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Japanese Beetle Brothers

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Japan loves bugs, and they're everywhere. Not only is Bug Catching one of the oldest pastimes in the country, but much of their pop culture includes or is influenced by them.

However, within Japanese media, two particular insects stand out: the Kabutomushi (Japanese rhinoceros beetle, though often romanized by the Japanese as simply "beetle") and Kuwagatamushi (stag beetle). Often, when something inspired by one of the two appears in some sort of media, the other is either alongside them, or not too far behind. Another common element is for the two beetle-inspired elements to be of contrasting colors, and there is often a Red Oni, Blue Oni relationship between the two.

There have been enough examples that they can be organized into three types:

  • Allies: They are usually introduced at the same time, constantly work together and are seldom seen apart. Often allies are either partners or brothers.
  • Rivals: They can't stand each others' guts, constantly butt heads and at times are on opposite sides.
  • Coincidental: This is the rarest of the three types, and occurs when just by chance, and Kabuto and Kuwagata exist in the same universe, much like their real-life counterparts.

Two particular species have a tendency to show up as "upgraded" forms of the duo: the overbite-horned Heracles Ōkabuto (Hercules beetle) as a more powerful Kabuto variant, and the long-jawed Nokogiri Kuwagata (sawtooth stag beetle and its genus) as a more powerful Kuwagata.

Likewise, an Atlas or Caucasus beetle will sometimes appear as a secondary character who is more powerful than the main duo (often an Aloof Big Brother or a form the duo take by fusing together), since these species' three horns resemble a combination of Kabuto and Kuwagata traits.

Also related is the Beetle Sister, the Tentomushi (ladybug/ladybird/lady beetle); whenever beetles form a Power Trio, you can expect The Heart to be a Ladybug.

Rarely, this phenomenon will be referenced obliquely. If two characters with some sort of relationship exist in your medium — and one has a single horn and the other has two, chances are this is why.

See also Tanuki/Kitsune Contrast, for a similar dynamic between the two youkai. Compare Tough Beetles, which often overlaps with this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Parodied in one Crayon Shin-chan comic strip where the titular character meets his friends, Masao and Bo-Chan on a bug-catching trip, with Shin-Chan dressed up as a stag beetle to "blend in". When Masao remarks he can't wander around publicly looking like a stag beetle, Shin-Chan replies, "Yes, I agree"... and swaps his headgear to a rhino beetle instead.
  • Digimon:
    • The Kabuterimon and Kuwagamon families both date back to the original generation of V-pets, and Kuwagamon's Digimon Book profile declares it a rival of Kabuterimon's. Both Digimon have appeared in anime and games, but in those adaptations there's very little personal relationship between them. Both of them can evolve from the ladybug Tentomon.
    • HeraclesKabuterimon, the Kabuterimon line's most typical Mega, has combined traits from both the Kabuterimon and Kuwagamon lines. Its rival Mega GranKuwagamon, however, is a mix of traits from the Kuwagamon and Stingmon lines (Stingmon has nothing to do with either Japanese Beetle Brother).
