Achilles' Heel: Sadako's tape is both her strength and weakness. Her curse can only spread if someone copies the tape and shows it to someone else, though the deaths of those who do watch it may inspire others to investigate the tape - and that actually happens.
And I Must Scream: We learn that Sadako survived in the well for seven days before dying. In Ring 2, Sadako is revealed to have survived in the well for a good three decades by sheer will, and only died a short time before Reiko found the tape.
Back from the Dead: Sadako's entire plan was to be reborn, since she had a premonition of her return before she died and made the cursed videotape and subsequent Ring Virus to achieve her goal. She succeeds and proceeds to spread her curse through Asakawa's journal as a published novel, and then through a film adaptation.
Tries to achieve this in Sadako 3D 2, impregnating Akane after invading her body, but Akane keeps Sadako at bay, allowing her child Nagi to be born. Takanori has to keep mother and daughter apart otherwise Sadako could escape.
Beware the Nice Ones: Sadako was a sweet girl and very kind when she was alive. Subverted in Ring 0, where Sadako had split into two girls due to her powers, one being innocent and kind but had no control of her powers, and a Superpowered Evil Side.
Blessed with Suck: Her powers brought Sadako and her loved ones a lot of grief in the novels, films, and television series.
Fetus Terrible: In Coffin the Sky, Mai unwillingly gives birth to a reborn Sadako who grows at a phenomenal rate and can escape a roof ventilation shaft like an adult.
Expy: Sadako is based on one Sadako Takahashi, a Japanese woman said to have developed psychic powers and was a test subject for Dr. Tomokichi Fukurai, who Dr. Ikuma is based on.
The Faceless: We never see Sadako's post-dead face. It is covered in hair most of the time and the only glimpse we get is a psychotic-looking eye, which is enough to kill her victims. In Ring 2, Sadako's face is reconstructed and her ghost appears with the clay head sculpture for a face, and even then it looks like a deformed skull.
Fingore: Sadako broke off her fingernails and tips while trying to get out of the well, so we always see her with nail-less fingers.
The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: In-universe example. Sadako's iconic crawl out of the television to kill Ryuji. Apparently, some Japanese audiences were so terrified that they did not turn on their TVs for weeks.
Hermaphrodite: Sadako is a hermaphrodite, meaning she is a woman but is genetically male and has a man's privates. She also has Androgen insensitivity syndrome, an intersex condition that means she cannon give birth. In Spiral, the reborn Sadako gains the ability to give birth, making her, as she puts it, "A complete hermaphrodite."
Hope Spot / Yank the Dog's Chain: The ending of Ring 0 - Sadako is thrown down the well by her dad, but suddenly awakens in a bed with her boyfriend Toyama standing over her, telling her its all a dream. Sadako reaches for him, then we jump cut to Sadako back in the well. Sadako realises what is going on and can only scream in despair as Dr. Ikuma seals her in.
The Other Darrin: Played by a number of actresses over the years - Rie Inou (Ring, Ring 2), Hinako Saeki (Rasen), Yukie Nakama (Ring 0), Ai Hashimoto (Sadako 3D), Ayane Miura (Ring Kanzenban), Tae Kimura (Ring: The Final Chapter), and Akiko Yada (Rasen TV series).
Parental Abandonment: Sadako's mother Shizuko commits suicide from depression, going quite mad in the films, possibly jealous of her daughter's powers.
Psychic Powers: Sadako pretty much has displayed the entire variety of powers listed on the trope's page. Her most notably power is psychography (or "nensha") which she used to create the videotape. Also able to alter the genetics of human biology, and mutate a smallpox strand with her DNA into a virus able to cause tumours, heart attacks, and impregnate women with said DNA to ensure that she can be resurrected, as well as create clones of the dead.
Trauma Conga Line: Where to begin? In the novels, Shizuko loses her second child to illness, becomes depressed and eventually commits suicide, joins an acting troupe and finds love but a recording of Sadako and her boyfriend Toyama having sex kills six people, her father develops tuberculosis, and then she is raped by Jotaro Nagao who discovers she is a hermaphrodite and chucks her down a well to her death.
In the films, she is abandoned at birth for a day, kills a journalist, her mother commits suicide, her out-of-control powers lead to several deaths and she is the victim of a Witch Hunt, murders all of her tormentors, is thrown down a well by her father, and survives down there for thirty years. And that is just the short version.
