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Myths & Symbols

- Ronin Namesakes

  • Ryo -- "excellent"
    Origin:  Japanese
  •  Sage -- "healing herb" or "wisdom"
    Origin:  Latin 
  • Cye -- "lord"
    Origin:  Greek
  • Kento -- "healthy" or "rising up"
    Origin:  Japanese
  • Rowen -- "little-red head"
    Origin:  Irish Gaelic
  • Mia -- "wished for child"
    Origin:  Hebrew
  • Anubis -- Egyptian god of darkness
    Origin:  Egyptian
  • Cale -- "devotion"
    Origin:  Hebrew
  • Dais -- "god"
    Origin:  Latin
- Symbols 

  • The Virtues
    The virtues (even the Ronin ones) were outgrowths of the eight Principles of Bushido followed by the samurai and were a conglomeration of the teachings of Buddha, Chu-Tsu, and Confucius. Bushido means "The Way of the Warrior."
    • Jin - To develop a sympathetic understanding of people
    • Gi - To preserve the correct ethics
    • Chu - To show loyal to one's master
    • Ko - To respect and to care for one's parents
    • Rei - To show respect for others
    • Chi - To enhance wisdom by broadening one's knowledge
    • Shin - To be truthful at all times
    • Tei - To care for the aged and those of humble station
Note: "Nin" (Dais's kanji) was not one of eight principles. But then there were nine armors and only eight principles, so I suppose Sunrise had to add another one. "Inochi" is not one either. 

  • Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)
    During the transformation sequences, sakura blossoms fall and resolve into the various Ronin armors. Now here is perhaps the reason: Sakura represents new beginnings, it signals the end of winter and the arrival of spring. They represent ephemeral beauty, but also inevitable change and the transience of life. 
  • Significance of Numbers
    In Asian lore, numbers are very important and stand for different things. Here's a look at why the there are "5 Ronin Warriors," "4 Warlords," and "9 Armors."
    • 5 - Obviously for the five elements
    • 4 - In Japanese, the number four can be represented by "shi"which is the kanji for death. The Warlords ARE evil to start with
    • 9 - Represents eternity or power. To the Japanese, it can have negative connotations. The nine armors came from Talpa, who is the epitome of suffering, and Talpa also needs the nine armors in order to merge the Earth and Netherworld. But the nine armors also represent the power of humanity and nature.
  • The Five Elements
    Actually, the five elements aren't fire, water, earth, wind, and light. These are more modern, westernized interpretations of the elements. But it was American's who translated this anime. The ACTUAL five elements according to Chinese lore are descriptive forms borrowed from patterns of nature and reflect attributes of changing energy states.  
    They are as follows:
    Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water
  • The White Tiger
    In Asian lore, the white tiger can represent the protector or preserver. The male tiger was the god of war and assisted armies of the emperors. He fought demons that threatened the dead in their graves. The white tiger is also the symbol of light and good.
  • Wisteria
    When Kayura first appears, she is represented by wisteria blossoms. I wasn't quite sure why, until now. The Japanese floral calendar acknowledges wisteria as one that promotes mental clarity and improves retention. Assumablely, you could take this and say that it symbolizes Kayura as the true heir to the Ancient and her later break from Talpa's hold.
- Mythology
There is a lot of Japanese folklore, mythology and Oriental mystic symbolism in the Ronin Warriors plotline 

   The Oriental mystic system uses five elements, not the four we're more used to. The fifth is "Spirit", sometimes representing Life. (These five elements according to some sources may also be called Wood (Spirit), Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water - with "Metal" being the equivalent to Air in this case.) The Four Seasons were also quite important. The combination of Elements and Seasons made the number "nine" of utmost importance in the Oriental mystic system. (Somewhat similar to the importance that the numbers "five" and "seven" have in most European-based mystic systems I know of.) That's why Kaos created nine Yoroi - to use the mystic "ki" energy generated by that special number.

Each of the hand gestures used by both Kaos and Arago (and infrequently by Sh'ten after he gains the shakujo) are actual gestures used in Japan by Shinto priests and monks, Buddhist monks and priests, and various shamanic "cults".

In addition, each of the Yoroi was made with a specific virtue, each represented by a kanji in this case. Those yoroi made to represent the five elements were imbibed with the five Confucian virtues - which, by the way, are even listed in Nelson's Japanese-English Character Dictionary under the explanation of the kanji JIN. The five Confucian virtues are: JIN - Benevolence (Ryo's "great heart"), GI - Justice (Shu - he's the straight-forward one - either something is right, or it isn't) , REI - Courtesy (Seiji - he's also the most mystic; fitting as his element is spirit), CHI - Wisdom (Toma IS the intellectual of the five!), and SHIN - sincerity (and trust)(Shin is sometimes the most naive and trusting of the five). The chant of "Jin-gi-rei-chi-shin" is used as a meditation mantra by some Buddhist sects. The four Yoroi associated with the seasons, on the other hand, were given what can be termed the warrior or samurai virtues; they are listed in some of the books on Bushido I've found. They are: CHU - Loyalty, NIN - Endure/bear pain (ie without complaint), TEI - Serve elders, and KO - Filial piety. I suspect that Arago-sama was able to pervert the last four yoroi much more easily than that of the first five because of these virtues -- the four warrior virtues emphasize loyalty and service to the master you've sworn to obey even if you think your lord is in the wrong. The five Confucian virtues, on the other hand, are based on what could be called "moral constants" rather than the whims of one's lord. (As a matter of fact, in one article it states that Arago has waited until current-day to try his newest attack on our world precisely because the five Confucian virtues are no longer actively practiced by most people today, making it easier for the Demon Lord and his forces to enter and conquer our world.) Of course, as the Yoroi were originally part of Arago, there is also a certain amount of evil inherent in the mystic metal. It becomes evident in the OAVs that even the Troopers' yoroi contains evil power, or    Shikaisen/Necromancer would not have been able to use the Korin armor. It is the affiliation of the wearer, not the armor itself, which decides whether the good or the evil power of the yoroi is foremost. I suspect that the wearers of the yoroi will only gain the full levels of their potential when they learn to harness and use both sides of the armors' nature.

