In case you're wondering, those things down there aren't legs.
Tanuki (commonly transliterated as "tanooki") are a type of canid that lives in Asia (and now Europe), commonly referred to as 'raccoon dogs'. In Japanese mythology, tanuki are said to have magic powers such as shapeshifting
(usually performed with a leaf on their forehead
). Pranksters and tricksters, Tanuki spirits are generally fat and jolly, like to drum on their bellies (a sound which has the Japanese onomatopoeia "ponpoko"), and are often associated with good luck.
They can also cause ... certain problems during localization outside of Japan due to them being characterized with enormous
testicles. Another issue is their tendency to be erroneously localized as "raccoons" or "badgers," as they are close to unknown in America. These errors are less common in Europe, which has a large feral population of tanuki, and there aren't many problems localizing raccoons and badgers into Japanese media, as actual raccoons and badgers are present in Japan.
Many of the tropes that Americans associate with raccoons
also apply to raccoon dogs
or (in Japanese) tanuki
. Though raccoon dogs are canids and not true raccoonsnote
, they enjoy the same reputation in Japanese
folklore that true raccoons share in the Western Hemisphere — both this and their superficial resemblance to raccoons are the reasons this animal is called "raccoon dog" in English.
The eight traits commonly associated with the tanuki:
- A hat, to be ready to protect against trouble or bad weather
- Big eyes, to perceive the environment and help make good decisions
- A sake bottle, representing virtue
- A big tail, providing steadiness and strength until success is achieved
- Oversized testicles (kintama), symbolizing financial luck; this is an exaggeration of the Real Life raccoon dog's already-large testicles
- A promissory note, representing trust or confidence
- A big belly, for bold and calm decisiveness
- A friendly smile
Tanuki are particularly associated with alcohol in Japan. This may be the result of a story in which a tanuki orders liquor using money that is actually leaves he transformed with his magic; it transforms back into leaves after the tanuki departs. Their statues often are placed outside bars.
Sometimes their large genitals are just there, but in some stories, the tanuki use them for a variety of purposes. You can see some humorous examples here
, though they might not be safe for work.
The species is also becoming The Woobie
for an animal rights campaign against its slaughter in Chinese fur farms. If you want to know more, you can start here
, but be warned of potential Nightmare Fuel
Finally, it can be kept as a pet in some areas. See this page
Compare Rascally Raccoon
, its Western Hemisphere counterpart and the source of the English-language name "raccoon dog."
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Anime and Manga
- A clan of them feature in the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko. The American dub calls them raccoons and refers to their testicles as "pouches".
- Miroku's buddy Hachi in Inuyasha. Shippo is sometimes referred to as a tanuki because of his shapeshifting abilities, which always prompts an angry correction that he's a kitsune.
- In one episode of Final Act, Shippo enrolls in a Prankster school of sorts. All students were required to wear a leaf over their heads. The students were mainly tanooki demons, but Shippo made a good impression with his own skills.
- In Naruto, the one-tailed beast Shukaku is an enormous demon in the form of a huge (and somewhat insane) tanuki (rather than oversized testicles, though, he has a humongous tail). Gaara's ultimate defense uses his personal sand to craft a statue of Shukaku similar to wayside statues seen in Japan.
- A one-episode character in 090 ~Eko to Issho~, which, not having ever mastered the transformation business, would hide by possessing people. Last of His Kind. Is used to cause a Ship Tease and maybe, just maybe, advance the plot.
- Ponta, the Team Pet from Raideen
- Referenced in One Piece, where Tony Tony Chopper is mistaken for a Tanuki by nearly every character he encounters outside of the crew.
- Later, the samurai Kinemon has eaten a Devil Fruit that grants him the tanuki power of shapeshifting/disguising himself and other people if he/they place a leaf (or stone) on their head. It's still unknown what exactly the Devil Fruit is.
- The Tanuki from the Kincho clan in Shikoku guards the Orb of Gold in Yaiba.
- A tanuki in Hell Teacher Nube once started impersonating him, not out of mischief, but simply because it was a regular animal possessed by a trickster spirit. Unfortunately for Nube, it was very fond of wreaking havoc across town, up to and including streaking the school and giving Miss Ritsuko an up-close and personal encounter with a tanuki's pride and joy... while still in Nube's shape.
- In Shaman King, Ponchi is a Tanuki that makes a pair with Conchi, a fox (or Kitsune), which is another animal regarded with mystical powers of deception in Japanese mythology. The less said about his testicles, the better. Suffice it to say that he inverts the Groin Attack. Fitting with their mischievous sense of humor, both he and Conchi are Captain Ersatzes of Ren and Stimpy.
- Yoh's father, Mikihisa Asakura, has a more traditional fox/tanuki pair as his spirit allies.
- Josephine in Soredemo Machi Wa Mawatteiru is actually Hotori's dog, but she looks very much like a Tanuki. After her friends make fun the similarity, Hotori has a dream where Josephine informs her that since she's apparently a Tanuki, she's leaving the family to instead live among the other Tanuki's in the mountains.