Xanatos Gambit: Sadako's plan in the novels goes pretty much as she hoped, also backed up by the visions she had of the successful outcome.
The protagonist of the first novel and Ring: The Final Chapter. Kazuyuki is a Tokyo-based journalist who investigates the death of his niece Tomoko and three other teenagers, discovering the cursed videotape's existence and seeks to end its curse. At first he is a workaholic but when his wife and daughter watch the tape, he is determined to move mountains to save them. In The Final Chapter, he is Yoichi's father.
Adult Fear: Kazuyuki is disturbed by the though of dying still presses on. It is when his wife and one-year old daughter watch the tape that he really freaks out.
Author Appeal: One of the driving forces behind Asakawa's character in the novel is his relationship with his daughter. The author is a leading advocate of stronger father/daughter relationships in Japanese society.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Kazuyuki finds Sadako's body and it gives it to her family and looks fine. That is until Ryuji dies of a heart attack, revealing the Ring Virus is still active and can only be stopped by copying the tape. In Spiral, it is revealed Kazuyuki wrote a journal on his investigation, thought manipulated by Sadako into doing, thus having a secondary container to spread the virus with. By the end of the novel, it has been adapted into a novel by Kazuyuki's brother, and an eventual film.
Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Kazuyuki and his family are abruptly caught in a car crash a few days after the events of the first novel. His wife and daughter die, though it is later revealed they may have died before the crash. Kazuyuki ends up in a coma for a month and eventually dies.
An associate of Kazuyuki. A mathematician, philosophy university teacher, and former medical student, Ryuji is an eccentric but intelligent man who aids Kazuyuki in investigating the origins of the cursed videotape. His character alters between different continuities. In the film series, he is Reiko Asakawa's ex-husband and Yoichi's father, being calm, thoughtful but just as cognitive as his novel counterpart, and has Psychic Powers. In Ring: The Final Chapter, he is a calm but creepy individual who has to care for his half-sister Mai Takano.
Back from the Dead: After dying, Ryuji is resurrected by Sadako and reappears as his adult self a few months after Ando makes his deal with Sadako. In Loop, it is revealed protagonist Kaoru Futami is the resurrected Ryuji. Extracted from the Loop computer system as a baby, he was raised as a normal person until the Metastatic Human Cancer infects his father, prompting him to return to Loop to counterattact the Ring Virus, the cancer's real form.
Ax-Crazy: His TV counterpart is, particularly if anyone messes with Mai.
Killed Off for Real: Dies of a heart attack in Ring after failing to copy the tape. Also dies in all other incarnations of the story, most iconically in the film where Sadako crawls out of his TV and kills him via a Death Glare.
Legacy Character: In the TV series, Ryuji is Sadako's child and is meant to spread her virus.
The Stoic: Very calm and focused in the films and only gets riled up if things get desperate. His counterpart is the Ring television series is pretty stoic too, albeit in a creepy term.
Working with the Ex: He works with his ex-wife Reiko in the film to solve the videotape's mystery. They get on very well, using honorifics, with plenty of Ship Tease accompanying them.
Ryuji's student and possible girlfriend. She has a major expansion in Spiral, being an emotional woman but very fond of Ryuji. Experiences a pretty horrible And I Must Scream moment in the novels. She is the main protagonist of Ring 2. In Ring: The Final Chapter, she is a troubled girl who is Ryuji's half-sister.
And I Must Scream: Used by Sadako as an incubator for her resurrection. She is trapped in the ventilation shaft on her apartment roof, unable to move as Sadako gives birth to herself and leaves Mai to die.
Ascended Extra: Has a relatively minor role in the first novel and film, but gets a major boost to a protagonist in the sequels.
The protagonist of Spiral (referred to as Rasen in adaptations), Mitsuo Ando is a lonely man grieving his son's death, traumatized by the accident and blaming himself for it and for his wife's emotional condition. Because of that he lost the desire to live, he has suicidal tendencies, but is not brave enough to commit suicide. He is also very intelligent and curious, and a very good person who wants to do the right thing, but is easily tempted by beautiful women.
