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A Protagonist Is Ryu

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The character "Ryū" (竜 or 龍; the latter is the Kyūjitainote  form still commonly used in personal names) means "dragon" in Japanese, and as such, its use as a name or part of a name in Japanese media tends to have meaning. But even more interestingly, throughout the years, a certain archetype has formed around the name. Characters named "Ryu" or who have the character "Ryu" in their name have many of the following character traits in common:

  • Male.
  • Usually the protagonist of their work, or at least an important secondary character.
  • They're pretty much universally good guys.
  • They tend to be young, between mid-teens and late 20s. If they are older than that, they usually didn't start that way in the series, instead having grown older as the series went along. If older than that, they tend to be mentors or father figures.
  • They tend to be good fighters, if not the best in their series, but they might not start that way, growing into it as the series moves along.
  • They have outgoing personalities, if not downright Hot-Blooded.
  • They HATE injustice with a passion. Even if they're not actively heroes, seeing some kind of injustice committed before them is a surefire Berserk Button. An extension of this attitude is that they usually have Papa Wolf and Wife-Basher Basher tendencies: it is not a good idea to hurt a kid or a woman in front of a character named Ryu.
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  • They usually suffer in full of The Dulcinea Effect. If a woman is in trouble in front of a character named Ryu, he WILL jump in to protect her, no matter who she is. If the woman's a bad girl, this action might even make her change her ways.
  • They tend to have a rivalry with another character. The rival, to fit the pattern, tends to be associated with the tiger.

Do keep in mind that this is not universal (for example, Ryu Soma of Argento Soma is quite a dark and nihilistic character), but it is common enough that it's become a pretty well recognized phenomenon. Also, the character Ryu can be replaced by the word Tatsu (the character for Dragon in the Eastern Zodiac), while still having the characteristics of this type of character. The character Ryou is also frequently used to similar effect. Now largely a Dead Horse Trope.


The correct pronunciation is difficult for anyone who isn't a native Japanese speaker — the "r" is actually a sound halfway between r and l, with a "pop" at the end. Pronouncing it "Dyoo" is a close approximation — it would sound a little off to a native speaker, but not as much as "Ree-oo". "Rye-oo" should only be used if you are already bread.

Note that it is often exposed to Spell My Name with an "S" due to the "ū" vowel being two u's extra via the kana, furigana and romaji (りゅう/リュウ/リュー). Their names may or may not be written with the extra "u", as most keyboards can't type in an overline without copy-and-pasting. However, some names with "Ryu" in it may actually have just a single u (りゅ/リュ), but this is often very rare.

