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Legendary Carp

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"I think I made the fish too hardcore."

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 and Manga  

  • 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 Fish Fish Fruit, implied to be related to carps. 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 the Pokémon anime 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 expy/foil) beating the snot out of Piplup and Ash's Pikachu almost effortlessly.

     Collectible Card Game  



  • 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.


  • 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  

  • Double Subverted by Magikarp. It is a horribly underpowered Pokémon (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.
  • A Bonus Boss in Live A Live, Amulucretia, is a giant 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. 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.
  • Yakuza Akira Nishikiyama 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.
    • 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.

     Western Animation  

  • One episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender begins with Aang riding a giant koi off the shore of Kyoshi Island.
    • Another ends with Aang becoming merging with a water spirit that takes the form of a koi fish and powering the vengeful spirit with the Avatar State so it becomes what the fandom have dubbed "Koizilla", which then utterly savages the invading Fire Nation navy.

     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.)


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