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Kabuki Sounds

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Kabuki is part of traditional Japanese theatre, dating from the Edo period (17th century as the Western world records time). Like other Japanese theatrical styles, it uses music and musical sounds to help tell the story. Several instruments/calls have become strongly identified with the theatre performance itself, even sounds that originated in other parts of Japanese theatre.

Sounds meant to evoke Japanese traditional performances:

  • Tsuzumi. A drumlike instrument that makes a "pon!" sound. Frequently employed to punctuate a joke or humorous moment, often in combination with a man's voice making an "Ooowoooh!" sound (also from Kabuki). A very traditional instrument, its sound is considered emblematic of traditional Japanese culture as a whole. Although they sound alike, do not mistake the "pon!" of a tsuzumi for the noise of shishi-odoshi.
  • Okawa. A drum that sounds a lot like a woodblock. One or two quick strikes are usually all that's used.
  • Shinobue and Nohkan. High pitched flutes. Used in either brief bursts akin to whistling or longer sequences.
  • Yoo~ooh. A call to announce a character, often accompanied by a dramatic zoom or "Super Sentai" Stance.


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  • Tenchi Muyo! punctuates many of its jokes with Kabuki sounds, and the tsuzumi and okawa are heard in the Eye Catch.
  • Gasaraki uses Kabuki (and Noh) elements in its theme song and throughout the series proper.
  • Saber Marionette J To X emphasizes some of its funnier moments with Kabuki sounds, particularly series of rapid tsuzumi strikes.
  • The 2006 OVA Continuity Reboot of Negima! Magister Negi Magi has used tsuzumi strikes to punctuate Setsuna's more samurai-like moments.
  • The anime Naruto makes use of Kabuki sounds in background themes. Often taken up a notch with Jiraiya, who not only dresses like someone right out of Kabuki theatre, but also has a habit of announcing himself using common mannerisms. He also moves like a Kabuki actor, most notably the hopping step and slow hand wave.
  • Used in the beginning and the end of the 2nd Vampire Princess Miyu OAV.
  • Inuyasha used Kabuki sounds frequently to establish mood, particularly appropriate given its Feudal Japanese setting.
    • Considering the stage clothes and stylized fights, they might as well be actually performing kabuki.
  • Whenever Kumadori from One Piece speaks, he speaks in verse, and kabuki sounds play in the background.
    • Before arriving in Wano, the Straw Hats encounter an octopus that can naturally create kabuki sounds. Naturally, its all over the place in the Wano arc proper in the anime.
  • Constantly in Mononoke and Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales.
  • In Digimon Tamers, these sounds accompany the kitsune-themed Renamon's evolution into Kyuubimon.
    • In the original Japanese version of Digimon Adventure 02 Hawkmon's evolution to Shurimon is accompanied by Kabuki sounds (sometimes hard to hear over the insert music playing), and Shurimon finishes the evolution footage by striking a classic Kabuki pose (again, a little difficult to recognize since he has shurikens for hands).
  • Given that Ninja Nonsense is about ninja, it was inevitable that these show up a lot.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi likes to use bells for its Kaoi moments.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei thrives on them.
  • Can be heard in Japan's Image Song in Hetalia: Axis Powers.
  • Used in Anpanman for the Den Den Troupe, a Kabuki troupe, and also for Princess Shirataki, who's servant, Shungiku-san, carries a tsuzumi with him for their travels.
  • In Yaiba, Goemon Ishikawa has the looks and mannerism of a Kabuki actor, so this is expected. In the manga, one panel even has him posing dramatically after a speech while a duo of Black Oni in the backgroud play the Okawa to accompany his performance.

     Film — Live-Action 
  • The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is the story of a kabuki actor whose career goes downhill after a Parental Marriage Veto. Kabuki performances and kabuki sounds are heard throughout. In one scene Kiku is backstage during a show, when he hears the sound of drums, and tells his wife Otoku that the drums mean the performance is ending.
  • Dr. Furano in Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl conducts his experiments wearing a full Kabuki get-up, so naturally these are heard in the background.

