearances here. Lots of its heroes hail from iconic stories. Kaguya is the daughter of Tsukuyomi, who is inspired by the Japanese moon goddess, and begins the game confined in a bamboo seal. In another myth, Kaguya is a young woman raised by a bamboo cutter after being found in a stalk of bamboo, but was actually a princess from the moon. Her childhood friend in the game is Kintaro, a young man with animal friends. While in Japanese mythology, the actual Kintaro was known for his incredible strength and conversing with animals. Plenty of gods and goddesses, as well as folklore stars, appear in some form here, with elements from their original stories shaping their personalities and actions in the game. It is another opportunity where people get a taste, and perhaps may be inspired to dig deeper.
With a game like Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a game that may not draw as heavily upon gods and goddesses, but it does introduce players to yokai. For example, Momohime fights a boss called Ippondatara. He has three kinds of attacks in the game. We see him once as a giant foot, one as a body with two arms and a giant boar. All of these make sense, since the actual ippondatara is said to maybe be the ghost of a giant boar, with its yokai form being a being with one foot, two arms, one eye and a giant tongue. One of Kisuke’s bosses is a giant centipede with a black body and orange legs. This is actually a recreation of a yokai called an omukade. These are huge, violent, poisonous centipedes, with one of the most famous ones in a Japanese myth being defeated by Fujiwara no Hidesato. These ghosts, spirits and monsters found their ways to new lands through this video game.
Even the Shin Megami Tensei series can act as an introduction. All of the demons appearing throughout the series are based upon gods and mythological creatures from various countries. In the Persona line, we have our heroes all tied to figures that somehow relate to their own personalities. The protagonist in Persona 4 has Izanagi as his first persona. Izanagi is one of the Japanese gods who created the world. Seeing as how Yu is the main character and one who can equip any persona, it is a fitting choice. Yukiko, a heroine from the same game, begins with Konohana Sakuya as her persona. This is a Japanese goddess who is affiliated with fire, Yukiko’s element, due to staying in a burning hut to prove her faithfulness. She claimed the fire would not touch her if she was true to her husband, and it did not. She is also known for being a princess, and Yukiko is often considered a “princess” in the game.
Japanese games can be so good at introducing people to the culture. It is wonderful when that also includes folklore and mythology. There are plenty of games out there that can help people learn about certain characters. They may not always tell the most accurate stories, but titles like Okami and God Wars: Future Past can help introduce people to the characters and inspire them to learn more.