Created By: FreezairForALimitedTime on August 17, 2009
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Aye Aye, Kappa!

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Trope
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.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • August 17, 2009
    JoieDeCombat
    Like most other types of yokai, kappa turn up occasionally in Inuyasha:
    • Kagome's grandfather presents her with "the mummified hand of a kappa" as a birthday gift. Kagome, unimpressed, gives it to her cat before her grandfather can finish explaining the significance.
    • When Kagome saves a boy from drowning early in the series, a villager impressed by her swimming skills takes it to mean she's a kappa.
    • And an actual living kappa appears as a servant of Chokyukai the boar demon as part of a parody of the Journey To The West. The kappa looks roughly like a turtle that walks upright, and is introduced as Sa Gojyo, but has no lines and doesn't otherwise follow any of the traditional folklore associated with kappa.
  • August 17, 2009
    FairyGodmoose
    Karasuma from School Rumble once dressed up as a kappa.
  • August 17, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Goemon video game series used these as enemies, IIRC.
  • August 18, 2009
    archieanderson
    The Koopas from the Super Mario series were based on kappas.
  • August 18, 2009
    Majutsukai
  • August 18, 2009
    Dcoetzee
    some caption text
    Grabbed an image for you.
  • August 18, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were once mistaken for kappas while in ancient Japan.
  • August 20, 2009
    FreezairForALimitedTime
    Bump for more examples. And seriously, there are loads.
  • August 20, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Pokemon Golduck is based on the kappa.
  • August 21, 2009
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Kappa appear as monsters in the 1st Edition Dungeons And Dragons supplement Oriental Adventures, and a number of adventures in the setting included them as opponents.
  • August 21, 2009
    Someguy
    The videogame Sengoku has Kappa as enemies.
  • August 21, 2009
    Evalana
    The School Rumble example is also a pun, since 'kappa' is slang for a raincoat.

    • In one episode of Pani Poni Dash, the classes went camping and discovered some kappa building a rocket.
    • In "Pia Lamp," a side story of the Emyulamp manga, Piari, a young witch-in-training, hears that in order to pass an upcoming test, all familiars have to speak human-language. So she takes her cat to drink from a spring that will grant him human speech, only to find it guarded by a kappa, who looks mostly like a bishounen with spotted skin who attacks people using the plate on his head.
  • August 21, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    There are some kappa in the game Katamari Damacy
  • August 21, 2009
    Stormtroper
    There's a Magic The Gathering card titled "Shell of the Last Kappa". Don't know if it's effect is referencing anything.
  • August 21, 2009
    arromdee
    The "imps" and "imp equipment" in Final Fantasy 6 are really kappas.

    Sakuya Yokaiden (live action) has the heroine raise a kappa's child after killing one. The one she kills looks like a normal kappa and the child is a human with a plate on the top of his head.
  • August 21, 2009
    Ganondorfdude11
    The Koopa Troopas from Super Mario Bros were partially based on Kappas (Look at the name).
  • August 22, 2009
    Chabal 2
    • Usagi Yojimbo fights a kappa once.

    • A very strange variation in the French comic Papyrus, set in Ancient Egypt. The hero encounters aggressive desert-dwelling creatures with bowl shaped heads. When bowed to, they respond in kind, the liquid spills out, and they lose their aggressiveness (and intelligence and ability to speak). Turns out they were under a curse from Sobek, which is lifted from them in the end. Not once is their similarity to kappas explained or mentioned.
  • August 22, 2009
    Pata Hikari
  • August 22, 2009
    calronmoonflower
    • In Hellboy: Sword of Storms Hellboy fights a Kappa and is has to defeat it by knocking the water out of the hole in his head.
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