- The Transformer Heinrad of Beast Wars Neo transforms into one of these. His corresponding toy prominently features the large testicles (he's got a clock on his stomach. The alarm bells are... lower.) which become the upper legs in robot mode.
- Anpanman has Tanuki-Oni. Originally a villain in his debut in the Omusubiman theatrical short, he switched sides when he was introduced in the series. His main motive is to win Batako's heart, as he has a massive crush on her. His most common transformations are a bat (that he uses for transportation outside of his mountain-side cave) and a gigantic ox-like monster (this is his main attack form). His disguises are often given away by his tail, which remains when he transforms.
- Kamisama Kiss has a brothel of female Tanuki prostitutes that make various periodical appearances. Tomoe knows them all by name and before Nanami showed up, regularly visited the place.
- A Running Gag in Doraemon is that people will always mistake Doraemon as a tanuki when they first meet him since he doesn't have any cat ears. This is a good way to annoy him.
- Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins has several sections about Tanukis as a Trickster Archetype and frequently mentions their giant scrotum.
- Uchouten Kazoku is a novel about a family of Tanuki living in Kyoto that has been adapted into an anime series.
Live Action Television
- The Big Bang Theory: Kripke allegedly draws a picture of "a 'raccoon' with an engorged scrotum" on Sheldon's survey. It was quite probably intended to be a tanuki.
- The Tanooki Suit for Mario in Super Mario Bros. 3 is based on the appearance of a tanuki and named after it (though with the spelling of the name Anglicized), minus the large testicles. When Mario wears it, he has the same abilities as he does as Raccoon Mario while also being able to turn into a statue, which makes him invulnerable to enemy attacks at the cost of movement, making it so enemies pass by Mario without harming him.
- In the Japanese version, "Raccoon Mario" was actually called "shippo [tail] Mario" and was most likely meant to be a Little Bit Beastly version of a tanuki rather than a raccoon. (For the reason given at the top of this page, it's significant that the powerup which turns Mario into this form is a leaf.)
- Of Pokémon, Zigzagoon is one in Japan. Though insignificant in battle, with below average statistical abilities and a small pool of moves to learn from, it can be useful as a party member. It is one of the few Pokémon that can have the "Pickup" ability, which will sometimes give you very rare items such as Rare Candy and PP Up, and its evolution, Linoone, can learn most HM moves, which are used to progress through otherwise insurmountable obstacles. Early in the game, catching two or three will net you a steady source of income from various picked-up items that you can sell (or use) and possibly get you early access to a few less common items. Being able to bust out a couple of Revives upon battling Whitney can be very helpful.
- Tom Nook from Animal Crossing is a tanuki. (The English translations officially call him a raccoon, but the obvious pun makes it clear what he really is.) Of note is the fact that all furniture items in the games (such as those that Tom Nook sells) are transformed into leaves when put in one's inventory. And, naturally, Nook's nephews Timmy and Tommy are also tanuki, although this is less obvious. Tanuki statues also appear.
- The Kiki Kai Kai series of Cute 'em Up games features a Tanuki named Manuke (translated as Rocky the Raccoon), a playable character since the second entry in the series. Manuke also appears as a boss in Bubble Symphony.
- Touhou has these youkai showing up here and there, but there are two notable ones:
- Mamizou Futatsuiwa, the Bonus Boss of Ten Desires, whose character is based on the tanuki Folk Hero Danzaburou-danuki. Initially hailing from Sadonote , she decides to stay in Gensokyo after being called to defeat the Final Boss only to discover that the player character already took care of things.
- The Expanded Universe manga Oriental Sacred Place, chapter 11, featured an unnamed tanuki who almost successfully impersonated Marisa Kirisame.
- Ibuki of Street Fighter III and Super Street Fighter IV has a pet tanuki named Don.
- Ieyasu Tokugawa in Samurai Warriors is associated with the tanuki, in contrast to his rival Mitsunari Ishida, who is associated with the Kitsune.
- In Sengoku Rance, Tokugawa Ieyasu is a tanuki.
- The boss of the alternate fourth stage in Sexy Parodius is a tanuki, whose prominent kintama are a Fake Weakness. The music for the Boss Battle is a medley of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and the Japanese children's song "Genkotsu-yama no Tanuki-san."
- Although not explicitly stated, Fox's trainer in the Training Mode of Star Fox 64 and its Nintendo 3DS remake appears to be a tanuki.
- One of the bosses in Beat Blades Haruka is a tanuki named Gokudarou. If Narika loses to him, he transforms into her and rapes her. If Haruka loses to him, she experiences the extent of his size firsthand.
- The Super Nintendo game Mystical Ninja has a tanuki marking checkpoints between action stages.
- Comic Bakery has a bunch of tanuki trying to eat the bread and generally disrupt things.
- The 1982 arcade Platform Game Ponpoko stars a hungry tanuki.
- Mamedanuki from Shin Megami Tensei.