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Kabuki is one of several varieties of traditional Japanese theatre, dating from the Edo period. Like other Japanese theatrical styles, it uses music and musical sounds to help tell the story. Not surprisingly, a number of these sounds have found their way into Anime.

The most common Kabuki sounds to be heard in anime are:

  • Tsuzumi. A drumlike instrument that makes a "pon!" sound. In anime it is frequently employed to punctuate a joke or humorous moment, often in combination with a man's voice making an "Ooowoooh!" sound (also from Kabuki). A very traditional instrument, its sound is considered emblematic of traditional Japanese culture as a whole. Although they sound alike, do not mistake the "pon!" of a tsuzumi for the noise of The Thing That Goes Doink.
  • Okawa. A drum that sounds a lot like a woodblock when struck. In anime one hears either one strike or two quick strikes.


Anime

  • Tenchi Muyo! punctuates many of its jokes with Kabuki sounds, and the tsuzumi and okawa are heard in the Eyecatch.
  • Gasaraki uses Kabuki (and Noh) elements in its theme song and throughout the series proper.
  • Saber Marionette J To X emphasizes some of its funnier moments with Kabuki sounds, particularly series of rapid tsuzumi strikes.
  • The 2006 OVA Re Boot of Mahou Sensei Negima has used tsuzumi strikes to punctuate Setsuna's more Samurai-like moments.
  • The anime Naruto makes use of Kabuki sounds in background themes. Often taken up a notch with Jiraiya, who not only dresses like someone right out of Kabuki theatre, but also has a habit of announcing himself using common mannerisms. He also moves like a Kabuki actor, most notably the hopping step and slow hand wave.
  • Used in the beginning and the end of the 2nd Vampire Princess Miyu OAV.
  • Inuyasha used Kabuki sounds frequently to establish mood, particularly appropriate given its Feudal Japanese setting.
    • Considering the stage clothes and stylized fights, they might as well be actually performing kabuki.
  • Whenever Kumadori from One Piece speaks, he speaks in verse, and kabuki sounds play in the background.
  • Constantly in Mononoke.
  • In Digimon Tamers, these sounds accompany the kitsune-themed Renamon's evolution into Kyuubimon.
    • In the original Japanese version of Digimon Adventure 02 Hawkmon's evolution to Shurimon is accompanied by Kabuki sounds (sometimes hard to hear over the insert music playing), and Shurimon finishes the evolution footage by striking a classic Kabuki pose (again, a little difficult to recognize since he has shurikens for hands).
  • Given that Ninin ga Shinobuden is about ninja, it was inevitable that these show up a lot.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi likes to use bells for its Kaoi moments.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei thrives on them.
  • Can be heard in Japan's Image Song in Axis Powers Hetalia.

Film

Live-Action Television

Musical

  • Used in the Kabuki-styled musical Pacific Overtures, though not frequently.

Video Games

  • Used in the "Sushi-Go-Round" minigame in Pokémon Stadium, and "Clear Cut Challenge" in Pokemon Stadium 2
  • Fatal Fury Special uses this in Geese's CPU stage, and Real Bout Fatal Fury Special has a Bonus Boss fight with him as well in his rooftop pagoda. The intro to the fights has several doors sliding open, punctuated with okawa beats, and the fight music itself (titled "Soy Sauce for Geese") has several tsuzumi beats and the "Ooowooh" voice as well (at least in the RBS version).
    • Also from SNK, at least half of the Samurai Shodown soundtrack is entirely played with traditional Kabuki instruments, in keeping with the general mood of the game. Behold.
  • The Kyoto stage and Yoshimitsu's forest stage from the first 2 Tekken stages with "Ooowooh" to boot.
  • Okami uses a lot of the drum sounds, as well as several Kabuki-style shouts.
  • Uh, who could forget about E. Honda? He's basically the first ever Kabuki-Sumo wrestler. You can hear some tsuzumi sounds in Ryu's theme as well, though he doesn't have the whole kabuki thing going.
  • The various musical themes for the eponymous mask of The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask invove eldritch, discordant yet somehow still Kabuki-esque sounds.
    • Word of God actually states that the music in Majora's Mask was based on Chinese opera.
  • In Wario Ware D.I.Y., one of the drum sets in the music maker is a Japanese-themed set which includes Kabuki sounds.
  • In The New Tetris, the song "Japan" is made entirely of various kabuki sound effects to form a funk/techno hybrid.
  • In the Shiren the Wanderer series, set in feudal Japan, this is used a lot.

Western Animation

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