Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Games: Ōkami: Oki, Warrior of the Oina

Hello everyone and welcome!

Recently, my boyfriend and I have been replaying Ōkami and only now have I realised I’ve omitted a notable character that appears in the game, who displays werewolf qualities. That character is Oki and he will be the subject of today’s article.

Concept art for Oki showing his human and wolf forms
Oki (short for Okikurumi, also spelled Okikurmi) is a character that appears in Capcom’s 2006 action-adventure video game Ōkami which tells the story of how the great Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu descends into the human world in the form of a wolf and embarks on a divine mission to rid the land of Nippon (Japan) of the corruption spread by the demonic Yamata no Orochi and his supporters.

The game is filled to the brim with characters taken from Japanese mythology and folklore and it is no different for Oki. He is based on the figure of an Ainu hero of lore, Okikurumi, with a couple of twists here and there. The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan, who  originally inhabited Hokkaido and north-eastern Honshu, as well as parts of Russia (Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands). Okikurumi was a hero of mythology poems called oina, part of the Ainu creation myths. According to legend, Okikurumi was born when Pa Kor Kamui (the Pestilence God), while flying above the newly-created land, sat on a branch of an elm tree to rest. The goddess of the elm tree, Cikisani, became pregnant due to this and bore a son – Okikurumi. Because the Ainu people used the wood of elm trees to start fires, Okikurumi quickly became associated with the element of fire. He was also said to have taught the people of earth how to hunt and fish and when he became an adult, his mother, Cikisani, presented him with a magic sword with which he conquered demons and evil spirits of the world.

Amaterasu first encounters Oki in the land of Kamui (more about the significance of the land’s name below), a snowy region in the northern part of Nippon. He appears as a young man in purplish-blue clothes and a red sleeveless vest embroidered with white symbols, with long red-and-black hair, wearing a mask that resembles either a blue bear or a wolf, and wielding the sacred sword Kutone. At first, Oki attacks Amaterasu with his sword, but when the goddess defeats him in his human form, he transforms into a large dark-furred wolf with a red mane, the white symbols becoming a pattern on his back, his mask, pendant, and sword remaining as his accessories. As a wolf, Oki can still speak and he battles using not only his lupine features, but also his sword. After he is once again defeated by Amaterasu, Oki turns back into a human and commends her and acknowledges that she is not an ordinary wolf. He informs her that he is a warrior of the Oina tribe (a reference to the Ainu mythology poems in which his original counterpart featured) that inhabit Kamui and that he has stolen the sacred sword Kutone in order to vanquish demons that have caused a deadly blizzard to rage in the region. Subsequently, Oki accompanies Amaterasu on her journey to slay demons in hope of sating his sword’s thirst for demon blood and stopping the blizzard raging in Kamui.

Wolf form Oki and Amaterasu
One thing to note here is that if you look at the concept artwork for Oki or look at his sword during the game, you will notice that the hilt and scabbard resemble wood and both have totem-like carvings on their surface. The fact that Oki possesses a sword with a hilt that resembles a totem is no coincidence. The Ainu’s religion featured animism – a worldview that animals, plants, and some inanimate objects possess a spiritual essence. This spiritual essence, or divine spirit, was called “kamui” (or “kamuy”) – the same name as the land in which Oki and his tribe live and where Amaterasu first encounters him. From this, we can deduce that the totem-hilt of the sword (or the fang-shaped pendant Oki never parts with) acts as a conduit between Oki and the wolf spirit, similarly to how tribal shamans channel the spirits through their bodies, allowing him to transform into a wolf. It’s just a theory, though, since I don’t remember if we see Oki shapeshift again after he returns Kutone to his village’s shrine. I wasn’t able to find any mention of the legendary Okikurumi being able to turn into a wolf, so I am going to go out on a limb and say that Clover Studios, the developers of Ōkami, simply combined his character with elements of Ainu beliefs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I’ll see you next time! As a bonus, here is a GIF of Oki transforming into his wolf form for the first time :)

Oki transforms into a wolf during his fight with Amaterasu
Since I am now part of Amazon’s Affiliate program, you can support me by purchasing a copy of your own of Ōkami from Amazon! Should my article spark your interest in the game (as it should, since Ōkami is an amazing game) – please consider buying it using the link provided below. Simply click on the cover of the game on the right-hand side and you will be sent to a page listing all the offers related to itThank you and enjoy!

Click here to shop for
the Playstation 3 HD Remastered
version of Ōkami!

Donald L. Philippi, Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans: The Epic Tradition of the Ainu, Princeton University Press, 1979

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