Feeling a little spirited? Need something spooky and cool to watch? Why not dip into the world of yokai? To be fair, it’s hard not to in anime: their influence is everywhere! But if you’re craving something a little more specific, we’ve found some series that take unique looks at the spirits, gods, and shapeshifters of Japanese legends. Try these on for size, and be sure to let us know which ones you like, too!
Also known as Natsume’s Book of Friends, this long-running series has a deceptive title. It’s not so much about befriending yokai as it is letting them go. Takashi Natsume is a loner with the ability to see spirits. When his grandmother Reiko dies, he inherits the “book of friends”: a listing of spirits and monsters Reiko bullied into forming contracts with her. Takashi takes it upon himself, guarded by “Nyanko-sensei,” to dissolve these contracts and set the spirits free. And, of course, he has to protect the book from others who might have less noble uses for it.
Gegege no Kitaro
Based on the classic manga by Shigeru Mizuki, Gegege no Kitaro is full of yokai… including its title character! Kitaro is the last living member of the Ghost Tribe (though his father has been resurrected as a sentient eyeball). Together with others like him, he solves conflicts between spirits and humans in hopes of uniting their worlds. Throughout the manga and seven anime adaptations, you’ll also see references to ghosts and monsters from outside Japan. And in the most recent anime adaptation, they’re pretty fearless about poking at modern pop culture, too.
The yokai wanted a goddess of wisdom, so they kidnapped a little girl and took her leg and her eye. (Well, the legends said that’s how it’s had to be, so…) That’s how we ended up with Kotoko, the star of In/Spectre. She offers advice to the ghosts and spirits of Japan, and digs into paranormal crimes. At her side is her boyfriend (so she says) Kuro, who has some amazing powers of his own. And the way he got those makes him terrifying to Kotoko’s clientele…
If you’re not into fighting or saving yokai, how about dating them? Kamisama Kiss is a divine romcom in which a normal high school girl named Nanami finds herself the new local land god. The fox spirit Tomoe becomes her familiar, which is annoying for him at first. But then love starts to blossom between them. However, love between a human and a yokai is forbidden. (Oh, and gods don’t get to skip school — Nanami has to balance her human life and her godly duties!)
The newest anime on our list, Kemono Jihen is bringing you fresh monster goodness this season! Young Kabane gets the nickname “Dorotabo” from the local kids — after a yokai who works out in the rice fields. There’s definitely something of the paranormal about him… but that’s what Tokyo detective Inugami specializes in. Starting with a mysterious case of animals being killed in a remote village, Inugami and his team will take on all sorts of fearsome “monster incidents.”
What anime feature your favorite yokai?
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