Tanuki (commonly transcribed 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 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. note
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 (since kintama literally means "golden ball(s)); 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 often paired with Kitsune, usually as rivals with less raw power and ambition but more skill at shapeshifting and trickery - a famous expression is "the fox has seven disguises, but the tanuki has eight". In fact the term kitsune-tanuki (pronounced "kori") exists to refer to them collectively, and can also be used to mean a sly or deceptive person. Likewise the fortunetelling game Kokkuri is written with the characters kitsune-dog-tanuki.note
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. On a lighter note, it can be kept as a pet in some areas. See this page for information.
Finally, they're the inspiration for "Tanuki-ese", a grade-schooler code that's roughly the Japanese equivalent of Pig Latin. See, written with different characters, "tanuki" can be interpreted as "ta-nuki" - "without the ta". In other words, remove the "ta" character(s) from a seemingly ordinary sentence to - hopefully - get a completely different message (or, conversely, randomly add the character "ta" between syllables in the sentence you want "coded").
Compare Rascally Raccoon, its Western Hemisphere counterpart and the source of the English-language name "raccoon dog."
- A clan of them feature in the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko. The American dub calls them raccoons (likely to make it easier to translate the numerous songs about them) 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 Naruto, the one-tailed beast Shukaku is an enormous demon in the form of a huge (and somewhat insane) tanuki, though it lacks the oversized testicles. His host Gaara can also create a statue of Shukaku out of sand similar to wayside statues seen in Japan. In reference to the tanuki/kitsune rivalry, Gaara is introduced as an Evil Counterpart to the kitsune-possessed Naruto. While Shukaku is much weaker than Naruto's Nine-Tailed Fox, Gaara is able to physically transform into his Tailed Beast (thus unleashing its full power) long before Naruto can do the same and without the physical injuries Naruto suffers for most of the series.
- Personality-wise, Tsunade fits the role: fun-loving, heavy-drinking, and always on the run from her creditors. Like the tanuki, she uses her ninja magic for shape-shifting (to escape her creditors, and also for vanity reasons, and she has some chakra stored in the seal on her forehead. (It may also be the origin of her large breasts; sort of a Distaff Counterpart to the large testes of the tanuki.) That's about where her association with the tanuki ends, though, and it isn't mentioned in the series.
- 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. For a long time it was unknown what exactly the Devil Fruit is, until the Wano arc, which is named the Fuku Fuku no Mi (known as Garb-Garb Fruit in english).
- 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 & Stimpy.
- Yoh's father, Mikihisa Asakura, has a more traditional fox/tanuki pair, maed Imari and Shiragaki, 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.
- In Inazuma Eleven Ares no Tenbin, Tonegawa Tousen's mascot is a tanuki who can shapeshift into a girl, whose Transformation Trinket appears to be her leg bracelet.
- 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.
- In Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Maeno is obsessed with tanuki and is constantly badgering the manga authors working under him to include them in all their works. Since they're very obvious In-Universe Creators Pets, most of the other characters hate them, to the point that the anime's opening shows Sakura and Hori violently destroying one.
- Gugure! Kokkuri-san has the tanuki Youkai Shigaraki, a prankster who drinks and gambles a lot.
- YuYu Hakusho has a one-shot manga-only story early on where Yusuke and Botan encounter one who attempts to help an old man about to pass on.
- Kemono Jihen has bakedanuki Kohachi Inugami, the proprietor of the Inugami Detective Agency. Despite his casual demeanor, he's a skilled detective and a responsible guardian to the boys under his care. His abilities allow him to transform between a human form and his bake-danuki form at will, turn his skin into metal over time, and create objects out of thin air like a gun.
- In the Japanese localized version of Zootopia, the male newscaster for Zootopia News Network is a racoon dog named Michael Tanuyama, whose appearance is like the tanuki from Japanese folklore complete with a straw hat and a leaf on his head.
- 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.