    • A more subtle example occurs in Milleniumon, a Fusion Dance of two Mix And Match Critters with no direct connections to bugs (one of its components, Kimeramon, has Kabuterimon's helmet and Kuwagamon's arm). As Milleniumon progress through its multiple forms, a big feature of its Morphic Resonance is that one head will have a single horn and the other will have two.
    • Zigzagged in Digimon Frontier, where Junpei can turn into the kabutomushi-themed Blitzmon (Beetlemon in the dub) and Bolgmon (MetalKabuterimon), but has no kuwaga-themed counterpart. However, AncientBeetlemon of the Ten Warriors, the source of Junpei's totems, has features of both Kabuterimon and Kuwagamon, and in the broader franchise is the Monster Progenitor of both lines.
    • Digimon Fusion features Ballistamon, a robot with the giant horn of the kabutomushi. A late arc in the show reveals that he was once DarkVolumon, a kuwaga-styled robot superweapon, before being damaged and repaired into his current friendlier form. The Alternate Continuity manga gives him the Mega form AtlurBallistamon, which confusingly looks more like a Hercules than Atlas beetle.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: JoJolion, to figure out Jobin's Stand ability and what he knows of the Locacaca fruit, Josuke challenges him to a bug match by pitching stag beetles against each other. Josuke chooses a palawanicus beetle (Kuwagatamushi) and Jobin picks a rhinoceros beetle (Kabutomushi), and both secretly utilize their Stands to gain an advantage.
  • Pokémon: The Series: By carryover from the video games, we have the coincidental pair of Heracross and Pinsir, Bug-type Pokémon introduced in consecutive generations that use mostly Fighting-type attacks. In the episode where Ash catches his Heracross, a bunch of Pinsir are invading the Heracross swarm's territory, making it seem like rivals, but it's revealed that the invasion is due to the Pinsir being driven out of their own territory by Team Rocket.
  • Zoids features the beetle-type Zoids Saicurtis (a red Kabutomushi) and the Double Sworder (a blue Kuwagatamushi) in a rivals scenario, with the Saicurtis as an Imperial Zoid and the Double Sworder as a Republican Zoid. Both apppear in Zoids: Chaotic Century — however, the Saicurtis only appears in the manga, while the Double Sworder only appears in the anime, though the Saicurtis was mentioned by name in the anime.
  • Arachnid: Kabutomushi is a rare example of a female with the rhino beetle theme instead of the ladybug one. She wields a "Kabuto Horn" spear and has armor implanted within her body to befit her motif. In the prequel Caterpillar, four people with a Kuwagata theme are introduced as opponents to her.
  • Time Bokan: The Mechabuton Mini-Mecha in the first series was based on the Kabutomushi and had a smaller ladybug mini-carrier, but didn't have anything Kuwagatta related. Acts as more of a coincidental since the Kuwagatta mecha was made long after the Mechabuton had been put out of commission.
  • Berserk: Subverted. Guts runs into a pair of bug-transforming warriors (who are considerably harder to beat than the previously-encountered rabble), but they consist of a stag beetle and a praying mantis (so closer to the Pinsir / Scyther example).

