The main protagonist of the novels and films, depending on the series. Kazuyuki is a journalist who investigates the cursed videotape and has seven days to find the answer to escaping it or he will die. Aided by his friend Ryuji Takayama, Kazuyuki becomes more determined to solve the curse after his family watch the tape accidentally. He succeeds only to be wounded along with his family in a car crash in the second novel, dying several days later in hospital.Reiko Asakawa is also a journalist and follows Kazuyuki's story, but Ryuji is her ex-husband and they have a son named Yoichi who watches the tape and becomes their reason to solve the curse's mystery. In Ring 2, Reiko and Yoichi go into hiding after Ryuji is killed by Sadako at the end of the first film, and are found by Mai Takano to help end the curse.
The secondary protagonist, Takayama is a university professor and former medical student. He aids Kazuyuki in discovering the secrets of the tape. He has a very eccentric and strange personality in the novels, claiming to have raped several women in his lifetime but never proves it. In the film series, he is the ex-husband of Reiko and father of Yoichi. Despite their divorce, Takayama and Reiko are still on good and close terms. He is more down-to-earth, relaxed but very intelligent. It is implied he has ESP powers. His character is changed drastically in Ring: The Final Chapter.
Back from the Dead: Ryuji is resurrected in Spiral and Rasen. In Loop, the resurrected Ryuji is in fact the main protagonist Kaoru Futami, extracted from the Loop project and brought to life in the real world as a baby.
Badass Beard: Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryuji's actor, sports an awesome beard.
Badass Normal: He watches the tape without regard for the consequences, and tackles an elderly man to get answers from him.
Bat Deduction: Ryuji has one upon realising the tape must be copied and shown to someone else.
Cloudcuckoolander: In the novels, Ryuji is very eccentric, unpredictable whilst brilliant.
Killed Off for Real: Dies from a heart attack in the novels via the ring virus, and is killed by Sadako in the films.
Legacy Character: In Ring: The Final Chapter, he is Sadako's child and carries the ring virus within him. His purpose was to spread the virus, with Mai, his foster sister, acting as the vaccine to it as set up by Dr. Ikuma.
Lineage Comes from the Father: Ryuji appears to have ESP powers, and Yoichi displays them in Ring 2, although they are more enhanced thanks to Sadako.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Crosses into Magnificent Bastard territory in Spiral - he basically lends a hand to the destruction of humanity for apparently no other reason than to see how it ends.
Reiko and Ryuji's young son. A quiet and polite individual, Yoichi is sent into silence after his cousin Tomoko is killed (actually being a victim of the tape.) He later watches the tape himself and becomes the motive for his parents to find the curse's origins.
Creepy Child: Yoichi is adorably cute, and yet he has a strange eerie quality about him. This becomes obvious in Ring 2 when he develops enhanced psychic powers.
Expy: Yoichi is based on Kazuyuki's daughter Yoko, but since that character was only a one-year old, Yoichi is more of his own character.
Psychic Powers: Starts off low-toned such but goes up to eleven when his powers are enhanced by Sadako, capable of blasting people away with psychic blasts and mentally choking them. He has postcognition powers, able of creating realistic images of past events. This occurs in Ring 2 when Mai and Dr. Kawajiri witness a young Sadako teasing her mother Shizuko by teleporting a mirror about.
The Speechless: For most of Ring 2, due to the trauma of losing his father and grandfather.
The main protagonist of the second novel Spiral and the retconned film sequel Rasen. An old friend of Ryuji, Ando works as an autopsy mortician and ends up examining Ryuji's body. He is in mourning after his son Takanori died and was almost Driven to Suicide. He sees the tape as his chance to finally be at peace, accepting his inevitable death although he ends up playing a bigger role in the spreading of the curse. He ends up sleeping with the reincarnated Sadako, and then spreads the virus to resurrect Takanori using Sadako's DNA and fertilised eggs.
Unwitting Pawn: In Sadako's plan to resurrect herself and spread the Ring Virus.
Ryuji's student, Mai becomes the main protagonist of Ring 2 and investigates her teacher's death, becoming involved in the world of the cursed tape. In Spiral and Rasen, she becomes the unwitting pawn and incubator for Sadako's resurrection.
Ascended Extra: Mai only has two scenes in the first film and is elevated to a main character in Rasen and Ring 2.
