Some people wonder “what is anime?”, or they simply think it is a cartoon for children. Anime is the Japanese pronunciation of the abbreviated word animation. But it most commonly used in English speaking nations for Japanese cartoons. But in reality anime is more than that, it is an art form. It opens the window to another culture and traditions. From this author’s own experience I learned more about Japanese folklore (tanuki, kinsune etc) than I would have if I did a google search for Japanese folklore. There are many anime series that show folklore and legends within the storylines and even use some as part of the storyline. Here are some anime that are interesting to watch that use folklore of various tpes within the storylines.
Twelve Kingdoms: Yoko is an ordinary girl trying her best to be what everyone else wants her to be; trying to be friends with everyone, but really friends with no one. All that changes when a mysterious man shows up at her school pledging his loyalty to her throne. The man known as Keiki takes her to another realm along with two of her friends where they must fight for their own lives while trying to figure out where they are and why. But the man who could explain everything is nowhere to be found. As Yoko travels to various kingdoms she learns more about herself and transforms inside and out into a new person, one ready to face her destiny as Queen Kei. This series follows Yoko’s journey as well as the journey of others like Enki, Taiki, Shoukei, and Suzu as they all search for the same things, their places in the world. In this anime are kirin, holy creatures designed to choose the next king or queen. Once the keirin dies, so does the ruler. This series has folklore of its own, folklore that is a part of storyline.
Daphne in The Brilliant Blue: Maia had her life planned. She was ready to start working for the Ocean Agency, only the best get in, only Maia doesn’t get in. While she struggles to find a job she get taken hostage and is, um, rescued by two women who work for help for hire agency. Maia has nowhere to go and as a last resort begins working for Nereids, the same company as her rescuers. Throughout the story we learn the history of the world that was once below water and the tragic loss of one country that didn’t rise above the waters. The title of this series refers to a past Maia has long forgotten and fights to regain. The idea with the lost city that didn’t surface follows the legend of Atlantis having unknown treasures and history.
The Story of Saiunkoko: Shurei is a young noble woman whose family has fallen on hard times. She suddenly takes on a job at the palace as consort to the king so he could learn to be a better king within six months. Afterwards the government officials pass a law to allow women to become officials. Now is Shurei’s chance to show that she is just as good as an official as any man. Throughout the series Shurei struggles with different obstacles in her path, including a king trying to win her love, an uprising among one of the kingdom’s royal families. Shurei must deal with it all accordingly. Will she succeed at making her dreams come true? Shurei all refers back to a legend she learned as a child “The Rose Princess.” Another legend within its own storyline.
Rosario + Vampire: Aono Tsukune is a first year student in high school. On his first day he learns something troubling, it is a school for monsters. Everyone at the school is one form of a monster or another, everyone that is except for Tsukune. He is a human. Throughout the story he finds himself in various situations with his fellow female students falling in love with him and jealous of his relationship with Moka-san: an S-class monster: A vampire. She only reveals her true form when her rosary is taken off by Tsunkune. In each episode we learn of a new monster use in various myths and legends such as Lamia, succubi, lizardmen and even the true nature of mermaids. Will the other students learn that Tsunkune is not a monster? Find out through the 2 season series. ALERT: It can be a little pervie with references to sex, and focus on boobs.
My Neighbor Totoro: This one isn’t a series, but a movie by Ghibili studios (produced Ponyo). It’s a story that follows two young girls and their interactions with the forest spirits around their home, including Totoro. One scene the girls are waiting in the rain for their father when Totoro appears with only a leaf on his head. The oldest: Satsuki offers him an umbrella and he is delighted at the sound of the rain upon the material; he gives the girl a pile of nuts and seeds. Soon a bus in the shape of a cat picks Totoro up and carts him off down the road. The girls plant the seeds and at night see Totoro and his friends doing a ceremonial dance. Within the story of enchantment is also sadness with the girls mother having an illness to the disappearance of Mei, the younger daughter. The story is beautiful and shows another legend: forest spirits.