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla: While it may not be noticed at the first glance, this is the dynamic between Gigan and Megalon. Gigan is an alien creature with three horns, two of which are placed near his beak and are reminiscent of Kuwagata's mandibles. Megalon is much more obvious, as he is a giant rhino beetle kaiju. They acted as Big Bad Duumvirate in Godzilla vs. Megalon, and even had some Villainous Friendship moments. However, when things turned bad for them, Gigan, being Dirty Coward he is, left Megalon at the mercy of Godzilla and Jet Jaguar, allowing them to defeat him and put their threat to rest.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Metal Heroes: Multiple related series each have the three-man version of allies with the Beetle as The Leader, Stag as The Lancer, and Ladybug as The Heart:
    • Juukou B-Fighter, as to be expected when the "B" in its name stands for "beetle", has the rhinocerus beetle-themed Blue Beet, stag beetle-themed G-Stag and ladybug-themed Reddle. They also have a giant Hercules beetle-shaped walking tank, Mega Heracles.
      • In its American counterpart Beetleborgs, the three B-Fighters became Blue Stinger Beetleborg, Green Hunter Beetleborg and Red Striker Beetleborg, while the Hercules beetle tank became Gargantis.
    • B-Fighter Kabuto had B-Fighter Kabuto, B-Fighter Kuwaga, and B-Fighter Tentou, who more or less followed the same rhinoceros-stag-ladybug theming as their predecessors it also introduced two Humongous Mecha beetle brothers in the form of the Shell Gods Kabuterios and Kuwaga Titan.
      • When it was adapted into Beetleborgs Metallix, the three became Chromium Gold Beetleborg, Titanium Silver Beetleborg and Platinum Purple Beetleborg, while the Shell Gods became Roboborg and Boron respectively.
    • B-Robo Kabutack had Kabutack, Kuwajiro, and Tentorina.
  • Kamen Rider has also inevitably used this, having a preference for insect themes:
    • Averted in Kamen Rider Stronger. The series featured a Rhino Beetle-themed titular hero and female Ladybug-themed sidekick, but no Stag Beetle.
    • One of the most powerful enemies faced by stag beetle-based Kamen Rider Kuuga is a rhinoceros beetle-based Grongi, Go Gadoru Ba. Leader of the most powerful of the Grongi tribes (though not the leader of the Grongi as a whole himself), Gadoru was one of three Evil Counterparts (the other two based on a grasshopper and a stag beetle) to Kuuga, and who was able to change between different forms corresponding to Kuuga's forms. Interestingly, even as Gadoru was the second most powerful Grongi in the series, the leader of the Grongi was the aforementioned stag beetle-based Grongi leader, N Daguba Zeba.
    • Kamen Rider 555 has another villainous Allies example in the duo of beetle Orphenochs introduced in episode 33.
    • Kamen Rider Blade has the Riders Blade (European rhinoceros beetle) and Garren (stag beetle). They're usually allies (with Garren even being The Mentor) but circumstances and poor communication skills keep pitting them against each other. Blade's Super Mode is themed after a Caucasus beetle, and Garren's after a giraffe stag beetle. Instead of a ladybug, the other two Riders are praying mantis- and spider-themed (and for the record, their Super Modes would be paradoxa, aka ghost mantis, and tarantula respectively).
    • Kamen Rider Kabuto:
      • The series itself has the red rider Kabuto, and the blue rider Gatack (pictured above), who are probably the best-known example of this trope in the franchise. They start as rivals, but later become steadfast allies. The other Riders are also themed after insects, but not beetles; they're a wasp, a dragonfly, a scorpion, and two grasshoppers.
      • The movie God Speed Love features a trio of Riders (two villainous and one antiheroic) based on different types of Kabutomushi - the bronze Ketaros (Centaurus beetle, rival), the silver Hercus (Hercules beetle, ally) and the powerful gold Caucasus (Caucasus beetle, rival).
      • One stage show featured the Canon Foreigner "Kamen Rider Lady", with her suit having a ladybug-based design similar to Tackle from Kamen Rider Stronger.
    • Kamen Rider Double: Double and Accel, initially rivals and later allies, own black and red Stag Phones and all-blue Beetle Phone, respectively. The Riders themselves also carry a bit of the motif; as they have letters W and A on their helmets that are styled in a way that invokes the two horn/one horn visual.
    • Kamen Rider OOO has villainous allies in the Kabuto and Kuwagata Yummies, which formed when a single Yummy (which was the Kabuto one) split in two, but averted in that while OOO has a Kuwagata Core Medal, he does not have a Kabuto Core Medal.
