Kitsune

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They're just having a Staring Contest.

Kitsuné (pronounced "kee-tsu-neh") is actually the Japanese word for fox. But it can also refer to a type of Youkai in Japanese mythology, an intelligent fox spirit creature with magical powers, including Shapeshifting (particularly to human form), enchantment, illusions, Cold Flames, 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 Kitsuné).[1]

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 Kitsuné are considered to make devoted wives and doting mothers). The resulting children are usually not kitsuné 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: Kitsuné are common Animal Motifs for Japanese character types. In fact, in Japan women are considered to be "Tanuki-faced" (square/round) or "kitsuné-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 sultry compliment.

China and Korea also have variations on the Kitsuné myth, which they call Hu Li Jing and Gumiho though of course they see them a little differently- for example, the Korean Gumiho are murderously evil and carnivorous. Make sure you know the difference! See Fantastic Foxes for details.

See also Youkai, Little Bit Beastly, Petting Zoo People, and The Fair Folk. Fantastic Foxes is the supertrope.

Examples of Kitsune include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Naruto is the living can in which the evil ninetailed kitsuné is sealed. The ninetails isn't a traditional kitsuné; it's essentially a sapient physical mass of malice, hatred, and evil chakra (and is the largest and most powerful of nine fragments of the Ten-Tailed Daemon's chakra) that has taken the form of a (gigantic) nine-tailed kitsuné.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, Kuruama is a kitsuné 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 kitsuné in human guise ( though Character Development turned him into The Lancer); later, Nube went to confront the ninetails kitsuné.
  • Inuyasha has Shippou, an orphaned child who tags along with Inuyasha and Kagome (who herself was momentarily accused of being one at the beginning of the story). As a child, the group don't entirely take Shippou's abilities seriously, 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 Kitsuné 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~
  • 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 kitsuné who tries to seduce the protagonist.
    • Her adoptive mother is stated to be the Kitsuné of ancient Japanese folklore, nine tails and all.
  • Kudakitsuné, the pipe fox from xxxHolic in her transformed shape. Watanuki also runs into a kitsuné family who runs a noodle stand in the spirit world.
  • Wagaya no Oinari-sama. has a kitsuné as one of the main characters.
  • Akari from Aria encounters a kitsuné wedding procession in a recreation of the Fushimi Inari Shrine on Mars.
  • Youko in Tactics is a kitsuné 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 kitsuné, Mitsune Konno is called Kitsuné 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 kitsuné child who follows Natume home from his class trip.
  • Kekkaishi features an ailing kitsuné as the leader of the Kokuboro that serve as the antagonists for much of the anime adaptation.
  • Nurarihyon no Mago's current Big Bad is Haguromo Gitsune, a nine-tailed fox, who is about to give birth to a monster (I doubt they'd try procedure 110-Montauk on her, as she has a thing for human livers). 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-kitsuné hybrids created from female fetuses being magically mutated with the blood of natural kitsuné.
  • The Ninja-themed Gundam manga Hidden Shadow of G features the Bound Fox, a Kitsuné-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 kitsuné-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 a Nine-Tailed Kitsuné as the Big Bad, and her Shutendoji 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 kitsuné, who is both a devoted wife and a prankster.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, this is Kuyou's true form.
  • Sengoku Youko features two kitsunés, 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.
  • Megumi of Rurouni Kenshin is often compared to a kitsuné, and can be seen Sprouting Ears in reaction to this, or when she feels particularly mischievous.
  • Kuzunoha Shuuhei and his compatriots from Black Bird which, as the title suggests, is focused primarily on Tengu rather than kitsune.

Card Games[edit | hide]

  • The Kitsuné 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 Kitsuné 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.


Film[edit | hide]

  • 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 kitsuné. He opens his satchel and reveals the head of a kitsuné 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.
    • Kurosawa's Dreams, a collection of short segments (based on actual dreams he'd had), included one of a young boy accidentally seeing a kitsuné wedding, which means he's now under a curse and has to either commit suicide or Walk the Earth to find the kitsuné and beg forgiveness.


Folklore[edit | hide]

  • 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 kitsuné 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 kitsuné tales provides a widely known folk etymology of the word kitsuné. Unlike most tales of kitsuné 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 Kitsuné. In classical Japanese, kitsu-ne means come and sleep, and ki-tsune means always comes.

  • Another story from Wikipedia:

Kitsuné keep their promises and strive to repay any favor. Occasionally a kitsuné 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 kitsuné 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 Kitsuné.

To Inari Daimyojin,

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.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • A Kitsuné appears in "Rosemary and Rue" by Seanan McGuire.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "Ode To Joy" is a conversation between a kitsuné 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-kitsuné/half-dragon daughter also has nine tails in her kitsuné form.
    • One of Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms has a portion in which the female lead visits her world's Japan-analog and helps a kitsuné who's the shogun's lover defeat an evil sorceress. She's rewarded with an origami bird that proves very useful later on.
  • 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.
  • Andre Norton used fox spirits in both Imperial Lady (co-written with Susan Shwartz) and The White Jade Fox. In the former, Silver Snow's maid is a kitsuné, while in the latter it's left ambiguous as to whether any of the characters are literally kitsuné, but the trope is at least toyed with. Well, these are Chinese fox spirits, so calling them by the Japanese term isn't quite accurate.
  • Neil Gaiman's novella collaboration with Yoshitaka Amano, The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, centers around a kitsuné who falls in love with a monk.
  • 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.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In the Hengeyokai variant of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, one can play a Kitsuné. 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 kitsuné 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 kitsuné.
  • The Tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition supplement Oriental Adventures had a fox spirit creature called a "hu hsien".
  • Kitsunémori, a 3rd edition supplement for D&D, was a campaign setting with kitsuné as a playable race.
  • The Shapeshifters supplement for GURPS includes a detailed template for kitsuné 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 vulpine form and a human semblance, have the option of also being able to outright change into foxes, 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.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Pokémon Vulpix and Ninetales are quite explicitly based on kitsuné, 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 kitsuné legends.
  • 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 Majoras Mask, a complicated sidequest earns you the "Keaton's Mask", which is the face of a kitsuné; wearing it at the right time and place means you can meet a kitsuné who quizzes you about the world in which you live.
  • Ran Yakumo from Touhou.
  • The Forest Shadow from Jade Empire
  • Demon Lord Nine-Tails in Okami
  • 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 Kitsuné. 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 Kitsuné. 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 Kitsuné in the SNES version of Shadowrun.
  • The fourth lord of Chaos in AdventureQuest Worlds is the Chaos Shogun appropriately named Kitsuné, who can shapeshift into a giant purple seven-tailed kitsuné.
  • 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 Kitsuné-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' 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 - It 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.
  • Kitsunes are a race of monsters in Monster Girl Quest. They have two to nine tails, gaining more tails as they increase in power. Earth magic is their specialty, though their leader Tamamo shows an affinity for fire when she is in her true form. Most of them only have fox ears and tails, though a few also have the lower bodies of foxes, centaur-style.
  • The main villain of the third Violated Hero game is the nine-tailed kitsune Fan Mei.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Firefox-ko, an unofficial mascot for Firefox.
    • And of course Foxkeh, the official one.
  • David Kintobor has the ability to morph into one in American Kitsuné.
  • SCP-953 is not a kitsuné. She is a kumiho, and you'd best remember it.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  1. To be more precise, in Japanese folklore, all foxes are supernatural, just with greater or lesser powers depending on their age.