The studio also uses a lot of other, more familiar Oriental mythological elements as well. In Japanese symbology, white or blond hair usually represents supernatural beings or spirits -- and in this series, both Arago and Kaos -- definitely supernatural beings and/or spirits! -- have white hair. So does Rajura, for that matter, and his unique abilities at creating illusions certainly bespeak unusual powers. The weird little frog-eyed demon envoy in episode #24 is designed to look an awful lot like one of the little clay Japanese household gods that you sometimes see in museums; I've seen a picture of one in Japanese Mythology by Juliet Piggott that looks exactly like the headpiece that creature was wearing in the series.

What's even more interesting is looking at the faithfulness the artists have used in creating the armor. While the yoroi themselves are not "real" samurai armor (although their outline from a distance resembles samurai armor) -- they're solid sheets of metal instead of individual little plates of metal sewn onto a backing, for one thing -- the helmets themselves are straight out of the museums. So you think some of those helmets are too wild to be true? Check out some of the books on real samurai armor available in English! The helmets the Troopers and their enemies use are actually fairly modest compared to some of the real helmets pictured in the books I used to do my research!

The use of the "three weapons" necessary to defeat Arago: the Swords of Passion, the Blazing Sun yoroi, and the "Jewel of Life" are a direct "steal" from the three Imperial "gifts of the goddess" -- the comma-shaped jewel, the sword, and the mirror -- that are part of the "mythology" of the Japanese imperial family. The three gifts were given to the first emperor by the sun goddess Amaterasu as an indication of her favor, and are even today part of the Imperial regalia. The "Jewel of Life" in the TV show may be a type of seed pod -- which certainly is indicative of life -- but also is "comma-shaped". The Mirror of the Imperial regalia was used to show Amaterasu her own (fiery) image; and the white armor is the Sun Armor -- there seems to be something of a parallel there! Further, the Kikotei yoroi can only be worn by someone who is noble and righteous, as it is in essence the distillation of the "prayers and wishes of the oppressed for peace" -- it the spiritual product of purity and nobility. Finally, the "Swords of Passion" are the equivalent of the sword of the Imperial regalia. They are especially effective in fighting demons.

Trying to figure out where Kaos -- and later Sh'ten, after he takes Kaos' place -- fits in was an interesting problem, but we think we've discovered just who and what he was. The problem is that Kaos displays elements of both Shinto and Buddhist symbolism. He has long hair, while Buddhist monks and priests usually shave themselves bald. The shakujo is more representative of Buddhist and Zen Buddhist monks. He uses Buddhist-style chants, yet the "medicine bag" he wears around his neck is Shinto in origin. He knows how to use a sword, unusual for most priests or monks of either sect. Research into Japanese folklore and history revealed that there was a group of mystics who fit this type of image, and in more ways than the visual side of things! There was a sect of mystics known as the Shugendo who combined both Shinto and Buddhist concepts and precepts. They were known as the "yamabushi" or "Mountain Ascetics", and were of a militant order -- they were also sometimes called "Mountain Warriors" and they played a major role in several of Japan's internal conflicts. They were also said to be very power magic-users, as much feared for their mystic abilities -- including healing -- as respected. They dressed "plainly", in the manner of iternent monks, and did not shave their heads. They were also said to specialize in fighting evil spirits. Not much is known about them, as their sect was wiped out during the Meiji Restoration. Part of the Restoration was a decision by those who came into power to completely separate Shinto and Buddhist practices (these were the militaristic, nationalistic fanatics who would later be responsible for bringing a hellish lot of grief to both Japan and the rest of the world). As Buddhism was a foreign influence, it had to be separated from the native religion of Shintoism, and Shintoism itself had to be "purified" - and was re-made into the very militaristic sect of Shrine or State Shinto that became the official religion of Japan in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Because Shugendo's basis was the blending of the two religions (along with healthy portions of straight mysticism), it had to be destroyed. (I'm sure the fact the mystics also tended to support the Shogun rather than the new government probably had something to do with it, too!) The suppression of the sect was so thorough that there is very little known about the practice of Shugendo, although of course their public exploits, especially by their warriors, are part of Japan's history.

In the first two OAVs, extensive use is made not only of the "Seal of Solomon" six-pointed star, but the computer analyzing the yoroi uses the symbolism of the I-Ching in assigning various values to what it discovers. For example, when Shikaisen starts to turn into Arago, the symbol that flashes on the screen is that of hexagram "Chi Chi", or "After completion" -- which indicates a "small success". Other I Ching symbols used in various patterns are simply too numerous to list in this article...If you're interested, you can always pick up an I Ching book (mine cost about $2 at a used book store!) and use your VCR's "pause" button while you write each hexagram down...

Another interesting note: In Japan mediums and shamans -- that is, those people believed to have direct channels of communication from the divine and ancestral spirits to humanity -- are entirely female (I understand there isn't even a word in the Japanese language for a male shaman). This might cast an interesting light on Nasti's role (both function and characterization) in the series.

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Ronin Manor Design © Derrian Star 09.10.97 - 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Yoroiden Samurai Troopers © Sunrise Animation/Nagoya TV. Ronin Warriors © Gras Entertainment/Ocean Studios.