Lady kaede in kurosawa’s ran: Verbal and visual characterization through animal traditions

Zvika Serper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article deals with the characterization of the unique figure of Lady Kaede in Kurosawa’s film Ran from within Japanese cultural syncretism, through using different verbal and visual elements of two animals - fox and serpent. The Japanese fox has always played a most important part in Japanese culture, and its ambivalent nature has become a leitmotiv, especially its supernatural power to transform itself into a human being. In contrast, the most important manifestation of the serpent in Japanese traditional theatre is that of the transformation of a human female into a serpent as a consequence of her jealousy. In the second half of Ran, Kurosawa skilfully interweaves both traditions, attributing them to Kaede after her husband’s murder. He attires this character with two kinds of serpent-like costume, planned to reflect intensification of the serpent image through the different fabric designs and their different manipulation according to the dramatic context. Within this fixed visual image Kurosawa conceals the serpent-like costume with an outer kimono and then inserts a verbal fox image. Only in the last scene of the character’s appearance in the film does Kurosawa combine and expressly manifest, verbally and visually, both animals' aspects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-158
Number of pages14
JournalJapan Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2001


  • Japanese Animal Traditions
  • Japanese Cinema
  • Japanese Traditional Theatre
  • Kurosawa
  • Ran


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