Supernatural Entities in Anime

Supernatural beings. Entities. Yokai. Demons. Gods. Spirites. Dieties. They all fall under the umbrella of supernatural creatures that are not part of our regular world.

This article will be a basic introduction to many of the thousands of supernatural creatures that exist in Japanese Folklore. We are going to cover those that have appeared in Anime/Manga so far. As more are put into those mediums, we will add to our page. Feel free to post on our forums if you have more to add to our list.

Yokai / Youkai – are a class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore. The word yōkai is made up of the kanji for “bewitching; attractive; calamity” and “apparition; mystery; suspicious”. They can also be called ayakashi, mononoke, or mamono. Yōkai range eclectically from the malevolent to the mischievous, or occasionally bring good fortune to those who encounter them. Often they possess animal features (such as the Kappa, which is similar to a turtle, or the Tengu which has wings), other times they can appear mostly human, some look like inanimate objects and others have no discernible shape. Yōkai usually have a spiritual supernatural power, with shapeshifting being one of the most common. Yōkai that have the ability to shapeshift are called obake. Japanese folklorists and historians use yōkai as “supernatural or unaccountable phenomena to their informants”.

Oni – are a kind of yōkai from Japanese folklore, variously translated as demons, devils, ogres or trolls. They are popular characters in Japanese art, literature and theatre.

Animals

  • Foxes – Kitsune
◦ Bakemono-Kitsune – a name for a sorcerer or evil fox usually as a Reiko, Kiko or Koryo i.e. some sort of non-physical fox
◦ Genko– black fox, usually seen as a good omen
◦ Kiko – spirit fox, see Reiko
◦ Koryo – haunting fox, see Reiko
◦ Kuda-gitsune – A small fox-like animal used in sorcery
◦ Kuko – air fox, very bad kitsune, considered on the same level as Tengu (Japanese goblins)
◦ Reiko – ghost fox, perhaps not on the ‘evil’ side but definitely a ‘bad’ fox.
◦ Shakko – red fox, could be considered good or evil, the same as Kitsune really
◦ Tamamo-no-Mae – A wicked nine-tailed fox who appeared as a courtesan
◦ Tenko – celestial fox, kitsune which have reached the age of 1,000 years, they are usually said to have 9 tails (and sometimes are said to have golden fur) but they are either considered very evil such as Tamamo-no-mae or benevolent and wise such as messengers to Inari
◦ Yako/Yakan – A small fox like spirit that possess someone
◦ Myobu – a title given to kitsune by ladies of the court with the same rank or higher. Myobu was often used to describe the kitsune who were faithful to Inari. These kitsune are often white or other lighter colors
◦ Nogitsune – Wild fox, used at one time to differ between good and bad foxes. At the time they used ‘kitsune’ to mean a good fox/messenger from Inari and nogitsune as all foxes who did mischief and tricked people. Not really considered evil, more like prankish. A kitsune who did not follow Inari are often referred to as Nogitsune. They are often black or red. They are generally more mischievous than their Myobu brethren, and seem to have more interactions with humans.
◦ Kitsunetsuki / Kitsune-tsuki – means to be possessed by a fox
◦ kitsune no yomeiri – Rain falling on a clear day, a sunshower, is said to be the Fox’s Wedding Day
  • Raccoons – Tanuki which also means Raccoon Dog
◦ Inugami Gyoubu – A type of tanuki. Also called Gyoubu-danuki or bake-danuki
◦ Shibaemon-tanuki – One of the 3 famous tanuki of Japan
◦ Yashima no Hage-tanuki – One of the 3 famous tanuki of Japan
