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Legendary Carp

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"I think I made the fish too hardcore."
Toady One the Great, Dwarf Fortress

Carp have a strange tendency to appear unusually powerful in fiction, often being gigantic. Giant Carp are venerated for being colorful and allegedly wise pond dwellers, especially in Japan. Sort of like swimming parrots. They are known for their ability to jump many feet into the air and their long lifespan, something which is usually forgotten amongst their more domesticated, ill-kept brothers called goldfish. According to legend, a sufficently old and powerful carp that is able to climb a waterfall may even become a dragon.

See Seahorses Are Dragons for another animal that turns into a dragon in Japanese Mythology.

Oddly, despite goldfish being a sort of carp, and supposedly being flushed down toilets on a regular basis, this myth rarely seems to cross over with the "giant alligator in the sewer" Urban Legend. Probably because the carp has barbels which make it look more like an Eastern dragon while goldfish doesn't...thus a goldfish won't turn into a dragon at all.

See also The Catfish, a more elusive kind of fish. If you searched for Legendary Crap, you either want Blatant Lies, Solid Gold Poop, Toilet Humor, So Bad, It's Good, or a page on the Darth Wiki that shall not be named.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • In Afro Samurai: Resurrection, Afro, initially shown still on his quest to kill Justice and become Number 1, is depicted fishing for carp.
  • In One Piece, the waters around the Japan-lookalike Wano Country are inhabitated by humongous carps, which can be used to ride the colossal waterfalls surrounding the island. Much later in the arc, during the climatic battle on Onigashima, we learn that Kaido's fruit, which allows him to transform into a colossal blue Eastern Dragon, is actually the Uo Uo no Mii, Model: Seiryu (Fish Fish Fruit,Model: Azure Dragon). Its implied to be related to carps in some way. A flashback in the same chapter shows that Kaido's base used to have a giant gate adorned with a dragon statue, a nod to the Dragon's Gate carps have to cross to become dragons.
  • Magikarp in Pokémon: The Series usually appear as extras in underwater scenes and the badly-disguised wares of a Snake Oil Salesman, but occasionally have made a bigger impression:
    • In the episode "The Joy of Pokémon" one Nurse Joy had a giant Magikarp for a friend.
    • "The Wacky Watcher" had a direct reference to the legend — a huge school of Magikarp (which were color tagged by how old they were) attempting to climb a waterfall to prove they have the strength to evolve into the dragonlike Gyarados.
    • The episode "Ya See We Want An Evolution!" had a Magikarp and Feebas (its Suspiciously Similar Substitute) beating the snot out of Piplup and Ash's Pikachu almost effortlessly.

    Collectible Card Game 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Turns up in The Exorcist III, of all places.
    There's a carp in my bathtub, Father. And for three days it's been swimming. Up. And down. Up. And down. And I hate it. I can't go home until the carp is asleep. You've been standing close to me for some time now, Father. Can you tell? I haven't had a bath for three days.
  • The titular character of Shin Godzilla is grotesquely mutated by radiation, and ends up evolving from a fish-like creature into the Atomic Breath-spewing monster more familiar to audiences.

  • According to Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, the Reflecting Pool in the Washington Mall is home to a legendary carp which has grown to 1900 pounds on junk food thrown by tourists and once swallowed a passing pedestrian (the Secretary of the Interior) whole. And yes, Dave Barry does mention in a footnote that "'Legendary Carp' would be A Good Name for a Rock Band."
  • In the story "Tunnel of Fish" from Kate Atkinson's short story collection Not the End of the World, on his birthday Eddie is taken to Deep Sea World where, in an undersea tunnel, he receives a message from a giant carp.
  • In Alastair Reynolds' "Chasm City", research involving carp produced the earliest immortality treatments. As a result, the postmortal upper class reveres carp in general, and there is also a specific carp which is also several hundred years old and therefore extra-revered.
  • In Keys to the Kingdom, one of the parts of the Will takes the form of a carp.
  • In Beware of Chicken, average arrogant carp, Washy/Wa Shi goes from being a dishwasher to a water-aligned dragon after getting lost in a river and meeting a strange turtle who teaches him a new water technique. He becomes a dragon once he jumps over the waterfall to go home. He still returns to the farm to be a dishwasher, though.

  • Kintaro ("Golden Boy"), a character in Japanese folklore, was depicted as fighting a giant carp.
  • In Chinese Folklore, a carp that was able to jump over the Dragon's Gate would then transform into a dragon itself ("The Carp Jumping the Dragon Gate" is now used as an aphorism for any sudden success). This myth inspired Magikarp.
  • In Mercer Mayer's illustrated version of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", a Legendary carp is one of the beasts that assists the heroine on her journey. He gives her a ride across the sea on his back and a fish scale that proves useful later.


