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Red Oni, Blue Oni

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Detective Somerset: We must divorce ourselves from emotion here. No matter how hard it is, we have to remain focused on the details—
Detective Mills: Hey, man, I feed off my emotions, okay? How's that? [Mills promptly gets into a fight with a reporter snooping around the crime scene] Hey, man, I'm sorry. They just...they piss me off, okay?
Detective Somerset: [sarcastically] It's okay. It's impressive to see a man feeding off his emotions.

This trope is about two individuals (or occasionally, factions or civilizations) that are significantly linked together somehow (such as through a rivalry, friendship, being siblings, co-workers, competitors, etc.) that have differing personalities and, with it, often different approaches to the world in general, especially whatever they might be competing in/for/over. This, of course, gives them something to butt heads about, since their manner of acting may rub each other the wrong way and each is sure that their way of doing things is right.

By the way, don't get too stuck on the colors in the title. The title refers to a Japanese tradition that gets elaborated a bit later in the article, but it doesn't mean that a character has to dress in or be associated with a particular color in order to fit the role.

Their personalities usually run roughly along the following lines:

  • The Red Oni is associated with passion, wildness, and defiance. A Red Oni character is often more brawny than brainy, extroverted, enthusiastic, determined, and filled with a zest for life. They are also much more likely to break conventions and rules than their counterpart. Often an Idiot Hero or, in more mature pieces, a Boisterous Bruiser. If a Red Oni is indeed noticeably intelligent, they will still be much more wild and impetuous than the Blue Oni and/or with less sophisticated thoughts, feelings, or goals. Generally speaking, they're more people-oriented than goal-oriented (although both Oni's can be either). They may or may not shrug off criticism about themselves or their aims and goals, but say or do something nasty to their closest friends and you've just guaranteed yourself a world of pain. When a goal-oriented villain, the Red Oni will often be Ax-Crazy and psychotically willing to sacrifice any innocent lives to achieve their goals. A more Affably Evil Red Oni tends to be a Blood Knight. In terms of character alignment, the Red Oni tends towards the Chaotic alignments, though this isn't always the case.
  • The Blue Oni is associated with serenity, control and observing authority. A Blue Oni is more intellectual, proud, traditional, introverted, and cultured (sometimes more spiritual, although that's not guaranteed), if a Blue Oni is indeed physically strong, they tend to be Genius Bruisers, with the calm, collected intelligence of a typical Blue Oni character combined with the physical prowess of a typical Red Oni character. Blue Oni personalities are often respected by others, but also likely to puzzle, confound or even intimidate their peers because they are difficult to read and have a mysterious quality to them. Personality subtypes include The Stoic, The Quiet One, Aloof Big Brother and Deadpan Snarker. It's worth noting that while blue types appear tremendously calm and composed, sometimes, this is just the surface, and scratching that façade may show that they are, if anything, wound far too tight beneath their calm and unemotional appearance. Villainous Blue Oni tend to be willing to sacrifice anything (and often anyone) for their goals, mostly only when their villainous goals are laden with true purpose (see Knight Templar and Well-Intentioned Extremist). Being more calculating, conniving and thorough (and if The Mole comes into play), Blue Oni tend to be more successful villains long-term than Red Oni. In terms of character alignment, the Blue Oni tends towards the Lawful alignments though this isn't always the case.

While many expressions of this trope play it straight, it is also not uncommon for the Blue Oni and Red Oni to mix traits. The Red Oni, while usually the more passionate and emotion-driven, may be the more easy-going and flexible of the two. Their more simplistic world-view may make them at least partially immune to angst and Wangst. Conversely, the Blue Oni, while usually stoic and thoughtful, may hide a volatile, angsty nature that erupts when pushed too far. In such instances, the two may switch roles, with the Red Oni becoming the reassuring, composed partner and the Blue Oni becoming a Whirling Dervish of Rage! Compare pairings such as Ken and Ryu, with Ken being the red oni - cocky, arrogant, but decidedly easy-going - and Ryu the blue - stoic, disciplined, but brimming with internal conflict.

If Elemental Powers are present, you can usually expect the red oni to use Playing with Fire or something of a similarly flashy nature, while the blue oni will prefer Making a Splash or possibly be An Ice Person and an Elemental Rivalry is born.

There are a lot of ways to play their interactions, so sometimes the two are both leads on an equal standing, sometimes the blue is more of The Smart Guy or The Lancer to the red's Hot Blooded The Leader or The Big Guy. The relationship can also vary wildly, as they are just as likely to be close friends as they are to be bitter rivals or enemies. One thing that is sure is that regardless of how big a cast is, when these two are in it, they will be magnetically drawn to each other.

