The World of Sekiro: Dragon Heirs. Part II. Kuro and Wolf
Hi! In the previous post we discussed the story of lord Takeru and lady Tomoe, and today we'll take a closer look at Kuro and his oathbound Wolf. You hardly ever think about it while playing the game but we actually don't know much about Kuro. He is indeed one of the most mysterious characters in the game.
Disclaimer #0 — common sense is still everything. Please do not assume that I have access to some secret true knowledge; I'm just entertained by reading Sekiro in Japanese. My lore theories are just theories so treat them accordingly.
Disclaimer #1 —
trust me, I'm a professional if this fact is somehow important - I am a certified linguist. My major is English and Japanese as foreign languages, my minor is intercultural communication. Fun stuff!
Disclaimer #2 — I am not a professional translator, I have never worked in localization. Yes, I will say that something is translated poorly and something is not, and it will be my personal point of view. People have been complaining that I am picking on minor things or have weird opinions when it comes to "better translations". I want to emphasize that it's okay to have those :) Ultimately, my goal is to give you the information so you can see if the localization was good or not, whether something important was lost or not. My opinion is just that and I choose to share it, however odd it might seem.
Disclaimer #3 — I am not an expert on Buddhism, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D FromSoftware had a theological consultant who helped them build the religious narrative in Sekiro. I will leave links to the Buddhist terms that we will undoubtedly encounter so you can read more on your own, if you are interested.
Why do kanji (Japanese characters) have different readings?
This is a popular question in the comment section. In a nutshell, Japanese kanji usually have two types of readings: on-reading and kun-reading, there might be a number of them in each category. On-readings have carried over from Chinese since kanji were borrowed from there, and kun-readings are native to Japanese. When a kanji stands on its own and is used as a single word, it is read with its kun-reading. When a kanji is used as a part of a multi-kanji word, it is read with its on-reading. It is slightly more complicated, but in broad strokes I think it explains it.
As far as I know, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was localized into English by Mugen Creations.
Tiny Transcription Legend
[:] — colon after a vowel means that it's a long sound;
['] — apostrophe after a vowel or before a vowel (or between two [n]) means that these are two different syllables, not a single long one.
The transcriptions I give do not follow all academic rules, and I don't think it's necessary. They are just here to represent the pronunciation.
For this research I mostly used Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Official Artworks, English wiki and a number of dictionaries.
We'll start with Wolf. His shinobi name is 狼 [ookami] which directly translates to "wolf". No other name is mentioned in the game, only this one given by Owl. Kuro calls him either by this name or 我が忍び [waga shinobi] - my shinobi. Lady Butterfly addresses him as 倅殿 [segare dono] - son (respectful but in her case I feel this "dono" is mostly mockery), meaning "son of Owl", or just straight up 梟の倅 [fukuro: no segare] - son of Owl. Sculptor chooses more generic お前さん [omaesan] - "you". Emma uses 狼殿 [ookami dono] - master Wolf. Genichiro addresses him exclusively as 御子の忍び [miko no shinobi] - Shinobi of the Divine Heir, I don't remember him calling Wolf any other way.
Isshin as Tengu nicknames him "Sekiro" and I don't think any localization can gracefully explain where this word comes from. I don't have to be graceful though, so here's the full rundown:
隻狼 [sekiro] is a short form of the phrase 隻腕の狼 [sekiwan no ookami] where 隻腕 [sekiwan] means "one-armed". 隻 [seki] in general points at one item from a pair, or at a half of something, and 腕 [ude] means "arm". So, it's "one-armed wolf". If you listen closely to his dialogue, Tengu says, "隻腕の狼 [sekiwan no ookami]" and then he is struck with a genius idea to shorten the phrase to 隻 [seki] (half) + 狼 [ookami] (wolf) = 隻狼 [sekiro]. The 狼 [ookami] kanji in this case assumes its on-reading [ro], that's why [sekiro]. You can hear Isshin being really proud of himself and his invention :D
I need to mention that this is not the first case of such name coinage. Isshin says that Wolf's prosthetic arm reminds him of something... Sculptor's shinobi name is 猩々 [sho:jo:] - orangutan (also "alcoholic", I don't think it's just a coincidence). A long time ago Isshin, being the one who severed his arm, nicknamed him 隻猩 [sekijo:] - "half an orangutan", shortened from 隻腕の猩々 [sekiwan no sho:jo:] - "one-armed orangutan". Quite a popular naming pattern, considering how often shinobi lose their limbs.
