And kanji with manga
Saturday, March 3, 2018

Blue Oni Red Oni

In anime, when oni characters are involved, it's common for there to be a blue oni and a red oni, the blue oni having a single horn and the red oni two horns.

Blue oni and red oni from hell talking to Goku in the anime Dragon Ball Z.

The origin of this blue oni red oni trope comes from a certain children's tale about friendship. It was a popular one, so references to it spread across all media and fiction, not just anime.

Note that, most of the time, there's usually no deeper meaning to the red oni blue oni combo. It's simply that if there's a red oni, the blue oni will show up sometime, or vice-versa.


The Japanese Wikipedia has a version of the story (泣いた赤鬼) I'll talk about here. There are multiple variations of the tale, but the gist of it is usually the same.

Skip to the transcript if you want to read the story and don't want to be spoiled by the summary and moral.

Spoiler Summary

In the story, a red oni tries to become friends with humans, but oni, being scary, scare humans away, so not a single human comes by to play with him. He then asks his friend, the blue oni, for help. The blue oni comes up with a plan: he'd attack the human village, play the evil oni, and then red oni would fend him off, saving the humans, and becoming acknowledged as a hero oni. Doing this, the red oni becomes friends with humans, and plays with them every day. But for some reason his old friend, the blue oni, doesn't show up to play with him any more. Later he gets a letter from the blue oni, which tells if he came to play the humans would think they're friends, and then the whole plan would fall apart, so he wouldn't come play anymore. The story ends with the red oni crying for having lost his old friend.

Spoiler Moral

If I had to guess the moral, I'd say it is: do not lose your current friends to get new friends. Which is a common theme in fiction, and in anime, where you have characters who cut ties with their old friends of infancy in order to start hanging with the cool kids group, often regrettably.


toaru yama no naka ni, hitori no aka oni ga sundeita. aka oni wa zutto ningen to nakayoku naritai to omotteita.
Inside a certain mountain, one red oni lived. The red oni had always felt he wanted to become friends with humans.

soko de, "kokoro no yasashii oni no uchi desu. donata demo oidekudasai. oishii okashi ga gozaimasu. ocha mo wakashite gozaimasu."
Given that, "Home of an oni of gentle heart. Anyone is welcome. [I] have tasty sweets. And [am] boiling tea."

touiu tatefuda wo kaki, ie no mae ni tatete oita.
Such signpost [he] wrote, and put [it] in front of [his] house.

shikashi, ningen-tachi wa utagai, dare hitori toshite aka oni no ie ni asobi ni kuru koto wa nakatta.
However, the humans doubted, not a single one came play at the red oni's house.

aka oni wa hijouni kanashimi, shin'you shite moraenai koto wo kuyashigari, tsuini hara wo tate, sekkaku tateta tatefuda wo hikinuite shimatta.
The red oni was extremely saddened, frustrated for not being trusted, finally he lost [his] temper, and removed the signpost [he went through the effort of placing.]

hitori kanashimi ni kureteita koro, tomodachi no ao oni ga aka oni no moto wo otozureru. aka oni no hanashi wo kiita ao oni wa aru koto wo kangaeta.
By the time [he] was overcome with lone sadness, the friend blue oni came visit the red oni. Having heard the red oni story the blue oni thought of one thing.

sore wa, "ao oni ga ningen no mura e dekakete ooabare wo suru. soko e aka oni ga detekite, ao oni wo korashimeru.
That was, "the blue oni departs to the human village and goes berserk. There the red oni shows up, and punishes the blue oni."

sou sureba ningen-tachi nimo aka oni ga yasashii oni da toiu koto ga wakaru darou" touiu saku de atta.
Doing that the humans too will understand the red oni is a gentle oni, [I think.]" such plan.

shikashi, kore de ao oni ga moushiwakenai to omou aka oni dattaga, ao oni ga gouin ni aka oni wo tsure, ningen-tachi ga sumu mura e mukau no datta.
However, with this [it'd be something] inexcusable to the blue oni thought the red oni, but the blue oni brought along the red oni forcefully, aiming for the village the humans lived in.

soshite tsuini sakusen wa jikkou sareta. ao oni ga mura no kodomo-tachi wo osoi, aka oni ga kenmei ni fusegitasukeru.
And then at last the plan was realized. The blue oni attacked the village children, the red oni earnestly protected and rescued them.

sakusen wa seikou shi, okage de aka oni wa ningen to nakayoku nari, murabito-tachi wa aka oni no ie ni asobi ni kuru you ni natta.
The plan succeeded, thanks to that the red oni became friends with the humans, the villages started coming play to the red oni's house.

ningen no tomodachi ga dekita aka oni wa mai nichi mai nichi asobi tsuduke, juujitsu shita mai nichi wo okuru.
Having made human friends the red oni kept playing every single day, living everyday fully.

daga, aka oni wa hitotsu ki ni naru koto ga atta. sore wa, shin'yuu de aru ao oni ga are kara ichido mo asobi konai koto de atta.
But, the red oni wondered about one thing. That was, [his best] friend the blue oni hadn't come play a single time ever since that.

ima murabito to nakayoku kuraseteiru no wa ao oni no okage de aru node, aka oni wa kinkyou houkoku mo kaneteao oni no ie wo tazuneru koto ni shita.
[The reason he is] now living being friends with the villagers is thanks to the blue oni, the red oni also having not able to report the present situation decided to visit the blue oni's home.

shikashi, ao oni no ie no to wa kataku shimatteori, to no waki ni harigami ga hatte atta.
However, the blue oni's house door was shut tightly, besides the door a paper was sticker.

sore wa "aka oni-kun, ningen-tachi to nakayoku shite, tanoshikute kurashite kudasai. moshi, boku ga, kono mama kimi to tsukiatteiru to, kimi ga warui oni dato omowareru kamoshiremasen. sore de, boku wa, tabi ni deru keredomo, itsu mademo kimi wo wasuremasen. sayounara, karada wo daiji ni shite kudasai. boku wa doko mademo kimi no tomodachi desu"
That was "Red oni-kun, please become friends with humans, live having fun. If, I, kept your company like this, you too would be assumed to be an evil oni. That's why, I, will depart on a journey but, I'll never forget you. Good-bye, please take care of your health. I'm your friend no matter what happens."

touiu ao oni kara okitegami de atta.
Such farewell letter left by the blue oni.

aka oni wa damatte sore wo nidomo sandomo yomiage, namida wo nagashita.
The red stayed silent read it two, three times, and shed tears.


BLUE ONIIIIIIiiiiiiiii!!!! orz


y u do this 2 me


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