Body Horror: In the novels, the curse affected her in a very different manner.
The protagonist of Loop. A 20-year old medic, Kaoru searches for a cure to the Metastatic Human Cancer when his father is diagnosed with it. He finds a connection between the M.H.C. and the Loop project his father worked on and investigates. Actually a clone of Ryuji Takayama who was extracted from the Loop simulated reality as a baby and creator of the MHC based off the ring virus.
The protagonist of Sadako 3D. Akane is a high school teacher who investigates the rumours of an online suicide video after one of her students dies. She watches it herself and becomes a target for Sadako Yamamura.
The Big Bad of the franchise, Sadako Yamamura is the creator of the cursed videotape (a mutated smallpox virus in the novels). Depending on the source material, Sadako has led a troubled life and eventually is tossed down a well to her death, her spirit creating the tape which kills anyone in seven days. Among an astonishing variety of Psychic Powers, Sadako has nensha, also known as thoughtography, meaning she could see images and burn them onto objects, thus the tape. It is also implied that, after she kills them, some of her victims become malevolent spirits under her control. Her usual appearance has her as a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, long dark hair hiding her face, and she wears a white dress.In the novel, Sadako was thrown down the well by a doctor named Jotaro Nagao who raped her. However, he discovered she had Testicular Feminization Syndrome - meaning she was female, but was biologically male and had testicles. In rage, Nagao threw her down the well but inadvertantly created the Ring Virus with a smallpox strand he transmitted to Sadako. In the films, Sadako split into two identical twins after murdering a journalist at her mother's disastrous public demonstration of her powers. The evil twin was drugged and locked in a room, whilst the good twin lived a normal life. Both reunited years later as one, only to be thrown down a well by Sadako's father Dr. Ikuma to stop her from hurting anyone.
Big Creepy-Crawlies: In Sadako 3D, Sadako's ward Seiji Kashiwada has been dumping bodies of women into the well to use them as containers to revive Sadako. They rise again as long-legged, inhuman monstrosities.
Body Horror: Sadako does this to her victims. Apparently her ghostly face is so terrifying that we are only shown her eye.
She walks about in an inhuman manner, most notably when she emerges from the television and when she attacks Miyaji and Etsuko in Ring 0.
Fingore: Sadako broke off her fingernails whilst trying to escape the well, and we see her grisly fingers when she appears as a child in a psychic flashback, and when she comes out of Ryuji's TV.
Freak Out: During her loss of control over her powers in Ring 0, screaming her head off, seeing hallucinations of her mother, and unintentionally gives her psychiatrist a heart attack.
Fusion Dance: Twice. In Ring 0, Sadako's good and evil selves fuse together into one. In Sadako 3D, Sadako tries fusing with Akane but it is stopped by Takanori.
Killer Rabbit: Sadako is an incredibly cute and sweet person, well, her good self is before she turns evil.
Love Hurts: Particularly when you kill your own boyfriend.
The Other Darrin: Sadako has been played by several actresses in the film series - Rie Ino (Ring and Ring 2), Hinako Saeki (Rasen), Ayane Miura (Ring: Kanzenban TV movie), Kimura Tae (Ring: The Final Chapter TV series), Yukie Nakama (Ring 0) and Ai Hashimoto (Sadako 3D).
Seer: Can see into the future, at least in the novels. She predicts the eruption of Oshima's volcano, the invention of video cassettes, and her own resurrection. She may also have My Significance Sense Is Tingling.
Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Sadako's rapist Jotaro Nagao discovers she has Testicular Feminization Syndrome in the novels.
Weaksauce Weakness: Sadako appears to have a fear of water. It is revealed in Ring 0 as a child she forewarned her fellow school students not to go in the sea on a beach trip, only for the swimming team members to drown.
Xanatos Gambit: Her plan in the novels. Predicting her own death, Sadako mutates the smallpox virus she gains from Nagao to turn it into a virus which will eventually lead to her resurrection, using the videotape as a carrier for the virus. The events of the first two books lead to the gambit paying off, allowing Sadako to return to life and get her revenge on the world.
The asshole responsible for the events in the novels, Nagao is a doctor who rapes Sadako, only to discover she has Testicular Feminization Syndrome and throws her down a well.
