"Kitsune" (pronounced "kee-tsoo-neh", sometimes Woolseyized
to "keaton") is actually the Japanese word for fox. But it can also refer to a type of Youkai
in Japanese Mythology note
, an intelligent
fox spirit creature with magical powers, including Shapeshifting
(particularly to human form
), enchantment, illusions
, Faux Flame
, and supernatural wisdom
. In fox form, they tend to grow additional tails as they get older, up to nine in total (known as Kyūbi no Kitsune
While their mythological origins have them as divine servants and even gods of a sort
, they're also classic Tricksters
who mess with mortals for giggles. They usually play their pranks on men, while they have a tendency to possess
women (which shows up as an actual psychological disorder in Japan, similar to clinical lycanthropy
elsewhere). This is probably because, for some reason, they're usually female (or at least bishonen
), and often end up falling in love with and marrying human men (in fact, female Kitsune are considered to make devoted wives and doting mothers). The resulting children are usually not kitsune themselves, but have magical powers.
Modern fiction tends to use these prominently; anime as a familiar staple whenever mythology is in the picture, while Western writers often note the similarity between them and The Fair Folk
and use them for similar purposes. Either way, they're likely to be seen a lot in human form, but with fox ears, tail(s) and other foxy traits
, for some reason
. Alternately, they'll spend most or all time in fox form, though their shapeshifting usually gets at least a nod.
Additional fun fact: Kitsune are common Animal Motifs
for Japanese character types. In fact, in Japan women are considered to be "tanuki-faced
" (square/round) or "kitsune-faced" (inverted triangle / heart-shaped), the latter being considered sexier, so to call a Japanese woman fox-faced is looked upon as paying them a very
China and Korea also have variations on the Kitsune myth, which they call Hu Li Jing
('Fox Spirit') and Gumiho
('Nine-tailed Fox'), though of course they see them a little differently
— for example, the Korean Gumiho are (generally) murderously evil
. Make sure you know the difference! See Fantastic Foxes
See also Youkai
, Little Bit Beastly
, Petting Zoo People
, and The Fair Folk
. Fantastic Foxes
is the supertrope.
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Anime & Manga
- Naruto is the living can in which an evil nine-tailed kitsune is sealed. The Nine-Tailed Fox isn't a traditional kitsune; it's essentially a sapient physical mass of malice, hatred, and evil chakra that has taken the form of a (gigantic) nine-tailed kitsune. Then it turns out evil isn't quite the right term, just very, very mad and doesn't really like humans. Naruto changes his mind, at least in regard to him. Also, see directly below for his real name.
- In YuYu Hakusho, Kurama is a kitsune who was gravely injured, and inhabited his spirit into a female human's womb, where she would eventually give birth to him in human form while he recovered. Possibly Koto (seems fox-like but meows occasionally in the manga; could just be that the translators didn't know either).
- Hell Teacher Nube - Nube gained a rival who was a kitsune in human guise; later, Nube went to confront the ninetails kitsune.
- Inuyasha has Shippou, an orphaned child who tags along with Inuyasha and Kagome (and she herself was momentarily accused of being one at the beginning of the story). The group don't entirely take Shippou's abilities seriously because he is a child, although they do take his heart and will to help seriously. Much later in the story, a small arc focuses entirely on the group's stay at an inn that turns out to be a testing ground for a group of youthful Kitsune who are going through examinations (in field testing, as it were). Due to the accidental encounter with the testing grounds, Shippou is forced to sit the exams as well. Despite having made no preparation (and not even known his kind had to take exams on a regular basis) and being one of the youngest examinees, Shippou quickly proves to everyone that when he's compared to his own kind, his abilities are leagues ahead of a child his age, and even far in advance of most of the older students as well.
- Kuon of Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever
- The Kyuubi Fox plays a major role in Ga Rei: It's actually a giant singularity of hatred, which destroyed an entire dynasty in ancient Japan the last time it was released. The fragments of its soul formed the Sesshouseki, which the cast spend most of the plot recovering to ensure the Kyuubi doesn't come back. Kagura uses its power to revive Kensuke after he's killed (and, subconsciously, Yomi too) at the cost of most of Tokyo, nearly killing her in the process. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- Sakura the kyuubi in Hyper Police — who has eight-and-one-fifth tails.
- Renamon, Kyuubimon, and Kudamon from Digimon.
- Yaiba's Shiro Tokisada Amakusa is a rare male example.
- Kuugen Tenkou and Gyokuyou from Wagaya No Oinari Sama.
- Meirin (three tails) and Tamamonomae (full nine tails) in Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito. May be the same person.