Kuro, the Divine Heir
Kuro's Japanese name is 御子九郎 [miko kuro:]. 御子 [miko] means "son of God", for example Jesus in Japanese will also be called 御子 [miko]. Also, this word denotes a child of an emperor (not the Emperor of Japan, but of any other emperor) but it's not as important in our context. Sakura Dragon is a dragon who became god, thus his children are children of god, 御子 [miko].
九郎 [kuro:] is a funny name, 郎 [ro:] is a counter for sons. Naming sons in the manner of "first son, second son" using 郎 [ro:] was a widespread practice in Japan of the olden days. 九 means "nine", so Kuro, in a sense, is "the ninth son". We don't know if his foster parents named him or he already had this name when they adopted him. Maybe, the head of the Hirata clan had other children besides Kuro, we don't know that either. Maybe it's not connected to counting sons at all and he is just Kuro. By the way, Genichiro has a similar structure in his name: 弦一郎 [gen'ichiro:], where 一 [ichi] means "one" and 郎 [ro:] is the same counter for sons. He was probably the only child - or the only son - in his family. Or, maybe it was Isshin who named him, and Isshin had no other children that we know of.
There is a "Nine sons of the Dragon" theory floating around, I don't think it is somehow relevant to Kuro but let's dive into it anyway, we love myths and legends here.
Nine sons of the Dragon are the children of the Dragon King in Chinese mythology. There are several descriptions of them, they even have different names depending on what interpretation you're reading but there are always nine of them. Number 9 in Chinese mythology is very special: it's the largest single-digit number, Dragon King has 9 forms, 9 sons and he is described as having 117 scales (9x13) - 91 (9x9) Yin and 36 (9x4) Yang.
Let's meet his nine sons from the eldest to the youngest according to Wuzazu (五雜俎), a 16th century text. I'll give their Japanese names:
- 囚牛 [shu:gyu:] - small yellow dragon with horns and scales. He loves music that's why musical instruments such as koto and tsuzumi are often decorated with his image.
- 睚眦 [gaisai] - dragon with a red wolf's head, he is aggressive and likes to fight. Found on swords and other weapons.
- 嘲風 [cho:fu] - dragon-phoenix. He likes to sit high up and look on the horizon, that's why he is placed on roof corners.
- 蒲牢 [horo:] - small dragon who possesses supernatural strength. He likes to roar loudly and is often placed on bells. Horo is scared of whales, that's why the bell strikers are sometimes adorned with whales to make him roar louder. Oh, poor Horo.
- 狻猊 [sangei] - dragon-lion. He likes to sit still and observe, that's why he is often found under the Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' feet.
- 覇下 [haka] - dragon in a turtle shell. They say that Haka likes to carry heavy objects so his sculpture is often used as a foundation of monuments and stelas.
- 狴犴 [heikan] - dragon-tiger. He likes litigation and is often found on prison gates.
- 負屓 [fuki] - dragon who likes reading and writing. He is often found coiling around stone monuments. According to other interpretations, he likes to drink water and is often present on bridge structures.
- 螭吻 [chifun] or 鴟吻 [shifun] - dragon-fish with no horns, he lives in the sea. He likes swallowing things and looking on the horizon. Shifun is often placed on roofs to swallow evil influences.
As I said, their succession, names and even appearances vary from version to version and there isn't one true interpretation of Nine sons of the Dragon. The ninth son is either Shifun, dragon-fish, or Sho:zu - dragon-frog who likes to close things and is found on gates. I can't see how any of this is relevant to Kuro or provides any additional context. However, all this knowledge has not been gained in vain! Next time you're in Ashina Castle, look on the roofs - they are quite densely populated with Shifuns :D One of them is right near the window of Kuro's room. These Shifuns are protecting the castle from evil influences and fire. How's it going, by the way..?
