|First appearance||Ring (1991)|
|Last appearance||Sadako 3D 2 (2013)|
|Created by||Koji Suzuki|
|Portrayed by||Rie Inō (Ring, Ring 2)
Hinako Saeki (Rasen)
Ayane Miura (Ring: Kazenban)
Tae Kimura (Ring: The Final Chapter, Rasen (TV))
Yukie Nakama (Ring 0)
Ai Hashimoto (Sadako 3D, Sadako 3D 2)
|Family||Shizuko Yamamura (mother, deceased)
Heihachiro Ikuma (father, deceased)
Takashi Yamamura (uncle, deceased)
|Significant other(s)||Hiroshi Toyama (lover deceased)|
Sadako Yamamura (山村 貞子 Yamamura Sadako?) is the central character and antagonist of Koji Suzuki's Ring Trilogy novels, along with the numerous film and television adaptations of the books. Her name combines the Japanese words for "chaste" (sada) and "child" (ko). Sadako's fictional history alternates between continuities, but all involve her possessing supernatural abilities that cause a number of unfortunate events for her, leading to Sadako being thrown down and imprisoned in a well. She uses her powers of nensha to create a cursed video tape that will kill whoever watches it exactly one week after viewing it unless the tape is copied and shown to another person, who then must repeat the same process.
Sadako has been played by a number of actresses in the media, including Rie Inō in Ring and Ring 2, Hinako Saeki in the retconned Rasen, Yukie Nakama in prequel Ring 0: Birthday as the protagonist, Ayane Miura in Ring: Kanzenban, Tae Kimura in Ring: The Final Chapter and Rasen, and Ai Hashimoto in Sadako 3D. Foreign adaptations featured Bae Doona in the South Korean film The Ring Virus, Daveigh Chase as Samara Morgan in the American films The Ring, and Kelly Stables in The Ring Two.
Sadako's character is not directly portrayed in Ring until the final scenes of the film, but is expanded briefly in Rasen and to a much greater extent in Ring 0: Birthday, although there are differences in these various portrayals.
In all versions of the Ring cycle, she appears as a young woman dressed in white, whose face is concealed behind her long black hair. All incarnations involve Sadako being thrown down a well and imprisoned within. Her spirit survived, however, and put itself into a video tape that kills anyone who views it unless someone else watches it within seven days. If the week expires, the victim will die of a heart attack or of fright depending on the continuity.
Most other incarnations share one thing in common: Sadako's need to reproduce, something she can not do herself, as she is portrayed as an intersexual. This is generally the reason why she creates the "Ring Virus", since she will "live on" in it, as long as her DNA merged with that of a strand of the smallpox virus still exists. In some incarnations, the "Ring Virus" is simply treated as a mysterious phenomenon rather than a biological virus; in these versions, she is portrayed as having created it to wreak vengeance on humanity. Sadako's goal is to make mankind aware of her suffering in life and uses the videotape through various means to achieve this.
Ring 0: Birthday introduced the concept of two Sadakos, an idea not present in the earlier Ring books or films. The movie implies that after her mother is mocked and insulted by reporters at her demonstration, Sadako killed the reporter Miyaji, who started the chaos with her powers, and split into two identical girls—one relatively normal, the other evil and insane. This second Sadako is imprisoned by her father and drugged so that she would not physically mature. The second Sadako is never seen clearly, so it is not made clear just what her physical state is, only that she has the size and proportions of a child.
Both Sadakos possess psychic powers, although it is never clear whether they are the same. The good Sadako exhibits, at one point, healing powers and the ability to see ghosts. She is also linked to the other Sadako, who wields more destructive powers (such as psychokinesis) and uses them to defend the good Sadako when she is under distress, even if it is her own powers causing said distress. Both Sadakos fuse into one towards the end of Ring 0, creating the ghostly figure that kills victims of the videotape, though the good Sadako's consciousness remains active at the time of her imprisonment in the well.
