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Top to Bottom: Shadowside Rai-chan from Yo-kai Watch 4, Raikou from Pokémon and Raidramon from Digimon

"The raijū, or thunder beast, is said to come down to earth with a lightning bolt during a thunderstorm. Lightning scars on a tree were sometimes attributed to the raijū. Although not the best-known yokai today, raijū were exceedingly common during the Edo period: numerous documents, illustrations, and even mummified bodies record their appearance in the regions throughout Japan. In these materials raijū come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, ranging from squirrel- or weasel-like creatures to beasts more akin to dogs of large cats.
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"Clearly, lightning and thunder were mysterious, frightening transcendent phenomena for people in the past (and present), and it is not surprising that they were associated with deities and mysterious creatures."
The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore

Raijū (alternatively spelled raijūu) is a Youkai that roams The Forty Seven Prefectures of Japan. They are seen as Japanese-culture's blanket explanation for the phenomena of lightning. They are said to be docile and protective on the regular, only to become violent and unpredictable at the drop of a hat.

Raijū often switch between corporeal form and that of pure lightning, though the appearance of the corporeal form is erratic and tends to fluctuate. Its appearance differs between a white and blue wolf, to Tanuki, weasels, cats, tigers and various other quadrupeds. Because of this, the appearance of the Raijū in popular culture is barely ever consistent and will often rely on its Shock and Awe powers as its defining trait.

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Much like Kitsune, Raijū are a breed of youkai often seen as emissaries of Kami worshiped by the population. In the case of the Raijū, they are associated with the similarly-named Raijin, the Shinto God of Thunder and Storms, acting as familiars that carry out his actions on the earthly plane. It is said that Raijū tend to rest within the belly-buttons of sleeping mortals and Raijin would wake them up by shooting arrows of lightning at them. Because this causes great harm to the unwitting human, superstitious people would sleep on their stomachs to protect themselves.

Sub-Trope to Youkai. Related to God of Thunder and Thunder Beetle.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: The manifestation of the Thunder card is Raijū, the Thunder Beast. It looks like a big electric wolf.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: Raidramon is Veemon's armor evolution when the former creature is exposed to the Digi-Egg of Friendship, giving it the quadrupedal physiology of the wolf-like Garurumon evolutionary line and a lightning affinity.
    "Veemon armor-digivolve too... Raidramon, the Storm of Friendship!"
  • Flower Knight Dakini: Thunder Beasts play an important role in the story as they are created specifically to destroy the Golems threatening the world. They do not possess any electricity-related powers, instead the main weapons of their enemies are destructive lasers called Straight Thunders or Mjolnirs.
  • Inuyasha: The Raiju Brothers Hiten and Manten. They're both humanoid (with Hiten being totally human-like while Manten has a monstrous head) and they do care for each other. The anime filler also introduces their little sister Soten.
  • Monster Rancher: The character Tiger (originally known as Raiga in Japan) draws inspiration from the raijū, resembling a blue and white-furred wolf with horns that he can shoot bolts of electricity from.
  • Otome Youkai Zakuro: A raijū goes berserk in the first episode, giving us a chance to see Agemaki's courage — and the half-youkai girls' ability to actually handle the situation.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: In "A New Comrade", Naofumi and his party encounter a Nue, a chimera-beast with tiger and lion characteristics with a serpent for a tail. It's body gives off a powerful electrical charge like the Raijū.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Raijūs are an incredibly powerful breed of monster. They are bipedal, mammalian with horns on their heads and power over electricity. The only example of a Raijū present is Raika, Leader of Fairy Tale's Fifth division.
  • Touhou: One chapter of the manga Wild and Horned Hermit features Reimu and Marisa finding Kasen's pet raiju and becoming poisoned by its thunder. In Kasen's later appearances in the games, the raijuu (named Mukou) is featured in some of her attacks.
  • Ushio and Tora: While Tora has been called a raijū, his actual form looks more like a tiger, and lightning is only one of his Combo Platter Powers. It is not, however, his real species, just a moniker.
  • ×××HOLiC: A raijū appears in the form of a crazed lightning ball.
  • Yaiba: Shiro Amakusa turns into a giant, six tailed weasel with huge claws for his showdown with the Kid Samurai. However, he doesn't gain any thunder-related ability.

