The Labours of Hercules-Sama
As the world is becoming a global village, it seems that the figure of Herakles (or Hercules) is one of the most successful emissaries of cultural globalization. From the biblical Samson to the Japanese golden-boy Kintaro, almost every civilization shares its own version of a Hercules, a hero with unimaginable powers. This resonance is what makes Hercules’ character so familiar and easily identified or related with, even in countries which do not have an extensive classical tradition. The influence of Greco-Buddhist art which slowly penetrated East Asia also contributed to the sense of familiarity with the muscular, burly character. This chapter examines the representations of the Greek hero in a very modern and foreign setting: the Japanese popular mediums of manga and anime.
Since the image of Hercules is relatively well known and one does not need special former knowledge, Japanese children can relate to the character and its various forms. The main feature of Hercules which is mostly emphasized is his superhuman strength. This element is enhanced in shows like Fate/Say night (based on a game by Type-Moon) or even in Dragon Ball Z when the character Mr. Satan was renamed in the dubbing Hercule. Another anime based on Greek mythology and Hercules’ labours is Heroic Age from 2007. These examples show that Greek mythology can be reworked into other mediums and still appeal to an audience with relatively little prior knowledge of the myths. If the character exhibits familiar and fantastic features, it can captivate people around the world.