Heralding the Lunar New Year: Dragons in anime!

Credits to Azure.

Today, the 23th of January, is the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar, meant for the welcoming of the deities of heaven and earth, and a day for us to visit our elders. More importantly, it also heralds the beginning of the year of the Dragon, as shown on the Chinese zodiac. And the lack of posts regarding the chance to post about nothing but dragons on AOIA was to me, a clearly wasted opportunity. In the spirit of Chinese New Year and dragons, it’s time to talk about dragons.

I could go about talking about Dragons in two ways, but I suppose we should start in the literal approach: actual, fire-breathing dragons. East Asian depictions of dragons are generally the same: a long, snake-like appearance, with claws. They , unlike their European counterparts, are generally benevolent beings, and symbols of good fortune and power.  In olden China, the dragon was used by royalty as a symbol of their power. It wasn’t uncommon to see various paintings and statues of the dragon all over East Asia as well. So I suppose that when we talk about serpentine, divine dragons, we should start with the most iconic one.

Shenlong, the wish granting dragon of Earth. When translated to Chinese, its name literally means ‘God Dragon’. Compared to its ‘ultimate’ variant, the Ultimate Shenlong (duh), summoned by the Black Star Dragon Balls, its green skin is a much more, peaceful colour compared to the Ultimate’s red and black body. Green often carried with it a sense of ‘healing’, a feeling of benevolence and harmony. Similarly, in the past, colour choices for dragons were never aesthetic or arbitrary ; they carried with each of them symbolism and imagery.

But not all dragons in anime were depicted in a traditional style, native to East Asia.

Whenever dragons appear in newer anime, they are often depicted as European dragons: Dragons who, although may share their serpentine ancestry and traits, have a pair of bat-type wings and lizard-like legs. Charizard has the classic European dragon body structure, sans the ‘my tail is burning forever because I’m a fire pokemon’ part. Ironically, ‘Blue Dragon’ from the Blue Dragon series isn’t a dragon, but a Wyvern, a dragon with only two limbs.

In my opinion, European dragons command more power. They look more menacing, more powerful, as they were depicted back in the day: as beasts. Just look at Skyrim: how many of these dragons help the civilians? They usually just show up and set villages on fire. A european dragon, to me, seems much more powerful. Yet to me, the Eastern dragon seems more graceful, more majestic. I suppose it’s partially because of how the Asians treated the dragons, how they depicted them and whatnot.

But now that I’ve rambled on about so much, what would the other way of talking about Dragons, be?

So 2012 is the year of the Dragon. With 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig), it takes 12 years for another Dragon year to occur. So I’m born in the Year of the Pig, and so on. But what about anime characters born in the year of the dragon? Surely there are some iconic characters which happen to fall in in this age group.

Well then, why does the year matter in the Chinese zodiac? In the traditional Chinese zodiac, the year you were born in mattered a lot to the Chinese, because they believed that they could tell your personality from the year you were born. For instance, someone born in the year 1988 would possess some of these qualities:

Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, artistic, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.

For each anime, there would also be a ‘good side’ and a ‘bad side’. Good qualities and bad qualities. A person born in the year of the Pig (For me, 1995) would have some of these:

Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent, naïve, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

So we’re looking for characters of these ages: 12 , 24 and so on, with their years of birth being the year 2000, 1988 and et cetera. Doing a rudimentary Google search (the best form of research, kids, don’t doubt it) for say, 2 or so minutes, the only two characters I could find born in the year 1988 were Lloyd Asplund and Nagisa Chiba from the Code Geass franchise. It also appears that several girls in the Negima!? franchise were born in the year 1988, including the likes of Yue Ayase, Haruna Saotome and Nodoka Miyazaki.

Well, poop. That isn’t much to go on, so why don’t we just talk about the most obvious dragon character then?

I mean, was it just me, or did I miss any post regarding Ryuuji from Toradora? I remember two years ago when it was the Year of the TaigaTiger when people were commenting on it being the Year of the ‘Dragon’ in two years’ time. Well, this was a tad disappointing. Anyway, we see some of these traits in Ryuuji: his passion and loyalty, as well as his brashness. (He wasn’t born in the year of the Dragon, but still. My brain’s ability to function seems to be slowing down today.)

So before I admit that I’ve run out of content That brings us to the end of this little dragon-themed blog post. Here’s wishing all a happy lunar new year!~

(I apologize in advance.)

祝願大家在全新的生肖年裡:龍體健壯,龍翻運騰,龍精神猛,龍年大吉。

Have a great and healthy year ahead, everypony !

恭喜发财,万事如意!

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About Valence

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10 Responses to Heralding the Lunar New Year: Dragons in anime!

  1. that video…

    fruits basket, he was a seahorse. not sure when he was born though.

  2. Azure says:

    If Asian Dragons got into a fight with western dragons, I think they’d loose. Too e longated to even fight properly. How do they even fly without wings…

    Zodiac descriptions amuse me because is that supposed to indicate that the entire cohort o 16 year olds share the same qualities and fortune? And on a side mention, according to Channel 8, our luck this year is pretty high.

    I’d rather re watch Toradora than watch Shana 3or Zero no Tsukaima F… Anyway, hope you reap a good fortune from all the red packets.

    • Valence says:

      Well, yes. Supposedly. It’s kind of likely since they’re so many characteristics…

      Happy Lunar New Year to you too, may you get a lot of red packets!

    • Carillus says:

      That’s like asking how Chinese martial artists in movies fly over rooftops and jump dozens of metres without strings or the Force.

      The problem with a fight between an Asian dragon and a European dragon is that Asian dragons are expressedly said to be the physical embodiment of gods, while ye olde European dragon can be felled by a knight with a sharp sword and a raging sex drive/inconceivable greed, depending on whether the dragon keeps a princess or untold riches. Most European dragons happen to spit fire as well, which kind of makes it bad to go up against an Asian water dragon.

      Flying without wings does seem a lot better than flying with wings, though. I mean, those floppy things just get in the way if you want to do awesome maneuvers like flying in between two sheer cliff faces.

      Either way, this is like a stupid powerlevel discussion, so I’m not going to continue.

  3. Nopy says:

    Happy New Year!

    I think the problem with finding anime characters born in the year of the dragon is that nearly all of them have a birthday, but exclude the year. It lets them stay the same age for eternity I guess. I was also looking forward to seeing some mention of Ryuuji this year, it’s sad that people have already forgotten about Toradora.

    • Valence says:

      I usually extrapolate from the year the anime was made and do the math from there, but to be frank, it is …kinda difficult to do even a rough estimate.

      It’s sad, but I doubt anyone remembers Ryuji as much as an endearing character as Taiga.

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