Aye Aye, Kappa!


(permanent link) added: 2009-08-17 18:03:41 sponsor: FreezairForALimitedTime (last reply: 2009-08-22 14:40:44)

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Or just Kappa, for short.

There are thousands of Yokai in Japanese mythology... but one of them is far more popular with the public than the others. The Kappa is a river-dwelling crature of Japanese folklore. It is often depicted in Anime and modern media as an anthropomorphic turtle with a domed head, parrot-like beak, and a ring of spikes sticking out from its head.

In Japanese myth, the kappa is a river-dwelling spirit who likes to eat human entrails and blood. It has a deep depression in its head that is full of water, which is the source of its power. That bowl is surrounded by scraggly hair (transformed into the "spikes" of the modern incarnations by the Anime Hair phenomenon). Those confronted with imminent devouring by a Kappa are advised to take two courses of action: The first, and most preferable, is to give the kappa a cucumber inscribed with one's name. The cucumber is the Trademark Favorite Food of the kappa, and a kappa so bribed will spare the giver. It may even befriend the human for the tasty gift. The other action: Bow to the kappa. Kappa are extremely polite, and will always bow to. Bowing will cause the water to fall out of their bowl, weakening them and allowing you to escape.

In modern times, kappa have undergone a bit of Disneyfication that bowdlerizes most everything except their appearance and love of cucumbers. In Japan, kappas endure a surprising popularity that leads to them popping up in a lot of Japanese works. Even those that aren't explicitly mythological like to throw in a kappa or two. While they haven't reached the same level of popularity in the West, Popcultural Osmosis and the recent popularity of anime means that Western works sometimes feature a kappa or two.

Examples:

Western Examples:
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has Lupin educating Harry's class on kappas. (Snape later tests them on this knowledge as a substitute and inaccurately states that they're Mongolian.) Kappas also have an entry in the spin-off book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
  • Disney-produced game Spectrobes has a monster based on the kappa. It makes the spikes literal, not just an artistic represensation of hair.
  • Kappa Mikey not only takes his name from the creature, but it's also a pun on "kappamaki," a type of sushi.

Japanese examples:
  • Kapp'n from Animal Crossing is a kappa. While Americanitis dubs him a turtle, his love of cucumbers makes it obvious what he really is. His name is also an obvious pun.
  • Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times has one sidequest where you befriend a kappa. No bowing or cucumbers necessary--he wants to go on a tour of your school.
  • Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town has a kappa who lives in the lake. If you throw in several Cucumbers, he'll give you an item that lets you work in the rain. In the girl version, you can marry him.
  • There's an enemy based on the Kappa in the Kirby games. It throws its ring of spikes at you.
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