Ring Cycle FAQ

About the franchise

What is the "Ring Cycle"?
"Ring Cycle" refers to all the incarnations of the Ring story:
  • Suzuki Kouji's novels: Ring, Spiral, Loop, and Birthday
  • The Japanese Ring movies: Ringu, Rasen, Ringu 2, and Ringu 0: Birthday
  • Inagaki Misao and Mizuki Sakura's manga adaptations of the films
  • The Japanese television series Rasen, Ring-Saisuushou, and Kanzenban
  • The Korean Ring movie: Ring Virus
  • The American Ring movies: The Ring, The Ring Two, and Rings
  • Yeah, there was a video game too, but it flopped, no one has it, and no one ever references it.

Why is it called "Ring Cycle"?

My guess is that it's a reference to the series of operas written by Richard Wagner. "Ring Series" by itself could refer to any of the sets mentioned above. "Ring Cycle" is more elegant and concise than "All the Ring stuff" and "cycle" fits in with the circular imagery of the titles (ring, spiral, loop).

About the cursed video

How does the cursed video work?
If you watch the entire video you become infected with the ring virus. In the novels, you can also become infected by reading Asakawa's book or (it is implied) watching the film that will be made about Sadako's life. In Ringu 2, looking at a photograph or video of someone whom Sadako has killed will allow that person to drive you insane.

What does the virus do?
The virus is a combination of smallpox and Sadako's DNA. If you do not save yourself by one of the means explained in the next question, a tumor will grow in your throat, and you will die of a massive heart attack. Alternatively, if you are female and ovulating during your seven days, you may become impregnated by the virus and die giving birth to a Sadako clone.
The virus is not present in The Ring and it is implied that Samara scares her victims to death.

How can you be saved from the curse?

In the movies, you must perpetuate the virus by copying the video and showing it to someone else. Merely copying the tape isn't enough. In the novels, you must help the virus mutate into a new form--copying the tape and showing it to someone else isn't enough if someone else has already done it.

What if you only watch part of the video?

You're safe. In the novels and in Ring Virus, the video begins with a notice that one should watch the whole thing to the very end. This implies that a certain amount of time is needed to infect someone with the virus, which makes sense considering that smallpox infection requires close contact with an infected person and not, say, a brief encounter with an infected doorknob.

What if you see Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara kill someone else?
She can now affect you, though not kill you. The characters who saw Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara kill their friends went crazy, becoming afraid of televisions; Becca knew things about those who had watched the video, and Masami could project the video onto a nearby television.

Why seven days?
That's how long it takes the tumor to grow in your throat. It is assumed that Samara gives her victims seven days because that is how long she survived in the well.

Why a video?
The first incarnation of the cursed video was actually an audio tape that played the background noises of the video. Television had not been invented yet. Sadako used this impermanent recording in Birthday. Likely she decided on a video as the best way to infect people with her virus because there was a television right above the well which she could affect with her abilities.
Samara probably used a videotape because her television was basically her only companion in the barn.

Why do the faces warp?
Sadako's victims' faces are frozen in a death scream--unpleasant to see, but within the bounds of what a human face can normally do. Likely they see Sadako and are afraid.
We know that in the the novels, when they look in a reflective surface before they die, they see themselves changed. "The cheeks were yellowish, dried and cracked, and hair was falling out in clumps to reveal brown scabs." This is what scares them.
Samara's victims look like they do in their photographs. It has been theorized that they transform like this because this is about how they would look after seven days of rotting in a well. However, that has been officially denied. It may simply be that Samara is making them look like their photographs. Watching Katie's transformation in slow motion reveals that first the mouth stretches, then the skin around the eyes goes red, then the eyes roll up and turn yellow, then the whole face takes on a gray shade.
Eun-Suh's victims sprout pointy ears because the director wanted his interpretation to be mysterious rather than scary.
The warped faces in the photographs may be the films' interpretation of the extremely aged, possibly rotting reflections--or, in Samara's case, a preview of what's to come.

Did you see the hand come out of the well when the video was watched later?
Yes. There are two theories for that: 1.) Re-watching the video speeds up the infection of the virus. 2.) If you re-watch the video, you will see Sadako emerge from the well and get closer and closer in direct proportion to the amount of time you have left to live--perhaps as a way of taunting her victims. Option #2 seems more likely, as Option #1 would indirectly give the victim some control over Sadako by forcing her to appear sooner than she had originally planned.

What happens to you once you die?
Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara has control of your soul. It is theorized that Sadako's most recent male victim becomes Towel Man, while female victims are used in varying ways.

