The List
6 Anime Based on Eastern Legends

by Lynzee Loveridge,

In 2013, I wrote up a list focusing on reimagined fairy tales. A few focused on Eastern fairy tails (Fruits Basket, Saiyuki, Ceres, Celestial Legend) the other five pulled from Western staples like Cinderella, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid. Enough shows have premiered since then to revisit the topic but specifically focus on the folktales and traditions of the East. This week's list visits the Middle East, China, and of course Japan for six reinterpretations based on tales hundreds of years old.

6. Momokyun Sword (Momotaro) So what if the characters from the classic hero tale were turned into bouncy, buxom girls? Let's just say there's more focus on Momoko's peaches than adhering strictly to the story. The classic animal companions are also tagging along mostly intact as actual animals. The crew go on to battle marauding demons but that's where the similarities stop as the plot introduces the magical "Michimi Peach," a bevy of celestial maidens and a calculating scientist suspiciously named Kaguya.

5. Dragon Ball (Journey to the West) Journey to the West is a popular jumping off point for anime and manga. The original epic follows Sun Wukong, (aka Son Goku) the Monkey King armed with a magic staff and a flying nimbus. Goku's story mirrors this as does his companions. He's joined by a pig (Oolong), the priest Shā Wùjìng (Yamcha), and the monk Xuanzang (Bulma). Yamcha is originally a thief living out in the desert while Shā Wùjìng's name literally means "sand aware of purity." Xuanzang is a well-read traveler in search of sacred books while Bulma is in search of the sacred dragon balls. The similarities start to deviate after that with green aliens, vegetable-named people, and androids.

4. Ayakashi - Samurai Horror Tales (Various) A horror anthology, Ayakashi - Samurai Horror Tales adapts three classic Japanese folktales in separate arcs. The first is a well-known ghost story originating in the 1800s where a vengeful, disfigured spirit haunts the husband that forsook her. The second story tells of a forbidden romance between a falconer and an isolated goddess, and the last and perhaps most popular tale is Bake Neko which later inspired the Mononoke anime series. Like its title suggests, Bake Neko introduces a series of murders perpetuated by a monstrous cat but the real monster in the story turns out to be the alleged victims.

3. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (Arabian Nights) Many Western viewers became familiar with Aladdin thanks to the Disney animated film. The manga by Shinobu Ohtaka also adapts Arabian Nights, taking the characters of Aladdin, Sinbad, Ali Baba and the its Middle Eastern setting. It then introduces shōnen story elements with "Dungeons" and Ali Baba's quest to conquer as many as possible to reap the legendary fortunes and obtain powerful djinn. This is not unlike the book's original story of Aladdin obtaining a magical lamp within a booby-trapped magic cave.

2. Queen Millennia (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter) Leiji Matsumoto's sci-fi series was originally released under the full title "The New Tale of the Bamboo Cutter: Millennium Queen" and the titular character bares many similarities to the princess from the ancient tale. The original story stars Princess Kaguya, a tiny baby girl discovered inside of a bamboo shoot. The origin story is comparable to Thumbelina and Tom Thumb although neither of those cases ended up being Moon people. Queen Millennia herself also ends up being an alien living among humans. She's specifically entrusted from her monarch to act similar to a queen ant; infiltrating the humans and colonizing them as future subordinates. She comes to love her foster parents and Earth friends, like Kaguya did, and instead decides to fight her home world's plans.

1. Blue Seed (Susanoo & Yamata no Orochi) The story of Blue Seed is a environmental supernatural take on Susanoo, Princess Kushinada, and Yamata no Orochi. In the original tale, the god Susanoo comes upon a village where the princesses have all become sacrifices to the eight-headed dragon. Susanoo, feeling generous, decides to help the village and proceeds to get the dragon drunk in exchange for Princess Kushinada's hand. In the anime adaptation, which has one of the catchiest opening songs ever, high school girl Momiji is the reincarnation of Kushinada and has within her the power to quell the angry god-like monsters attacking Tokyo. Susanoo also appears (albeit not until the end) and not as a love interest but as a threat to all mankind.

The new poll: No new poll this week, as the list (and myself) are on vacation for a week in the Land of the Rising Sun. See you soon!

The old poll: Of all the supposed Hollywood live-action anime adaptations (in progress or stalled), which would you most want to watch? 10% replied with "no answer" which I can guess means no Hollywood adaptation would hit the mark. Here's the results:

  1. Monster (Guillermo del Toro) 22.3%
  2. Cowboy Bebop (Keanu Reeves) 11.7% »
  3. Ghost in the Shell (Dreamworks/Paramount) 8.6%
  4. Tiger & Bunny (Imagine Entertainment) 7.7%
  5. Death Note (Warner Bros.) 7.4%
  6. Battle Angel Alita (James Cameron) 6.5%
  7. Neon Genesis Evangelion (WETA Workshop) 5.6%
  8. Akira (Warner Bros./Leo DiCaprio) 5.4%
  9. Witch Hunter Robin (Roy Lee) 2.8%
  10. Lupin III (Gerald R. Molen) 2.3%
  11. Naruto (Lionsgate) 2.0%
  12. Pet Shop of Horrors (Rogue Pictures) 1.9%
  13. Space Battleship Yamato (Shoji Nishizaki) 1.5%
  14. Voltron: Defender of the Universe (Mark Gordon) 1.0%


When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her son on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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