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Mazoku (魔族?) is a common concept in Japanese fantasy referring to a clan of beings born with supernatural and paranormal powers.[1]



The very name Ma (魔 - devil) suggests that they are meant to threaten human existence or defy the gods, while -zoku (族 - tribe, clan, family) indicates that they are a family.[2]


Maō is a term derived from Mazoku, suggesting a king (王 Ō - king) that rules part of, if not all of the mazoku.

Original usage in Mythology and Legend[edit]

The original term was used in Japanese transliteration of the Indian (Hindu) mythology's clan Asura and Yaksha, as well as Zoroastrianism's Daeva, and is the general term for devils, demons and evil beings. The term is used in the form of separating these supernatural entities from the devils and demons in Christianity and Oni of Japanese local mythology. In polytheism, it is simply a word used as an Antonym of 神族 (shinzoku), which means literally the tribe of gods.

The term maō is used to describe the king or kings ruling mazoku. It was originally used to transliterate Buddhism deity, the demon god 第六天魔王波旬. Later used for Lucifer/Satan in the Bible. In polytheism, a term used as an Antonym of maō is 神王 (shin'ō), which means the king of gods. However, the term 主神 (shushin, literally the main god) is used more often since the term shushin was also used in monotheism meaning God.

The Japanese feudal lord Oda Nobunaga also called himself a maō in a letter to Takeda Shingen signing it with 第六天魔王 (The demon king of the sixth sky).

Fictional usage[edit]

The meaning of mazoku differs from series to series. Some stories coins the term general to all evil beings (instead of a single biological species) that are enemies or nemesis of humans and good gods; while some others used it to specify a certain tribe (not necessarily evil). Since the word does not refer to any specific fantasy species, what the term refers to varies from series to series. Sometimes, it is portrayed as other biological species, with individuals having similar characteristics, while other series having unique features on different individuals. While it can be confusing, in Japan, a separate term: 惡魔族 (Akumazoku) is used, the word 惡 (aku) suggesting the evilness in contrast of mazoku.

When described as humanoid, usually having some or all of these features, and share a lot in common with demons/devils.

  • Having pointy ears
  • Having exotic skin, hair, eye and blood colours
  • Having sharp claws and/or teeth/fangs
  • Having horns, wings, tails, or any features humans do not possess
  • Having the ability to transform to other forms
  • Look completely human

Maō in fiction[edit]

Although the term maō is also used as king of mazoku, it is also commonly used as a general term of king of demons, king of devils, and more general, just an overlord, a dark lord or an archenemy of the hero. Having a maō in a series does not necessarily mean that there is a mazoku clan for it to rule, a maō can simply rule humans, monsters, anything or nothing at all. Der Erlkönig, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, widely translated as "Elf King" in English, was translated as 魔王 (Maō) in Japanese. The term Daimaō (大魔王 - great demon king) is sometimes used to suggest an even higher class being than the maō. In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, a term chōmaō (超魔王 - ultimate demon king) is used to suggest an even higher class being.

Modern influences[edit]

The ancestral influences to the presentation of Mazoku in modern Japanese popular fiction is believed to come from Go Nagai's Devilman and console RPGs starting with the original Dragon Quest. Since then, the concept has evolved considerably. More common and popular concepts could be seen used in Slayers, YuYu Hakusho and Disgaea.

YuYu Hakusho[edit]

In the YuYu Hakusho series, Mazoku are elite tribes of powerful S Class Demons.

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ "Demon Guide". Kanzenshuu. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Zoku". The Origin of Zoku. Retrieved 7 June 2015.