- In Kanokon, Chizuru Minamoto is a 400-year-old kitsune who tries to seduce the protagonist.
- Her adoptive mother is stated to be the Kitsune of ancient Japanese folklore, nine tails and all.
- Kudakitsune, the pipe fox from XXX Holic in her transformed shape. Watanuki also runs into a kitsune family who runs a oden stand in the spirit world.
- Wagaya no Oinari-sama has a kitsune as one of the main characters.
- Akari from ARIA encounters a kitsune wedding procession in a recreation of the Fushimi Inari Shrine on Mars.
- Youko in Tactics is a kitsune whom the protagonist has bound to his service. She doesn't seem too upset about this.
- In Love Hina, while she's not a true kitsune, Mitsune Konno is called Kitsune partly as a pun on her name, partly because she looks sort of like a fox, and mostly because she's a gossip and trickster who loves being a tease to Keitaro.
- Natsume Yuujinchou features a small kitsune child who follows Natume home from his class trip.
- Kekkaishi features an ailing kitsune as the leader of the Kokuboro that serve as the antagonists for much of the anime adaptation.
- Nurarihyon No Mago's Big Bad is Haguromo Gitsune, a nine-tailed fox, who is about to give birth to a monster. She wasn't always quite so evil, since she was willing to reabsorb and rebirth her grown son so he'd be immortal... and then she was killed and her son (Abe no Seimei below) vowed revenge.
- Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss is one.
- The heroines of Otome Youkai Zakuro are artificially-created half-kitsune hybrids created from female fetuses being magically mutated with the blood of natural kitsune.
- The Ninja-themed Gundam manga Hidden Shadow of G features the Bound Fox, a Kitsune-themed variant of Zeta Gundam's Bound Dog Transforming Mecha with a conveniently placed array of rear-mounted drop tanks.
- Otogi Matsuri: Yomogi's fox-like spiritual companions, who can be seen and heard only by her (and later, Yousuke.) They mainly serve to assist her with menial tasks such as cleaning, and to warn her of impending danger.
- Urusei Yatsura features a kitsune-like fox with a crush on Shinobu as a Recurring Character.
- The foxes who chose to live among humans from Studio Ghibli's Pom Poko.
- Omamori Himari has the budding Big Bad as a Nine-Tailed Kitsune, and her Shuten-doji spokesman.
- Shiro Amakusa in Yaiba. Even when he's in human form, he sports whiskers, ears and sometimes the tail.
- The protagonist in Kitsune no Yomeiri is married to a kitsune, who is both a devoted wife and a prankster.
- In Rosario + Vampire, this is Kuyou's true form.
- Sengoku Youko features two kitsunes, the main character Tama and her mother Kuzunoha.
- Soushi Miketsukami is a Half-Human Hybrid variant Inu X Boku SS.
- Makoto in Kanon is a fox.
- Yuuichi Komura from Hiiro No Kakera is descended from one and can partially transform into one.
- Ayaka Shindou from Kyoukai no Kanata is revealed to be a very powerful kitsune in disguise.
- The Kitsune Fox tribe of Kamigawa in Magic: The Gathering is patterned off of this. Their leader is known as "Eight-and-a-half-Tails".
- In fact it was originally intended for the sets to have a wide variety of Kitsune types. Such as blue to represent tricksters, and white for shrine foxes. However the plans were scrapped and they became the purely white-aligned clan seen in the final version.
- Akira Kurosawa's Ran is an adaptation of King Lear for Japanese audiences. One of the three sons of the elderly Great Lord has a wife who is clearly manipulating him to his downfall. She has her husband send his right hand man off to kill a rival woman and return with her head encased in salt. The would-be assassin takes a page from Zhuge Liang and returns telling a tall tale about how he beheaded a kitsune. He opens his satchel and reveals the head of a kitsune statue, then curses the "demon" who got away, likes to disguise itself as a beautiful woman, and seeks to corrupt and ruin men. The wife reacts with fury. Sadly, the son does nothing. It doesn't end well.
- The 2008 Chinese film Painted Skin stars a malicious nine-tailed huli jing named Xiao Wei, who maintains her youthful human form by eating mens' hearts, but who falls in love with a human general who saves her life. She conspires to take the place of his wife, and nearly succeeds, but ultimately sacrifices her power in order to undo the damage she caused. In the sequel, set 500 years later, she escapes the glacier she was imprisoned in and conspires to become a human by getting a human to willfully give her their heart during a solar eclipse, initiating a love triangle between herself, a Rebellious Princess with a scarred visage, and the princess' Bodyguard Crush to accomplish this.