Sadako's initial origin story differs between the novels and films. In the novels, she is born to Shizuko Yamamura and Dr. Heihachiro Ikuma. Ikuma convinces Shizuko to give a public demonstration of her psychic powers. However, Shizuko bows out of the demonstration due to migraines brought on by her powers and is labelled a fraud by the press. Shizuko eventually goes into a deep depression and commits suicide by jumping into Oshima Island's volcano, which Shizuko had correctly predicted would erupt at a specific date and time. Sadako remains living with her family on the island, while Ikuma attempts to awaken potential psychic powers within himself by standing under waterfalls. This experiment succeeds only in making him sick, and he is hospitalized for many years.
At the age of nineteen, Sadako joins a Tokyo-based acting troupe and falls in love with the sound operator, Hiroshi Toyama. He learns of her powers but accepts them. Unfortunately, an early form of the curse is created in the form of a sound recording which kills four people including the troupe's director, resulting in a heartbroken Sadako leaving Toyama. Sadako visits Ikuma in hospital, only to be raped by a doctor named Nagao Jotaro who cared for her father. However, he discovers that she had Testicular Feminization Syndrome, possessing the genitilia of both sexes. When Sadako attacks him with her powers, Nagao throws her down a nearby well and seals her within. Foreseeing herself being reborn years later, Sadako vows revenge on the world before she dies.
Her past alters in the film series. Sadako is not the child of Dr. Ikuma but implied to have been conceived by a supernatural, otherworldly creature. At the public demonstration, a journalist named Miyaji accused Shizuko of being a fraud only to be killed by Sadako in defence of her mother.
Ring 0 revealed that Sadako split into identical twins, one good and innocent, and the other destructive. After Shizuko committed suicide, Ikuma moved to Izu with the twins. The good Sadako grew into an adult and became an actress, while the evil twin was locked up by Ikuma and drugged. Sadako's evil self haunted her, leading to a lynching by fellow theatre troupe members aside from Toyama. Akiko Miyaji, the fiance of the journalist whom Sadako killed, leads an angry mob to kill the evil Sadako, only for the twins to merge into one and slaughter her tormenters. Ikuma then wounded and threw Sadako down the well behind his house. Sadako survived within for thirty years and died shortly before the events of Ring, creating the cursed videotape.
Sadako appears as a young woman whose face is hidden under her long dark hair, and she wears a white dress. This appearance is typical of yūrei. Specifically, Sadako is a type of yūrei known as an onryō, bound by a desire for vengeance. In Sadako 3D, Sadako appears as her human self while still displaying traits of an onryō, in addition to the standard yūrei appearance. Ring: Kanzenban was the only rendition that differs from a traditional yūrei appearance. She is shown similarly as a young woman with Testicular Feminization Syndrome, yet her hair rarely covers her face and is frequently portrayed nude as opposed to a white garment. Sadako is also an amalgamation of two famous Japanese ghosts, Oiwa and Okiku. From Oiwa, Sadako takes the single, misshapen eye. From Okiku, the style of murder, of being thrown down a well and then having the ghost rise from the well to seek vengeance.
The success of the 1998 film Ring brought the image of the yūrei to western popular culture for the first time, although the image has existed in Japan for centuries. This image is often used in J-Horror films, such as Ju-on (and its remake The Grudge), One Missed Call and Dark Water.
Sadako is also based on the life of early-20th century psychic Sadako Takahashi, an apparent practitioner of nensha, the art of projecting images onto film by thought alone. In 1931 Takahashi was studied by psychologist Tomokichi Fukurai for his book, Clairvoyance and Thoughtography".
Sadako has a variety of psychic powers throughout all the Ring cycle books and films. The most famous is her ability to create the "cursed" video tape.
In the films her method of killing with the video curse is not explained, but when someone is killed by it she is seen climbing out of the nearest reflective surface (the most famous portrayal of this being her crawl from a television screen) and approaching them. The corpses are discovered with looks of unearthly anguish on their faces, so it could be presumed that they "die of fright", i.e. a heart attack.