Killed Off for Real: Performs a Heroic Sacrifice in the TV series to prevent the spread of the cursed video. However, he is revived by his loved ones as a clone, but expires quickly after due to the short lifespan of Sadako's clones without medication.
A 20-year old medical student, Kaoru is protagonist of Loop. An intelligent man, Kaoru strives to find a cure for the Metastatic Human Virus that has plagued humanity for twenty years, including his father. His investigation into the cancer leads to him to the Loop computer project, discovering much about the virus and his own existence.
Clone Jesus: The resurrected Ryuji Takayama. As a baby, he was extracted form the Loop program and raised in the real world, but brought the Ring Virus with him, where it mutated into the Metastatic Human Virus cancer.
The Philosopher: Enjoys philosphising. It makes a lot of sense considering he is revealed to be the reborn Ryuji.
A journalist friend of Kazuyuki, Yoshino could be considered the tritagonist of the first novel. Working in the Yokosuka city hall press club, Yoshino performs secondary tasks for Kazuyuki to find information of Sadako's past. In Ring: The Final Chapter, Yoshino becomes Akiko Yoshino, Kazuyuki's subordinate, a Shrinking Violet but very loyal to her superior.
Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Very weary around urban legends but investigates Sadako's past on Kazuyuki's request, but is kept in the dark about some of the more darker elements of his friend's investigation. Ends up being one of the few characters to escape Sadako's wrath in one piece.
Demoted to Extra: Has one scene cameo in the 1998 film, but gained a supporting role in the retconned Rasen.
A supporting character in Spiral. Miyashita is Mitsuo Ando's co-worker at the pathology department and also his friend. He is a smart person, down to Earth, scientifically oriented and disbelieves in the paranormal. In the TV series, Miyashita is replaced by a female character Rieko Miyashita. Rieko is a very hardworking microbiologist, scientifically oriented, and loyal friend to Asakawa.
Agent Scully: Disbelieves in the curse and the paranormal until he is dragged into it himself.
The Medic: Rieko is a microbiologist but knows how to treat people too.
Necessary Evil: Aids Ando is spreading the Ring Virus in order to save his friend and himself after handling Asakawa's cursed journal.
Tomoko Oishi, Shuichi Iwata, Haruko Tsuji, and Takehiko Nomi
Four high school students who go on a trip to the Izu Pacific Land Resort. There, they stumble across Sadako's curse, which is recorded onto a videotape and they watch it. A week later, the four all die of heart attacks, kicking off Asakawa's investigation.
Came Back Wrong: In the film, Tomoko comes back as an unseen ghost and allegedly told Yoichi to watch the cursed videotape. Ryuji theorises she became Sadako's minion ("She isn't Tomoko anymore.")
Peek-A-Boo Corpse: In the film, Tomoko's mother Yoshimi found her body in her bedroom corpse, her face frozen in a scream. Tsuji's corpse also springs out of a locked car when police try to get her out.
Saadako's mother. Gaining Psychic Powers via supernatural means, Shizuko had an affair with Heihachiro Ikuma and gave birth to Sadako. After a botched public demonstration of her powers, Shizuko became depressed and eventually was Driven to Suicide.
Disastrous Demonstration: Her attempt to display her powers to the public and the press failed. Made worse in the films, where a journalist accused her of faking her powers, only to be killed by an angry Sadako. This has severe consequences for Sadako in Ring 0.
Driven to Suicide: Grew depressed and threw herself into a volcano. In the novels, it was due to the botched public demonstration of her powers and the loss of her second child. The films had her go mad after Sadako killed a man by sheer will and then split into two twins.
Expy: Shizuko is based on Chizuko Mifune, a woman who claimed to have foresight. Dr. Tomokichi Fukurai, a university psychology professor, studied her and exposed her to the public. She was branded a fraud, which shook Chizuko so much that she committed suicide via poison.
Karmic Death: Shizuko predicts that Mount Mihara will erupt on a specific date. She jumps in into the volcano on the day it erupts.
Mirror Scare: The film's cursed videotape has Shizuko brushing her hair in front of a mirror, which Sadako telekinetically moves around as a prank. In Ring 2, Mai witnesses a live demonstration of this, before Shizuko acknowledges her presence and gives her a haunting Death Glare before the mirror explodes.
