Sometimes Mega Myths lead you to really weird places.
Panter Flauclaws is a Mutos Reploid found in Mega Man Zero 2. In his stage, Zero is sent to steal supplies from a Neo Arcadian transport train. Eventually another train pulls up beside him, and Zero battles Panter Flauclaws in a battle across the roofs of both trains. Panter’s attacks center around electricity, and according to Mega Man Zero Official Complete Works, he is capable of finishing off his prey with a 100 million volt electrical charge.
Finding the mythical source for these Mutos Reploids is sometimes a bit of a challenge. I struggled with the mythology behind Blizzack Staggroff, and more recently with Poler Kamrous. Panter Flauclaws was no exception.
When researching, I always look first at the name for inspiration. “Panter” sounds like “panther,” and “Flauclaws” contains “claws.” Not exactly inspired work, so I had to dig deeper.
The first thing I learned is that a black panther isn’t actually a specific breed of animal. It’s a description, the same way a calico cat is simply a way to describe any multi-colored cat. Black panthers in the Americas are jaguars with black fur. In Asia and Africa black panthers are black-furred leopards. According to Official Complete Works, Panter Flauclaws’s title is the Black Panther of Lightning — but his actual title in Japanese is the Black Leopard of Thunder. Therefore, we can assume that if Flauclaws is based on a mythical panther, it was likely the leopard variety and not jaguars.
Black leopards don’t seem to play any major roles in mythology—but there is one culture which held a healthy respect for leopards.
The Igbo people of Igboland, located in southern Nigeria, seemed to have held leopards in high regard. Igbo men and occasionally even women would own an Ikenga, which was an elaborate carving representing the accomplishment of the individual, always emphasizing the strength of the right hand. Communities would have their own Ikenga as well, and these statues were often larger than an individual’s Ikenga, often including carvings of animals such as leopards.
But the simple fact that leopards are present in Igbo culture doesn’t exactly lead to the inspiration behind Panter Flauclaws. Perhaps one leopard from their mythology, Awolo Igwe, is the inspiration.
Now I’ve got to be honest with you: Awolo Igwe may not actually be a staple of Igbo beliefs. I could only find one source that describes him, and that source is a book with excerpts available on Google Books written by Nze Chukwukadibia E. Nwafor, a man who claims to be a reincarnated Igbo culture-bearer. His author description on Amazon describes him as a Dibia, who in Igbo culture were supposedly the mediators between the physical and spiritual world in Igboland. They often served as teachers, doctors, and community advisors. To be fair, the book is actually presented in a very professional, in-depth manner equivalent to a lot of the reading I had to do for graduate school.
So if taking the word of a reincarnated Igbo teacher sounds legit to you, let’s keep going.
Nwafor says that, when the clouds gathered in anticipation of the first rain, the skies assumed the stormy eyes of Awolo Igwe, the sky leopard. The first sparks of lightning were the flashing of Awolo Igwe’s eyes. Like most Mutos Reploids, Panter Flauclaws’s eyes do appear to glow. The first lightning bolts in Igbo myths were Awolo’s claws tearing across the skies. This is a very creative explanation for the way lightning slashes across the heavens. Given that lightning is sparkling all over Panter’s claws, this may have been the inspiration.
That being said, sometimes when writing Mega Myths I get too focused on the animal base. Is Panter Flauclaws based on Awolo Igwe? I hope so, after all the African mythology I’ve read up on. But given that Nwafor’s book wasn’t published until 2014, that’s not really likely.
No, Panter Flauclaws was probably inspired by Raiju.
Raiju is a thunder beast in Japanese mythology. The companion of Raijin, a god of lightning, Raiju has been depicted in numerous forms, including a fox, a weasel, a wolf, and a cat. Given that a panther is a type of cat, the connection makes sense.
Raiju, when agitated, is described as leaping from place to place, which matches Panter’s jump-centric fighting style. Furthermore, Raiju is said to leave scorch marks wherever he lands. This would actually explain why Panter Flauclaws doesn’t actually shoot lightning through the air; the only lightning bolts we see from him burst from his feet when he uses his EX Skill, the Spark Shot.
So what do you think? Is Flauclaws based on Awolo Igwe, Raiju, or are there other thunder-and-lightning based gods who could have been his inspiration?
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