You can also find Horo on the big demon bell but otherwise I wouldn't say that the game pursues this theme all that much. If Takeru had been named with 郎 [ro:] kanji I would've sunk my teeth into this theory but the only thing Kuro and Nine sons of the Dragon have in common is, well, 九 - nine.
Kuro, Wolf & Hirata Estate
Up until recently I was really bothered by my inability to piece together the events that transpired during the attack on Hirata Estate - there was always something that didn't quite fit. Well, several days ago I was doing the dishes and things just kinda fell into place. Never underestimate doing the dishes!
- We don't know where Kuro comes from.
Kuro is an adopted child of the Hirata clan. We don't know where he comes from. His Heritage brother Takeru most certainly came from the Divine Realm. Kuro could have been born there too, he was just sent into the mortal world at a very young age. I still think that all Dragon Heirs are born in the Divine Realm and then Sakura Dragon sends them into the mortal world to search for the means of helping him return home.
- However, the Hirata clan knew from the very beginning who Kuro was, because they immediately started to search for a bodyguard.
I think, it happened almost simultaneously - adoption of Kuro and search for a suitable guard. Here Owl hurried to propose his son as a shinobi of the Divine Heir out of his personal interest. Owl knew about Takeru and, I think, he was curious if Kuro can also make people immortal.
- Kuro and Wolf spent a lot of time together.
I believe that Wolf and Kuro spent together at least several years before the downfall of the Hirata clan, and it means that Kuro was indeed very young when he was adopted. This is supported by Kuro's memories about the time he spent together with Wolf: how they made reed whistles, his words "this is the Wolf I remember" or "loyal Wolf" and his unshakable belief that Wolf will always come for him and save him. He also has warm memories of his time in the Hirata clan: he addresses his foster parents as "mother" and "farther" and fondly speaks of sneaking into the kitchen to make sweets when he was little.
- It is known that Kuro is a Dragon Heir, however he does not have any immortal oathbound.
And I think, at that time it wasn't obvious if Kuro can create any, like Takeru could, whether he knows of his power and can wield it.
Attack on Hirata Estate
The following description of the events during the attack on Hirata Estate relies heavily on the abovementioned statements, however I want to emphasize once again that it's only my interpretation. At least now I have one :D
I think that Lady Butterfly capturing Kuro was Owl's plan to see whether or not Kuro can make people immortal like Takeru could.
Owl feigns his death and sends Wolf to find Kuro. He also gives him the key to a hidden Buddhist Temple. Where did Owl get this key from unless he was the one to lock Lady Butterfly and Kuro in there? When you think about it, Lady Butterfly being locked up in a temple does not make a whole lot of sense... Anyway, Wolf asks her, "Lady Butterfly, why..?" He must have thought that Lady Butterfly betrayed him and Owl and went rogue to get Kuro for herself. This is literally the only conclusion you can draw in this situation.
I think, Owl's plan was fairly simple: Lady Butterfly kills Wolf, and it provokes Kuro to save him by making him immortal. The "Kuro leaves Wolf to die" option was rightfully out of the question because Kuro grew attached to Wolf. So, Kuro makes Wolf his oathbound, Owl shows up like "Son, I survived!". Lady Butterfly gets killed off as a traitor and Sakura Droplet is used to make Owl immortal. Owl pressures Wolf through the Iron Code, and they ride off into the sunset with Kuro to conquer the world or whatever it was that Owl wanted so badly.
However, the plan goes sideways. Wolf kills Lady Butterfly and obtains Sakura Droplet. Owl still kills him to provoke Kuro because he still needs to know if Kuro can make people immortal. Kuro makes Wolf his oathbound but at this point Owl cannot just show up because he would have to admit that he killed Wolf and orchestrated the capture of Kuro. Wolf wouldn't stand it and Owl would lose his authority to manipulate him.
- Owl learns that Kuro can indeed make people immortal like Takeru could;
- But he lost Sakura Droplet;
- He had to kill Wolf himself, thus as of now he cannot pressure him into joining him and using Kuro.
