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Foxy. Manga.

by Laura C - 0 Comment(s)

Kitsune at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Once you've started to read a few manga (Japanese comics) you begin to notice some trends: repeated symbols, plot-lines, art styles, etc. One of these is the motif of the kitsune (fox spirit). The kitsune is associated with numerous Japanese myths and legends and is at home in many fantasy manga series.

In Japan, good kitsune are most famously associated with (and companion to) the shinto diety Inari Okami, the god of foxes, fertility, rice, tea, sake, harvest, industry (among other things). There are over 30,000 shrines dedicated to this deity in Japan, the most famous (and main shrine) being the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. This is one of the featured locations in the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

The fox is present in many different aspects of Japanese culture. For example, if you're a sushi fan, you'll recognize the name Inari Zushi (taking its name from the deity); these deep-fried tofu packets resemble the shape of a fox -- and just happen to be a favourite snack of the kitsune (and mine, as well). Find out more about mythology by doing a search in the Gale Virtual Reference Library found in our E-Library.

In manga, there is no end to allusions of the kitsune/fox spirit. Try some of these:

Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto is one of the library's most popular manga series. It's an adventure series whose title character's great dream is to become Hokage, the greatest ninja of the leaf village. To do this he will have to learn to tap into the fearful power of the nine-tail demon fox which has been sealed within him... but first, he has to pass ninja training.

Foxes are not usually referred to as "good" creatures in Japanese mythology and it is not unusual for Japanese foxes to have many tails; they can have as many as nine. The more tails a fox has the older and more powerful it is.

The nine-tailed fox in Naruto is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

Inu Yasha by Rumiko Takahashi is a romantic/adventure series starring Kagome, an average school-girl transported to ancient Japan through an old well. There she discovers that she is the reincarnation of a priestess who once protected the powerful Shikon jewel (which has the power to grant its possessor their wish). When the jewel shatters, scattering pieces across Japan, Kagome must team-up with half-demon Inu-Yasha to reclaim all of the pieces before they fall into the wrong hands.

There are a number of kitsune in this series, including their adorable traveling companion Shippou. But, the most important reference is actually the shikon jewel. The jewel is a common symbol of the kitsune and some tradition even suggests that if you return the jewel to a kitsune it will grant you a wish.

Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki is the story of high-schooler Nanami who after saving a stranger from a dog is given his home to live in. As she has recently been abandoned by her father and homeless she accepts the gift only to find out that the home she's been given is not a house, but a decrepit shrine and she has become the new earth deity. She works hard in her new role -- and begins to have feelings for her new companion and protector, the fox-spirit Tomoe.

This story essentially twists the elements of the Inari Okami myth with his kitsune companion and turns it into a fun and frolicking romantic-comedy.

Spice & Wolf by Isuna Hasakura is the story of Kraft Lawrence, a 25-year-old traveling merchant who, while traveling through the town of Pasroe, discovers the stow-away wolf/girl named Holo (the wise-wolf) in his cart. She happens to be Pasroe's harvest goddess. Believing that the town no longer has use for her she convinces Lawrence to take her with him on his travels in an attempt to return home.

Despite writing Holo as a wolf instead of a fox, the author seems to have taken elements from several kitsune myths to create her character, including: her wisdom, her ability to transform into human form, and her association with the harvest.