When I was a kid, I had a couple books of Japanese folk legends. One of my favorite stories was Peach Boy.
According to the legend, a lonely childless couple find a giant peach in the nearby river one day, and, on opening it, discover a baby boy who they name Momotaro, or Peach Boy. (One wonders if this myth inspired Roald Dahl.) Peach Boy explains that he has been sent by the God of Heaven to keep them company, and they’re overjoyed.
Momotaro does not spend his teenage years working at Starbucks. He sails to an island of marauding ogres and – with the help of a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant who he meets along the way – battles the ogres into submission and makes them promise to leave people alone and give him all the treasure they’ve stolen. You can read the whole story here, complete with the original illustrations.
I’d forgotten the story until three years ago when my sister, who was living in Okayama, Japan at that point, sent me a rather cryptic YouTube video of Okayama: videomontages of different parts of the city, set to music, with a refrain that translated to “Peach Boy, with a dog, a monkey, and also a pheasant!” At first I thought it was just another crazy Japanese video (there are no shortage of crazy Japanese videos – her email included another video of a wild-eyed Japanese comedian named “Hard Gay”, who liked to dress outrageously and frighten businessmen) but then I remembered the folk legend. I hadn’t realized until that point that this story supposedly took place in Okayama, and that Momotaro is sort of a local hero. Unfortunately, YouTube has since removed the video, but I think the illustrated story is more interesting anyway.
So for my sister’s birthday, I made her this sketch: Peach Boy and his Justice League, descending from the skies of Tokyo to do battle with the local Yakuza. He probably won’t get any treasure out of it, but virtue is its own reward.