Yokai: The Kappa

Although I didn’t like it very much at first, the kappa has quickly become one of my favorite mythical creatures. What is it that I like about them? Is it the fact that there are many different interpretations of them historically, or that they can be downright adorable in modern depictions? Or maybe it’s just that little bowl of water on their heads. Let’s talk about it some more!

Trouble-making Little Demons

At first I thought they looked terrible. Duck-things with reptilian bodies! It didn’t help that I don’t really like ducks or turtles. (Except sea turtles. They’re adorable. Kappa sea turtles would be adorable, too, I guess.) And if I were to see one in reality, they would frighten me. I mean, that’s just too creepy to see walk up to you, realistically.

But the cuter they look, the more acceptable they become… (Which I believe is a general rule. Do you think anybody would have cared about Pandora if all the Na’vi resembled Gremlins? Exactly.) Kappa are known as troublemakers, and also consumers of children. Of course, they don’t really seem to have any ill will towards humanity as a whole. Why else would we love them?

I am in fact writing and drawing a short comic story for print centering around a kappa right now, which should be out later this year. Perhaps I’ll post about that then. Another one of my comics, this one online, involves many yokai and other types of demons, and a kappa may make its way into its story as well.

I can show you the kappa my mom drew for me for the print story:

Kappa Stuff

The famous King Bowser Koopa from the Mario game series may have taken inspiration from kappa. He’s not very watery, though. You’ve got to admit, their names do sound similar. (His name actually is more closely inspired by a Korean food dish. Appetizing!)

Trailer for an animated movie called “Summer Days with Coo”, which I absolutely need to see

Kappa no Kaikata (How to Breed Kappas) is an anime series about…raising kappa. I haven’t seen it, but it hosts an adorably unforgettable kappa.

A Spore-created kappa with interesting…features.

A kappa-related independent short animation

I also found a very old series of ads spanning many years (1939-1980) for Japanese Sake Kizakura, using kappa. However, the video is no longer up!

As you can see, the kappa is fairly popular in Japan. (Understatement!) I’m beginning to understand why! People cosplay them, they crop up here and there in stories of all forms, both ancient and modern, and they serve as friends, symbols, and mascots. Long live the kappa!

Designer, artist, author, comic enthusiast, and geek about visual design/video games/Japan/human rights. Among other things!

7 Replies to “Yokai: The Kappa”

  1. Maz says:

    Thank you for the wonderful entry!

    Kappa really are neat! I love the old ad, I saw a bunch of the while touring a sake brewery in Kyoto years ago. It amuses me how kappa go from terrifying to sexy. o.O

    Your mom drew an adorable kappa too!

  2. Nice overview. I love some of those pictures.

    I was first introduced to the kappa by Final Fantasy 2 way back when on my SNES. At the time I thought it was created just for the game. You wouldn’t believe my surprise when I first moved to Japan and learned more about it.

  3. […] complex nature of the kappa, creatures who are portrayed as both evil and cute. You can read the entry here. Vote for Sen […]

  4. Jessica Cantlope says:

    Wat, this layout can’t do nested replies. Lame.

    @Maz – hehe, Mom’s kappa still amuses me. I keep it on my desk.

    @David – I actually forgot what my first exposure to the kappa was at this point. I do know that the first time I heard of it I thought it actually had a bowl in its head, like a cereal bowl or something…a design which comes into play in my kappa story, lol.

  5. wesley says:

    my first exsposer to a kappa was the golduck pokedex entry pokemon red “Often seen swimming elegantly by lake shores. It is often mistaken for the Japanese monster, Kappa.”

  6. […] would’ve edited this into the Kappa post, but that might not be fair as this month is a competition to win something, and I already made my […]

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