- According to popular legend, the mother of the astronomer/onmyouji Abe no Seimei was a kistune named Kuzunoha.
- Warring States period warlord Shingen Takeda is said to have caused the downfall of his clan by forcibly marrying a kitsune in human form. Their son, Katsuyori, was defeated at the Battle of Nagashino by Nobunaga Oda and Ieyasu Tokugawa, leading to the effective end of the Takeda clan.
- From Wikipedia:
One of the oldest surviving kitsune tales provides a widely known folk etymology of the word kitsune. Unlike most tales of kitsune who become human and marry human males, this one does not end tragically:
'Ono, an inhabitant of Mino (says an ancient Japanese legend of A.D. 545), spent the seasons longing for his ideal of female beauty. He met her one evening on a vast moor and married her. Simultaneously with the birth of their son, Ono's dog was delivered of a pup which as it grew up became more and more hostile to the lady of the moors. She begged her husband to kill it, but he refused. At last one day the dog attacked her so furiously that she lost courage, resumed vulpine shape, leaped over a fence and fled.
"You may be a fox," Ono called after her, "but you are the mother of my son and I love you. Come back when you please; you will always be welcome."
So every evening she stole back and slept in his arms.
Because the fox returns to her husband each night as a woman but leaves each morning as a fox, she is called Kitsune. In classical Japanese, kitsu-ne means come and sleep, and ki-tsune means always comes.
- Another story from Wikipedia:
Kitsune keep their promises and strive to repay any favor. Occasionally a kitsune attaches itself to a person or household, where they can cause all sorts of mischief. In one story from the 12th century, only the homeowner's threat to exterminate the foxes convinces them to behave. The kitsune patriarch appears in the man's dreams:
"My father lived here before me, sir, and by now I have many children and grandchildren. They get into a lot of mischief, I'm afraid, and I'm always after them to stop, but they never listen. And now, sir, you're understandably fed up with us. I gather that you're going to kill us all. But I just want you to know, sir, how sorry I am that this is our last night of life. Won't you pardon us, one more time? If we ever make trouble again, then of course you must act as you think best. But the young ones, sir — I'm sure they'll understand when I explain to them why you're so upset. We'll do everything we can to protect you from now on, if only you'll forgive us, and we'll be sure to let you know when anything good is going to happen!"
- Toyotomi Hideyoshi once even wrote a personal letter, directly addressed to the Japanese deity, Inari, regarding Kitsune.
My lord, I have the honor to inform you that one of the foxes under your jurisdiction has bewitched one of my servants, causing her and others a great deal of trouble. I have to request that you make minute inquiries into the matter, and endeavor to find out the reason of your subject misbehaving in this way, and let me know the result.
If it turns out that the fox has no adequate reason to give for his behavior, you are to arrest and punish him at once. If you hesitate to take action in this matter I shall issue orders for the destruction of every fox in the land. Any other particulars that you may wish to be informed of in reference to what has occurred, you can learn from the high priest of Yoshida.
- Tamamo-no-Mae is a commonly referenced kitsune myth. It tells of a beautiful fortune teller named Tamamo-no-Mae who could answer any question, and whose beauty was never tarnished. The Emperor Konoe fell in love with her and made her one of his courtesans, but after several years the Emperor fell seriously ill. Eventually, Abe no Yasuchika, an onmyoji, told him that Tamamo was a kitsune that had been poisoning him on the orders of an evil daimyo hoping to usurp the throne - though whether she was doing so willingly depends on the version being told. Tamamo fled, and the Emperor sent Kazusa-no-suke and Miura-no-suke, the two most powerful warriors in Japan, to kill her. Kazusa-no-suke and Miura-no-suke tracked Tamamo to the Nara plains, where she appeared to Miura-no-suke in a dream, prophesying he would kill her and pleading for her life, but the following day Miura-no-suke shot and killed her. Tamamo's body became a cursed stone called the Sessho-seki (Killing Stone), and Tamamo's spirit an onryo called Hoji. Hoji was eventually exorcized by a monk named Genno, allowing her to pass on in peace.
- Katsushika Hokusai wrote a narrative that links a variety of kitsune legends from Japanese, Chinese, and Indian mythology, including those of Daji and Tamamo-No-Mae, stating they were orchestrated by the same kitsune.
- A Kitsune appears in "Rosemary and Rue" by Seanan McGuire.
- The Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "Ode To Joy" is a conversation between a kitsune and the Fourth Doctor about the changing face of Japan.