An antagonist appearing in Sadako 3D, Kashiwada is an insane online artist who records his own suicide and puts it online. He is actually a servant of Sadako, intending to resurrect her to exact his own revenge upon the world through the video and by dumping bodies of women in Sadako's well as possible containers for her.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Kashiwada seeks revenge on the world after his online artworks were accused of being ripoffs of other works.
Room Full of Crazy: Hidden behind the wallpaper in Kashiwada's flat are his countless scribblings on how to resurrect Sadako.
Serial Killer: Has murdered several women who resemble Sadako and chucked them down the well as possible containers for Sadako's return. They instead rise as monsters.
Sadako's mother, Shizuko has Psychic Powers and the power of foresight. She gave birth to Sadako who inherited her powers. After she met her lover Dr. Heihachiro Ikuma, Shizuko stood down from performing at a public demonstration of her powers and was chastised by the press, leading to a depression. She then killed herself by leaping into Oshima Island's volcano.
Driven to Suicide: In the novels she killed herself whilst in a depression. In the films, after seeing her daughter kill a man, split in two and develop stronger psychic powers than her own, drove Shizuko over the edge.
Karmic Death: In the films, Shizuko predicted Oshima Island's volcano would erupt, and it did shortly after she jumped into it.
Mirror Scare: Shizuko's appearance on the videotape, which is played out in Ring 2 before Mai and Dr. Kawajiri when they are at the Yamamura inn.
Sanity Slippage: In the films, Shizuko goes mad following the events at her public demonstration and spends most of her time brushing her hair in front of a mirror.
Doctor Heihachiro Ikuma
Sadako's father. He was a Tokyo-based university professor studying psychic powers and fell in love with Shizuko, having an affair with her. Following Shizuko bowed out from a public demonstration, Ikuma was fired from his job and tried to activate his own potential psychic powers by standing under waterfalls but developed tuberculosis. In the films, Dr. Ikuma is Sadako's foster father but throws her down the well due to the events in Ring 0's finale.
Shizuko's cousin and Sadako's uncle. In the films, Takashi was responsible for Shizuko's ridicule and her eventual suicide. Now an elderly bitter man, Takashi runs an inn with son on Oshima Island but his sins comes back to haunt him upon learning that Sadako's presence still remains.
Spanner in the Works: Koichi reveals to Reiko that Yoichi is empowered by Sadako, after she has been killed.
Tomoko Oishi and Masami Kurahashi
Best friends who both become victims of the curse. Tomoko watched the tape a week before the events of the first film and is killed by Sadako, whilst Masami is put in an asylum after witnessing the latter's death. But, both become pawns of Sadako later on.
Came Back Wrong: Tomoko's spirit was used by Sadako to make Yoichi watch the tape.
In Ring 2, after Reiko dies, we see Tomoko and three other victims standing with their backs to the audience.
Room Full of Crazy: Masami gains a phobia of televisions but tries to conquer it in Ring 2, only to cause footage of the video to appear on a TV, causing all the mental patients in the room to go into hysterics.
The tritagonist of the original novel. One of Kazuyuki's associates who rights articles on the mayor's office in Yokosuka. He learns of Kazuyuki's situation and investigates Sadako's past for him.
Chekhov's News: A lot of the details in his article regarding Haruko Tsuji and Takehiko Nomi's deaths gives a lot of subtle details on the curse/virus.
Demoted to Extra: Appears in only a couple of chapters in Spiral and cameos in the first film. He has a more notable presence in Rasen.
Gender Flip: Receives one in Ring: The Final Chapter TV series.
A journalist who works with Reiko. He only has a cameo in the first film, but becomes a major character in Ring 2, helping Mai find out what happened to Reiko, Ryuji and Yoichi. He receives a copy of the tape from Kanae Sawaguchi but is too afraid to watch it. This has serious consequences.
Ascended Extra: Appears at the beginning of the first movie, but becomes a supporting character in Ring 2.
Fate Worse Than Death: After Kanae dies, Okazaki tries to delete a video recording of her only for Kanae's ghost to come out of the video and torments him for the rest of the film, creating a new curse.
A high school student, Kanae watches the cursed tape in Ring 2 and turns to Okazaki for help. She gives him a copy of the tape to watch but he chickens out. This has serious consequences for both characters.
