Yokai are supernatural specters from Japanese mythology. Naturally, yokai have found a home in the world of anime and manga. English dubs are infamous for making them “demons,” but yokai are more complicated than that. Some yokai are traditionally spirits of the dead. In some stories, even old or broken objects can become yokai. Some anime portray yokai as being born yokai.
There’s even a few anime where creatures from Western myths, like vampires or witches, are said to be yokai. On the reverse, there are characters based on traditional yokai, without explicitly being yokai themselves. Regardless, anime and manga are famous for making things adorably cute, and yokai, no matter how scary they once were, are no exception.
10/10 Kitaro Is A Classic Yokai Boy
Gegege No Kitaro
In Gegege no Kitaro, Kitaro is a young yokai boy of human and yokai ancestry. In early stories, Kitaro wasn’t so friendly but became a heroic character over the years. Still, things haven’t always been easy for Kitaro, what with him being born out of his mother’s grave. Depending on the story, Kitaro might actually be centuries old, as yokai age much slower than humans.
Kitaro lost one of his eyes shortly after his birth, but his hair covers the empty socket. Sometimes it might look like Kitaro’s missing eye is sticking out of his hair, but it’s actually his father, Daddy Eyeball, who rotted away until nothing but an eye was left.
9/10 Jibanyan Is An Adorable Cat Yokai
In Yo-Kai Watch, Jibanyan is a nekomata, or a cat yokai, who becomes Nate’s ally. Jibanyan was once a living cat who gave up his life to protect his owner. This comes in handy, as Jibanyan knows quite a bit about other yokai. Jibanyan always has a smile on his face, which makes things awkward when he isn’t actually happy.
Jibanyan has many traits that make him a relatable figure. Jibanyan is known for his love of Chocobars, a parody of KitKat bats, a trait apparently shared by other cat yokai. Jibanyan is no stranger to fan culture either, as he loves the cat-themed idol group Next HarMEOWny and hasa limitless supply of magazines.
8/10 The Zashiki-Warashi Twins Are As Cute As They Are Scary
In Hozuki’s Coolheadedness, Hozuki encounters a pair of Zashiki-warashi twins in an old house who then move into the Hell Palace, effectively becoming Hozuki’s adopted daughters. Early on, the twins didn’t exactly have names even to differentiate each other, so characters usually refer to them by their titles. Hozuki eventually coins the names Ichiko and Niko for them.
Admittedly, the twins can be creepy and scare other supernatural beings, even when they’re trying to be cute. With their emotionless, monotone way of speaking, it’s sometimes anyone’s guess if they are aware of how scary they can come off.
7/10 Nezuko Is A Sweetheart Whether She’s A Human Or Oni
In Demon Slayer, the “demons” are actually oni in the original Japanese — a cannibalistic, ogre-like yokai from Japanese myths. In practice, the oni in the series act more like vampires, even being able to transform humans into other oni. Such a fate befell Tanjiro’s sister Nezuko. Villainous oni had killed their family at the start of the story, leaving the brother and sister the only survivors.
Despite her transformation, Nezuko is the same compassionate girl as when she was human. Nezuko initially wears a muzzle to keep her new instincts under control and sleeps to avoid her new hunger for human flesh. Tanjiro’s goal, however, is to restore his sister’s humanity.
6/10 Kogitsune Is A Timid Fox Boy
Natsume’s Book Of Friends
In Natsume’s Book of Friends, Kogitsune is a young kitsune child who befriends Natsume. The fox child is often bullied by other yokai. In fact, Natsume saving the young kitsune from bullies is how they became friends.
The fox child isn’t able to transform like kitsune of legend, though he seems to have some glamour at play. People usually see him as a fox, but people who can see yokai see him in a humanoid form. The kitsune also has a fascination with human objects, like a hat or a broken watch.
5/10 Kirara Is A Yokai-Slayer’s Best Friend (& Secret Weapon)
In Inuyasha, Kirara is a two-tailed nekomata, or yokai cat. Kirara is Sango’s closest companion, being with her through years of dramatic events. Kirara is also Sango’s greatest weapon, as the nekomata can transform into a massive saber-toothed beast. In this form, Kirara can fly and Sango often rides her like a steed.
Despite her normal form resembling a kitten, Kirara is much older than she looks. The anime implies Kirara was once the companion of Midoriko, the ancient priestess behind the Shikon Jewel.
4/10 Neko-Musume Has Undergone Quite The Transformation
Gegege No Kitaro
In Gegege no Kitaro, Neko-Musume is a cat yokai based on stories of the bakeneko. As a character from a long-running series, Neko-Musume has changed greatly over the years. Neko-Musume was much more cartoonish in early years, even lacking her trademark hair ribbon in early appearances. Either way, Neko-Musume becomes more catlike when she wants to fight.
In modern incarnations, Neko-Musume is one of the more heroic yokai, even forming a friendship with a human girl, Mana. Mana idolizes her in turn. Befitting her nature, Neko-Musume also has something of a rivalry with rat and wolf yokai. Though it rarely comes up, Neko-Musume is sometimes said to be a human-yokai hybrid.
3/10 Yukina Is The Fairy Tale Princess Of Yokai
In YuYu Hakusho, Yukina and her twin brother Hiei are born to a race of ice maidens called Korime, patterned off the snow yokai the Yuki-Onna. Yukina is first introduced as a damsel-in-distress, being held captive by villains who want to exploit her ability to cry jewels. Yukina goes on to become Kuwabara’s love interest throughout the series.
Yukina isn’t necessarily the innocent girl she comes off as. Yukina plans on finding her brother, not knowing it’s Hiei, so he can destroy the ice maidens. Granted, Yukina wants revenge for the maidens trying to kill Hiei as a baby and driving their mother to suicide.
2/10 Amanojaku Lives Inside A Black Cat
In Ghost Stories, Amanojaku was once a powerful, dangerous yokai. Early on, a spell traps Amanojaku into the body of a cat, Kaya. As the series goes on, Amanojaku serves as a familiar to the kids and often helps them fight the evil ghosts targeting them.
After all, being an ancient yokai, Amanojaku can recognize dark magic or a supernatural threat. For example, Amanojaku once stopped Satsuki after she was nearly tricked into casting a spell that would erase her.existence.
1/10 Shippo The Kitsune Even Has Magic Toys
In Inuyasha, early on, Kagome and Inuyasha befriend a young fox yokai, also known as a kitsune, named Shippo. Adding to his cuteness, Shippo occasionally uses toys with his fox magic, like his spinning top illusion.
Despite resembling a young child, Shippo’s age is shrouded in mystery, as yokai don’t age like humans. The sequel series, Yashahime, teased what an older Shippo could look like. However, it turns out to be a trick, with Shippo changing back to his regular self.
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