- Foxtrot X-Ray and Lady Ako in Mercedes Lackey's Chrome Circle. FX has three tails and is pretty weak (though he eventually earns a two-tail upgrade for extreme valor). Ako has nine tails. She's also "the bearer of some of the most noble blood Under- or Above- Hill." Her half-kitsune/half-dragon daughter also has nine tails in her kitsune form.
- Another one makes a brief (yet important) appearance in her Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series in Fortune's Fool, giving the female lead a magic paper crane that comes in handy.
- Kij Johnson wrote a short story about a Japanese fox spirit and it was so popular that she later expanded it into a full novel, Fox Woman, after doing extensive research to make it historically accurate.
- In Fudoki, another novel by Johnson, a male kistune plays an important role as part of a warband that the main character joins. Despite actually being named Kitsune, no one except the main character seems to realize his true nature.
- Andre Norton used fox spirits in both Imperial Lady (co-written with Susan Shwartz) and ‘’White Jade Fox.’’ In the former, Silver Snow's maid is a kitsune, while in the latter it's left ambiguous as to whether any of the characters are literally kitsune, but the trope is at least toyed with.
- Neil Gaiman's novella collaboration with Yoshitaka Amano, The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, centers around a kitsune who falls in love with a monk.
- In American Gods, also by Neil Gaiman, some background characters are implied to be kitsune; during the battle between the old gods and the American Gods, two Asian women are killed and upon dying they turn into foxes.
- In Journey to the West there are two notable fox demons, and one of them is even a nine-tailed vixen. They're the uncle and mother of the two demon kings Kinkaku and Ginkaku, making them half-kitsune demons.
- In Wen Spencer's Tinker series, one of the oni's Servant Races.
- Winkle, from Gene Wolfe's The Sorcerer's House.
- In Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, one of the figures on the carousel. Celia persuades Poppet to ride it, rather than the gryphon, by telling its story.
Live Action TV
- In the Hengeyokai variant of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, one can play a Kitsune. They even grow tails when they go up in rank. Most max out at five (which just so happens to be the usual level cap in the game), but the legendary Bai Mianxi got up to nine. They're also the youngest of the Fera (Changing Breeds), maybe the weakest physically, but somewhat skilled in sorcery.
- In the New World of Darkness, the kitsune are a type of fox-spirit. It's possible to play a human who's bonded with one, sharing in their powers in return for acting as spiritual shelter for the kitsune.
- The Tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition supplement Oriental Adventures had a fox spirit creature called a "hu hsien".
- Kitsunemori, a 3rd edition supplement for D&D, was a campaign setting with kitsune as a playable race.
- The Shapeshifters supplement for GURPS includes a detailed template for kitsune characters.
- Seven Devils Clever, a young Lunar Exalt of the Changing Moon caste in Exalted, a tabletop RPG from White Wolf.
- The Pathfinder Campaign Setting Dragon Empires Gazetteer introduced kitsune as a playable race. They can shift between their true humanoid fox form and a specific human one, can gain the abilities to outright change into foxes or humans they have met, have some degree of innate magical ability, and tend to be neutrally-aligned tricksters. However, only nogitsune (kitsune women who have been possessed by spirit oni and corrupted into murderous vamps) have been confirmed to have multiple tails.
- The Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide includes a new Kitsune-Only Feat called Magical Tail that gives the Kitsune a new tail each time it's taken and a new magical ability to go along with it.
- The Pokémon Vulpix and Ninetales are quite explicitly based on kitsune, complete with the supernatural powers and tendency to curse people who tick them off. The Generation V Pokémon Zorua and Zoroark are based on the darker side of kitsune legends. Fennekin and its line from Generation VI are based on fennec foxes rather than red foxes, but their typing and abilities are very similar to Vulpix and Ninetales.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Miles 'Tails' Prower has mechanical abilities rather than magical ones, but his two tails are a clear reference.
- In the comics, he did have a mystical destiny to him and was (briefly) trained in magic by his sorcerer uncle. His Evil Counterpart was more adept at magic and at one point called him out on his abandoning his training.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, a complicated sidequest earns you the "Keaton's Mask", which is the face of a kitsune; wearing it at the right time and place means you can meet a kitsune who quizzes you about the world in which you live.
- Ran Yakumo from Touhou, who is of the nine-tailed variety, making her very old and powerful. She's a shikigami of another very powerful Youkai, Yukari Yakumo, and Ran herself is strong enough to have her own shikigami, Chen.
- The Forest Shadow from Jade Empire
- Demon Lord Nine-Tails in Ōkami
- Xiaomu in Namco X Capcom and Endless Frontier is a 765 Chinese year old werefox, while her nemesis Saya is a Japanese werefox.