    Fan Works 
  • In Never too Clever, Starswirl the Bearded and Clover the Clever at one point have to deal with a raijū — a wolf-like Elemental Embodiment of lightning that can create storms — that has been terrorizing the pegasus weather workers. As it turns out, raijūs feed on electricity and the creature's attacks were prompted by the pegasi's suppression of naturally occurring storms, which was starving it to death.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pacific Rim: One of the kaiju is given the name Raiju. Resembling a crocodile or a mosasaur, it has a three-part head armor that protects its wormlike real head inside. It is portrayed as a fast swimmer with powerful jaws, but possesses no electrical abilities.
  • Beyond the Pyramids: Legend of the White Lion: The titular White Lion derives its designation not from having white fur, but from being composed of lightning. The creature is described as a pentacle of the gods and able to take on human form if it suits its purposes. It is both malevolent and benevolent, killing without remorse but also seeking to draw the best out of the humans that take on its challenge to come to Hell's Gate.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder: Raijus are creatures native to lightning-wracked regions of the Plane of Air, but are often flung to the material world by the elemental fury of the storms they live in. They naturally resemble small, foxlike creatures crackling with electricity, but are actually born as spheres of living electricity and, when in the material plane, they usually take the forms of small, common mammals from their new home area so as not to stand out. They return to their true forms during the fits of furious activity that lightning storms engender in them, and are constantly seeking to return to their home plane. There are also kaenjus, rarer relatives of raijus that come from the Plane of Fire instead.

    Video Games 
  • Dungeon Crawl: Raiju are late-game enemies that take the shape of a blue hound and can turn into living lightning at will.
  • In Genji, the Nue boss from the first act is replaced by its palette-swap cousin Raijū, who uses lightning rather than non-elemental attacks and whose claws are needed to make the game's Infinity -1 Sword for both Yoshitsune and Benkei.
  • Monster Hunter:
    • Rajang is a Thunder-type monster, can appear like a ball of thunder or fire, has yellow and black fur, and looks like the monkey-like depiction of the raijū. It has only one tail, which can be cut to make it lose power.
    • The Zinogre is also based on the raijū, being a wolf-like monster capable of generating powerful electrical shocks.
  • One of the bosses in Nioh is the Nue. Much like in Genji, the Nue in the game adopts various aspects of the Raijū, most notably the emphasis in its tiger-characteristics and its Shock and Awe powers.
  • Pokémon: A number of Electric-type Pokemon are based, to a greater or lesser degree, on the raijū.
    • Raikou, one of the three Legendary Beasts, is the most direct derivative of the mythological raijū. It resembles a black-and-yellow saber-toothed cat with a zig-zagging, lightning-like tail, and it's said that thunderstorms follow where it goes.
    • Manectric resembles a blue-and-yellow wolf with a prominent lightning theme, and physically resembles the raijū more than Raikou itself does.
    • While Thundurus is primarily based on Raijin, the thunder god that raijū were sometimes associated with, its beastlike Therian forme is more heavily based on the raijū itself.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Raijūs appear frequently as beast-like creatures made of lightning.
  • Yo-Kai Watch: Rai-chan are a breed of yokai introduced in Yo-kai Watch 4 based on the raijū. Their Lightside forms are Rank SS and have the same cutesy toon-design as your average youkai. Their Shadowside form are Rank SSS are much more intimidating.

    Web Original 

 
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Gaijin Goomba explains Raiju

Gaijin Goomba (both the real person and his cartoon goomba counterpart) explain to the viewers just what the Raiju is.

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