    • Kamen Rider Ghost: While not explicitly bug-themed, Kamen Riders Ghost and Specter have similar-yet-different Rider forms with one difference being that Ghost has one prominent horn on his helmet while Specter has two. They're another example of rivals turning into allies.
    • Kamen Rider Build: Coincidental. The series revolves around dozens of bottles featuring essences of organic and inorganic items, and both Kabutomushi and Kuwagata are among the "organic" ones. However, the Kuwagata Bottle is used by a Quirky Miniboss Squad member, while the Kabutomushi Bottle is All There in the Manual; at best it only appears in crowd shots of Bottle collections, and what Build would look like if he used it is relegated to an arcade game tie-in.
    • Kamen Rider Zero-One: Once again Coincidental, as Hercules and Stag Beetles are part of a wider assortment of animal-themed keycards. Instead, it's the Caucasus keycard that gets featured as one of the personal Transformation Trinkets of the villainous Kamen Rider Thouser. He pairs it with a keycard based on the extinct Arsinotherium, creating a "horned" theme overall (as the Caucasus has three horns and the Arsino has two).
    • Kamen Rider Revice has three beetle-themed Riders: Vail (Kabutomushi), Over Demons (Kuwagata), and Destream (Hercules); though Vail has abandoned his Rider equipment by the time the other two get theirs. Vail and Destream are former partners-turned-sworn enemies, with Destream using an enhanced version of Vail's old tech to deal with Vail once and for all. Over Demons, on the other hand, only has a Coincidental relationship to them; he uses armor modified from Vail's, but his character has no connection to either.
  • Of course, Super Sentai and Power Rangers aren't left out either:
    • Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger has the one of the strongest examples of Allies in recent history. Kabuto Raiger and Kuwaga Raiger are brothers whose entire motifs, changers, personal weapons and mecha revolve around the Kabuto/Kuwaga pair. In its adaptation Power Rangers Ninja Storm, they became the Crimson Thunder Ranger and Navy (blue) Thunder Ranger. The Thunders are adopted siblings instead of biological, but no less close for it.
      • The version of the Goraigers that appeared in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger added a third, Tento Raiger. Unfortunately, she was evil and corrupted the other two, forcing the Akibarangers to get rid of her influence.
      • The unused "Hexagon" concept for Power Rangers Ninja Storm would have added an American-original ladybug Ranger to the Thunder Rangers so they would be on equal footing with the Wind Rangers.
    • Juken Sentai Gekiranger has a lesser allies example in the Yin-Yang influenced white Butoka and black Wagataku, who are similar to terracotta soldiers, have no personality, yet get an upgraded form after their initial defeat. These two appear in Power Rangers Jungle Fury as the Shadow Guards.
    • Tensou Sentai Goseiger / Power Rangers Megaforce is Coincidental with the existence of the Kabuto and Kuwagata Headers / Mechazords — both part of the Rangers' arsenal, but otherwise unrelated as part of separate Mecha Expansion Packs.
    • Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, like Hurricaneger, has a pair of Allied Sixth Rangers — Beet Buster and Stag Buster. They don't follow the theme quite as strongly as the Goraigers / Thunder Rangers did, but they're still one of the better examples. Stag Buster's unmorphed state, the robotic Beet J. Stag, covers both beetles at once, as half of his armor is actually Beet Buster's actual suit armor, cast off and transferred to Beet Buster during morphing. (Power Rangers Beast Morphers diverges from this, however, as the animal basis for Beet Buster's counterpart is changed to a Slaying Mantis.)
    • Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger, which is entirely themed after different insects, includes both beetles but only Coincidentally, as there's no specific connection between them: the Red Ranger is themed after the Kuwagata and it's the most prominent of all the series' insects, while Kabuto is "only" one of three major Mecha Expansion Packs. The mecha do duel in Kabuto's debut in reference to the stereotypical rivalry, but that's as far as it goes. Kuwagata's major rivalry is instead with another Kuwagata, as the Red Ranger's brother has an Evil Twin powerset and an Evil Knockoff mecha that are both Palette Swaps of Red's.
  • Chou Sei Shin Gransazer has Allies in the form of the Wind Tribe's Sazer-Remls and Sazer-Dail.
  • Ultraman R/B's main characters, brothers Katsumi and Isami, are Allies whose Ultra forms have the two-horn/one-horn contrast.