What flashes onscreen when they kill people?
When Sadako kills, there is a photographic flash before her victim's screaming face is shown.
When Samara kills, several scenes from the video flash after her victim's screaming face, beginning to distort, is shown--The ring, Samara's father looking out the window, the submerged head with the tongue/whatever coming out of its mouth, the tree, the ladder, the twitching fingers, the dripping blood, the horse eye, then static. (I think that's the right order; I watched it several times on slow-motion, but it'll only go so slow.)

About Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara

What does Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara want?
Sadako wants to take over the world, converting everything with DNA to her DNA, so that everyone will know what she had to suffer. Eun-Suh wants revenge for her death and her treatment during her life. Samara just wants to hurt people.

Is Sadako really a hermaphrodite?

Yes and no. She has Testicular Feminization Syndrome. Genetically she is male, but she has testes as well as a vagina. This is mentioned in Rasen and in Ring Virus; however, Samara is completely female. So originally, she is technically male; later on, however, she becomes fully hermaphroditic.

Can Sadako really get pregnant with herself?

Yes. While Sadako was initially alive, she did not have this ability. After she was reborn (via Mai) she found that she had a uterus and could now ejaculate and impregnate herself, giving birth to a clone seven days later. This is only present in the novels.

Can Sadako really clone people?

Yes. If Sadako can obtain the DNA, she can use it to clone another person instead of herself--again, giving birth seven days later. This is present in Rasen as well as in the novels.

Why are there two Sadakos in Birthday?
Sadako is not altogether human. As she grew older, two sides of her developed--a good side and an evil side. The struggle of the two sides for dominance, plus the shock of seeing her mother slowly go crazy, caused Sadako to divide physically into a good twin and a bad twin. Prof. Ikuma kept Evil Sadako locked up and restrained and stunted her (physical) growth with injections while Good Sadako tried to live a normal life. However, Evil Sadako was still aware and able to act psychically. When Good Sadako was assaulted by the theatre troupe, Evil Sadako finally managed to break free and the two re-joined into one. Evil Sadako's treatment from Ikuma may have helped to fuel Sadako's desire for revenge beyond simply avenging her death.

What if there's no television in the room?
You're dead anyway. It's shown that Sadako can kill when no television is present; presumably Samara and Eun-Suh can do the same. If they can affect people without a television (in particular the burn/bruise resulting from the hand grab) I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to kill sans TV as well.

Why use a television if she doesn't need it?
I think that television has become Sadako's weapon of choice. She (usually) infects through a videotape; it only makes sense to kill via the television as well if one is present.

What does Sadako mean by "Why are you the only ones saved?" in Ringu 2?
This could be taken several ways. 1.) Why are you the only ones who were saved from me? 2.) Why are you the only ones who were saved, unlike me? Considering that Sadako seems to have a grip on Yoichi, meaning 2 seems more likely. Yoichi and Mai both had others trying to save them from the dangers of Sadako. Sadako did not have anyone to help her when she herself was in danger during her life. Thus, "What makes you two so special that you have people to save you from danger when I didn't?" Another theory is that Sadako is demanding to know how Yoichi and Mai managed to get out of the well when she, with all her power, had not been able to do so for 30+ years.

What does Aidan mean by "You weren't supposed to help her"?
Beyond the obvious--that Rachel and Samara are on opposite sides--I think the filmmakers just wanted a spooky-sounding line. In all versions, removing the body from the well has no effect on Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara.

What does the coroner mean by "She's only been dead a few years"?
Exactly that. Sadako remained alive inside the well for about thirty years, using her desire for revenge to fuel her powers to keep her body alive. It is likely that she finally let her body die when the means for her revenge--the cabin, with its television and video recorder--presented itself.

Why is there water around Samara only?
Samara is the only one who is dripping when when she emerges from the television; this was the filmmakers' choice. Water where it shouldn't be indicates Samara's presence. The water always comes from Samara, such as the soaked carpet before she grabs Rachel's arm, or the condensation dripping down the outside of Noah's television before she comes out.
Interestingly, when Katie is killed, there is a puddle of water in the doorway and water dripping from the doorknob, but none on the floor of the room itself. One would think that the water would be coming from the television and would have soaked the whole floor.

What sort of treatment did Samara get at Eola County Psychiatric Hospital?
We don't know for sure, but we can deduce several things.
  • From the electrodes: Some sort of electro-shock therapy, possibly electroconvulsive therapy or electroencephalography.
  • From her paperwork: Some sort of psychosurgery which failed. Possibly a lobotomy, as it was a prevalent treatment in the United States while Samara was alive, with about a 1/3 success rate. The "Don't Watch This" extra footage shows a line being cut in skin; this surely refers to Samara's psychosurgery.

