One of the staples of anime and manga is stories featuring otherworldly characters (demons, spirits, etc.) or being set in otherworldly settings. This time, my monthly list is focusing on my five favorite anime featuring otherworldly characters. However, this is not a Top 5 list. Instead, this list will have the anime listed in alphabetical order.
Gingitsune, Messenger Fox of the Gods
The series focuses on a high school girl named Makoto Saeki. She lives at a shrine with her father, Tatsuo. Her father is the priest, and her mother had been a shrine maiden; Makoto’s mother died when she was four years old. Makoto is able to see Gintaro, the fox spirit who is the shrine’s herald; however, at the beginning of the series she is the only one who can see him. While Makoto’s father may be the priest at the shrine, he married into the family and as such cannot see Gintaro. In the fourth episode, a boy named Satoru Kamio comes to the shrine to live with Makoto and her father. Like Makoto, Satoru also has the sight, which allows him to see heralds.
To me, one of the strengths of Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods is how the series was willing to delve into Japanese religion and culture; this makes sense, since the main character lives in a shrine. As a Westerner, I enjoyed learning about these aspects that I probably wouldn’t find out much about otherwise. This series is able to provide that kind of education for a viewer, but it’s still an enjoyable and entertaining viewing experience. It doesn’t feel like you’re being “hit over the head” with it.
I found the characters of the series to be engaging, and I also found myself drawn into the drama that the show presented in many of its episodes.
Inari, Kokon, Koi Iroha
The protagonist of the series is Inari, a middle school student who has a hard time expressing what she feels to her friends. She has a crush on a boy in her class named Koji Tanbabashi. Inari also loves going to an Inari shrine that is near her home, and she goes through it as a shortcut one day when she’s running late for school. As she runs through, she finds what she thinks is a dog that is scared and stuck on a riverbank. Inari saves the animal, but ends up being late for school.
Inari causes something embarrassing to happen to Tanbabashi during gym class, and he keeps running away from her whenever she tries to get close to him to apologize. Later, she overhears Tanbabashi and Sumizone, a girl in her class, talking about a letter she gave him. Inari assumes it’s a love confession letter , and she runs off, crying.
When Inari arrives at the shrine, she calls out for the gods to help her. A couple of foxes appear and lead her to Uka, the resident god of the Inari shrine. Uka thanks Inari for rescuing her familiar that morning and says she will grant one of Inari’s wishes. After a moment, Inari blurts out that she wants to be Sumizome. Inari looks just like Sumizome, but her personality hasn’t changed. After spending some time as Sumizome and being around Tanbabashi, she realizes she hasn’t truly changed at all. When Inari returns to the shrine, the two foxes take her back to Uka… but Inari is told that Uka cannot return her to her normal form, because a god granting multiple wishes for a single human would violate the rules of the Celestial Plains. However, Uka is able to give Inari a portion of her power, which is the ability to transform into other people. Uka also gives Kon, the fox that Inari rescued, to serve as Inari’s familiar.
Over the course of the series, it’s revealed that it turns out Inari can do more than change into other people; she can also unconsciously use her divine power to make her hopes come true. As the story goes on, Inari becomes friends with Sumizome, and she also becomes closer to Uka. She also gains the strength to be able to tell her friends what she thinks.
I have to admit that at the end of the first episode, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was going to like the series, but I kept watching in order to give it a chance. I’m glad I did, because I ended up enjoying the series more than I thought I would.
In the final episode, I appreciated the fact that it demonstrated just how much Inari has grown as a character over the course of the series. In a lot of ways, when Inari returned Uka’s divine power at the end of episode 10, it symbolizes that Inari had grown up and no longer needs the “crutch” that she thought the power was giving her.
The story of Inuyasha begins in feudal Japan, where a half-demon named Inuyasha steals the Jewel of Four Souls; this is an artifact that can increase a person or demon’s power enormously. However, Inuyasha is stopped by a priestess named Kikyo, who shoots a sacred arrow at him. The arrow seals Inuyasha indefinitely to the sacred tree. Kikyo, however, is mortally wounded; before she dies, she asks her younger sister Kaede to burn the jewel with her body.
In modern Tokyo, a middle school girl named Kagome Higurashi lives at an old shrine, where her grandfather is the caretaker. One morning, as she’s about to head off to school, Kagome goes into the well house to retrieve her cat. While she’s in the well house, a centipede demon reaches up through the well and pulls Kagome down into it.
Kagome discovers that she was traveled back in time to feudal Japan. As she explores her surroundings, she sees Inuyasha sealed to the sacred tree. Nearby villagers find Kagome, seize her, and take her to the village. The village elder is Kaede, and she recognizes Kagome as the reincarnation of Kikyo after discovering that the Jewel of Four Souls is inside Kagome’s body.
