7 Popular Japanese Folk Monsters
by Lynzee Loveridge,
Japanese yokai have had a great influence on characters in fiction and references routinely show up in both anime and manga. To round out the spooky season, The List is counting down seven popular monsters that show up time and again in our favorite shows.
7. Yuki-Onna The Yuki-Onna (lit. Snow Woman) is ghostly spirit that appears to lost travelers during a snow storm. When the freezing person approaches her for help, she leads them astray until they die of exposure or kill them on the spot. She has some similarities to sirens or will-o-wisps. Occasionally, Yuki-Onna shows leniency for children but is otherwise a malevolent being not to be trusted.
Anime Examples: Tsurara (Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan), Yukime (Hell Teacher Nube), Reiha (Vampire Princess Miyu), Nobara Yukinokouji (Inu x Boku SS)
6. Tsuchigumo Tsuchigumo and their brethren jorogumo are spider humanoids who eat humans. Both have interesting histories as Tsuchigumo were originally a term for citizens who didn't adhere to Imperial court and "hid away in holes." Eventually the term was twisted to represent spider people hiding in the mountains. Jorogumo are like spider succubi who appear as beautiful women only to eat their lovers.
Anime Examples: Tsuchigumo Clan (Naruto), Keito (Rosario + Vampire), Spider Queen (xxxHOLiC), Kamaji (Spirited Away)
5. Tengu Tengu are crow-like humanoid creatures that live high in the mountains of Japan. Traditionally they have black wings, bird feet, and red faces with long noses resembling a beak. Anime counterparts usually skip the ugly faces and keep the wings, like popular idol Kurama Shinjirou in Kamisama Kiss.
Anime Examples: Haruka & Sugino (Tactics), Karasu Tengu (Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan), Kurama Shinjirou (Kamisama Kiss)
4. Nekomata Nekomata are the Japanese monster for cat lovers. The legend says that if a cat manages to live to 100 years old, its tail will split into two and it gains the ability to speak and walk upright. However, due to Japan's associations between cats and death, they're also considered unlucky and necromancers. The cute little things can raise the dead and control them while dancing! If you're particularly mean to it before its tail splits, it might raise your dead Nanna and send her over for a visit.
Anime Examples: Natsuki (Hyper Police ), Kirara (InuYasha), Kuro (Blue Exorcist), Matamune (Shaman King).
3. Inugami/Okami Masters of the black arts, one can only encounter an inugami by partaking in a dark and terrible ritual that I'm going to refrain from describing (check out Wikipedia if you must know). Once the Inugami is under its masters control, it's sent out to murder. Supposedly, family lines in Japan possess Inugami servants and only marry other Inugami families. Kinda puts a damper on InuYasha, doesn't it?
Anime Examples: InuYasha (InuYasha), Sadaharu (Gintama), Madara (Natsume's Book of Friends), Inuki (X).
2. Kappa Kappa are child-size lizard monsters that live near water. The have beaks instead of mouths and a prominent bald spot that dips in like a bowl. The "bowl" gives their powers so long as it contains water. How fearsome a kappa is depends on the legend ranging from mischievous perverts to outright murderers. They can be reasoned with, fortunately, especially if you have a cucumber, their favorite food.
Anime Examples: Kerokichi & Kerosuke (Yaiba), Tohno (Nagasarete Airantou), Sha Gojyo (Saiyuki), Cyborg Kappa (Karas).
1. Nue Nue is a mish-mashed monster similar to the chimera or sphinx. It transforms into a black cloud at night, a reference to its ability to control thunder and lightning. The flying monkey-tanuki-tiger-snake brings calamity and disease wherever it goes. The name of the monster is regularly borrowed for characters with thunder/lightning-powers in anime even if they don't physically resemble a Nue.
Anime Examples: Arshes Nei's sword (Bastard!), Nue (Air Gear), Nue (Karas), Renji Abarai's Zanpakutou (Bleach).
The new poll: On the flip-side from last week, who is your favorite extra-tall female character?
The old poll: Last week's poll asked who is your favorite short male anime character and Edward Elric won but a landslide. Here's the full results:
- Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist) 43.2%
- Himura Kenshin (Rurouni Kenshin) 12.8%
- Levi (Attack on Titan) 11.4%
- Hiei (Yu Yu Hakusho) 6.3%
- Atsushi Otani (Lovely Complex) 5.9%
- Tōshirō Hitsugaya (Bleach) 5.2%
- Tetsuya Kuroko (Kuroko's Basketball) 4.4%
- Krillin (Dragon Ball Z) 4.1%
- Haruyuki Arita (Accel World) 2.7%
- Principal (Silver Spoon) 1.8%
- Sho Kurusu (Uta No Prince Sama) 1.6%
- Ryota Miyagi (Slam Dunk) 0.6%
When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as Associate Editor for Anime News Network, blogs about women and LBGT topics in anime and manga on her blog Engendered Dilemma, and posts pictures of her son on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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