  • The Machine Robo Mugenbine toy line has the allies red Iron Beetle and blue Junk Stag that can combine together to become Mugen Sector.
  • Transformers: Generation 1 has two groups called the Insecticons which qualify; both being allies and in teams with other insects.note 
    • The ones with a lot more exposure in the cartoon and comics were Shrapnel the stag beetle and Bombshell the rhino beetle; with Kickback the grasshopper as their third.
    • The second group, which were mainly toy-only, had Barrage as the rhino beetle and Chop Shop as the stag; along with Venom the cicada and Ransack the locust. This group came from a defunct Bandai line called Beetras; had the line continued, there would have been a female lady bug character/toy as well, which could have been the first official female Transformer.
    • Beast Wars features a coincidental in the form of the stag beetle Insecticon and the rhino beetle Ram Horn. While both are technically Predacons, they are not seen interacting together in any continuity and simply co-exist as insect-based Transformers toys.

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • The two first beetle Pokémon (Pinsir and Heracross) were originally not linked with each other. Pinsir was released in Pokémon Red and Blue and Heracross in the next game, Pokémon Gold and Silver. Pinsir was instead paired with the mantis-themed Scyther. The two started to be paired up more often as the franchise progressed, however.
      • In the second generation, for instance, Scyther got an evolution, whereas Pinsir didn't to match Heracross. Various media since then involved the two in some way (like an episode of Pokémon: The Original Series featuring a feud between Pinsir and Heracross swarms). Later on, the relationship between Pinsir and Heracross was reinforced in Pokémon X and Y, where two ended up being version exclusives, on top of both of them receiving Mega Evolutions. The end result is a case of coincidental becoming rivals in the sense that there is a connection and contrast between the two.
      • There's also a variation of coincidental in Pokémon GO, where Pinsir is a global spawn from the start while Heracross became one of the region-exclusives in the Gen 2 update.
      • The existing relationships are shaken up in Pokémon Sun and Moon and Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which featured a new stag beetle Pokémon named Vikavolt. Vikavolt is now a Rival to both Pinsir and Heracross, who in turn have become allies with each other in regions like Alola where all three species coexist.
    • Despite their names, Kabuto and Kabutops are not examples, being based more on horseshoe crabs. Their name comes from traditional kabuto, which are samurai helmets. That's why the Dome Fossil is called so.
  • The Digimon video games have this, and due to the increased detail can expand further on this than the anime.
    • The rhinoceros beetle-like Kabuto- line includes champion level Kabuterimon, ultimate level MegaKabuterimon (in blue or red) and mega level HerculesKabuterimon. The stag beetle-like Kuwaga- line includes champion Kuwagamon, ultimate Okuwamon, and mega GranKuwagamon. At those points, the lines are rivals. They usually share the ladybug-esque Tentomon as a Rookie stage, and, in the case the mechanical Kokuwamon is used for the Kuwaga-line, it is not very antagonistic towards Tentomon. In addition, HerculesKabuterimon originated as a combination of the lines, and actually has both the pincers and the single forehead horn, while GranKuwagamon is also strongly associated with the non-scaraboid Stingmon line and quite divergent in design from the rest of the Kuwaga-line.
    • There is also the Kokabuterimon line (BladeKuwagamon, MetallifeKuwagamon and TyrantKabuterimon), which hops back and forth between being rhinoceros-beetle and stag beetle-inspired.
  • In Hollow Knight, the title character and their occasional steed and ally, The Last Stag, resemble these two types of beetle. Ironally, the Last Stag looks more like a rhinoceros beetle, and the Knight is the stag beetle.
  • Medabots:
    • A prime example of rivals are the protagonist's partner Metabee (a hot-blooded, golden KBT-type who fights with missiles) and Aloof Ally Rokusho (a stoic, silver KWG-type who fights with swords). Unusually, the franchise actually has a third "brother" — Arcbeetle, a more advanced KBT-type based on the Hercules beetle, which is the least prominent but most powerful member of the lot.
    • Later media introduces Tyrelbeetle, a Sawtooth KWG-type which acts as a counterpart to the upgraded Arcbeetle-Dash. The two are capable of transforming into beetle modes and later docking together to form Master-beetle.
  • The Card Battle Game Mushiking has both the Kabuto and Kuwagata, but since they're not characters in a story, they're relegated to coincidental.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Among the bugs you can catch in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there are the Kabuto (referred to simply as a Beetle) and the Stag Beetle, putting it into coincidental.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword introduced a number of bugs as collectibles, which includes the "Sky Stag Beetle" (found only in Skyloft) and the "Woodland Rhino Beetle" (found only in Faron Woods), which makes it another coincidental.