Not to be confused with A Winner Is You.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ikuo Ryuzaki from Ouroboros.
  • Ryu from Detective School Q is the hero Kyu's friendly rival, a boy in his mid-teens with a passionate hate for injustice and therefore his criminal-syndicate family, great fighting skill, and a tendency to desperately seek to help anyone in trouble, girl or boy.
  • Ryu, Raoh's son from Fist of the North Star.
  • The -Ryu robots from GaoGaiGar.
  • Ryou Saeba of City Hunter. His lechery makes him kind of a weird fit, but he definitely fulfills this trope.
  • Ryouma Nagare of Getter Robo.
  • Saint Seiya:
    • Dragon Shiryuu, except maybe for the personality part. Yes, Shiryuu is much calmer and collected than his fellow Bronze Saints. No, it does not stop him from being hot-blooded as all hell.
    • Also counts for his son Ryuuhou from Saint Seiya Omega.
  • Peacemaker Kurogane has Ichimura Tatsunosuke (where "Tatsu" is the character for the Eastern Zodiac sign of the dragon) and the Historical Domain Character Sakamoto Ryoma, whose name is written with the characters for "dragon" and "horse", and who fits the trope quite well.
  • Ryuzaki (one of the aliases of Hero Antagonist L) from Death Note fits all the requirements except the "outgoing personality" bit (and according to Word of God his alignment is questionable) but he's a good fighter, trained in Capoeira, he hates injustice with a passion, and has a rivalry with Light/Kira of the obvious Red Oni, Blue Oni type. There's also the Shinigami Ryuk and the OTHER Ryuuzaki from Another Note but they are subversions, one being an amoral monster and the other a Serial Killer.
  • Ryuma from Eiichiro Oda's one-shot Monsters fits all requirements to some degree. His later appearance in One Piece - not so much. Justified in that he got Brook's personality and is revived as an evil zombie.
  • "Wooden Sword" Ryuu of Shaman King, having all but a clear rivalry with a tiger themed character. Instead, his partner spirit has (or, had) a rivalry with the main character's partner.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, we have Ryu Jose. Though he's not the protagonist, he is the most skilled pilot of the crew in the beginning, is the most likeable, big brother type, and sacrifices himself to save his crew. His death is a large reason that the crew shape up and start working together better.
  • A somewhat ambiguous case, but Ryuuho Tairen of s-CRY-ed is nominally one of the protagonists of the series, along with Kazuma. His father Ryuu is a pretty decent guy, too.
  • Ironically subverted with Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. While there IS a Ryu on their team, he's the Big Guy. And the person who fits the model of being the "Ryu" of that team (protagonist dressed in white) is actually named Ken. And the "Ken" of the team is named Joe.
  • Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill is a rare female version. The "Ryu" in her name means "stream" rather than "dragon", but other than that she fits the trope perfectly. And her original family name is Kiryuin which does have a "Ryu" that means "dragon".
  • Asaga Hiryuu from Psyren is in fact not the protagonist and in fact is moved Out of Focus for a bit, although up to that point he was certainly a major character. Otherwise he fits the trope right down to the ground. His rival, the protagonist, isn't associated with tigers, but Hiryuu makes up for it by embracing the dragon theme and teaming up with his friend Tatsuya.
  • Wild Adapter's sympathetic antagonist Ryuunosuke – nicknamed Tatsu – is a teenage yakuza who began his life of crime by beating the shit out of a rapist.
  • Ryuu Yamada from Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. He doesn't outright suffer from The Dulcinea Effect - he will go out of his way to help most people in trouble, it's just so that 95 % of the troubled people he meets happen to be girls - and he doesn't have any serious rivals (only a one-note gag about competing with another character on avoiding getting the lowest grades in school), but otherwise he has all the traits. He's a variation in that he's hardly ever called Ryuu. Everybody (even his own girlfriend) are on Last-Name Basis with him, and that's why the series isn't called Ryuu-kun and the Seven Witches.
  • Hakuryuu Ren from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is one of the four protagonists, and fittingly enough, his name means "White Dragon".
  • Canon Foreigner Ryu Suzaku from F-Zero: Falcon Densetsu is the main character of the anime (contrasting the games, who have Captain Falcon as a main character). In fact, his machine, Dragon Bird has the name "Dragon" in it.
  • Another female example is Umi Ryuuzaki from Magic Knight Rayearth. She's one of the main Magic Knights and despite her water element association, she's the most emotional of the Power Trio and can be rather Hot-Blooded, but does not like seeing injustice done despite her initial spoiled personality. Additionally, she's an accomplished fencer with poise and grace, and the animal she's associated with is dragons, one of her signature spells is Water Dragon, and her Rune God, Selece, take form of a massive blue dragon (and later a draconic Humongous Mecha)

  • Ryuji Takasu from Toradora!, in which the whole premise of the title involves the concept of Tigers and Dragons in Eastern Culture being seen as counterparts. 'Tora' is the Japanese word for tiger, while 'Dora' comes from 'Doragon' the japanese pronunciation of the English word 'Dragon'. The characters' names in the show are the reverse of the title, Ryuji's name deriving from Ryu, the Japanese word for dragon, and the female protagonist/love interest is named Taiga Aisaka, 'Taiga' being the Japanese pronunciation of the English word 'Tiger'.
  • Ryugamine Mikado from Durarara!!, minus the outgoing personality and fighting skills (although he started working on that in the light novels).
  • Ryou from Ro Te O. Subverted in that his rival is not tiger themed (he's based off a stereotypical angel), and that The Dulcinea Effect hasn't shown up yet. As of the latest chapter, Ryou has decided to be on the villians' side, subverting him even further.
  • In The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, Ryuunosuke is a gynophobic programmer and Hikikomori. He is even nicknamed "Dragon" by prominent female character Misaki and referred to affectionately. In Inverted fashion, he fears women regardless if they're in danger or not, his temporary rival is his main love interest, he's not outgoing in the least, and not physically skilled.