    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons once had Giant Carp as a monster. It also has the "Carp Dragon", a cross between a giant carp and an Asiatic dragon which serves as the juvenile stage for all of the other "Oriental Dragons" and randomly transforms into one of the adult breeds after it passes its first 100 years.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails has fishing acting as major side-quest throughout the series, wherein collecting every type of fish will allow an opportunity to capture the fabled 'king' of a lake.
  • Persona: Fishing enough times in Persona 4 and Persona 5 provides a chance to catch the Guardian and the Ichigaya of the fishing pond. The Updated Re-release of both games includes new variants that provide useful items to be used in dungeons.
  • Pokémon:
    • Double Subverted by Magikarp. It is a horribly underpowered fish (stat-wise, very few are weaker, but those few can all learn better moves) which can do little else but splash around; it's said that it was stronger in the distant past. Also, it can pretty much be found anywhere. Its evolution, however, is the powerful, dragon-like Gyarados.
    • The most direct reference to the legend is in Pokémon Snap after a Magikarp in the Valley stage endures multiple instances of Video Game Cruelty Potential, it hops into a waterfall and evolves, bursting back out as a Gyarados and roaring at you — which makes for a great shot, of course.
    • A level 100 Magikarp can be caught in Pokémon Platinum and Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. It's Awesome, but Impractical, because at that point it can't evolve anymore (at least until Generation VIII, where using a Rare Candy on a Lv 100 Pokémon with a level-up evolution condition will then evolve).
  • In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, part of the Fishing Minigame in Waddle Dee Town is also catching 'The Big One' upon reeling in multiple Blippers and performing a more tricky reel-in to catch the large golden Blipper.
  • Two of them appear in Live A Live, and both of them are considered an Optional Boss. Lord Iwama from the Twilight of Edo Japan chapter, and Lucretius from the Final Chapter.
  • Luminous Avenger iX: In Bakto's Data Center Alpha stage, there is a stationary platform you come across during the second moving platform ride in the second half of the level. There is a rare chance that the flying enemy to the right of the platform will be replaced by a shining golden carp.
  • In one of the versions of Dwarf Fortress, the game's creator accidentally made carp far too powerful: their default bite attack did as much damage as a wolf's and due to a bug in the skill system, they could increase their stats by swimming, which they did all the time anyway due to being fish. Undead carp were even worse: they can walk on land, so you were either screwed or very brave if you tried building a fortress near them. Later versions dialed their power back a great deal. Then aimed attacks were implemented, and fish became dangerous again (sturgeon are the new aquatic dwarf-killers).
  • Carp Armor and Carp Melee are a recurring joke between the fans and developers of City of Heroes.
  • Referenced in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love with the giant carp missiles controlled by the Statue of Liberty.
  • Ōkamiden references the above-mentioned myth with a giant evil catfish who convinced himself that he was a Carp that would turn into a dragon when he climbed up a waterfall.
  • Like a Dragon:
    • Yakuza introduces Akira Nishikiyama who is associated with a koi as a direct reference to the legend. His driving motivation is his ambition to become more and better than his old friend Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima.
    • Yakuza 5 reveals Masato Aizawa has this as his tattoo when he and Kiryu face each other for the final battle in the game in the Tojo Manor, being the largest and strongest final boss Kiryu fought during his tenure as the main character in the series. He seeks to assert himself at the top of the Yakuza world on his own merits, uninterested in Tsubasa Kurosawa's desperate schemes to forge a legacy, and sought to overcome Kiryu in a fair fight for this very reason.
    • In Yakuza: Like a Dragon the main protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, has a tattoo on his back that shows a carp that has ascended up the waterfall and became a dragon, signifying his rise from the rock bottom into the Arakawa family. It's also something of an Actor Allusion since Ichiban is voiced by Nishikiyama's VA.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: The treasure carp act as Metal Slimes for the game, fleeing at high speed if they spot Wolf but yielding Treasure Carp Scales if killed, which can be traded for extremely valuable items. There is also the Great Colored Carp that lives in the waters of the Fountainhead Palace. It sports humanlike features, and the fact that the Pot Nobles are attempting to become one themselves in order to gain immortality imply that the Great Colored Carp used to be a human.
  • Märchen Forest: Mylne and the Forest Gift: When fishing, a Pop-eye catch can get the commentary:
    Is it indeed fact
    — an old regular goldfish,
    can take to the skies

    Visual Novels 
  • In Mizuchi, it's eventually revealed that Ai used to be a carp that was kept as a pet. In Jinhai's route, she eventually transforms into a dragon to fight off a group of villagers searching for her.

    Web Animation 
  • hololive: This trope is why the Animal Motif of the wandering samurai, Josuiji Shinri, is the koi fish. The story he tells at the start of his debut is the legend about a koi that kept swimming upstream and leapt up a waterfall with the gods turning it into a dragon for its efforts, upon which he relates the koi's determination as a lesson to constantly strive and improve. Fittingly, his fanbase is represented by a stylized koi fish wearing a miniature version of his conical straw hat.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • "The Warriors of Kyoshi" begins with Aang riding a giant koi off the shore of Kyoshi Island.
    • The mortal forms of the Ocean and Moon spirits are a pair of koi who circle each other while looking like a yin-yang symbol. In the first season finale, after Zhao kills the Moon Spirit in order to De-power the Water Tribe, Aang temporarily merges with the vengeful Ocean Spirit using the Avatar State, transforming it and Aang into what the fandom have dubbed, "Koizilla", which then proceeds to effortlessly annihilate the invading Fire Nation.
  • In Big City Greens episode "The Van", Marcus the koi that Tilly has been feeding at the Little Tokyo pond, is the size of a whale, big enough to swallow a van whole.

    Real Life 
  • Benson the giant carp, formerly of Bluebell Lakes, England.
  • There was a red koi fish named Hanako, who lived to be 226 years old (confirmed through examination of her scales and the records kept by the temple she resided at) before dying of natural causes in 1977. She appears to have come from a long line of long-lived fish. (For reference, most other koi only live for about 50 years on average.)


Video Example(s):



Using the Avatar State, Aang merges with the Ocean Spirit into a gigantic creature of water and light to drive the invading Fire Nation fleet out of the North Pole.

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