Storytelling in Japanese Art — Onmyoji and Raiko: Super Heroes Team-Up vs. More Japanese Demons

The Drunken Demon

by Christopher Agostino

see also: The Eye of the Demon — a StoryFaces Performance to learn about the stage presentation I do based on the legends of the samurai and the demons that they fight

I ran into a couple of old friends at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday in the exhibit Storytelling in Japanese Art. In an “emaki” (handscroll) illustrating the story of “The Drunken Demon” I found the hero samurai Raiko (who I know from a folktale I tell of his battle with the Goblin Spider) and Abe no Seimei (my favorite Onmyoji, or yin/yang magician)—both in the same story like a Spiderman/Dr. Strange crossover in an issue of Marvel Team-Up.

Marvel Team-Up — Twice as Many Pages! Twice as Many Thrills!

Emaki are like the original comic books or animated movies, telling a story through text and sequential illustrations. A scroll might be 30′ long, and to read it you would look at about two feet at a time, unrolling it with your left hand while simultaneously rolling it up again with your right. “The Drunken Demon” version in the exhibit was told over three scrolls from the Edo period by Kaiho Yuchiku (1654-1728). A boyish demon becomes terrible when drunk, stealing all the beautiful women. When he captures the daughter of an aristocrat, Abe no Seimei uses his powers to find where the girl is held, and the Emperor orders Raiko and his warrior companions to rescue the girl—which they do with the help of three gods disguised as men, a tree that grows across a chasm to become a bridge, some poisoned saki and a golden helmet. In the climactic illustrations, after a wild feast featuring human sashimi, the sleeping demon is depicted as filling an entire room (described in the text as 10′ tall, but illustrated as if 30′ tall) before Raiko cuts his head off, blood spraying out in a fine mist just like in the modern samurai movies like “The Warrior’s Way” (a fun one I watched last night). Continue reading

Japanese Demons and Team Fortress 2

In response to the previous post, my son sent me some images from a character he has in Team Fortress 2, who can acquire the Noh Mercy mask, based on a Japanese demon.


A note on the Team Fortress 2 official wiki points out:

“The Noh Mercy appears to have been styled after the Hannya mask, often used to represent a jealous female, that becomes a demon in Japanese Noh plays.” — which happens to be a major plot point in the Onmyoji movie I like so much, though I’d say it’s more than mere jealousy that turns the the woman into a demon haunting the emperor.


The Noh Mercy mask is for the Spy character in Team Fortress 2, described, haiku-style as:

“Chain smoking Frenchman

Skulks in the shadows, then attacks

Terrifying mask”