Yatagarasu is a mythical Friend that debuted in the original Kemono Friends mobile game. She is based on the Three-Legged Crow as it appears in Japanese folklore.
Yatagarasu's design, true to her corvine origins, is primarily composed of blacks and grays. Her mid-length, jet-black hair falls over a pair of striking ruby red eyes; the left of which glows in a fashion that obscures its ocular features. Perhaps as a reference to the bird's three legs, her hair is tied in three separate places; twice on either side of her head and once to the right in the back. Two grand, front-swept wings protrude from either side of her head, matching the wide rectrices of her tail.
Unlike Jungle Crow, who wears a seifuku-style school uniform, the three-legged crow dons a military jacket reminiscent of an all-black Imperial Japanese Navy admiral's jacket. Her epaulettes are silver, along with her tightly-closed collar. Yatagarasu's prim and proper uniform transitions into a wild, torn skirt featuring three intimidating black appendages that resemble talons; this is a direct reference to the three legs of the mythological bird. She wears black tights underneath her skirt as well as gray gloves, gray socks and simple black flats for shoes. Her conservative outfit covers the vast majority of her body, leaving only her face and the top of her neck bear.
The word "Yatagarasu" (八咫烏) has been translated as "eight-span crow" (merely referencing its size) or "supreme crow" (an implication made based on the auspicious meaning of the number 8 in Japanese numerology). It is a key player in a major episode of Japan's national creation story, known as a messenger from the sun-goddess Amaterasu who led the country's first emperor, Jinmu, to the land which would later become Japan.
In the story, Emperor Jinmu was searching for a suitable land from which to administrate his new country. His clan set its sights on the Ki peninsula, located in modern-day Kansai. His older brother Itsuse no Mikoto had led the original migration to the new territory, but had been killed in battle with an enemy chiefdom. Jinmu concluded that they suffered this defeat because his brother and his cohorts had been defeated because they battled eastward, against the sun, and thus the emperor made the decision to land on the east side of the peninsula instead, and then march westward. They reached the ancient region of Kumano, where they met the three-legged Yatagarasu, interpreted as a messenger from heaven. The bird led them from Kumano to Yamato, where the clan once again battled the chieftain who had slain Jinmu's brother, and they were victorious.
Both Emperor Jinmu and the crow which guided him forward are immortalized in Japanese legend. The Yatagarasu is seen as the manifestation of divine intervention in human affairs. In Japanese folklore, it is not necessarily depicted as a deity in its own right, but rather as a messenger from the heavens.
- Tripedal crows are present in Chinese and Korean mythology as well, known as Sanzuwu to Chinese and Samjok-o to Koreans.
- The Yatagarasu is honored by the Japan Football Association in both logo and in its rewards to the winners of the Emperor's Cup.
- Chamberlain, Basil Hall, translator. The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters (Tuttle Classics of Japanese Literature); Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing; 1981.
- Aston, W. G. 1972. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from Earliest Times to A.D. 697. 2005 edition. Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0804836744
- The Legend of Yatagarasu, the three-legged crow and its possible origins - Informative, well-cited blog post about the Yatagarasu and its cultural legacy.
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