- The "Mage Fox" boss in Wild ARMs 1.
- The various platypus enemies in Dragon Quest Heroes Rocket Slime are obvious parodies of this, as the more powerful they are, the more tails they have.
- Kongiku and Yuzuruha from Muramasa The Demon Blade.
- A series of optional bosses at the end of Mega Man X: Command Mission are themed around the Kitsune. A group of thieves who were locked away because of their powers. You start off fighting 1-Tail, then 2, 3, and so on.
- Cubit Foxtar in Mega Man Zero 3 is themed around the Kitsune. He can materialize nine purple-flaming discs that trace you and can turn into fire o move around the battle arena.
- The Fox Noise, Most notably, the Progfox.
- Crazy Redd from the Animal Crossing series.
- Tamamo no Mae appears as a Caster-class Servant in both Fate/EXTRA and Fate Nuovo Guerra. It turns out in the former she is an aspect of Amaterasu.
- Tales of Symphonia has Corrine, a small, rainbow man-made summon spirit.
- Verius, the summon spirit of heart. It is rainbow like Corrine, but much larger.
- The appropriately-named Kitsune in the SNES version of Shadowrun.
- The fourth lord of Chaos in AdventureQuest Worlds is the Chaos Shogun appropriately named Kitsune, who can shapeshift into a giant purple seven-tailed kitsune.
- Riki and the Lummox race from SaGa Frontier are pretty clearly based on them. With vulpine appearances in their true form, shape shifting, multiple tails seeming to designate age or senority, and even a trademark attack, "Elfshot", resembling Kitsune-bi.
- The protagonist of Psycho Fox, who can use shinto sticks to shapeshift into three different animals and has to save the world from the evil Madfox Daimyojin.
- League of Legends' champion Ahri the Nine-Tailed fox is based on the Korean Gumiho. Her dance animations and alternate-skins reflect this.
- Played with in Shin Megami Tensei if.... The boss of the World of Greed is one of these, but whose power is directly tied to the traveler's own greed - Suspicious Videogame Generosity will provide a massive trove of treasure just before you reach him. Ignore the treasure and go straight to him, and he will be nothing but a pathetic fox that can be easily kicked into oblivion. Take all of the treasure and you will be facing a titanic Eldritch Abomination of fog.
- If Luigi grabs the leaf in Super Mario 3D Land, he now turns into a kitsune, instead of a tanooki.
- In Super Mario Fusion Revival, Peach can acquire a Kitsune Suit as an equivalent to Mario's Tanooki Suit.
- A nine-tailed kitsune is featured as the Big Bad of Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors. What's notable about this is that one of the main characters is based on Abe no Seimei (see above), and it seems like the two switched genders: The Kyūbi is now a male, while Seimei is a female, and they're not related.
- In The Night Of The Rabbit Kitsune is one of the characters that you encounter during your travels. You meet her in several forms: a fox, a statue, a woman and a girl.
- Da Ji and Mae Tamamo in Warriors Orochi. Although not physically obvious, one may note that Da Ji has fox-like features, such as furry and pointy ears and feet-paws, and both are based on folklore kitsune. A costume for Da Ji reinforced her fox-like aspect a little more.
- The Nine-tailed Fox who opposed Tenma Taro in Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Dual Destinies. He even inspired a Masked Luchador, the Amazing Nine-Tails.
- Kit from Fey Winds was once a normal fox transformed into (mostly) human form after mistaking a magical entity named Sylphe for an egg and eating her (It Makes Sense in Context). As a result, in addition to her new body she possesses strong magical powers via her connection to the Song, though their full extent has not been explored. Her nickname is a double pun, both short for Kitsune and because a kit is a young fox.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! Lari the ninja mistakes Molly the Monster for one of these, and becomes infatuated with her. He's a little squicked out when he realizes that she can't actually change into a regular human.
- The cast of Karin-dou 4koma are primarily youkai, so of course this type is included. Shizuki grows her second tail early on in the series, while Sachi (a kuuko) doesn't show off hers.
- Firefox-ko, an unofficial mascot for Firefox.
- And of course Foxkeh, the official one.
- David Kintobor has the ability to morph into one in David Gonterman's American Kitsune.
- SCP-953 is not a Kitsune. She is a kumiho, and you'd best remember it.
- The servants of Wan Shi Tong in Avatar The Last Airbender - they only appeared as foxes, but were implied to be able to take human form.
- In Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, a kitsune is pretty much the only youkai on Hellboy's side when he is transported to a Japanese folklore-inspired Magical Land.