    Live Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • Ryu from Street Fighter. His rival is Sagat, who's associated with the tiger. Although the kanji used to spell Ryu's name in promotional materials for the original Street Fighter stood for "prosperity", not "dragon".
  • Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden.
  • Ryuhaku Todou of Art of Fighting / The King of Fighters.
    • Technically, the main protagonist in that series is Ryo, who is associated with the tiger. In an odd subversion, his lifelong pal and training partner, Robert Garcia is the one associated with the dragon, but he's the "Ken" of the series...
  • Kazuma Kiryuu from Yakuza. In a subversion, though, his rival in the second game is Ryuuji Goda, another dragon-themed character(although he's more a Noble Demon than a full-blown bad guy, and he still exhibits many traits associated with his name).
    • Also, Kiryuu spells his name 桐生一馬, and doesn't use either of the kanji meaning "dragon", in spite of having a very heavy dragon motif.
  • Ryu from Breath of Fire. Many of his companions are tiger-themed to contrast with him, and, well, he's a literal dragon.
  • Ryudo from Grandia II.
  • Strider Hiryu.
  • Ryuichi Naruhodo, AKA Phoenix Wright. In the third game, he actually gets impersonated and threatened by a gangster named Furio Tigre, aka The Tiger (Toranosuke Shibakuzo, aka Zenitora), who's obviously associated with tigers (invoking a different trope).
    • The only element of this trope that doesn't really fit Phoenix is "good at fighting". Unless, of course, you equate legal skills to fighting ability (which, given the nature of his series, isn't all that unreasonable).
    • For purposes of Identical Grandfather reasons, Phoenix's Meiji-era ancestor is named "Ryuunosuke Naruhodou" in Dai Gyakuten Saiban.
  • Michael (known as Ryuto in Japanese) of Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is a subversion; the proper translation is "to kill".
  • Ryo Akiyama from the Digimon WonderSwan Series.
  • Ryuta Ippongi from Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan fits this almost perfectly.
  • Kusuha Mizuha and Brooklyn "Bullet" Luckfield of the Super Robot Wars Alpha timeline are considered the mains of the series. Their ultimate robot? RyuuKoOu.
  • Ryuichi and Ryuji, recurring antagonists from the Kunio-kun series. Their names can be read as "dragon one" and "dragon two," and they are indeed Expys of the Double Dragon protagonists (though their Dub Name Change in River City Ransom somewhat obscured this). Toraichi and Toraji are presumably their "tiger" counterparts, but they never appeared in the same game.
  • Tatsumaru, Rikimaru's brother in the Tenchu series.
  • Inverted in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Travis Touchdown, the protagonist, is represented through a tiger. One of his adversaries is Ryuji, represented through a dragon. That being said, Ryji seems to be of decent moral fiber (far more than Travis anyhow) and embodies most of the traits seen on the list above.
  • In Dynasty Warriors, a Poster Boy is Chou Shiryu. a.k.a. Zhao Zilong, as in Zhao Yun. "Zilong" (Literally Young Dragon) is his courtesy name which he uses to refer to himself exclusively. In the dub, he constantly claims that "[he] [is] the dragon!", when in the original dub he would say his full name. Characteristic wise, He is one of the Five Tiger Generals of Shu who is an Ideal Hero The Cape who fights For Great Justice.
  • Ryuji Sakamoto from Persona 5, who spells his given name 竜司, is the first recruit for your team of Anti-Hero thieves, and quickly becomes The Lancer for your Protagonist.
  • Inverted with Ryu Oda from Soul of the Samurai, who is one of the two main antagonists (alongside Gendo Tohjo) and a thoroughly despicable sociopath who wants to Take Over the World for himself, starting with Japan.

  • Ryu Tsukino from White Dark Life, son of I Tsukino from earlier in the comic. Despite being one of The Proud Elite and having the required ego, he genuinely believes his role in the world is to inspire the "commoners" towards greatness and treats his employees as invaluable team members. He's rather lacking in rivals though.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): A Hero Is Ryu


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