Friday, September 19, 2014

It's Finally Friday: Chinese Mythology in Anime

Up next on my look at various mythologies in anime, I've decided to examine some examples of Chinese mythology.

Example 1: Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball derives many of its themes and characters from Chinese mythology, specifically from the classic Journey to the West. Easily the largest example of this is the protagonist Goku, who is based heavily on the protagonist of Journey to the West, Son Wukong; both share a similar journey involving a wide variety of action and adventure with tons of interesting characters, both have a monkey's tail, both utilize a staff that can extend to any length as a weapon, and both are known for being quite hot-blooded and happy to jump right into danger. Given this similarity in terms of protagonist, it should be no surprise that the story of Dragon Ball itself mirrors that of Journey to the West, with many other characters in the former being based on those from the latter, examples of which include Bulma Briefs being based on Chen Xuanzang, Yamcha being based on Sha Wujing, and Oolong being based on Zhu Wuneng.

Example 2: Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket draws many elements from Chinese mythology, primarily the Chinese zodiac. The plot of the anime revolves around the members of a certain family being possessed by the spirits of the Chinese zodiac, thereby turning each family member into their associated animal when they are under stress, physically weak, or hugged by a member of the opposite sex. As such, the tale of the origin of the Chinese zodiac is actively discussed by the cast as well as its implications and effects on said cast, such as the exclusion of the cat from the zodiac and how this relates to the character possessed by the cat. Similarly, another important character is based on the famous Jade Emperor, the ruler of Heaven and the Celestial Bureaucracy, thereby tying them into the plot concerning the zodiac and their associated characters.

Example 3: Fushigi Yuugi

Fushigi Yuugi is inspired by Chinese mythology in multiple ways, the most obvious of which is the magical book around which the plot revolves. The book is titled "The Universe of the Four Gods", which itself is loosely based on the Four Symbols from Chinese mythology, these being four notable mythological creatures from Chinese constellations: Qing Long the Azure Dragon, Zhu Que the Vermilion Bird, Bai Hu the White Tiger, and Xuan Wu the Black Turtle. Additionally, the plot of the series concerns two girls being pulled into the world of the book, which is itself a fictional version of ancient China; within this world is a conflict between warriors representing each of the Four Symbols, though only the Azure Dragon and Vermilion Bird are at the forefront of the primary plot.

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