Created By: James S on January 28, 2008

Red Oni Blue Oni

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An anime, manga, and Japanese video game specific trope that's related to Colour-Coded for Your Convenience. I'm not sure if we might add another section onto there, (although since this isn't specifically good vs evil, it might need too much explaining), or go with a new trope.

Oni is a Japanese word which loosely translates as demon or ogre, and represents a creature from Japanese mythology. The original oni were large, brutish creatures, often seen wielding large metallic clubs, Those that weren't in hell tormenting sinners roamed the remote, mountainous areas of Japan, and they often carried people off to be eaten, only to be defeated by valiant heroes. Later however they gathered other meanings, including as guardians of people or towns, which would mount oni figures on the walls to ward off evil spirits, (much like gargoyles in The West), and parades and processions would be led by men dressed as oni.

Differing sets of personalities are attributed to red oni and blue oni, which have come to be often come to be the personalities of many a protagonist/antagonist combination, or that of a pair of rivals.

The red oni is associated with passion, wildness, defiance and fire. A red oni character is often not too bright, but enthusiastic, determined, and filled with a zest for life. Often an Idiot Hero or, in more mature pieces, a cousin of The Toblerone. When a villain a red oni may turn into a Blood Knight.

The blue oni is an opposite in most ways, more intellectual, traditional, cultured, spiritual and associated with water. Blue oni personalities are often respected but likely to puzzle or confound their peers because they are difficult to read and have a mysterious quality to them. Often The Stoic or The Quiet One. When a villain a blue oni's personality is often cold and ruthless, ready to do or sacrifice anything to accomplish their goal.


Jin and Mugen from Samurai Champloo are not only prime examples of this, but also are always dressed in colors that reflect it too. They're also something of a deconstruction: Mugen is full of energy and reckless passion without direction or purpose, while Jin is practically unable to feel passionate about anything or form attachments to anyone.

Kazuma and Ryuho from the S-Cry-ed anime.

Inuyasha and Sesshomaru from InuYasha.

Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter are an arguable case.

Another arguable case is Ogami Itto and Yagyu Retsudo from Lone Wolf and Cub. Although Itto doesn't have the not so bright or tasteless qualities of a red oni, he is driven to incredibly reckless behavior and horrid deeds by a passion for revenge, while Retsudo and the Yagyu are called the pillar of the shogunate by the shogun himself, and sacrifices an appalling amount of men and his own children in his attempts to stop Itto.

L and Light/Kira from the Death Note anime series are often shaded or associated in red or blue to reflect this, although personality wise it doesn't quite apply. (Unless Light's God complex and obsession with "justice" count).

Goku and Vegeta of Dragonball Z.

Naruto and Sasuke of Naruto. (Complete with the colors of their clothing and demon forms).

In the third Tenchu game, the evil wizard Tenrai employs both blue and red demons as foot soldiers. They're not given much personality, but the blue ones will make a suicide attack on you with explosives if you're spotted and their health is low.

There are numerous cases that could be argued from Bleach. Ichigo, Renji, and Kenpachi and others are all good cases for red oni, while Byakuya is a classic blue oni.

In the second Onimusha game, the always drinking, eating, and lecherous Ekei can pass for a red oni, while the serious, book loving, thoughtful Magoichi is a blue oni.

A non Japanese example: in the movie version of LA Confidential Edmund Exley is a near perfect example of a blue oni, (and nearly always dresses in a blue suit to boot) while Bud White is very much a red oni. (Complete with brown/maroon suit).
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • January 28, 2008
    James S
    Another example from Dragonball Z I forgot to add in: when Goku dies in the first season, he accidentally falls into hell for a bit while on the way to get special training, and encounters a literal red and blue oni. The red oni challenges Goku to a sumo-like contest of strength and is very quickly defeated. The faster and more clever blue oni challenges Goku to catch him, and spends half the episode dodging the hero.
  • January 29, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    No, he fought the blue one and raced the red one.
  • January 29, 2008
    James S
    Just checked it out and huh. In that case I guess it's a bit of subversion, or an inversion.
  • January 29, 2008
    In the Viewtiful Joe anime, Joe wears a blue shirt in normal form and a red costume in hero form. Junior wears a red shirt in normal form and a blue costume in her form. Joe is the strong, energetic, reckless one, while Junior is chaping up the be The Smart Guy.
  • January 29, 2008
    Acacia should call it One Oni Two Oni Red Oni Blue Oni.
  • January 29, 2008
    Rogue 7
    A vote for the above. Well done sir!
  • January 29, 2008
    Mmm, probably a coincidence rather than an intentional subversion, but in Phoenix Wright, the highly emotional hero who gets by largely on luck always wears blue, whereas his Rival, the stoic, intellectual, supremely controlled Miles Edgeworth wears red.
  • January 29, 2008
    Lum's hair frequently looks more blue than green, depending on what light she's standing in.
  • January 29, 2008
    In Fruits Basket calm Yuki and temperamental Kyou are relatives and love rivals with the personalities and color themes of blue and red Oni. Is it just me or is the red Oni often shown more sympathetically and wins the games they play? This is a great trope. I prefer the shorter Version: Just Red Oni Blue Oni.

  • January 30, 2008
    James S
    Since it seems like this is meeting with approval I'll leave it in for a few days to perhaps gather some more examples and then launch it.

    Out of curiosity: I was planning to put this as an anime trope, how do people feel about it going into Useful Notes On Japanese Culture? Do you think it qualifies?
  • January 30, 2008
    I'd say so. You can launch it sooner- just let the page gather the examples.
  • January 30, 2008
    Now that you mention it, most Fire Emblem games give you two near-identical horse-mounted knights at the beginning of the game: One will wear red armor, have an outgoing/reckless personality, and have more Defense and Attack power- while the other wears green, behaves modestly, and specializes in speed and accuracy. It fits the trope better once you remember that Japan, like many other cultures, don't fully distinguish between the colors green and blue.
  • January 30, 2008
    The Technical Pacifist blue-armored X and the aggressive red-armored Zero in the Mega Man X games.
  • January 30, 2008
    James S
    Okay, launching!