Psychic Powers: Gains the power of foresight after picking up a statue of Japanese figure of folklore En no Ozuno. In the films, it is implied Shizuko had her powers at birth, but gave birth to Sadako through paranormal means.
Sanity Slippage: Spends hours attending to her hair in front of a mirror, looking quite mad.
Sadako's father. He was a psychology professor at Tokyo University, having an affair with Shizuko after learning of her powers and eventually fathered Sadako. In the films, he is ultimately responsible for chucking Sadako down the well.
Deadly Doctor: Subverted. He cared for the Sadako twins, but drugged the evil one and kept her locked away. The good twin was allowed to live a normal life but her powers caused her to be the victim of a Witch Hunt. After the twins reunite and kill numerous people, Dr. Ikuma realises he must protect the world from Sadako and throws her down a well, much to his regret.
Disastrous Demonstration: Arranged Shizuko's public demonstration of her powers. It didn't go very well, leading to her suicide.
Expy: Dr. Ikuma is based on Dr. Fukurai, a real life Deadly Doctor, who tried to prove the existence of psychic powers. It took the deaths of two women for him to call it quits.
Your Cheating Heart: Had an affair with Shizuko behind his wife's back. Shizuko ended the affair to avert scandal, but Ikuma divorced his wife anyway.
The main protagonist of the series. A hardworking journalist from Seattle who investigates her niece's mysterious death and connections to an alleged cursed videotape. Upon watching the tape, Rachel discovers the rumours are true and teams up with her ex-boyfriend Noah to find its origins before they and their son Aidan are killed within seven days.
Necessarily Evil: In The Ring 2, when Samara has fully taken over Aidan's body, the only way to subdue her and drive her out of her son is by nearly killing him. Which Rachel accomplishes by taking a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and lacing it with enough pills to horrify the audience.
Parental Abandonment: It's strongly hinted that Rachel's focus on her career takes her away from Aidan, resulting in her being in the dark about his anxieties (if not outright dismissive) and going to parent-teacher meetings only out of obligation. This changes A LOT by the second film, specifically seeking out a smaller newspaper so she can spend more time with her son.
Poor Communication Kills: Granted, the Curse is hardly believable as it is, but she only has herself to blame when the lack of reasonable explanation for her actions in the second film gets Child Protection Services on her head.
What the Hell, Hero?: Surprisingly does this a lot in the series. Aidan calls her out when she reveals she freed Samara's body from the well, but he never told her before that she can never be at peace so he shares this trope.
Rachel unleashes the tape onto an unsuspecting world, causing the events in Rings.
And again in the second film when she seals Samara in the well.
Rachel's ex-boyfriend and a media analyst, Noah is enlisted by Rachel to discover the origins of the cursed videotape. He is Aidan's father but doubts he would ever be a good father due to his own being a disappointment.
Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: He drew many unsettling sketches of his cousin Katie buried deep underground (or even underwater) in the run up to her death. After watching the tape, his artistic focus changes to Samara's house, the inside of the well, and progressively obsessive drawings of circles.
Poor Communication Kills: He never volunteers any information on his visions, it has to be Rachel who asks him about them after his behavior or drawings tip her off. It's only after Rachel frees Samara from the well that he tells her she will continue to kill people.
The antagonist of the series and the American version of Sadako Yamamura. An eight year old who was tossed down a well by her adoptive mother Anna, Samara created the cursed videotape to get attention and possible revenge on the world.
Abusive Parents: Richard Morgan banished her to the ranch barn. Her biological and adoptive mother tried to drown her.
Affably Evil: This is debatable, even though she is an eight-year old girl.
Artifact of Doom: Her version of the cursed videotape which is as twice as long as Sadako's and twice as terrifying.
Break the Cutie: It doesn't appear to take long. She makes verbal threats about her future rage against the world.
Dark and Troubled Past: Samara was nearly drowned by her birth mother Evelyn, and then received even more misery at the Morgan Ranch thanks to her uncontrolled powers. She was locked in the barn by her father, and took her frustration out on her mother's beloved horses by driving them to suicide. She was eventually tossed down a well by Anna.
Power Incontinence: Even before birth, she possessed Psychic Powers that exceeded her ability to control. Anyone who came close to her, man or beast, suffered horrendous hallucinations just from her being there.
