Kitsune refers to the fox, both as an animal and as a spirit. Beautiful humans with magical or spiritual abilities have been used as characters in Japanese folklore for centuries. Usually, tales of ethereal, captivating women tricking human men for one reason or another turn out to be kitsune utilizing their powers of deception and transformation. Kitsune are also associated with the god Inari and sometimes serve as the god’s messengers.
That’s not to say, however, that kitsune can’t be male or must have a human form. In anime, creators often use a lot of creative license in just how these spirits look and behave, though they commonly have white hair and yellow eyes in human forms. The focus of their inclusion is often on their traditional religious aspects, yet sometimes they are present as a source of power or battle companion. Let’s take a look at the top ten kitsune anime to get your foxy fix!
- Episodes: 220
- Aired: Oct. 2002 – Feb. 2007
Naruto Uzumaki is a young ninja with big dreams. He wishes to one day become the greatest ninja and leader of his village and makes grand proclamations of his intentions. However it’s not his silly antics that have people keeping their distance, but that the great Kyuubi, or Nine-Tailed Fox, has been sealed inside of Naruto since he was a baby. This gives Naruto heightened abilities but also a sense of isolation from others, who fear he may one day bring disaster down on the village. Naruto must steel his heart against the cruel words of those that fear him and the Kyuubi’s own cynical voice that encourages him to destroy everything.
While the anime mostly focuses on Naruto’s path to becoming Hokage and the lives and battles of the other ninjas he becomes acquainted with, the kitsune inside him plays a huge role in how his life turns out. His incredible power is what sets Naruto apart from others and invokes respect, fear, envy, and hatred. As the series goes on (and on and on) the Nine-Tailed Fox plays more of a role in the story and we are able to see more of his power. Because we don’t get to see much of the kitsune considering how long the anime is, Naruto is our number 10 choice.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 – Sept. 2006
Though a descendant of the powerful and prestigious Kawahira clan, a family of Inukami (dog god) tamers who protect the world from evil, Keita fills his time thinking about girls. He doesn’t let his family’s disapproval discourage him and often complains the work doesn’t interest him. It seems fitting then that the Inukami he’s made a contract with is emotional, selfish, and quite a troublemaker. Unlike the other Inukami, Youko cares more about forcing Keita on dates with her or punishing him for his womanizing ways. She uses her powers to punish malicious spirits and her troublesome owner at her discretion. While Youko is pretty transparent in her love for Keita, she harbors a secret she fears may tear them apart.
Based on this show’s inclusion on the list, you’ve probably realized that Youko is not actually an Inukami! Her secret is that she is, in fact, a kitsune, and she attempted to trick Keita into thinking she was an Inukami so that the two of them would be forced to grow closer. Just as foxes are rumored to be in legend, Youko is secretive and delights in using her powers for fun. While a good example of a kitsune with great powers, the slow reveal of her true identity takes Inukami down to number 9 on the list.
8. Inari, Kon Kon, Koi Iroha (Inari Kon Kon)
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: Jan. 2014 – March 2014
Sweet but shy Inari can’t seem to catch a break when she is running late to school and happens upon a fox pup in need of help. Unable to ignore the poor thing, she rushes to save him and ends up falling in a river. She resigns to being late at that point and brings the pup safely to the Inari shrine she’s named after and ends up winning the affection of the God that resides there. Uka-sama gives Inari the power to transform into another person and the little pup Inari saved becomes her familiar. However, having the powers of a God may prove to be too much for her.
Inari Kon Kon has a ton of kitsune, though they mainly just stay in a single fox form. They are able to talk and float and serve as guides and mediators between Gods and people. Uka-sama does occasionally make them transform into video game consoles in order to play dating-sims which she seems to be very fond of. We mostly get to see Kon, Inari’s kitsune familiar, as he tries to give her advice about both love and her transformation power. Since the focus of the story is more on the human than the kitsune themselves, Inari makes it to number 8 on our list.
7. Inu x Boku SS (Inu x Boku Secret Service)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan. 2012 – March 2012
A misunderstood and secretly lonely young girl named Ririchiyo decides to leave her affluent family’s estate and live on her own in a special apartment complex where the tenants must be chosen. She wants to become a more honest and kind person and until she can talk without hurting others, she’s resolved to live in solitude, not intending to get close to her neighbors. When a man shows up claiming to be her servant and wishing nothing more than to take care of her every whim, it’s enough to shake her resolve. Ririchiyo finds it hard to keep the warmer and welcoming tenants away especially when they share something in common… being descended from various youkai (demons/spirits).
Inu x Boku features a lot of different youkai with Soushi, servant to Ririchiyo, a kitsune. In order to stave off a large number of both human and supernatural attackers, Soushi often utilizes his transformations and swordsmanship. It isn’t revealed until later, but he has an element of trickery which is a key characteristic in fox spirits. However, since Soushi is technically not a full-blooded kitsune, Inu x Boku SS is our number 7.
6. Gugure! Kokkuri-san
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct. 2014 – Dec. 2014
Kohina, a self-proclaimed living doll, decides to test the legend that playing Kokkuri-san by yourself you will be haunted by the spirit. Sure enough, a fox-eared man with white hair appears during Kohina’s incantation… but he’s appalled at her living conditions! Thus, the fox spirit takes on the role of a housekeeper and tries to help Kohina lead an ordinary childhood. For a girl who happens to attract a lot of spirits, however, a normal childhood just isn’t in the cards.
