I've been meaning to tackle this topic for a while, and I was reminded of it again the other day when Andrew & Matt brought it up on their latest AM2 Podcast (great series, guys!). So anyway, let's get started.
In Shenmue II, when Ryo arrives at the tiny riverside village of Langhuishan in Guilin, you may remember this optional conversation that he has with one of the three village boys on the wharf.
On being asked why he is seeking Bailu village, one of the choices is for Ryo to tell him that he is going there to fight the evil ogres there:
|Ryo decides to liven the mood with a light-hearted reply.|
However the little boy does not seem altogether convinced by Ryo's explanation, and even less so by his details about what the ogres look like:
|You know, just your typical Japanese ogre look.|
This is something that I've seen come up every now and again in Shenmue fan forums, so for any players who may still be scratching their heads about this interaction, let's look at the cultural background in this post.
Acknowledgement: Thank you to Kiyuu of the Shenmue Dojo for her old forum post which served as the inspiration for this post.
The Story of "Peach Boy"
|Peach Boy (Momo Tarō) on his way to the island of Onigashima with his crew.|
His banner reads Nihon-ichi, "the best in Japan".
Once upon a time, an old woman was washing clothes in the river, when a large peach came floating downstream towards her. On taking it home to her husband and cutting it open, to their delight out jumped a baby boy who they named "Peach Boy".This is a great little animated version of the story:
Many years later, Peach Boy left home to fight a band of Oni (meaning demons, or ogres) who had been wreaking havoc on the surrounding villages. On the way to their island fort, he made friends with a talking dog, monkey and pheasant who agreed to join him on his quest.
Arriving at the island, Peach Boy and his animal companions joined forces to fight the ogres, who surrendered. Peach Boy returned home victorious with a great many treasures.
This is the children's tale to which Ryo is referring when he tells the boy that he is going to fight the ogres, in the same way that the brave Peach Boy set out to do. Unfortunately the implication is lost across cultures and the explanation falls flat.
Ogres in Japan
Ogres and demons in Japan feature quite commonly in folklore and children's stories. They are traditionally depicted as having red- or blue-colored skin, sharp conical horns on their head, wearing a loin-cloth made of tiger skin and carrying an iron club.
Hold on a second... "a loin-cloth made of tiger skin"? Yes - the reason why Ryo described his imaginary ogres as having "tiger skin pants" is because this is part of a Japanese ogre's "uniform"!
|A typical Japanese oni (ogre / demon)|