If you know me, you know I loves me a good Yokai centric anime. I don’t know what it is, but I tend to really enjoy shows that have a strong Yokai theme no matter what else they may be. OK, I kind of know what it is. I enjoy folklore and traditional myths in stories, whatever else they may be, and the strong traditional Japanese elements of Yokai in particular is something that fascinates me.

This said, I haven’t done enough research on the subject to be an expert in any way, so I rely on what I’ve learned from the various shows I’ve seen on the most common and traditional Yokai types out there. These are my current personal favourites!


5) Rokurokubi

In classic Irina style, I contradict myself almost instantly by choosing a Yokai that does not stem from folk legend at all but is generally thought to be purely created for entertainment, although they have appeared in works dating from quite some time. There are two types of Rokurokubi, people whose heads come off and fly around and people whose necks extend all snake-like.

I mostly know of the second type and what’s more, I have almost exclusively seen them as women. My own experience with this type of Yokai is that they tend to be spirits of omen scorned or otherwise resentful of their lives. They tend to torment or shame their victims but never directly attack them in any way. More of a quiet nagging into utter terror!

Aside from the fact that I enjoy the idea of giving some power back to women in a society that has not been traditionally very empowering towards the gender, there’s also the simple fact that the design is very interesting. I have not commonly seen this type of body alteration in any other tradition. Headless spirits or heads that detach are rather common in a lot of tails but the long neck just adds such a visual dissonance that I find it hard to forget.

spice and wolf
could not find the artist of this desktop

4) Kitsune Spirit

Most of you already know that Kitsune simply means fox but these creatures have a long tradition in many Asian folk tails and the Kitsune spirit and nine-tailed fox are a common Yokai. It doesn’t hurt that they seem to be universally attractive in their human forms…

At the base, Kitsune are a mid-level yokai capable of shapeshifting and occasionally other elemental powers. They tend to have a wide range of personalities but are generally depicted as playful, sometimes a little malicious or troublesome but rarely evil. They can be dangerous but that mostly stems from their carefree nature and disregard for consequences. Basically, attractive happy go lucky troublemakers who tend to enjoy seducing humans and drinking. One wonders why I would appreciate them so.

They are often a great stabilizing element in Yokai tales. Since they tend to be tricksters and unpredictable, they are used to add some whimsy if needed or some calming wisdom when everything turns too chaotic as such, you can bet that a Kitsune is going to stir things up one any or another.

I don’t remember Pom Poko much

3) Tanuki

I’ve said this before. The Tanuki is essentially my spirit animal.

“The legendary tanuki has eight special traits that bring good fortune, possibly created to coincide to the hachi symbol (, meaning ‘eight’) often found on the sake bottles the statues hold. The eight traits are these:

  • a hat to be ready to protect against trouble or bad weather;
  • big eyes to perceive the environment and help make good decisions;
  • a sake bottle that represents virtue;
  • a big tail that provides steadiness and strength until success is achieved;
  • an oversized scrotum that symbolizes financial luck;
  • a promissory note that represents trust or confidence;
  • a big belly that symbolizes bold and calm decisiveness; and
  • a friendly smile.[24][25] »

via Wikipedia 

I’m still working on the scrotum and belly traits but for the rest – I’m pretty much there!

Tanuki are considered master shapeshifter but otherwise fairly harmless. I already loved the Yokai before discovering the Eccentric Family which has cemented my love for the creatures. The mix of magical power, mysticism and vulnerability make them particularly charming.

Creatures of legend around since the dawn of time, they create wisdom out of fun and strength from knowing their weakness. As far as magical spirits go, you can’t get more relatable than the Tanuki. If I were to meet any Yokai, this is the one I want to share a drink with. Oh, they’re also fond of sake. A lot of Yokai are…

Beauty and the Beast was full of Tsukumogami

2) Tsukumogami

Of all the classic beliefs I’ve come across through Yokai anime, Tsukumogami are my favourite. They appear in a lot of shows although very rarely take center stage. The idea is that everything, (tools, works of art, household objects…) can eventually be imbued with a sense of existence. If anything is around for long enough, they take on a bit of the life and spirit of the people who have used them and loved them enough to create an independent little soul of their own.