About other characters

What did Mai change on Ryuuji's blackboard?
She turned a plus sign into a minus sign.

What's all that Kaoru/Takayama stuff about?
The world that Sadako lived in was actually a very detailed computer simulation, like the Matrix movies, called the Loop. Sadako's ring virus was not just a disease type virus that infected people, but also a computer virus that affected the program, ruining it as everything was turned into her coding. Through infecting the Loop's researchers, Sadako's virus gets into the real world as the Metastatic Human Cancer Virus and starts infecting everything, even the trees.
The dice rolling while Ryuuji dies count out a phone number to call from the Loop into the real world. Ryuuji calls that number and speaks to Eliot, who clones him into the real world as Kaoru.
At the end of the novel, Kaoru is re-inserted into the Loop and reborn to find a cure for the MHCV.
In the original screenplay, as Ryuuji was dying his hand wrote "HELL IS REAL" by itself, perhaps a nod to the dice from the novel.

Who's the guy with the towel on his head?
Towel Man appears to be a servant of Sadako. The script indicates that the Towel Man at the end of Ringu is definitely Ryuuji; since Towel Man's clothes change, we can assume one of two things: 1.) Sadako dresses Towel Man up for the occasion. 2.) Towel Man himself changes.
We know from Tomoko's postmortem interaction with Yoichi that Sadako does employ the ghosts of those she has killed. Female ghosts seem to get more freedom, as evidenced by Sawaguchi Kanae in Ringu 2. Considering that in the novels Sadako was raped before she died, I'm guessing that she does not like men and puts a towel over the faces of the male ghosts in her employ so that she won't have to look at them. (Also note that Towel Man never speaks, but Tomoko and Kanae do.)
Towel Man does appear before Sadako's death in Birthday. I suspect that this is not significant to Towel Man's role. The filmmakers, knowing that their audience would have seen the other Ring movies prior to watching Birthday, probably put Towel Man in as a recognizable plot device.
Another possibility, taking Birthday into account, is that Towel Man is a lesser spirit working against Sadako. (Since he points out danger.) This seems unlikely since the method of saving Yoichi spreads the virus, whereas letting Yoichi die would halt its progress.

In the novel, Asakawa takes notes about Sadako and the curse that are then turned into a novel and published. Is that supposed to be the novel I'm holding right now?
Probably. Clever, isn't it?

How did Tomoko/Sang-Mi/Katie get in the closet?
We see that when Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara comes for her victims, death is not instantaneous. There is a bit of chase time, during which the girls probably shut themselves in the closet to try to hide.

About technical stuff

How do they walk like that?
To achieve Sadako's walk, the director had the actress lurch backwards, then played the film forwards. Samara was also filmed backwards coming out of the television. For the most part, I imagine the actresses who played Eun-Suh and Samara just imitated what they saw in Ringu, because my sister does a mean Sadako cosply and can lurch around perfectly.

Are there really real ghosts in Ringu, Ringu 2 and Birthday?
There are really things that have been interpreted as ghosts--I can't say whether they're real ghosts or not. I'm working on getting screenshots.
In Ringu, when Reiko and Ryuuji are talking on the balcony, a gaping face can be seen in profile reflected in the glass door. Screenshot stolen years ago from the no-longer-in-existence Ringworld, because my timing is too bad. I've outlined what I perceive as the face; tilt your head to the right.
In Ringu 2, when a shot from the cave scene was played back, a ghostly voice could apparently be heard calling "Rikako." However, Kawai Kenji admitted that he and some of the sound men created the voice as a hoax to try to scare Nakata Hideo.
In Birthday, a hand can be seen sticking out from behind a rack of dresses. Supposedly, no one was there. I'm working on a screenshot for that.

Do you have any tips for cosplaying Sadako/Eun-Suh/Samara?
To do the hair, part your hair (or wig) the same as you would normally, but backwards, with the center of the part ending short of your forehead.
All three are barefoot, but Sadako wears white shoes when she is alive, while Samara wears black shoes.
Don't stand up straight--hunch a bit and bow your head.
To do the walk, squeeze your shoulders together in front so that your arms are hanging down the front of your body. Make sure you move your shoulders as you walk, and make your steps jerky.
To do the crawl, try to get your body as flat against the ground as possible and lead with your fingertips. Don't let your bottom poke up in the air.