The characters of Ōkami, major or minor, deserves a mention for how they’re written. Below are a few characters that I like to talk about. As usual, spoilers ahead.
Last chapter, I talked at length about Susano’s growth throughout the first arc. But I feel that I need to make a note here about Kushi. She displayed a strength of character that was not present in what people expect of damsels in distress. She sacrificed herself to save her village, but she also held out hope that she can survive and tried to do her part to fight Orochi. Having lost her whole stock of 8 Purification Sake, she brought her strongest stock, the Thunder Brew, one that was strong enough that actually got demons drunk when she offered them some. She was no swordswoman, but she was a brewer, and she knew getting Orochi drunk was the best chance for Susano or anyone to take Orochi down. Facing such odds, she still had hope and tried to fight back in the best way she could. By the way, before I forget, to make the 8 Purification Sake, she had to carry a humongous barrel of water back that’s taller than her and almost as wide from some faraway spring back to the village. Who knows how she managed to do so.
Kushi is gentle, but she is not weak. She did what she can in the face of calamity, held out hope that all will be well, and did not give in to despair. I suppose, while her role is to be a damsel in distress, she does have a role in Orochi’s downfall, since the 8 Purification Sake did come from the bottle she brought in. A miracle happened for the 8 Purification Sake to appear, but it was Susano’s and Kushi’s strength and faith that planted the seed for it to happen in the first place. True, she isn’t the traditional strong female character that would’ve took up a blade to carve Orochi up into chunks, but she, in her own way, shows a fighting spirit that potentially rivals that of Susano’s (although that’s a really low bar for most of the first arc).
Although I do have one rather niggling irritation about one aspect of her character.
In one of the early parts of the game, she asked for someone to fix her water mill. A group of imps broke it after getting drunk on her sake. Which she offered to them to try. Come on Kushi, that’s just ridiculous.
In the second arc, while Amaterasu is trying to find the demon responsible of poisoning Sei-an City through its lair, she encounters the demon’s gatekeeper, Tobi. Initially he was trying to keep Amaterasu out, but after hearing Issun refer to her as “Full Throttle Ammy”, mistakenly assumed her to be a good racer. Being a racing enthusiast himself, he challenged Amaterasu to a series of races. He was polite throughout even when he was losing in every single race.
He raced with Amaterasu until the very end, where he revealed the price of his game: being the gatekeeper of the demon, his life was bound to his duty. Forfeiting his task is to forfeit his existence. However, he had no regrets.
“Oh don’t be sorry for me, good sir! This was the life of my own choosing. I treasured it, and no one can ever take that away from me. Though I may have been born a mere servant of spirits, I should at least be allowed to do what I please at my passing, for otherwise, my life would have been in vain! I fear I shall not be able to guide you the rest of the way. I wish I had a bouquet of flowers to present you at this farewell. But alas, I must part with you empty handed. Please forgive me. Farewell, good sir. And good luck ….!”
And after saying that, he fell, briefly turning into a single blossoming plant, much like how other slain demons morphed into flowers before fading away.
The line “I fear I shall not be able to guide you the rest of the way ” made me think. Was it Tobi abandoning his duty, and in fact betraying his master for that last run, as his offering to Amaterasu for racing with him? Or is it Tobi wanting to break free from his master and decided to not serve him anymore? Either way, he picked his death, and while it was sad, at least he enjoyed his last moments.
Issun was Amaterasu’s companion throughout the game. While he was supposed to serve as her voice within the game and the voice of the narrator of the game, Issun’s own voice rang loud and clear throughout the game as he quips and snarks at anything and everything.
Like Susano, Issun had an unwanted legacy hanging above him. His grandfather before him was the Celestial Envoy, messenger of the gods, for Shiranui, Amaterasu’s past incarnation. In fact, his grandfather, Ishaku, was training him to be one when he left his grandfather and his village, thinking that Ishaku is too harsh on him. Even then, he had not left drawing behind; when he met Amaterasu, he managed to perform the Rejuvenation brush technique, although not to the extent of Amaterasu. In his defense, he’s literally competing with a god here.
He did, in the end, embarked on his task to become a Celestial Envoy. However, this was not because of Ishaku’s lectures finally getting through him or him choosing to bear the burdens of the world, although the latter was a significant part of the reason he took up the role.
He did it out of loyalty to Amaterasu as a friend. Knowing that she was to fight an evil he never met that dwarfed those that he did, as soon as the sun stopped shining he knew Amaterasu’s in trouble. After all, she is the sun goddess.
He knew that the faith of the people are her strength, so he took out his brush and did his best to convey Amaterasu’s godly grace. Yet when he spoke, it was clear that he thought of Amaterasu as a close friend rather than just a god for worship. He took up the task he was destined for which he did not seek, but Issun is still himself.
Lastly, there’s Amaterasu herself. However, Amaterasu is a hard character to talk about as a character because she is a silent protagonist. I mean, yeah, she barks, but she is essentially a silent protagonist in that we never hear her express her thoughts and feelings throughout the game. After all, she’s a wolf that like most wolves, can’t speak human.
For this case though, there is a decent interpretation for her being a silent protagonist: as a goddess, she could be though of as a force of nature that is beyond human understanding. Beyond the understanding of the humans in the game, I mean. That will give Issun’s character a better reason to exist, as he serves as Amaterasu’s voice in the game as well as Celestial Envoy, messenger of the gods, conveying what Amaterasu wanted to express and introducing her to other people they met on their journey.
However, that doesn’t mean that Amaterasu is just a vehicle for combat and fetch quests. She did display traits that are rather dog-like for comedic effect. Yet, in the end, I suppose it’s only fair to say that she doesn’t have much of a character. I once heard something along the lines that a silent protagonist is defined by how the other character reacts to it, but that didn’t help. The general population either doesn’t believe in her or worships her, the demonic population fears and loathes her. Those she befriend likes her, those she antagonized fights her. So basically that approach got us nowhere.
In the end, I suppose Amaterasu’s deal is like Gordon Freeman: her character is what you choose it to be. Her story is what the game tells you, but whether she’s pragmatic and only fighting when she needs to or bristling with heavenly rage as she slay every demon unfortunate enough to be in her sights is entirely your choice.