Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present

by Noriko T. Reider
Utah State University Press, 2010.

Oni, ubiquitous supernatural figures in Japanese literature, lore, art, and religion, usually appear as demons or ogres. Characteristically, they are threatening, monstrous creatures with ugly features and fearful habits, including cannibalism. They also can be harbingers of prosperity, beautiful and sexual, and especially in modern contexts, even cute and lovable. There has been much ambiguity in their character and identity over their long history. Usually male, their female manifestations convey distinctively gendered social and cultural meanings.
Oni appear frequently in various arts and media, from Noh theater and picture scrolls to modern fiction and political propaganda, they remain common figures in popular Japanese anime, manga, and film and are becoming embedded in American and international popular culture through such media. Noriko Reider’s book would be the first in English devoted to oni. Reider fully examines their cultural history, multifaceted roles, and complex significance as “others” to the Japanese. (Publisher’s description)

Noriko T. Reider is associate professor of Japanese at Miami University. She is the author of Tales of the Supernatural in Early Modern Japan: Kaidan, Akinari, Ugetsu monogatari (2002). Her articles and reviews have appeared in such journals as Asian Folklore Studies, Japan Forum, Film Criticism, and International Journal of Asian Studies.