Yōkai are supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore. There are a wide range of yōkai, from evil to mischievous, protective and lucky. As well as the variety of intent, yōkai have a vast variety of forms (as in shape). From Arikura-no-baba, an old woman with magical powers to Kasa-obake which is a possessed paper umbrella monster, there seems to be no limit to the imagination when yōkai are involved.
I love learning about different cultures and beliefs, however this blog has another purpose, to link some of your favourite anime/manga to yōkai! Without even realising it many of your favourite manga or anime include various yōkai and I am going to reveal some!
Although this may seem like the most obvious anime/game to start with, many of you may have been young whilst watching/playing it and not realised that the creatures involved were based on Japanese legends. There are too many in this series to mention, but it’s a good introduction to Japanese folklore for younger viewers.
We all know that Ryuk is a Shinigami, but what exactly does that mean? Well Shinigami is a Japanese Grim Reaper. This one just happens to be controlled by a teenager and a book…and apples, lots and lots of apples.
There are a couple of examples of yōkai in Fairy Tail although they are not immediately obvious. Juvia, one of the key characters of Fairy Tail is based on a yōkai. Juvia is known as the rain woman as she can create rain where ever she goes, which is how the yōkai Ameonna acts. Another character with yōkai charachteristics is Horologium. The main character Lucy is able to summon spirits with her magic and one of them is Horologium, a tall Grandfather clock that protects her. This is most likely to be based on the yōkai Zorigami, which is an animated clock.
The teacher in Assassination Classroom is named Korosensei, he is a large yellow smiley face with eight octopus-like tentacles, but the name and description sound like the yōkai Koromodako, which is an octopus-like creature that lives in the waters bordering Kyoto and Fukui.
There are so many Pokémon that are based on yōkai. A few favourites include…
Ninetails is a Kitsune yōkai which is a fox spirit. It is said that for every 100 years the kitsune lives it gains an extra tail.
Mawile is a Futakuchi-onna, a two mouthed woman. She has the appearance of a normal person from the front, but underneath her hair at the back is her second mouth.
Exeggutor is a Jinmenju which is a tree with human-faced fruits.
Studio Ghibli films
Studio Ghibli films are quintessentially Japanese and it is no surprise that many have yōkai at the heart of them. I could spend hours naming each yōkai, so instead I will list just a few.
Totoro – Kodama – A spirit that lives in a tree. (My Neighbour Totoro)
Catbus – Bakeneko – A shape-shifting cat. (My Neighbour Totoro)
No-face – Noppera-bo: A faceless ghost. (Spirited Away)
Ponyo – Shojo – Red-haired sea sprites. (Ponyo)
Calcifer – Kechibi – Fire ball with a human face inside. (Howl’s Moving Castle)
Last of all, Princess Mononoke. The yōkai Mononoke is a mischievous and troublesome creature of uncertain origin. From this description it’s clear that the humans in this film named the ‘princess’ after this yōkai as she causes many difficulties and challenges for them.
Finally, I thought I would leave you with a couple of my favourite yōkai descriptions.
Basan – a giant fire-breathing chicken, because that would be amazing to see!
Kambarinyudo – A monk spirit that spies on people using the toilet. This yōkai description just makes me laugh, surely there are better things to do in the spirit world!
This list is only of a few anime/manga, I could easily list many more! If you have noticed any yōkai references in anime/manga let us know on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!