Note that many times, this will be a relative, not an absolute, distinction: the Red Oni need not be The Fool and the Blue Oni need not be a Straw Vulcan.

The name comes from traditional Japanese folklore where Oni (think troll/ogre) usually came in two flavors, Red and Blue. Over time, it's gotten popular to ascribe different qualities and personalities to the two colors. (Think the high-strung Type A personality and the easy-going Type B personality.) See also the Marid and Ifrits over at Our Genies Are Different.

In a show where it's relevant, differences in fighting style may be something like Technician Versus Performer. For example, a red may rush headlong into combat without focus or a plan, relying on surprise or intimidation. It may be that their strategy is to close the fight quickly before their opponent can think or adapt. It's also possible that they're going to tank their opponent's defenses in order to focus on beating them down. The blue may use cunning traps, stealth and strategies, or tend to win in elegant Single-Stroke Battle fashion, or rely on hitting a target with magical powers or projectiles from a distance instead of running up to their opponent and punching them in the face. Force and Finesse is a variation where red tends to rely on raw power while blue uses precision strikes. Analysis page has more examples of possible red-blue dynamics.

Male-male oni pairs in Japanese-language works usually have an Expository Pronoun contrast, most often with the red oni calling himself ore and the blue oni favoring boku.

Add one person (We'll call them the Purple Oni, who's not as passionate and headstrong as the Red Oni, but also not as rational and calm as the Blue Oni) that bridges between the Red Oni and Blue Oni and you got Freudian Trio, with the Red Oni becomes the Id/The McCoy, the Blue Oni becomes the Superego/The Spock, and the Purple Oni becomes the Ego/The Kirk (or a Blue Oni is the Ego as well, who's either torn between the two, or not involved.). That's the basic formula, but not always. Sometimes as the plot progresses, someone new is added and as they become the trio, this newcomer might be even more emotional than the Red Oni or is even more calm and calculating than the Blue Oni. And whoever keeps the trio together is the ego.

Keep in mind that this trope can apply to anyone and to any pairs of people. They do not have to literally wear red and blue for this trope to work and sometimes, they can even wear opposite colors that contrast their roles as a red or blue Oni. They also do not have to be of the same gender either as this trope can also apply to two people consisting of a boy and a girl.

Energetic and Soft-Spoken Duo is a subtrope. Compare Outside Man, Inside Man, Odd Couple, Cast Calculus (for the evolution of the Red/Blue dynamic through various numbers of ensembles), Tomboy and Girly Girl, Sensitive Guy and Manly Man, Order Versus Chaos, and Elves Versus Dwarves. See also Pink Girl, Blue Boy and Action Duo. If the contrast in personalities between the two actually brings them to blows, you probably have a Tiger Versus Dragon situation. If they are friends it will often be of the Vitriolic Best Buds variety, most commonly where one character is completely oblivious to the vitriol.

Also, despite the name, this trope has nothing to do with that oni.

All example subpages are listed in the red-then-blue order unless otherwise specified:

Same goes for all the other example folders:

    open/close all folders 

  • This Italian brand of drinking water comes in two colors: red for "very fizzy" and blue for "lightly fizzy". The testimonials also reflect it in their personality.
  • Sanrio's Patty & Jimmy are well played in this trope: Patty is the red oni, because she excels in sports, but fails in studies. Jimmy is the blue oni, because he is not very athletic, but has A+ grades in such classes as math, and reading. In addition, the two friends wear their respective colors... most of the time.
  • UK Milky Way advertisement: The red car and the blue car had a race...
  • Old Spice has a series of commercials with dueling spokesmen Isaiah Mustafa as the smooth, calm blue to Terry Crews's loud red.
  • CinnaMon and Bad Apple from the Apple Jacks commercials. CinnaMon is an excitable cinnamon stick who frequently shows up his blue-oni counter part, Bad Apple, by using stunts to reach a bowl of their signature cereal first.
  • The former hosts of Nick Jr. can be seen as opposites to each other. Face (host from 1994 to 2004, and the host of Face's Music Party) and Piper O'Possum (host from 2004 to 2007) are the excitable, zany red onis, while Moose and Zee (co-hosts of Noggin from 2003 to 2009, Nick Jr. from 2009 to 2012) are the calm, quiet blue onis.
    • Moose and Zee can be seen as opposites to each other as well, albeit a downplayed example. Moose is the more extroverted and talkative one of the duo, while Zee is more introverted and explicitly stated to be shy in her debut appearance on Noggin.

  • Feng Ling Yu Xiu: Where Feng Ling'er can be fairly abrasive and has more of an attitude, Bai Yuxiu is mild-mannered and polite. However, Feng Ling'er has been shown to be more cautious than Bai Yuxiu in dangerous situations.
  • In Motu Patlu, Motu is more hot-tempered (red) while Patlu is considerably calmer (blue).

