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Glossary and Character Taxonomy  Breakdown by Country of Origin   Bibliography   Table of Contents    The Best of the Encyclopedia

Kurama Tengu. Kurama Tengu was created by the Japanese author Osaragi JirĊ and appeared in story serials, novels, movies and tv shows from 1923 to the present, beginning with “Kurama Tengu” (Poketto, 1923).

Kurama Tengu is a Costumed Avenger. In the middle of the 19th century Kurama Tengu, the “white dragon,” is a samurai who wears a black costume and black mask so that he can investigate crimes and conspiracies and punish wrongdoers without his true identity being known. Kurama is opposed to the Tokugawa Shogunate, which is oppressing the common people, and fights to overthrow it and restore the power of the Emperor. Towards this end Kurama takes on a variety of enemies, such as the special swordsmen, the Shinsengumi. Kurama is the best swordsman in all Japan, however, and he carries two pistols with which he is a crack shot. He is occasionally assisted by others, such as the youthful lion dancer Sugisaku. His common opponent is a “poison woman” Femme Fatale thief who is usually hired to spy on Kurama or kill him.

* I'm including Kurama Tengu in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because his archetypal nature. There were certainly samurai heroes in Japanese popular culture before Kurama Tengu. Centuries' worth, in fact. But Kurama Tengu became the archetypal samurai hero of the 20th century because of the modern (20th century modern, anyhow) treatment of character and plot, because of the 19th century setting, and because of the combination of the Costumed Avenger and samurai genres. The average Kurama Tengu story, novel, movie, or tv show is well done, certainly, and worth watching, but the specific elements of the Kurama stories are what elevated them into the archetypal stratosphere, even for non-Japanese readers and viewers. Recommended.

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