And Owl has no other choice but to leave Kuro to the Ashina clan and just wait for the right moment. In three years Wolf climbs out of the well, saves Kuro from Genichiro and starts doing some dangerous stuff - for example, collecting all kinds of trash for the Dragon Heir like flowers and stones. Then Owl decides to speak directly to Kuro but the Dragon Heir tells him to leave. You know what happens after that: either Wolf obeys the Iron Code but becomes Shura and murders Owl, or he breaks the Iron Code to help Kuro and kills Owl anyway. Either way, Owl doesn't get the power of the Dragon Heir.
I want to remind you once more that it is just my interpretation of the events so don't take it too seriously :D
Its original name is 楔丸 [kusabimaru], where 楔 [kusabi] means "wedge" or "lynchpin" but also "bond" or "tie". 丸 [maru] is a typical suffix for names of swords, armor, ships, even horses and dogs.
The original description includes Kuro's full title: "The sword received from the master, the Divine Child of the Dragon's Heritage, Kuro". The English localization skipped a portion of it, but that's okay. "It has found its way BACK into the hands of the Wolf" corresponds to the original 「再び狼の手に戻った」 and tells us that Wolf already possessed Kusabimaru in the past, then lost it but they reunited yet again.
Interesting that the "mantra" that the blade supposedly manifests is written in quotation marks in the English version; the original does not have quotation marks, it's just a sentence.
「忍びは人を殺すが定めなれど、一握の慈悲だけは、捨ててはならぬ。。。」 - "Shinobi's fate is to kill people, however a shinobi must not throw away the last handful of mercy..."
The last line in the original is a question: "Doesn't the blade itself contemplate this plea?"
Kusabimaru's appearance is most interesting. If you look very closely, you can see a special crest on its habaki. Habaki is a piece of metal encircling the base of the blade, locking tsuba in place and holding the blade in its scabbard. In the artbook this crest is called "Kusabimaru's crest".
This is a diamond-shaped crest with bamboo ornaments and a type of flower in the centre. It is quite likely a bamboo flower - yes, bamboo does blossom and it's kind of wild, you can read more about it here. This crest is essentially a variation of the Hirata family crest with the same bamboo and flower elements. It's no surprise that these crests are similar, Kusabimaru is an heirloom of the Hirata clan after all. However, I find it very curious that this sword has its very own crest.
Kusabimaru's crest (left) and Hirata family crest (right)
The tsuba part (the guard at the end of the grip) is not round but has four parts, like a flower with four petals. The horizontal "petals" bear engravings of branches with leaves. The vertical "petals" - I swear, I am not insane! - are engraved with elements eerily similar to the ones you can find on the Dragon Heir crest.
Kusabimaru's tsuba (left), Dragon Heir crest (right)
Of course, we can say that this is a coincidence: the devs just reused some elements, or the elements are just random sakura flowers. However, Kusabimaru's tsuba is the only engraved tsuba in the game. Tsuba parts of other katana swords are either empty, or rusty and too worn out, or not depicted in the artbook at all. I don't think this is a coincidence :D It would be great to learn how Kusabimaru came to be an heirloom of the Hirata clan though.
The original name of the Mortal Blade is 不死斬り [fushigiri], literally "Slayer of the Undying". I think, "Mortal Blade" localization means to convey that this sword makes undying creatures mortal and slays them. Kinda works :D It's important to note that fushigiri is a type of blade in the world of Sekiro, not a proper name. We know of at least one more fushigiri that has its unique name.
The original says that it is 「死なぬものさえ殺す大太刀」 - "an ōdachi that can slay even the undying". "Even" was overlooked but the localization kept the "ōdachi" part. Ōdachi, as we previously discussed, is basically a very big katana sword: the Headless wield it, and Owl does too. It's interesting that both fushigiri - or maybe fishigiri in general - are ōdachi swords.
The English description is quite dramatic: "who dares draw it", "could not hope to wield", when the original is more like an instruction or a list of facts.
The name of the crimson fushigiri is 拝涙 [hairui]. The first kanji 拝 denotes bowing one's head in respect or worship, the general idea of worshipping or praying. There is a verb 拝む [ogamu] with this kanji, it means "to assume the posture of praying" or "to do reverence [before a statue of the Buddha]". It is also a respectful phrase to sign a letter with, "respectfully yours". 涙 [namida] means "tears", this part is quite simple.
