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Goin’ Japanesque!

5 Great Anime Featuring “Yokai”, Japanese Monsters from Ancient Times

Combining monsters and fairies, Japanese people call them yokai.

Their unrealistic existence is an ideal source of inspiration and many anime and manga have been produced featuring them.

This time I am introducing 5 famous works from such stories.


1. Hakaba Kitaro (aka GeGeGe no Kitaro)

Kitaro is the last scion of Yurei clan that ruled the earth in pre-historic times.

He is an ominous boy who brings strange occurrence to the people involved regardless of their being just or evil.

You can take a peek into a strange and mysterious world inhabited by Kitaro, yokai and ghosts.


The anime adaptation of this story was aired in 2008 in Japan as a series of 11 episodes.

The original of this story was created by Shigeru Mizuki as manga “Kitaro Yawa (night tales)” and first published in 1933, long before GeGeGe no Kitaro.


Incidentally Kitaro Hakaba (graveyard) in the title is the full name of Kitaro.

Kitaro in the story is depicted as an antihero. Despite being a boy, he smokes and drinks. He even declares to kill his enemy when severe conflict of interest is involved.


2. Inuyasha

During the Sengoku period in Japan (during the 16th century) the humans and yokai were fighting to obtain “Shikon no Tama” (jewel of 4 souls), which was believed to make any wish come true.

It appeared that the Shikon no Tama ended its existence with the death of Kikyo, a shrine maiden, and the race for the jewel was finally over. However it appears again from the body of a modern girl Kagome Higurashi, who slipped into the Sengoku period accidentally.

Learning reappearance of the jewel the yokai resumes its activities. Kagome starts fighting them with the help of Inuyasha, who is a half-breed between a yokai and human.

A total of 167 episodes were aired in the first season that started in 2000, and later in 2009, 26 more episodes were broadcasted to conclude the story.

The story progresses with comical touch interwoven throughout and the tone is far from dark and gloomy.

Many yokai that appear in the story are original yokai, and the story as a whole is rather a fantasy featuring yokai.

As a matter of fact the creator Rumiko Takahashi was primarily creating horror manga right after her debut in 1978.


3. Ushio to Tora (Ushio and Tora)

The main character Ushio Aotsuki encounters a spear and yokai that have been sealed off in the basement of the temple where he grew up.

The yokai Tora is a great monster feared both by the humans and other yokai.

And the spear that pierced the yokai turns out to be the legendary weapon called “Kemono no Yari” (beast spear).

Ushio is a brave, honest boy and Tora, a bloody-minded contrarian yokai.

The story develops in an orthodox format for boys’ manga to entertain viewers, depicting the two of them fighting their common enemy “Hakumen no Mono” and its underlings.

This story was aired from 2015 in a series of 65 episodes.

The original story was created by Kazuhiro Fujita as manga with the same title, who also wrote “Ghost & Lady (Black Museum Springald)”.


4. Yo-kai Watch

The main character Keita is a fifth grader living in Sakura Newtown.

His grandfather invented “yo-kai watch” that helps him befriend yokai.

With the aid of the yo-kai watch, he gains yokai friends including Jibanyan and meets many strange problems and incidents.

This story was originally published as a video game and the anime is its offshoot.

It became extremely popular among Japanese children, potentially surpassing the popularity of Pokémon.

Prominent characteristic of this work is presenting yokai that is created to be contemporary.


5. Hozuki no Reitetsu (Hoduki’s Coolheadedness)

This story depicts daily life in the world of hell imagined in the framework of Japanese Buddhism.

The story revolves around a demon god “Hozuki”, whose work is to punish the dead that fell to hell due to their wrong doings. The story comically depicts him managing hell, scolding his subordinate demons while encouraging his boss “Enma Daio”, the king of hell.

This story is completely a comedy.

The main character Hozuki calmly turns similarities and differences into laughter between the real world and hell.

The story presents Japanese ideas and settings related to hell in great detail and you can enjoy it without prerequisite knowledge.

The first season was aired in 2014, and the second season release is scheduled for 2017.


If you are now more curious about Japanese yokai, how about trying one of the five stories I introduced this time?

It will help you learn about Japanese culture while having a great time.

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Berial the Demon

About the author

It has been over 40 years of reading manga in the deep world of manga. Japan’s manga has an endlessly wide variety of genres. I will be recommending special manga for you to read from such infinite amount of works.

View all articles by Berial the Demon