     Live-Action Television 
  • The Rangers from Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger had Kabuki-sounds during their transformation sequences.
  • Samurai Sentai Shinkenger: Shinkengers' Shodouphones make kabuki noises after being used to draw magical kanji in the air.
  • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: The Utsusemimaru Theme also featured kabuki noises when he first morphs into Kyoryu Gold.
  • Avataro Sentai Donbrothers is the latest Super Sentai to join the list, and is perhaps the most Kabuki-esque season yet. Not only do they heavily utilize them on their soundtrack, their sequences, and even their DonBlasters, but this particular Sentai's outfits are designed to resemble Kabuki performers, their transformation utilizes traditional Japanese scroll painting art, and DonMomotaro arrives in a cart pulled by other people, and is often seen with a fan on his hand. Oh, and before you ask, the first sound their Henshin makes is a "Yooooooo!"!

  • Used in the Kabuki-styled musical Pacific Overtures, though not frequently.
  • This Touhou Project remix of Yuugi's theme features the "oowooooh" guy.
  • When David Byrne was commissioned to provide interstitial scenes (i.e. "knee plays") for a Robert Wilson stage show, his initial idea was to score them with traditional kabuki percussion. He got partway through, then decided a different approach was needed. The finished version of The Knee Plays was brass band music. However, the 2007 CD reissue includes five selections of Byrne's original kabuki score, as bonus tracks.

     Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Stadium features kabuki sounds in the "Sushi-Go-Round" minigame from the first installment, as well as the "Clear Cut Challenge" in Pokémon Stadium 2.
    • HeartGold and SoulSilver have kabuki-style instrumentation in a number of their tracks, most notably Ho-oh's theme.
  • Fatal Fury Special uses this in Geese's CPU stage, and Real Bout Fatal Fury Special has an Optional Boss fight with him as well in his rooftop pagoda. The intro to the fights has several doors sliding open, punctuated with okawa beats, and the fight music itself (titled "Soy Sauce for Geese") has several tsuzumi beats and the "Ooowooh" voice as well (at least in the RBS version).
  • In Persona 5 A tsuzumi and okawa are played as Yusuke's Persona Goemon first appears. Fitting as Yusuke is very much a traditionalist (to the point of using archaic language in the original Japanese), Goemon was depicted as much in actual kabuki plays, and Yusuke is an artist by trade.
  • At least half of the Samurai Shodown soundtrack is entirely played with traditional Kabuki instruments, in keeping with the general mood of the game (especially where Kyoshiro is concerned, since he's a Kabuki actor). Behold.
  • The Kyoto stage and Yoshimitsu's forest stage from the first 2 Tekken stages with "Ooowooh" to boot. Also, Baek's and Kazuya's stage themes in the second game.
  • Ōkami uses a lot of the drum sounds, as well as several Kabuki-style shouts.
  • Street Fighter: E. Honda's theme, because he's basically the first ever Kabuki-Sumo wrestler. You can hear some tsuzumi sounds in Ryu's theme as well, though he doesn't have the whole kabuki thing going.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • In WarioWare: D.I.Y., one of the drum sets in the music maker is a Japanese-themed set which includes Kabuki sounds.
  • In The New Tetris, the song "Japan" is made entirely of various kabuki sound effects to form a funk/techno hybrid.
  • In the Shiren the Wanderer series, set in feudal Japan, this is used a lot.
  • Plugging in four controllers in to a Gamecube, holding the Z button down on all of them, and starting up the console will play a tsuzumi accompanied by the "Ooowoooh!" noise instead of the normal start up sounds.
  • In Power Stone, The Mutsu stage featured the "Ooowoooh!" sound from Tsuzumi in the beginning of the theme .
  • In The Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation, both of the Nerd Gaiden stage themes use an "oowoooh" sample.
  • Ganbare Goemon 2 for the Super Famicom features the "Ooowoooh!" sound on the title screen and the "area clear" screen, and also has a kabuki-themed stage where tsuzumi appear as floating springboards.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist uses an "ooowoooh" at the beginning of Stage 3, in line with its Wutai theme.
  • The Simpsons Arcade Game features these in the boss fight against the Kabuki Master.
  • In Animal Crossing, there is a cat villager named Kabuki whose appearance is reminiscent of a traditional kabuki actor. His catchphrase is "meooo-OH", a blend of "meow" and a typical kabuki shout.

     Western Animation