There something deeply meaningful in that. Objects that exist to fulfill a specific purpose eventually take on an individual existence from the virtue of living up to that purpose. They generally retain an extremely strong sense of duty as they are a primarily utilitarian existence however there’s an undeniable strength that comes from being unwavering in your purpose. It also fills me with a weird appreciation and gratefulness for everything I come across.

Thank you, computer, you have given up on correcting my typos but without you, I wouldn’t be sharing these thoughts today! As if I needed any more reason to be disproportionately attached to my screens!

I have this on my wall (by Hpa)

1) Nyankos

I don’t know what Nyanko is. Maybe he’s a Kitsune, he looks a lot like one in his beast form. Then again, he’s also pretty huge and calls himself a beast type Yokai so maybe he’s a Kaiju. In any case, he’s 100% awesomeness. I’m nowhere near as cool and collected as Natsume so I don’t know if I could actually hold my own against Nyanko but then again, why would I want to.

As long as he doesn’t want to eat me (which I think is all talk, there’s no way Nyanko would settle for sinewy little me when he could have a delicious tender cooked meal), I’m pretty sure Nyanko and I would have the same ambitions. He’s also way nicer than he pretends to be.

Bottom line, Nyanko is one of my favourite characters is one of my very favourite shows. Of course, I’m always happy t see him no matter what type of Yokai he actually is.

Looking back on this list, I’m pretty basic! These might as well just be the most common Yokai types. Add in some Tengu and Kappa and you’ve rounded up all the popular ones. But hey, it was still fun to talk about them.

Do you guys have a favourite Yokai or Yokai type? If so who? And which anime are they from. I’m slowly building a specialty here!

Rini 3 (14)

30 thoughts

  1. For someone who claims to not have done enough research, you did an impressive job. The yokai I’m interested in are much harder to come across. A lot of them are along the lines of individuals instead of species, and they don’t appear that often in anime for a good reason: they’re pretty effed up! If you’ve seen One Piece, one of those yokai is referenced in Thriller Bark, and apparently, Fate Grand Order has someone as well.

    Anyway, I don’t really know who my favorite yokai would be. Kuchi-sake-onna comes to mind, but I’ve never seen her in an anime nor manga in my life. I’ve been doing serious research for a while, and I just happened to come across her.

    1. Oh I did a post on Japanese urban legends and I found an anime image of a slit faced woman. I think it was from a ghost story anthology.

  2. I never connected the floating-head youkai with Rokurokubi; I always thought of them as different types. Interesting. The first floating-head Roku I always think of is Kubinashi from Nurarihyon no Mago; he was one of my favourite characters.

    Also, I find yuki onna are usually among my favourite characters in the shows they appear in. I think it’s less that they’re my favourite youkai, and more that they tend to make good anime characters all the way.

    And, yeah, I, too, am rather fond of tanuki.

    1. I think the floating head ones are just so much less interesting they don’t make an impact. I could be wrong.

  3. I love Tsukumogami too, the idea that something that is used and cared for long enough can gain life is so sweet to me. I also like Nekomata, the double tail looks cool and I also just wish that it was true that cats that live long enough could get magic powers.

        1. Maybe. This said, most Yokai I’ve read about seem to be incidentally evil. A lot of them seem to just harm humans because we’re meaningless bugs to them or because they’re bored or something. Which isn’t exactly better…

  4. I’ve always loved kitsune stories. In terms of kitsune characters in anime, I’d still say Kūgen Tenko from Our Home’s Fox Deity is my favourite. They were a lot of fun as a character.

    Yokai in general are fascinating though. There are some wonderful books out there about them too.

  5. Wow, I’ve never heard of some of these before, but I think I like the idea / belief of Tsukumogami the most! It tells me a lot about respect in Japan, where respect is shown even to the objects around them. I guess if you take good care of an object, it’ll take good care of our needs as well.

    I’ll always be fascinated by the entire concept of Yokai itself. Just like superstitions and ghosts in other cultures, they’re often the reasons we act in certain ways, and so understanding the mysteries of Yokai is such a fun and enchanting way to understand more about the people of Japan.

    1. I love Tsukumogami as well. I think you really got something there. It’s so representative of the culture and that’s a huge part of the charm

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