  • Medici Chapels: That the Medici brothers are Sibling Yin-Yang of sorts is symbolized by the statues that flank their tombs. "Dusk" and "Dawn" represent the transitions of the day, where the light is tender and invites calm contemplation. They are placed at Lorezon's sides and, like him, are Blue Onis. On the other hand, "Day" and "Night" convey tension —the former is full of energy to tackle his routine while the latter is in a fitful sleep. They are Red Onis whose stark contrast belies Giuliano's prideful disposition.
  • Oni Embodiments: The Oni sculptures are literal embodiments of this trope. "Embodiment of 'A'" is red-skinned and a Blood Knight. "Embodiment of 'Um'", by contrast, is blue-skinned and The Stoic.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Red and Blue magic and characters often have this relationship with one another. Red magic, mages, and creatures are all about passion and defiance. Blue magic tends to be big on thought and planning. Also, fire magic tends to be red, while water magic tends to be blue.
    • Among planeswalkers, the two typical embodiments of this comparison are Chandra Nalaar's pyromantic, hotheaded and impulsive Red to Jace Beleren's mind-bending, studious and analytical Blue.
    • In their childhood, the brothers Mishra and Urza fit this trope perfectly. Mishra is temperamental, emotional, and passionate, whereas Urza is scholarly, logical, and standoffish. This continues throughout the Brothers' War.
    • In modern sets, djinn and efreets often play this role against each other. Djinn, associated with Blue mana, are passive and thoughtful. Efreets, tied to Red mana, are wild, emotional and impulsive. This is particularly notable through two characters from Strixhaven, a school of magic whose colleges each focus on the dichotomy between two opposing colors — in this case the deans of the Red/Blue college of Prismari, the scholarly djinn Uvilda, who believes that careful scrutiny and planned, deliberate choice are they key to great art, and the flamboyant efreet Nassari, who believes art comes from passion, emotion and unrestrained self-expression. Uvilda's artwork thus consists of small, precisely shaped and extensively worked-on masterpieces, while Nassari's are grand projects designed to be ever bigger, more radical and more emotionally exciting.
    • In the Strixhaven set, there are five colleges in the titular university, and all of them have different variations of this with each other, which is deliberate as they are all utilize enemy colors so as to simulate a school debate.
      • Lorehold (Red/White): a history college that produces Indiana Jones-type students, their internal argument with regards to history is simplified to Order Versus Chaos, with White representing Order, while Red represents Chaos.
      • Prismari (Red/Blue): an art college that deals with art in all its forms, but their argument in the approach to art is nothing short of Harmony Versus Discipline or Technician Versus Performer (Blue being the technician, Red being the Performer).
      • Quandrix (Green/Blue): a math college that focuses on all things dealing with math, their argument is whether math is all theory (Blue), or if these equations can be brought to life (Green); basically, Mother Nature, Father Science.
      • Silverquill (White/Black): a college known for its word-based magic; their argument can be boiled down to Warrior vs. Sorcerer, as the debate is about whether words should be used to strike down enemies (Black), or to to help uplift allies (White)
      • Witherbloom (Green/Black): a college centered around biology. They argue whether Life is more important in the grand scheme of things (Green), or if Death is more important (Black).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • Defender, the Magical Knight is the defensive counterpart to "Breaker the Magical Warrior." "Breaker's" emphasis is on his ATK and sword; "Defender's" is on his DEF and shield. "Breaker" is DARK Attribute while "Defender" is LIGHT Attribute. Their color schemes are also the opposite of each other, "Breaker's" armor is red while "Defender's" armor is blue. Their effects are also opposites of each other since "Breaker's" effect destroys Spell or Trap Cards, while "Defender's" effect protects Spellcasters (hence the names).
    • Nikitama and Aratama are references to the duality of god in the Shinto religion, namely Aratama & Nigitama, this card being a "evil" god, while "Nikitama" is a "kind" god, therefore they are counterparts of each other. Aratama supports destruction and anger (this may be represented by its effect that allows the player to search for a strong monster). Nigitama supports birth, growth and regeneration (this may be represented by its swarming effect and the one that allows the player to draw 1 card).
    • Finally, there's also the straight up examples of Red-Headed Oni and Blue-Blooded Oni.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is hyper and imaginative while Hobbes is calm and philosophical.
  • In Dilbert, Alice is the hot-tempered, overacting red to Wally's laid-back, calculating blue.
  • Garfield and Odie often fit the Red Oni and Blue Oni, with Garfield being lazy, a Perpetual Frowner and sluggish in activity while Odie is always happy, a Perpetual Smiler and very physically active.
    • Jon is often the Red Oni himself, being this desperate loser always calling women on the phone asking for a date or simply asking Garfield answers to philosophical questions while Garfield does nothing but slouch on the table and make a harsh comment or insult about Jon like telling him to get a life or "Feed me".
  • Peanuts:
    • Played straight with the bossy, crabby, strong-opinionated Lucy and her calm, younger brother Linus who acts as the strip's philosopher and theologian by reciting quotes from The Bible. Quite a little ironic considering how Lucy's signature color is blue while Linus' is red.
    • Downplayed with Peppermint Patty and Marcie, which Patty is more of an extrovert while Marcie is more of an introvert.

