Tengu (天狗, "heavenly dogs") are a class of mythical creatures from the yōkai (monster-spirits) family, which appear in Japanese folklore, and are sometimes worshipped as Shinto kami, revered spirits or gods.
Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon, Tiangou, the tengu were originally thought to be beast-men of the wilderness that take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. Buddhism long held that the tengu were disruptive demons and harbingers of war. Their image gradually softened, however, into one of protective, if still dangerous, spirits of the mountains and forests.
In Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden, a small number of tengu have appeared, serving as a threat to the humans, fitting the image of the tengu of the old folklore rather than that of modern times.
It is said that the tengu arrived from the Asian continent and had a drastic effect on the Japanese, acting as teachers in order to demonstrate various technologies. The technology that is the basis of the various martial arts is usually obtained through the tengu. However, the tengu did maintain a degree of secrecy. Living deep in the mountain forests, their magical technologies and knowledge became the basis of Japanese occultism. In recent years the existence of the tengu are shrouded in mystery with contact between them and other beings becoming difficult due to their secrecy. Nowadays, it is rare to even see evidence of a tengu, let alone meet one.
Tengu have similar body structure to humans, but have highly notable differences. A tengu's skin tone is dark, usually red to dark red or even brown, but there are some tengu that have the same light skin tone as the average Japanese population; a tengu in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has dark blue skin.
Their bodies are generally broad, and they possess great physical strength. Height-wise, a male tengu stands at an average of seven shaku (approximately seven feet); however, some have been claimed to stand at ten shaku. The tengu also possess very high and long noses, which are said to have healing properties when used in medicine. However, there are some tengu that lack these noses, like Nyotengu (although she does have some masks with the long noses, alluding to that aspect of tengu).
It is said that tengu wear wings on their backs as fashion statements, and this led to the belief that they used these wings to fly. As the tengu possess the same agility as the shinobi and as they have been sighted gracefully jumping from tree to tree in similar fashion while donning wings, it has been thought that they were capable of flight through them; however, this could just be a testament of their control over the mystical forces of the world. Take note, though, that at least one tengu has been seen using their wings for levitation, at the very least.
The language they use is not that different to the language used in historical Japan. The everyday game of "Tengu Daoshi" reflects the strength of these beings. In this game, they knock over full-grown pine trees in the mountains. It seems like simple vandalism but apparently there’s a competitive side to the activity: The thicker the tree one can knock down, the more status one can earn.
Known Tengu in Dead or Alive
- Kuramasan Maouson, the deity of Kurama mountain and leader of tengu realm, killed by Bankotsubo.
- Bankotsubo, the character called "Tengu" in the game series.