  • Monster Rancher has the Beaklon (Kabuto) and Antlan (Kuwaga). They're sort of a mid-range between rivals and coincidental—they weren't introduced at the same time and just sort of coexist, but their battle styles are different enough to seem contrasting.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man X: There's a allies setup with Boomer Kuwanger (a not-very-good translation of Kuwaga) and his brother, Mega Man X3's Gravity Beetle, who is of the Kabuto variety. The latter is actually one of the few Mavericks in X3 who is completely uninterested in Doppler's plans and isn't even infected with The Virus, but instead seeks revenge. In the manga, he even attempts to rebuild his brother.
    • Mega Man Zero has a similar allies with Mega Man Zero's Herculious Anchortus (Kabuto) and Mega Man Zero 2's Kuwagust Anchus, who refers to Herculious as his brother and teams up with him during the Boss Rush.
    • Less dramatically, the first Mega Man Legends game contains a sidequest where the player can collect junk and trade it for valuable components. Two of the trade items are a Beetle and Stag Beetle pair, each of which can be found crawling around the forest.
    • Mega Man Star Force: The version-specific Super Modes of Star Force 3, Black Ace and Red Joker, are lightly influenced by the trope. The Black Ace form has a single horn while the Red Joker form has two. While the Super Modes' horns are of themselves coincidental, the forms are related to other characters from the game who are rivals—Acid Ace and Dread Joker.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]: The KO Kabuto and Staggerceps Dream Eaters are a coincidental example, existing simply as Mooks and potential allies for you.
  • Kirby: Kirby's Adventure introduces Bugzzy, a Kuwagata who gives Kirby the ability to suplex enemies when eaten. Oddly enough, he never had a Kabuto counterpart until Kirby: Triple Deluxe, released 21 years later, which introduced Hornhead. When Kirby absorbs this beetle, he will gain a Kabuto horn to attack enemies with.
  • The valley / waterfall stage of Monster Eye has a giant rhino beetle and a giant stag beetle as a Dual Boss (with a Shared Life-Meter). The rhino beetle will attack first, and as your players escape into a cave the stag beetle hiding in it will force you out until you're in the open, fighting both insects at the same time. In this case the rhino beetle is slower but stronger, and capable of inflicting heavier damage, the stag beetle on the other hand is faster than it's brother, though it's not as durable.
  • Nier: Type A, with Hansel as the one-horned, blue-eyed rhinoceros beetle; and Gretel as the two-horned, red-eyed stag beetle.
  • Show by Rock!! has this in the form of Kabutomoaki and Kuwagatatsuya, two members of the band Dropout Sensei. Due to their status as childhood friends, they firmly fit in the allies category. They also have a third member (Tentomutsumi) that represents the "ladybug" part of the motif, despite being more of a beetle "brother" than a beetle "sister".
  • The video game Time Bokan (based on the anime of the same name) have two giant beetle mechs as bosses at the end of the fourth level, a blue rhino beetle and a red stag beetle, fought in two consecutive stages, within a minute of each other, both which you need to defeat to proceed. The level's loading screen actually shows both of them at the same time.
  • In Yo-kai Watch, Beetler ("Kuwanobushi" in Japanese) and Rhinoggin ("Musha Kabuto") are described as being both allies and rivals; with a friendly rivalry rather than an antagonistic one.
  • Touhou Project has the onis Yuugi Hoshiguma (one horn and a Statuesque Stunner) and Ibuki Suika (two horns and a Pintsize Powerhouse, though she can make herself grow), often seen drinking together.
  • Animal Crossing: Bug-catching is one of the various activities players can engage in, and many types of beetle appear in the series. This leads to this trope being employed in a couple of ways:
    • The two rarest and most valuable are the horned hercules beetle and the golden stag beetle. Starting with the golden stag's introduction in City Folk, the two species fight each other on a tree stump when donated to the museum.
    • Played further in New Horizons, where any of the donated beetles can be seen fighting each other during the night. The two randomly-selected fighters will always be one of the stag beetles and one of the other beetles.
  • Tales of Berseria: An indirect form of the rivalry relationship happens when Laphicet finds a beetle that is infected with daemonblight, which the party beats out of it in a boss fight. It's a never-before-seen weird hybrid of the rhinoceros and stag beetles, leading Eizen and Rokurou, who take each respective species' side, to start arguing like children on which one it is and is stronger, though they both snap at the annoyed girls' dismissal of the differences. Exasperatedly, Laphicet elects to just call it a "rhinostagros" for now.

    Real Life 
  • The rhinoceros beetle and stag beetle are normally coincidental, but in the hobby of Insect Fighting they become more like rivals.