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The character "Ryu" means "dragon" in Japanese, and as such, its use as a name or part of a name in Japanese media tends to have meaning. But even more interestingly, throughout the years, characters who have Ryu as part of their name tend to have certain characteristics in common:

  • Male.
  • Usually the protagonist of their work, or at least an important secondary character.
  • They're pretty much universally good guys.
  • They tend to be young, between mid-teens and late 20s. If they are older than that, they usually didn't start that way in the series, instead having grown older as the series went along. If older than that, they tend to be mentors or father figures.
  • They tend to be good fighters, if not the best in their series, but they might not start that way, growing into it as the series moves along.
  • They have outgoing personalities, if not downright Hot-Blooded.
  • They HATE injustice with a passion. Even if they're not actively heroes, seeing some kind of injustice before them is a surefire Berserk Button. A side effect of this is they usually have Papa Wolf tendencies: it is not a good idea to hurt a kid in front of a character named Ryu.
  • They tend to have a rivalry with another character. The rival, to fit the pattern, tends to be associated with the tiger.

Do keep in mind that this is not universal (for example, Ryu Soma of Argento Soma is quite a dark and nihilistic character), but it is common enough that it's become a pretty well recognized phenomenon. Also, the character Ryu can be replaced by the word Tatsu(the character for Dragon in the Eastern Zodiac), while still having the characteristics of this type of character. The character Ryo is also frequently used to similar effect.

Examples of A Protagonist Is Ryu include:


  • Ryu from Street Fighter. His rival is Sagat, who's associated with the tiger.
    • Although the kanji used to spell Ryu's name in promotional materials for the original Street Fighter stood for "prosperity", not "dragon".
  • Ryuhaku Todoh of Art of Fighting / The King of Fighters.
    • Technically, the main protagonist in that series is Ryo, who is associated with the tiger. In an odd subversion, his lifelong pal and training partner, Robert Garcia is the one associated with the dragon, but he's the "Ken" of the series...
  • Kazuma Kiryu from Ryu ga Gotoku. In a subversion, though, his rival in the second game is Ryuji Goda, another dragon-themed character(although he's more a Noble Demon than a full-blown bad guy, and he still exhibits many traits associated with his name).
  • Ryu from Breath of Fire. Many of his companions are tiger-themed to contrast with him, and, well, he's a literal dragon.
  • The -Ryu robots from GaoGaiGar.
  • Ryo Saeba of City Hunter. His lechery makes him kind of a weird fit, but he definitely fulfills this trope.
  • Ryoma Nagare of Getter Robo.
  • Ryudo from Grandia II.
  • Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden.
  • Dragon Shiryu from Saint Seiya.
  • Strider Hiryu.
  • Ryuichi Naruhodo, AKA Phoenix Wright. In the third game, he actually gets impersonated and threatened by a gangster named Furio Tigre, aka The Tiger (Toranosuke Shibakuzo, aka Zenitora), who's obviously associated with tigers.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki as well as Ryu Terui from Kamen Rider Double.
  • Ryuuji Takasu from Toradora!!, in which the whole premise of the title involves the concept of Tigers and Dragon's in Eastern Culture being seen as counterparts. 'Tora' is the Japanese word for tiger, while 'Dora' comes from 'Doragon' the japanese pronunciation of the English word 'Dragon'. The characters names in the show are the reverse of the title, Ryuji's name deriving from Ryu, the Japanese word for dragon, and the female protagonist/love interest is named Taiga Aisaka, 'Taiga' being the Japanese pronunciation of the English word 'Tiger'.
  • While not their proper names (being their hero names instead), the three protagonists of Madan Senki Ryukendo fit the bill.
  • Ryuu Tendou from Choujin Sentai Jetman. A non-Red example can be seen in Ryuu Hoshikawa in Kagaku Sentai Dynaman or to a smaller extent, Ryuunosuke Ikenami from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger.
  • Michael in Japanese is a subversion, the proper translation is "to kill".
  • Peacemaker Kurogane has Ichimura Tatsunosuke (where "Tatsu" is the character for the Eastern Zodiac sign of the dragon) and the Historical Domain Character Sakamoto Ryoma, whose name is written with the characters for "dragon" and "horse", and who fits the trope quite well.
  • Ryuuzaki (one of the aliases of Hero Antagonist L) from Death Note fits all the requirements except the "outgoing personality" bit (and according to Word of God his alignment is questionable) but he's a good fighter, trained in Capoeira, he hates injustice with a passion, and has a rivalry with Light/Kira of the obvious Red Oni, Blue Oni type. There's also the Shinigami Ryuk and the OTHER Ryuuzaki from Another Note but they are subversions, one being an amoral monster and the other a Serial Killer.
  • Ryuuma from Eiichiro Oda's one-shot Monsters fits all requirements to some degree. His later appearance in One Piece - not so much. Justified in that he got Brook's personality and is revived as an evil zombie.
  • Ryuuta Ippongi from Osu Tatakae Ouendan fits this almost perfectly.
  • Ryugamine Mikado from Durarara!!, minus the outgoing personality and fighting skills (although he started working on that in the light novels).
  • "Wooden Sword" Ryu of Shaman King, having all but a clear rivalry with a tiger themed character. Instead, his partner spirit has (or, had) a rivalry with the main character's partner.
  • Ryuuji Kisaragi of Dragon Crisis.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, we have Ryu Jose. Though he's not the protagonist, he is the most skilled pilot of the crew in the beginning, is the most likeable, big brother type, and sacrifices himself to save his crew. His death is a large reason that the crew shape up and start working together better.
  • Kusuha Mizuha and Brooklyn "Bullet" Luckfield of the Super Robot Wars Alpha timeline are considered the mains of the series. Their ultimate robot? RyuKouOh.
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