You can see the word 拝涙 [hairui] on the screen after Wolf obtains the Dragon's tears using this fushigiri. "Gracious Gift of Tears" sounds beautiful but perhaps something more trivial like "Sacred/Holy/Hallowed Tears" would've been more accurate since the original phrase entails "some sort of tears".
Anyway, what is even more interesting, is that apparently all Mortal Blades can kill the undying but each of them has its very own additional perk. For example, Gift of Tears is a crimson Mortal Blade designed to extract Sakura Dragon's tears, and only the Dragon Heir's oathbound can wield it. It's wild. The crimson Mortal Blade was created specifically for the liberation of the Dragon Heir. With its help you can finish the Fountainhead fragrance and ascend, and with it you can draw Dragon's Tears to give them to the Heir. It would be great to learn more about the history of this sword, how and why it was created but, alas, there is no one to enlighten us.
The tsuba of the crimson Mortal Blade is shaped as a sakura flower with five petals :3
Divine Dragon's Tears
Since we're already here, let's talk about Divine Dragon's Tears. 桜竜の涙 [sakuraryu: no namida] - tears of the Sakura Dragon. We already discussed Sakura Dragon and his name in one of the Remnants posts.
「拝涙は、不死斬りでのみ叶う」 - "sacred tears can only be drawn with the Mortal Blade". Here we can see the word 拝涙 [hairui] again - sacred tears. I am curious to know if you can draw the tears with the other Mortal Blade, but I think this ability is exclusive to the crimson one, hence its name.
I am ecstatic to see the verb "reify" here, it fits amazingly well. The original says 「不死断ちは叶うであろう」 - "the Immortal Severance will come true", so the localization is on point. All three endings require the Dragon's Tears to be given to Kuro, so the Immortal Severance is kind of included into every scenario.
Since we're still on the topic of fushigiri, let's talk about the other Mortal Blade we know of, the black fishigiri. Unfortunately, it is an unobtainable item but the description of the Black Scroll could very well be the description of the black Mortal Blade.
In Japanese the Black Scroll is called 黒の巻き物 [kuro no makimono] - literally "black scroll" or "black makimono". Makimono is a type of Japanese hand scroll with either calligraphy or ink-and-brush painting. You're supposed to hold it in your hand and it unrolls horizontally.
The true name of the black Mortal Blade is 「開門」[kaimon], it literally translates to "opening gate" so the localization "Open Gate" is accurate. The blade has the power to open gate to 黄泉 [yomi] - the underworld in the Shinto mythology.
「黒は転じて生を成す」 part is kind of hard to translate, "on the other hand, the black blade creates life", something along those lines. The next sentence is far more interesting because I think the localization didn't get it quite right.
I beseech you, make offerings for the Dragon's Blood...
So, how does the Dragon's Blood relate to opening the gates to the Underworld? The blade allows its wielder to reach into the other side and pull someone through ("create life"). These things don't seem to be connected to the Dragon at all, why should we make sacrifices for the Dragon's Blood? What happens if we don't?
「竜胤を供物に乞い給え」 - "I beg you, make an offering of the Dragon's Heritage..."
Grammatically this sentence does not have a verb to rely onto (except for "beseech"). Japanese is a very contextual language but certain grammatical particles can lead the way when we're trying to understand what action is executed upon what object. As I see it, this sentence is essentially the instruction on how to make the black Mortal Blade work. Make an offering of the Dragon's Heritage to open the gates to the Underworld. Dragon's Heritage is the key to activate Kaimon.
If you remember the cutscene, Genichiro wounds Kuro with the black Mortal Blade for some reason. Why? If he wanted to kill him, he could have. I always assumed he did it just out of spite, to scare Kuro and annoy Wolf. After Kuro's blood was drawn, Kaimon started smoking, I think that's because its perk was finally activated, the offering of the Dragon's Heritage was made. Probably, Genichiro would have opened the gates to the Underworld earlier if only he could. Then he traded his life to bring back Isshin - apparently, this is how "creating life" part of the deal works.
The existence of both blades supports my belief that the Dragon and his Heirs have been in these lands for a very long time. Both swords are connected to the Dragon, Dragon Heirs or Dragon's Heritage and would not have existed without them. I'm curious what the connection between the Underworld and the Dragon is, but oh well.