A character introduced in Ring 2, Dr. Kawajiri works in the hospital where Masami is cared for. Fascinated with the existence of rare illnesses, he considers psychic powers to be just that and does not believe in supernatural occurences. He demonstrates how Sadako's powers can be removed via water, and uses this on Yoichi to exorcise Sadako's power from him. It doesn't go very well.
Logical Fallacies: Dr. Kawajiri tries to scientifically explain Sadako's powers are a mental/emotional state and psychic energy can be drained near water. This is proven false when Dr. Kawajiri is killed by Sadako's powers.
Detective Keiji Omuta
A police detective who investigates Ryuji and Koichi's deaths in Ring 2, Detective Omuta ends also investigating Sadako's connection to the murders.
Agent Scully: Averted after personally witnessing the effects of the cursed tape.
Sadako's love interest in Ring 0, Toyama is the sound operator in the acting troupe Sadako works in before her grisly end. He was dating Etsuko Tachihara at the time but eventually falls in love with Sadako, understanding her powers, and offering to run away with her. In the novels, he lives to an old age but dies upon reuniting with Sadako's spirit. In Ring 0, Sadako is murdered and resurrected before Toyama's eyes. When Sadako bonds with her evil twin, she is unable to recognise friend from foe and murders Toyama.
The acting troupe Sadako worked with in Ring 0. Most of the members aside from Toyama disliked Sadako, blaming her for their strange dreams. They eventually kill the good Sadako, and are led by Akiko to kill the evil twin, leading to the two Sadakos reunion. Sadako kills all of the members including Toyama. The most notable members are the leader Yusaku Shigemori who tries to blackmail Sadako for sex when he learns of her past; Aiko, an actress who is killed by Sadako's evil twin; and Etsuko Tachihara, Toyama's jealous and clingy girlfriend.
The Bully: Aiko shows some qualities of this towards Sadako.
Kick the Dog: The troupe does this to Sadako right off the bat.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Not all of the troupe members go to kill Sadako, namely the two members who hold back Toyama during Sadako's beating. Some members are alive in the novel, though that is due to Ring 0 alternating from the books' plot.
The Towel Man
A mysterious figure who appears in the tape. He stands by the shore, pointing off-screen and wears a towel on his head hence his name. His identity is unknown but it is specualated he is either Ryuji or Toyama. He points Reiko to Yoichi watching the tape, and again appears hinting that she must copy the tape to save her son. He is quite the Ensemble Darkhorse, once having his own Wikipedia page.
The main protagonist of the films, Rachel Keller is an Intrepid Reporter who investigates her niece Katie's death, leading to her finding the cursed videotape, this version created by Samara Morgan. A caring and protective mother, Rachel is willing to go to great lengths to keep her son Aidan safe, but is an emotional person and easily frightened. Oh, and she's played by Naomi Watts.She enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend Noah Clay who is Aidan's father in solving the videotape's origins. She gains a motherly attachment to Samara upon learn her suffering in life and finds her body in the well. However, this causes Samara to kill Noah since he did not copy the tape.In The Ring Two, Rachel and Aidan move to Astoria, Washington, to start a new life. Rachel tries to skip her responsibility after copying the tape and setting it loose upon the world. This comes back to haunt her when a copy of the tape appears in her neighbourhood, and Samara wants her to be her new mother.
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 doubted he would ever be a good father due to his own being a disappointment.
Working with the Ex: Noah works with Rachel. They seem to rekindle their old flame in the process.
Rachel and Noah's young son and quite a Creepy Child. Aidan seems to possess some degree of Psychic Powers, and is contacted directly by Samara after he watches the tape. He draws prophetic drawings which lead Rachel to the Morgan Ranch. He then has one of the biggest What the Hell, Hero? moments at the climax of the film. In The Ring Two, he is possessed by Samara when she wants Rachel to be her mother, making him two creepy children in one.
Creepy Child: On par with Samara, and it becomes worse when she possesses him.
Demonic Possession: At the hands of Samara, who appears behind him in The Ring Two in a public bathroom and approaches him with each photo he takes of himself in a mirror.
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.
Making a Splash: If you count draining a bath of its water, suspending it in midair and then dropping down on Naomi Watts as making a splash. Ironically, Samara is terrified of being submerged in water.
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. Years on, the visit from Rachel also leads Richard to his own death via electrocution in a bath.
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.