- Ninja Sentai Kakuranger had a Tanuki comic book artist as a Monster of the Week. The series calls him a Mujina (which actually refers to a badger youkai, but the name is interchangeable with "Tanuki" in some regions), but his appearance and mannerisms are very much Tanuki, complete with drumming his belly. Renamed Artistmole for Season 3 of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
- Tanuki are a common subject of warabe-uta (traditional songs sung to Japanese children).
- Dungeons & Dragons has long had the tanuki, or "raccoon dog", as one of the possible breeds of hengeyokai (basically an Asian animal-based Shapeshifter). They first appeared in the 1st Edition supplement Oriental Adventures, where they were described as always evil, with enhanced strength but lower than normal wisdom. They later reappeared in 3rd edition's remake of the same sourcebook, where they lost the "Always Evil" aspect. They made their final appearance to date for 4th edition in issue #404 of Dragon, where they lost the wisdom penalty (indeed, wisdom and charisma were the "floating" ability score boosts), and finally gained a climbing speed.
- In Pathfinder, tanuki are monstrous humanoids with the shapeshifter subtype, tend to be Chaotic Neutral, can create items from nothing, supposedly change objects into other objects, and get more powerful when they take a swig of sake. Also, they have a slam attack that they don't need to have their paws free to use.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has drum-playing baby tanuki (though the English cards call them "raccoons") named Ponpoko and Tantan.
- In Kitsune: Of Foxes and Fools a "Friendly Tanuki" is one of the possible ally cards. They improve the Wit trait by +3.
- 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. Since the Japanese name of "Raccoon Mario" was actually "shippo [tail] Mario," it 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, Sentret and Zigzagoon are both designed after the tanuki. Sentret resembles the folklore version, with its round-tipped tail, while Zigzagoon resembles a real-life version. Sentret can spot an enemy from great distances and emits a loud cry as a warning. Though insignificant in battle, with below average statistical abilities and a small pool of moves to learn from, Zigzagoon 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.
- Shounen Kininden Tsumuji features a tanuki statue made by Tsumuji's father which has all 8 traits.
- 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. Prior to New Leaf, he normally wore only an apron, a nod to tanukis' large testicles (though oddly enough, in Nookington's he wears a blue suit with no pants).
- The Kiki Kai Kai series of Cute 'em Up games features a Tanuki named Manuke (translated as Rocky the Raccoon), who was originally the Final Boss from within the original arcade game, but has since became a playable character from within 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.
- Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun includes a realistic-looking one named Kuma. It being a stealth game, as the pet of Takuma◊, Kuma is one of Takuma's gameplay tools. Kuma is able to be ordered around wherever because no one suspects a common raccoon dog, and distract guards by acting adorable.
- 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 warabe-uta tune "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.
- The Legend of the Mystical Ninja has a tanuki statue marking checkpoints between action stages. In the Super Famicom sequel Ganbare Goemon 2, the statues mark the Level Goal, and break open to release plenty of koban coins.
- Comic Bakery has a bunch of tanuki trying to eat the bread and generally disrupt things.
- Ponpoko stars a hungry tanuki.
- Mamedanuki from Shin Megami Tensei.
- Team Sonic Racing introduces Dodon Pa the Racoon Dog. He's described as funny-looking and chubby.
- In Muramasa: The Demon Blade, the first DLC chapter of the Vita remake has a tanuki disguised as various monsters as the second boss; even the "haunted house" the fight takes place in is part of the disguise. After the fight, he takes on the player character Okoi, a vengeful shapeshifting cat, as a disciple.
- In Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror, the first boss is a tanuki that first appears disguised as a beautiful girl and breathes fire after taking swigs of sake. The lower part of its sprite was edited for the American release.
- In The Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation, the Nerd spends a stage riding a tanuki with "fucking flaming tanuki balls". You can smash his huge nads into enemies if you wish. It kills the enemies, too!
- Tanukids, a Maze Game released with one of Compile's PC-98 Disc Station issues, stars a father tanuki who carries around a flask of sake while rescuing the kids and plays his belly like a drum.