◦ Danzaburou-danuki – One of the 3 famous tanuki of Japan
◦ Morinji-no-kama / Bunbuku Chagama – the tanuki teakettle
  • Kappas – alternatively called Kawatarō, Komahiki, or Kawako, are a yōkai found in Japanese folklore, and also a cryptid. Their name comes from a mixture of the word “kawa” (river) and “wappo,” an inflection of “waraba” (child). In Shintō they are considered to be one of many suijin, their yorishiro, or one of their temporary appearances. A hair-covered variation of a Kappa is called a Hyōsube. There are more than eighty other names associated with the kappa in different regions which include Kawappa, Gawappa, Kōgo, Mizushi, Mizuchi, Enkō, Kawaso, Suitengu, and Dangame. Along with the oni and the tengu, they are one of the most well-known yōkai in Japan.Kappa are similar to Finnish Näkki, Scandinavian/Germanic Näck/Neck, Slavian Vodník and Scottish Kelpie in that all have been used to scare children of dangers lurking in waters. It has been suggested that the kappa legends are based on the Japanese giant salamander or “hanzaki”, an aggressive salamander which grabs its prey with its powerful jaws.
  • Tengu – the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. They take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou).
◦ Daitengu – The most powerful Tengu, each of whom lives on a separate mountain
◦ Konoha-tengu – A bird-like Tengu.
  • Daitengu are often pictured in a more human-like form than their underlings, and due to their long noses, they may also called hanatakatengu. Kotengu may conversely be depicted as more bird-like. They are sometimes called Karasu-Tengu, or koppa- or konoha-tengu. Inoue Enryō described two kinds of tengu in his Tenguron: the great daitengu, and the small, bird-like konoha-tengu who live in Cryptomeria trees. The konoha-tengu are noted in a book from 1746 called the Shokoku Rijin Dan, as bird-like creatures with wings two meters across which were seen catching fish in the Ōi River, but this name rarely appears in literature otherwise.
  • Creatures that do not fit the classic bird or yamabushi image are sometimes called tengu. For example, tengu in the guise of wood-spirits may be called guhin (occasionally written kuhin), but this word can also refer to tengu with canine mouths or other features. The people of Kōchi Prefecture on Shikoku believe in a creature called shibaten or shibatengu, but this is a small childlike being who loves sumō wrestling and sometimes dwells in the water, and is generally considered one of the many kinds of kappa. Another water-dwelling tengu is the kawatengu of the Greater Tokyo Area. This creature is rarely seen, but it is believed to create strange fireballs and be a nuisance to fishermen
  • Cats – Neko
◦ Bakeneko – a shape-shifting cat
◦ Kasha – A cat-like demon that descends from the sky and carries away corpses
◦ Nekomata – a cat yokai
◦ Byakko – White Tiger. It is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations and is sometimes called the White Tiger of the West.
  • Other: wolf, frog, bear, snake, weasel, catfish, chicken, birds, crow, badger, dog, squid,
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Yūrei – Ghosts. Are figures in Japanese folklore, analogous to Western legends of ghosts. The name consists of two kanji, 幽 (yū), meaning “faint” or “dim” and 霊 (rei), meaning “soul” or “spirit.” Alternative names include 亡霊 (Bōrei) meaning ruined or departed spirit, 死霊 (Shiryō) meaning dead spirit, or the more encompassing 妖怪 (Yōkai) or お化け (Obake).
Like their Chinese and Western counterparts, they are thought to be spirits kept from a peaceful afterlife.