  • Binary Break has Kat (Red) and Cate (Blue). Cate is relaxed and can go with the flow, and generally tries to be friendly with everyone. Kat is much more acerbic, sees Cate as more of a rival, and doesn't seem to have many friends beyond Cate.
  • Find Us Alive: Love (Red) and Raddagher (Blue), with shades of both Energetic and Soft-Spoken Duo and Ham and Deadpan Duo. Love is loud, brash, impulsive, and prone to violence and Suddenly Shouting; Raddagher is The Quiet One (to the point of becoming nonverbal occasionally), reserved, methodical, and often the first to notice when something seems off. As it turns out, Opposites Attract.
  • While both co-hosts of Were You Raised by Wolves? are passionate about etiquette, Leah often suggests breaking certain rules of etiquette to resolve conflicts and she often expresses what she would like to do even if it would be rude. Nick, on the other hand, finds it difficult to suggest breaking these rules and often — though not always — agrees with what Miss Manners or Emily Post would do.

  • BIONICLE started off featuring easily-angered Toa of Fire Tahu and No Social Skills Toa of Ice Kopaka. However, later teams would invert this; Jaller was a Toa of Fire yet calm and professional as The Captain, while his team's Toa of Ice, Matoro, was quiet but compassionate, determined, and The Chosen One. The Bara Magna setting has another inversion, as the fire tribe warrior Ackar is old and thoughtful, while his best friend, Kiina (with the water tribe), is a brash, sharp-tongued Ladette.
  • Inhumanoids brought us the duo of Pyre (Fire spirit) and Crygen (Grey ice spirit), both of which can fuse together into the guardian of the Earth's core, Magnacore!
    • As with the Earth Corps humans, Herc Armstrong is the fearless Red oni while Liquidator is the more calm and collected Blue oni. Although their file photo shirts are the otherway around, Herc's green exploration suit has more red on it than blue...while Liquidator's yellow suit has it the other way around.
    • Of course, if you want Herc as the blue oni, contrast him with bad boy Auger's red oni. And Liquidator can only be red oni to the blue oni of Dr. Derek Bright (who himself wears the blue exploration suit).
  • Robo Force, the mid 80's collection of action figure robots, played this trope very straight. Blazer, the igniter, is Red oni because he is very impulsive... not to mention that he uses flamethrowers as his weapons. But S.O.T.A. (State Of The Art), the creator, is Blue oni for being an inventive scientist with a calm demeanor. Also, both robots have their torsos in their respective colors.

    Web Videos 
  • In Critical Role Caleb and Nott are Platonic Life-Partners; however, Caleb is an introverted, thoughtful, studious human who prefers to live a cautious life, and Nott is an enthusiastic, impulsive young goblin who has a tendency towards Sticky Fingers.
  • Kittisaurus features this via the ten cats. Some of the more noticeable dynamics are
    • Dodo (loud, food obsessed Red) and Toto (quiet, calm Blue) with a good dose of Sibling Yin-Yang to boot.
    • Nana (sociable and cheerful Red) and TT (cold and standoffish Blue).
    • Momo (boisterous Red chairman of Momo Corp) and Coco (observant Blue professor studying the world around him)
    • Chuchu is pretty much the shy and easygoing Blue to everyone else's Red. Lulu used to be the Red to everyone else's Blue due to him being a trouble making Big Eater, until Dodo showed up and made him look peaceful by comparison.
    • Claire took in a pair of black kittens for a day and brought them into her home. One of them spent his time meowing, hissing at and generally antagonizing the other cats when they came to have a look, and even squeezed through the baby gate to go exploring (Red). His brother remained in the kitchen and kept his distance from the others (Blue). Claire even remarked the first would turn out to be a troublemaker while the other was more well behaved.
  • Mike and Dave of Civil Protection.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Blue Oni Red Oni, Blue Oni, Red Oni


Federico and Ricardo

Federico and Ricardo, rivals for Diana's affection, both prepare to go to meet Diana and express their different approaches to love and courtship in the duet.

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