In Spiral, the curse is explained in detail, and is discovered to in fact be a virus. When someone watches the cursed tape (or something else carrying the curse) some of their DNA is changed to become that of the Ring Virus (i.e. a hybrid of Sadako's DNA and that of the smallpox virus). This travels through their body and in most cases causes a sarcoma to form on one of the arteries of their heart. If the curse has not been appeased within seven days, the sarcoma detaches from the artery and clogs it, causing heart failure. Eventually, however, the virus is able to infect people through means other than videotapes, such as a report detailing the events of Ring written by Kazuyuki Asakawa which the virus had entered from Asakawa's body, a novel version of the report published by Asakawa's brother, a movie based on the novel (which Sadako was cast as herself in), and finally the Metastatic Human Cancer virus that appears in the third novel, Loop.
Each version of the video tape contains disturbing imagery. The novel version features messages at the start and end of the tape, though the method to removing the curse was recorded over. Most of the footage is from Sadako's perspective, including being sexually assaulted by Nagao Jotaro. The films' incarnation has more abstract imagery, and features an enigmatic figure whose face is obscured by a towel, pointing out to something off-screen. He is collectively referred to as the "Towel Man", and is speculated to symbolise Sadako's unknown, possibly otherworldly biological father. He appears in Ring, directing Reiko to Yoichi watching the tape, and later points out the copy she made of the tape, implying he may actually be Ryuji Takayama following his death. The final shot of the tape is of the well, which extends with each viewing, until the deadline of the curse where Sadako emerges from the well and then crawls out of the nearest reflective surface to kill her victim.
An alternate version of the tape was featured in Ring: The Final Chapter, portrayed as being recorded during pop singer Nao Matsuzaki's music video, and the deadline for the curse was extended to thirteen days. The American film incarnation is probably the longest, and mostly consists of abstract imagery or exaggerated visions that Samara Morgan has seen, but still adapts a lot from the Japanese version including the infamous final sequence where Samara emerges from a television to kill her victims.
Park Eun-Suh more closely resembles the Sadako from the novels. She appears to be about the same age as Sadako, though her age is never confirmed. She and her mother both had supernatural powers (similar to Sadako and Shizuko) and were rumored to be witches. After Eun-Suh's mother throws herself off a cliff into the sea, Eun-Suh's powers mysteriously disappear. As she grows older, she works at a nightclub under the name "Sunny Park". Due to her powers, she is a suspect in the death of one of her co-workers.
Eun-Suh is raped by her half brother shortly before her death, during which he discovers that she is a hermaphrodite. She telepathically threatens to kill him if he told anyone. Horrified, he chokes her unconscious and drops her in a nearby well.
Sadako was the main influence on Samara Morgan from the 2002 American remake, The Ring, and its sequel, The Ring Two. She was played by Daveigh Chase and Kelly Stables. Samara Morgan is depicted as an otherworldly little girl, responsible for the creation of the cursed videotape from the American version of the Ringu story. Her usual appearance is of a girl with long, dark hair covering her face and wearing a white dress. Samara possesses the power of nensha like Sadako, capable of burning images onto surfaces and into the minds of others.
Samara's history is covered through the American films. The Ring explains that Samara is adopted by Anna and Richard Morgan (Shannon Cochran and Brian Cox), who own a horse ranch on Moesko Island, Washington. As Samara grows older, her powers burn horrible images into her adoptive mother's mind, nearly driving her insane. Richard banishes Samara to live in the ranch's barn, but she uses her powers to drive Anna's beloved horses to suicide. At some point, Samara is taken to a psychiatric hospital but the doctors are unable to explain how she created the images. During a family vacation on Shelter Mountain, Anna attacks Samara as she stands before an old well, suffocating her with a garbage bag and then dropping her down the well. Anna then commits suicide by jumping off a cliff. However, Samara clings to life for seven days alone in the well before dying of a combination of starvation and hypothermia.