Psychic Powers: Samara has uncontrollably nensha powers, which allow her to burn images onto surfaces and into people's minds.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Trapped in a well by Anna Morgan. Suffered the same fate as a ghost in The Ring Two.
Yank the Dog's Chain: Samara possesses Aidan and finally has her wish granted, to be loved by a mother, in this case Rachel. That is until Rachel drugs her and then exorcises her from her son in a bath, before sealing her again in the well. Nice, really nice. Any wonder many people hate the sequel?
Anna and Richard Morgan
Samara's foster parents. Anna and Richard Morgan ran a family horse ranch on Moesko Island and were renowned horse trainers in the local area. After adopting Samara, Anna suffered from horrible visions caused by Samara's powers, causing Richard to banish the girl to the barn. In revenge, Samara tortured the ranch horses into suicide by jumping off cliffs. Anna eventually kills Samara by pushing her down a well, before committing suicide herself by leaping off a cliff.
Abusive Parents: Richard in particular, forcing Samara to live in the barn and prefers the horses to her.
Bath Suicide: Richard kills himself via electrocution in a bath. It's not a pretty sight.
Cool Horses: The Morgans' famous racing horses made them famous. Then they killed themselves, making them even more famous.
Ironic Echo: When Richard refers to all reporters (and Rachel in particular) as unable to leave well enough alone, "spreading the sickness" via their investigations. Which is exactly what Rachel did with Samara's curse.
Mirror Scare: A scene on the tape depicts Anna brushing her hair and the mirror is moved about telekinetically by Samara, lifted straight out of the Japanese films.
Red Herring: That Richard killed Samara, when in fact Anna did.
Samara's birth mother. Having possibly mentally unstable prior to child birth, Evelyn was young when she gave birth to Samara and lived in a hospital run by nuns. However, Samara did not cry unless put near water. Evelyn claimed Samara was possessed by a demon and was told by her daughter to drown her in order to save her. She attempted this but was stopped by the nuns and carted off to an asylum. She appears in The Ring Two, and cryptically tells Rachel how to exorcise Samara from Aidan.
Passing the Torch: Evelyn asks Rachel to out away her child since she failed to in the past.
Patron Saint: According to an orderly at the asylum, Evelyn is visited by young mothers for guidance.
Editor-in-chief of the Daily Astorian newspaper, Max Rourke becomes Rachel's ally in The Ring Two. He is very sceptical about Samara's existence and powers, but the strange goings on changes his mind. He is eventually killed by Samara.
Best friends who discuss the rumours of the cursed videotape. Katie is Rachel's 16-year old niece and close to her and Aidan. Katie reveals to Becca that she and three other students, Josh, Stacey and Scott, went to Shelter Mountain where they became the first viewers of the tape. Minutes later, Katie is killed by Samara. Her death leads to the events of the film. Becca witnessed her friend's death and was institutionalised, possibly gaining psychic powers in the process.
Bedlam House: Poor Becca ends up in one after seeing Samara kill Katie, and has a fear of televisions.
Haunted Technology: Katie has to deal with a TV that turns itself on, and the fridge door which opens by itself too.
She also scribbled "hair" over the faces in a fashion magazine, making all the models look like Samara.
Peek-A-Boo Corpse: Perhaps one of the scariest images of the film is when Kaite's mum Ruth opens a closet and finds Katie's body with a deformed face. The fright is not from the corpse but from the sudden appearance of the imagery.
Katie's facial fate is hinted at in the final frames of the opening scene when the camera zooms at her face - it distorts.
Victim of the Week: Katie fills this along with three others, or four if you count Becca as witnessing her death.
The Ring Groups
After Rachel released the tape into the public, copies were made among teenager groups, creating a teenage cult called "Rings" as seen in the short film of the same name. These Secret Circles of Secrets involve about five people, each person watching the tape to see how long they can last with the supernatural symptoms of the curse, whilst recording what they see. If they panic or give up, they can pass the tape to the next member, and so on. Very few rings have seen anyone get beyond Day 7, and the Astorian Ring seem very determined to do that, particularly with their newest member Jake.
Asshole Victim: Subverted for Jake, who desperately tries to trick his friend Emily to watch the tape only for her to close her eyes when watching it.