It's kind of breaks my heart to know that Tomoe went to such great lenghts to save her master but still couldn't get hold even of one fushigiri, and we have two of them by the end of the game. Where did Genichiro find Kaimon, how did he know where it was...
Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the black Mortal Blade in the artbook, but we can see it quite clearly in cutscenes. I still cannot get over the fact that in the Shura cutscene we can't see that Owl holds Genichiro's head in his hand because it's out of frame... Anyway, the main point of interest is the giant black lotus above the tsuba from which the blade kind of grows. Time to dive into the religious symbolism of lotus flowers!
In Hinduism lotus is a symbol of creation, and all gods were born from lotus flowers. Traditional depictions of gods show many of them sitting in lotus flowers. In Buddhism lotus symbolizes different stages of enlightnment. Lotus grows from murky waters but its flower is pure - in the same way the Buddha rose from the murkiness of the human existence and achieved enlightment. Lotus is also a symbol of rebirth and reincarnation. As a symbol it supposedly has its roots in Ancient Egypt where the flower stood for sun, life, and also immortality and rebirth. All these meanings continued to circulate in one form or another in many religions. All in all, there is nothing surprising in a black lotus being a part of the sword that can open the gates to the Underworld and even bring someone back.
Dragon's Blood Droplet
Dragon's Blood Droplet is not blood :D 竜胤の雫 [ryu:in no shizuku] - a droplet of the Dragon's Heritage.
「竜胤の御子から、稀に零れ落ちるもの」 - "an item that rarely spills over from the Divine Child of the Dragon's Heritage".
零れ落ちる [koboreochiru] is a very curious verb, it means "to spill over and fall" or "to scatter" like leaves or petals. This is not blood and there is nothing pertaining to blood in its description. Its localization is very confusing because we know how sacred - and desirable - the blood of the Dragon Heirs is. Takeru and Tomoe's whole tragedy happened because they could not draw Takeru's blood. There is no way to obtain the Heir's blood unless you possess a Mortal Blade. It doesn't just randomly drop from then.
This item is apparently a hardened or a crystallized piece of the Dragon's Heritage that drops from Dragon Heirs when they are overflown with it (?). We know that it is a rare item and there is only a dozen or so droplets in the game.
Funny but we can actually try and guess who left the droplet based on the place we find it in. For example, one droplet can be found close to Tomoe and Takeru's graves, this one is most likely Takeru's. One more can be found in the Main Hall of the Senpou Temple - probably, this one also belongs to Takeru, and Tomoe took it with her when she went on to serach for the Mortal Blade as her immortality backup. The first droplet that Wolf receives from Emma can be Takeru's or Kuro's. We can imagine basically anything :D OR! Maybe they are just strategically placed to help you along the playthrough!
Young Lord's Bell Charm
若様のお守り鈴 [wakasama no omamori suzu] - Young Lord's omamori bell. We discussed omamori bells in detail previously, feel free to refresh you memory.
The localization says "received from an old woman" when the original points that 「老婆が持っていたお守り鈴」 - "an omamori bell that is in old woman's possession". It is essentially the bell that she carries with her, and she does not give it to Wolf as a gift but she gives it to him so that it be offered to Buddha. It does not become Wolf's. Not really a crucial detail but I thought I'd mention it nonetheless. When Wolf receives something, the original usually says 受けた - "received", and here it does not. That's why the bell is called "Young Lord's", because the old woman and other servants of the Hirata Estate call Kuro exactly this - 若様 [wakasama], young lord.
The last line of this description is very curious.
「荒れ寺にいる仏師ならば、供えの作法などにも、きっと詳しいだろう。」 - "Buddha Sculptor from the Dilapidated Temple must know in detail the etiquette of offering [someone else's amulets to Buddha] as well"
It's not just "the Sculptor will tell you what to do" but "he is well-versed in this 作法 [saho:] - etiquette, manners". I wonder why. Is this because he carves Buddha statues?..
You can actually see this omamori bell in the cutscene where Wolf finds Kuro in the Hidden Temple before the fight with Lady Butterfly. It's on Kuro's right side. And you can also hear it chiming in the darkness as Kuro is trying to get to Wolf through the burning debris to save him afterwards.
