How Japanese folklore inspired Okamiden

Ink to the past...

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Meanwhile, the Lucky Mallet also features in Square Enix emo RPG The World Ends With You, as one of the rarest and most valuable accessories in the game.

Missing an 'o' from his proper Shinto moniker, Susanoo, this stocky chap is the reluctant hero in Okami who eventually comes good with a bit of lupine assistance. Though his legend is also a story of redemption, it's quite a different tale.


Born from Izanagi's nose during the same ritual that birthed his sister Amaterasu (one can only wonder what happens when the gods get a cold), he and his solar sibling fought like cat and god.

As a gesture of goodwill, the pair decided to create more gods, only for Susanoo to go a bit potty in the process. He destroys all the paddy fields on the heavenly plane, before flaying a horse and throwing it into Amaterasu's weaving room (don't you hate it when your brother does that?), finishing off his rampage by decorating one of her temples with his own faeces.

He's duly banished from Heaven, and only forgiven for his misdeeds after defeating the eight-headed snake Orochi. The Kusanagi sword found in the serpent's tail was presented to Amaterasu as a peace offering, and it also appears in the original game as the reward for beating Ninetails.

Yamata no Orochi, Japanese for 'sodding great snake', was a pretty fearsome sight if its description in historical tome Record Of Ancient Matters is anything to go by. "The eyes are as red as the winter cherry. It has one body with eight heads and tails. On that body moss grows, and conifers; the length extends over eight valleys and eight hills, and if one looks at the belly, it is constantly bloody and inflamed."

In fairness, we don't look too good in the mornings either. Orochi demands a yearly sacrifice from a pair of earthly deities, munching down on seven maidens in seven years, before its own greed is its undoing. Year eight sees Susanoo save the godly couple's final daughter, Kushi, although his defeat of Orochi is slightly less impressive than the digital retelling: he only slays the serpent after getting each of its eight heads drunk on sake, and chopping them off while it sleeps.

Tactically astute, perhaps, but we can see why Capcom made a few adjustments to ensure a more visually dynamic send-off for the multi-headed beast.

Amply proportioned wood sprite Sakuya spends the early moments of Okami trying to dig pervy old Issun out of her blouse, but her official legend is a little more romantic - at least initially.


After a whirlwind romance, Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi asks for her hand in marriage, declining her father's offer of his other daughter, Iwanaga. Yet in turning down Sakuya's sister, Ninigi dooms himself and his descendants to a mortal life - though in his defence, 'Sakuya the blossom princess' does sound more appealing than her sister the rock princess.

His choice of prosperity over eternity seems even less wise after Sakuya falls pregnant and Ninigi suspects she may have had a bit on the side with another god.

Understandably a bit miffed at this accusation, Sakuya gets an attack of the crazies and locks herself inside a hut, setting it on fire and claiming that the child will not be hurt if it truly belongs to Ninigi.

Fortunately, she's left entirely unharmed, and Sakuya safely gives birth to three bouncing baby boys. The tale of her survival has led some to believe that the goddess will prevent Mount Fuji from erupting.

So camply attired he makes Louie Spence look like Gerard Butler, the flamboyant Waka is ample proof of Capcom's magpie approach to ancient legends.

Despite his recurring presence throughout Okami, Waka's role in Japanese myth has nothing to do with Amaterasu. His name - understandably shortened from Ushiwakamaru (if only so he can fit it in the strict character limit when playing Pokémon games) - is the childhood moniker of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a popular 12th Century Japanese warrior.

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