While fox spirits are rumored to value their freedom above everything, Kokkuri-san wasted no time devoting all of his efforts into taking care of the hopeless Kohina. It is later revealed that Kokkuri-san use to be revered as a god, but as people began to forget, Kohina remained the only one to continue visiting his shrine. Kokkuri-san is content however in remaining Kohina’s guardian rather than returning to his former glory as a worshiped kitsune. Despite this, he does frequently make use of his powers of transformation much to Kohina’s paw-pad-loving delight!
5. Otome Yokai Zakuro (Zakuro)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct. 2010 – Dec. 2010
With the rise of Westernization in Japan, tensions between humans and youkai have escalated. The youkai’s homes are being destroyed and they are now being treated as subhuman creatures. A coalition is created between members of the army and several half-kitsune daughters to investigate and mediate problems that arise as a result of this. Kei is a human that is terrified of youkai, and Zakuro is a proud half-kitsune that can’t stand how people so easily replace their traditions with newer Western ways. When they become partners, they must learn more about each other if they are to achieve their goals of peace for their kind.
Otome Yokai Zakuro has multiple fox girls which already is a huge plus for the show. This anime shows a more spiritual side to kitsune and youkai in general, despite the girls themselves lacking the trickery and mischievousness associated with their kind. This can be attributed to their human side, however. This is a great show that's a bit more serious than some of the others on this list and the spiritual aspect to how the girls fight is really captivating.
4. Gingitsune (Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct. 2013 – Dec. 2013
Gintarou is the kitsune herald of the Saeki family shrine, but only young Makoto can see him. She affectionately calls him Gin and often implores his help in telling fortunes and helping her friends. Though an ancient and revered spirit through her family line, Gintaro and Makoto share a close bond. Together they work to keep the community’s faith and help those that seek wisdom from the shrine.
Gingitsune shows a great example of a kitsune in the role of messenger of the god Inari as in the legends. He is able to fly and predict the future with the use of his fox fire. He resides at the temple as a messenger of God but his words can only be known through the oracle Makoto. As Makoto is only a teenager she often selfishly demands Gintaro’s help. However, having such a strong bond, not limited to just hate or reverence, is refreshing for him. Gingitsune follows the lives of these two as they strive to fulfill their roles.
3. Kanokon (Kanokon: The Girl Who Cried Fox)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2008 – June 2008
Kouta and Chizuru are absolutely inseparable, and their whole high school knows it. What they don’t know, however, is that while Kouta is a normal human boy, Chizuru is a kitsune. She hides this even from Kouta at first, for fear he will reject her, but Kouta proves Chizuru’s love for him is not unrequited. In fact, Kouta’s far less worried about her hurting him and far more concerned she’ll steal his innocence while they’re still high schoolers! Things become much more complicated when Kouta finds out Chizuru is not the only youkai at the school… nor is she the only one after his heart!
Kanokon features the fox spirit Chizuru, who showcases many of the powers associated with kitsune. She's mischievous and sneaky, she goes exactly for what she wants, and she possesses strong spiritual powers. She can transform her appearance and also transform with Keita into an even more powerful being. Throughout the series, we get to meet more kitsune and even other youkai. Kanokon makes number 3 on our list due to the many examples of a kitsune’s abilities.
2. Kamisama Hajimemashita (Kamisama Kiss)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct. 2012 – Dec. 2012
When Nanami accidently becomes the new Land God of an abandoned shrine, she has some trouble getting used to her new home life. To make matters worse, the fox spirit that's supposed to become her familiar hates her and runs away. Eventually, Tomoe and Nanami come together and try to make the best of a situation neither of them asked for. Everyday, Nanami must balance her life as a student and her life as a God. Even after she manages to seal a contract with Tomoe to become her familiar, things are not easy for the two of them. Some are displeased with Nanami as a God, and others hint of a past Tomoe, more cruel and cold than he is now.
Tomoe is a powerful kitsune who is forced to become Nanami’s familiar, and expectedly, he doesn't take kindly to this. A common trait of kitsune is to fiercely protect their freedom and this we see clearly when he leaves his home upon discovering he has a new master. He also possesses many of the powers and skills associated with kitsune. He often uses his fox fire to locate what he needs and uses his charm and trickery to manipulate people. Despite his griping, he serves his role as familiar and eventually, friend.
1. Wagaya no Oinari-sama (Our Home’s Fox Deity)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2008 – Sept. 2008
Toru and Noboru are decedents of the Mizuchi bloodline, a family associated with spiritual powers over the element of water. They have bound and defeated youkai through the centuries, and they have always depended on a female to fully wield its power. However, the last priestess has died and her two sons become a youkai’s targets. A powerful kitsune named Tenko Kugen is unbound and granted freedom in exchange for protecting Toru and Noboru. Kugen has her work cut out for her as these two boys seem to attract all kinds of trouble.
Wagaya no Oinari-sama is a fantastic kitsune anime because it really portrays the kitsune as more than just a person with fox ears and super powers, or simply the herald of a God. Kuugen makes use of her transformations all the time, often switching between male and female, a fox, and even mixing her fox and human forms. Her archaic way of speaking helps to remind you she is of a different time and her marveling at human technology and customs further serves to show her as a different entity. She often does what she wants with regard to humans, but still shows some reverence to benevolent spirits and Gods. That is why Wagaya no Oinari-sama is our number 1 kitsune anime.
And there we have it! While kitsune are fascinating and entrancing creatures, there doesn't seem to be quite enough anime that are focused on them specifically. There are other shows that are more broadly about the supernatural and youkai with kitsune being supporting characters, but that's not what we're here for.
Hopefully, this list will help you if you wish to learn more about kitsune, or if you just really love the way they look (and with one of their defining characteristics being their attractiveness, we can't blame you). We talked about kitsune as spirits following their own agenda, supernatural heralds, and super-powered fighters. What role interests you the most? Let us know in the comments!