Eventually, a set of rental cabins are built near the well, one on top of it. This allows Samara to project her visions into a VCR tape, creating the seven-day curse. In The Ring, Samara's curse kills Katie, the niece of journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), who investigates the tape's origins. Rachel, her ex-boyfriend Noah Clay (Martin Henderson) and their son Aidan (David Dorfman) all watch the video. Rachel meets Richard, who warns her to stay away and then kills himself via electrocution. Rachel and Noah eventually find Samara's corpse in the well and bury it. Unfortunately, this releases a corporeal, grotesque form of Samara's spirit and she kills Noah as per the rules of the curse. Rachel destroys the original video cassette in a fit of rage, but uses a copied version of the video to continue the curse in order to save Aidan.
The Ring Two expands upon Samara's backstory: her mother, a woman named Evelyn (Sissy Spacek), believed that her daughter had a demon inside her and tried to drown the girl, but she was prevented by nuns. Evelyn is sent to an insane asylum, while Samara was put up for adoption. In the film's present timeline, Samara deliberately manipulates the tape to get back to Rachel, having decided to make Rachel her new mother. After Rachel burns the tape, Samara possesses Aidan. Rachel drugs Samara and then nearly drowns Aidan to exorcise her. Samara retreats to a television set, Rachel being willingly pulled into Samara's visionary world and down the well. Rachel climbs out of the well with Samara pursuing her, but Rachel covers the seal on the well just in time.
A number of actresses have portrayed Sadako in the numerous films and television adaptations of the novels, as well as in foreign adaptations as well.
- Sadako Yamamura
- Rie Inō - Ring, Ring 2
- Hinako Saeki - Rasen
- Ayane Miura - Ring: Kanzenban
- Tae Kimura - Ring: The Final Chapter, Rasen
- Yukie Nakama - Ring 0: Birthday
- Ai Hashimoto - Sadako 3D
- Park Eun-Suh
- Samara Morgan
- Daveigh Chase - The Ring, also archival footage in The Ring Two
- Kelly Stables - The Ring Two
- Abigail Droeger (rumor) - Rings (2016 film),
The character of Sadako and particularly Samara Morgan have been well received by audiences and film critics alike. British film critic Mark Kermode lists Sadako's iconic crawl out of a television set as his seventh scariest moment from the horror film genre. The scene also came sixth in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Scary Moments. On August 10, 2002, Sadako was given a public funeral at the Laforet Museum in Harajuku, Tokyo, to tie-in with the opening of a Ring exhibit at the museum and the release of The Ring, with Koji Suzuki attending the funeral. Empire's Mark Dinning described Samara as one of the film industry's most "unrelenting, unreasonable, plain uncontrollable baddies ever." Daveigh Chase has been praised for her performance, and won the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain at the 2003 ceremony.
- Lopez, J. (2006). "Curse of the Ring FAQ". Curse of the Ring. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- Lopez, J. (2006). "Ring Novels Timeline". Curse of the Ring. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- Takahashi Hiroshi, "Ring", translated by J. Lopez, [unpublished, from http://www.curseofthering.com/RingText.txt]
- Frey, Mark (2013). "Sadako's Secrets: Explaining "Ringu" at the Asian Art Museum". JETAANC. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- "Not only was Koji Suzuki -- the author of the Ring novels -- familiar with the history of Japanese parapsychology, but the story of Tomokichi Fukurai significantly influenced him as he wrote the first novel in the Ring trilogy." Kristen Lacefield, ed., The Scary Screen: Media Anxiety in 'The Ring'. Surrey, England and Burlington, VT, USA: Ashgate, 2010.
- Lopez, J. (2006). "Curse of the Ring FAQ". Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- "Ring Saishusho Cursed Videotape". The Ring Area. 2005. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Kermode, Mark (2003). "All Fright On the Night". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- "Shining Tops Screen Horrors". BBC News. 2003. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Lopez, J. (2002). "The Ring Exhibit". Curse of the Ring. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Dinning, Mark. "The Ring Movie Review". Empire Online. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- "2003 MTV Movie Awards". MTV Awards. 2003. Retrieved 8 January 2015.