Misc.

  • wall scroll
  • ogre
  • skeleton
  • yadoriko – example Mimi from Children who Chase Lost Voices
  • Dijinn – elemental creatures
  • chameras

Inanimate Objects – many come to life once they reach 100 years old

  • tea pot

Women

  • snow woman/yuki
  • mermaid

Traditional Monsters (from the Western World mainly)

  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Witches
  • Zombies

Anime Series that you can catch many of these creatures in:

A Letter to Momo / Momo e no Tegami – yokai
Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero / Hagure Yuusha no Estetica – demons, superpowers
Ah! My Goddess – goddesses, heaven, demons/devils
Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Monogatari – yokai
Beyond the Boundary – yokai
Bleach – shinigami, spirits, soul reapers
Blue Exorcist / Ao no Exorcist – yokai, demons
Cat Planet Cuties – humanoid cats
Ceres: Celestial Maiden – goddess, heaven
Children Who Chase Lost Voices movie – Yadoriko
Chrono Crusade – demons
Corpse Princess – shinigami
Diabolik Lovers – vampires
Dance in the Vampire Bund – vampires, werewolves
Death Note – shinigami
Demon Prince Enma – yokai
The Devil is a Part Timer! / Hataraku Maou-sama! – devil, demons
The Eccentric Family – yokai
Everyday Tales of a Cat God – humaniod cat god
Full Metal Alchemist – chameras
Ga-Rei-Zero – yokai
GeGeGe no Kitarou, Hakaba Kitaro – yokai
Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods – yokai
Ghost Stories – yokai
Gun-dou Musashi – yokai
Haitai Nanafa – yokai
Hana Kappa – kappa, yokai
Hell Girl / Jigoku Shoujo – yokai
Hellsing, Hellsing: Ultimate – vampires
High School DxD – devils, demons, fallen angels
High School of the Dead – zombies
Hiiro no Kakera: The Tamayori Princess Saga – yokai
Honto ni Atta! Reibai-Sensei – yokai
Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. – yokai
Inu x Boku – yokai: fox, raccoon, oni
Inu Yasha – half demon, demons, yokai
Inukami! – yokai
Is This a Zombie? – zombie, necromancer, vampire, magical girl
Judge / Yami no Shihosha Judge – yokai
Kakurenbo – demons
Kamisama Kiss – yokai
Kanokon – yokai: fox, wolf, frog, weasel, bear; snow woman,
Kappa no Kaikata – yokai
Karas – yokai
Kekkaishi – yokai, demons
Letter Bee –
The Little Judge from Hell / Dororon Enma-kun – yokai
Moon Phase / Tsukuyomi – vampires
Murder Princess –
Mushi-Shi – spirits
My Neighbor Totoro movie – spirits
Natsumi’s Book of Friends – yokai
Nura: Rise of the Yokai / Nurarihyon no Mago – yokai
Nyan-Koi – cat god
Omamori Himari – yokai
Our Home’s Fox Diety / Wagaya no Oinari-sama – fox yokai, yokai, gods, guardians, oni, werewolves, mizuchi, mamorime
Pom Poko movie – tanuki, kitsune
Ponyo movie –
Princess Mononoke movie – spirits, yokai
Ranma 1/2 – yokai
Rosario + Vampire – snow woman, yokai, witches, traditional monsters
Sailor Moon / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon – the lake monster yokai and had various monster-of-the-day
Sankarea – zombie
Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed –
Shonen Onmyoji – yokai
Shuffle! – demons, gods
Soul Eater – shinigami, demons, reapers
Spice and Wolf – wolf diety
Spirited Away – spirits, dragons, witches
Squid Girl – squid yokai
Summer Days with Coo / Kappa no Coo to Natsuyasumi – kappa, yokai
Tactics – yokai, demons
Tayutama – fox yokai, spirits,
Trinity Blood – vampires, androids,
Touhou Gensou Mangekyou: The Memories of Phantasm, Touhou Niji Sousaku Doujin, Anime Tenchou x Touhou Project – yokai
Lunar Legend Tsukihime / Shingetsutan Tsukihime – vampires
Uta-Kata – diijin
Vampire Hunter D – vampires
Vampire Knight – vampires
Vampire Princess Miyu – vampires, yokai
Witchblade – demons, superpowers
Witch Hunter Robin – witches
Wolf Children movie – werewolves
The World God Only Knows – demons
xxxHolic – spirits, yokai, supernatural
Yozakura Quartet – yokai, orge, satori, gods, vampire-mermaid,
Zakuro / Otome Youkai Zakuro – half fox half human yokai, yokai, spirits

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Links/References:
List of Legendary Creatures from Japan – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_legendary_creatures_from_Japan
List of Japanese deities – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Japanese_deities
Japanese Mythology – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_mythology
Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai – http://hyakumonogatari.com/ – Translated Japanese ghost stories and tales of the weird and strange
A History of Fox Beliefs – http://inari.garunya.com/
Kitsune, Coyote of the Orient – http://ranea.org/watts/writing/kitsune.html
Kitsune Classifications – http://www.coyotes.org/kitsune/kitsune-classification.html
Kitsune – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsune
The Fox’s Wedding – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsune_no_yomeiri
Yako – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yako_(fox)
Bake-danuki / Tanuki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bake-danuki#Bake-danuki
Shibaemon-tanuki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibaemon-tanuki
Yashima no Hage-tanuki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yashima_no_Hage-tanuki
Danzaburou-danuki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danzaburou-danuki
Tengu – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tengu
Kappa – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kappa_(folklore)
Mizuchi dragon – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizuchi
Shinigami – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinigami
Yūrei – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y%C5%ABrei
Oni – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oni
Yokai.com – http://yokai.com/
Yokai-a-day – http://matthewmeyer.net/blog/tags/a-yokai-a-day/
Yōkai – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y%C5%8Dkai
The Yokai Files – http://totaljapandemonium.wordpress.com/category/yokai/
The Hengeyokai of Japan – http://www.pvv.ntnu.no/~leirbakk/rpg/adnd/society/adnd_society_oriental.html
Obake / Bakemono – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obake
Yokai Characters in Anime – http://www.anime-planet.com/characters/tags/youkai
Anime/Manga search with these creatures – http://www.anime-planet.com/tags/

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About the author

Nadia Petrova

I'm running this blog because I love Japanese culture, especially the art of geisha. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of becoming a geisha myself. In my spare time, I enjoy watching good anime and reading some manga.

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