Four Spirits One Soul
The Japanese belief that all souls are comprised of four spirits.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-03-10 10:38:45 sponsor: KingZeal (last reply: 2013-03-10 18:11:08)

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In Shintoism, it is believed that every person, place and thing has a soul. Furthermore, those souls can be broken into four distinct parts. The soul itself is always comprised of each of these spirits, but which side is in control at the moment depends on external factors. The four spirits are as follows:

  • The negi-mitama (harmonious soul) is a soul's natural state--the way a being behaves when things are calm and relaxed.
  • The ara-mitama (harsh soul) is the counterpart to the negi and it is driven by pure savage and violent instinct. People tap into it whenever they are faced with adversity or a dire threat.
  • The saki-mitama (happy soul) is loosely defined as prosperity and good luck. It's also considered one of the negi-mitama's secondary functions.
  • The kushi-mitama (wondrous soul) is the counterpart to the saki-mitama and is prosperity itself. It causes various transformations and cures wounds and illness. Like the saki-mitama, some consider it another function of the negi-mitama.

This belief system creates a very complicated version of "karma". The highest duty of a living person is to live an honorable and noble life so that they can leave behind a positive spirit. However, if someone dies with Unfinished Business, or with malevolence and dishonor, their ara-mitama is left behind and brings dishonor, calamity and misfortune to everyone. The negi-mitama is essentially the root of all evil and misfortune. It is thus the duty of the living to return an ara-mitama to the negi-mitama. This is usually done by overcoming the curse and misfortune through humility and sacrifice (as the original person was supposed to do in the first place).

Though Shintoism is not overtly practiced in most parts of Japan, many rituals and customs still exist based upon the principle that a soul can become one of the four if certain rites or values are not observed. Further, various forms of Japanese media entertain the idea of an Enemy Within, or some sort of Superpowered Evil Side that one has to keep under control. When they do, it is almost always built upon this model, where the "evil" side is just a part of the soul. This makes it distinct from Abrahamic religions, where evil is either caused by demons or is a result of Original Sin; there are no "purely evil spirits" in Shinto--only a darker side to an otherwise harmless spirit.

On the other hand, saki-mitama and kushi-mitama mostly take the forms of Heroic Resolve or a Shonen Upgrade. When the hero (or another significant character) has learned to tame their dark side, and has found their resolve to fight against the Big Bad, they almost invariably gain some new type of power as a result. It is usually unlocked through a person making the best use of their talents, resolve and hard work.

Related to Four Is Death.
  • Word of God says that Bleach is built around the principles of Shintoism. Tite Kubo designed plus, hollow, and shinigami souls around the concepts of the negi-mitama, ara-mitama, and saki-mitama (with the shingami's Empathic Weapons possibly being the kushi-mitama). This is made most apparent with Ichigo, who has been ALL of the aforementioned spirits at one point or another. Hollow Ichigo has even directly stated that he is Ichigo's pure instincts.
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