九郎のお守り [kuro: no omamori] - Kuro's omamori. There is nothing exciting in the description, probably because it is not actually a story-related item but rather a difficulty modifier. Its function is described in the original with the verb 抑える [osaeru] - to keep within limits, to restrain, to hold in check (hardships on Wolf's way).
Sweet Rice Ball
Sweet Rice Ball is called おはぎ [ohagi]. Ohagi are traditionally made from a mix of glutinous rice and regular rice and sweet red bean paste. Ohagi get their name from bush clovers, in Japanese - 萩 [hagi]. It is a traditional food during autumn equinoctial week. In spring these sweet rice balls are called ぼたもち [botamochi] after the spring peony flower - 牡丹 [botan]. As far as I can say, there is no difference between ohagi and botamochi in terms of the recipe. If you eat this rice ball in autumn, then it's ohagi, and if in spring - then it's botamochi :D
Did you know that this item has not one but two descriptions in the game? When you give Kuro the rice from the Divine Child, he makes two rice balls with the description you can see on the picture above.
The description is mostly accurate, only "astoundingly delicious" is more expressive than the original 「とてもうまかった」 - "very tasty" but that's not all that important.
The second description, however, is much more interesting but it is very easy to miss. After Wolf collects all the ingredients for the Fountainhead fragrance, Kuro will give him one more rice ball, and this rice ball has a different description.
I don't really know where the "Wolf senses" sentiment comes from, there is nothing about Wolf in the original description. It says that this rice ball was made with "secret" resolve and reluctance/sorrow to part ways.
「秘められた想いとは、誰もいないとき、一人で呟くものだろう」 - "these secret thoughts are mumbled when no one is around".
I am not sure if you can say "EAVESDROP ON KURO WHEN HE IS ALONE" more clearly than this :D Proud of the English localization for adapring this little instruction almost as it is in the original and preserving the verb 呟く [tsubuyakasu] - to mumble, to murmur, otherwise it wouldn't have been clear what you need to do.
This unique ohagi is a very important item since it pushes you to eavesdrop on Kuro when he is alone, and eavesdropping on him is necessary to move along other endings besides Immortal Severance.
We didn't have time to talk about the Dragonrot in this post but fear not, we will. I very much enjoyed diving deep into whatever history of the Mortal Blades I could unearth and I also quite like that now all the events that transpired in the Hirata Estate have fallen into place, at least for me. English localization is still mostly accurate, although sometimes it tries to be more expressive and emotional that the original texts that are often completely impartial and more like instructions or just fact lists.
I'm glad I got to explore more of Kuro. I feel like Kuro changes considerably in the three years that we do not see him: from the attack on Hirata Estate and up to the Moonview Tower encounter. During the attack on the estate he is just a lost boy in white garments without any distinctive character: he wants to be with his parents, and the unfolding events obviously scare him. When Wolf dies, his heart breaks (as do ours) because Wolf fought so bravely on his behalf and he is the only person left that he has close relationships with. In three years he does not only look older, he is also dressed differently - in his golden garment with an embroidered Dragon Heir sigil. He is not a scared child anymore but a young lord who knows his power and knows how dangerous and desirable it is. It's not a problem for him to stand up to Genichiro and explain to him that, with all due respect, he is not going to get the immortality, he won't be able to change Ashina's fate with the black Mortal Blade, and any moment now Wolf will come to break his face. Kuro is also not intimidated by Owl - moreover, their dialogue suggests that Kuro does not trust him at all and probably suspects that it was Owl who orchestrated the attack on Hirata Estate. He tells him straight up that he can leave and no one is going to give him anything.
In the next post we'll talk about the Divine Child of the Rejuvenating Waters, rice and persimmon. And then about the Dragonrot. We won't miss a thing!
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.
The World of Sekiro: Dragon Heirs. Part I. Lord Takeru and Lady Tomoe
The World of Sekiro: Remnants I
The World of Sekiro: Remnants II
The World of Sekiro: Remnants III
The World of Sekiro: Sugars, Spiritfalls and the Headless