The centipede demon attacks again, and Kagome is forced to release Inuyasha from the seal. After defeating the demon, Inuyasha attempts to take the jewel from Kagome. Kagome is able to subdue Inuyasha with magical prayer beads that were given to her by Kaede.
The jewel attracts the attention of more demons. While battling with a carrion crow demon, Kagome accidentally shatters the jewel into numerous shards; the shards spread across Japan. Inuyasha and Kagome must team together to locate and recover all the missing shards. During their journey, they encounter and join forces with a little fox demon named Shippo, a cursed and lecherous monk named Miroku, and a demon slayer named Sango.
Inuyasha begins with a very interesting concept, and Takahashi was able to create a cast of main characters that viewers come to care about. The series also utilizes the perfect mix of drama and humor. It really is no wonder why the Inuyasha anime series has continued to endure over the years and why it can still attract people to watch it over a decade after its initial release.
The protagonist is a high school girl named Nanami Momozono. Her father racks up big gambling debts and is unable to pay off the loan sharks. One day he runs off, leaving Nanami on her own. As Nanami discovers her father’s disappearance, she is told that she is being evicted from the apartment because her father was unable to pay his debts. She finds herself homeless and spending the night on a park bench.
While in the park, she “rescues” a man named Mikage from a dog. After Nanami shares her story with him, Mikage draws up a map to his home and tells her she can stay there. He gives her a kiss on the forehead before he leaves.
It turns out Mikage’s home is a run-down shrine. She learns Mikage was the land god, and that he has been away from the shrine for 20 years. Onikiri and Kotetsu, the two shrine attendants, realize she has Mikage’s mark on her forehead (which she got from the kiss he gave her there); the mark shows that she is now the new land god. The two attendants say that Nanami can stay at the shrine. Tomoe, a cynical and mocking fox demon who serves as the land god’s familiar, refuses to acknowledge Nanami and leaves the shrine.
When Onikiri and Kotetsu take Nanami to the demon realm to try to convince Tomoe to come back, Nanami is attacked by a hag. Tomoe comes to watch Nanami suffer. However, she learns how to seal a contract with him in order to force him to be her familiar; this is accomplished through a kiss. She manages to catch Tomoe off guard and kisses him; he is now bound into a contract with Nanami.
During the two seasons of the anime, Nanami finds herself trying to navigate between being a high school student and being a land god who has the ability to see and communicate with yokai. Not only that, but Nanami also finds herself falling in love with Tomoe. Of course, it’s not just Tomoe’s gruff exterior, his past, and the belief that humans and yokai shouldn’t be romantically involved that serve as obstacles for a relationship between these two characters. There are other potential love interests for Nanami that are introduced into the story, such as Mizuki, another familiar that she acquires.
Unfortunately, the manga wasn’t completed when the second season of the Kamisama Kiss was produced, so the story doesn’t end in the anime. However, the anime did a great job of adapting the manga source material that existed at the time. It would be nice to see a third season of the anime, so the remaining volumes of the Kamisama Kiss manga can be animated, but I don’t know how likely this would ever be.
Noragami is about a minor god named Yato, who doesn’t have a single shrine. One day, he spray paints on a wall that he will help people in exchange for a 5-yen offering; he’s trying to save up money in order to build his own shrine. While he’s doing a job, a girl named Hiyori pushes him out of the way of a bus. She is hit by the bus, and now Hiyori is a living Phantom. She’s still alive, but her spirit has a tendency to separate itself from her body at unexpected times.
Yato has lost his Regalia, a spirit that serves as a weapon for a god. He finds a new spirit to use as his new Regalia, which he names Yukine. Yukine tries putting on a “good boy” act around Hiyori, but it turns out he’s not very pure of heart. Each time Yukine has a bad thought, Yato is affected. It gets so bad that Yato is covered in a blight, and it takes three Regalia in order to perform an ablution ceremony on Yukine in order to save Yato from the blight.
During the series, we are also introduced by Kofuku and her Regalia, Daikoku. They become tenuous allies with Yato and Hiyori. There’s also Bishamon, who has a grudge against Yato for killing one of her Regalia in the past. However, Bishamon’s Regalia, Kazuma, owes Yato a great debt.
There’s also “Nora,” one of Yato’s former Regalia. She keeps offering herself to be used by him, but he refuses.
Admittedly, I kind of had a rocky relationship with the first Noragami anime, especially when the ending was so ambiguous. However, I’m glad I have the second season, Noragami Aragoto a chance, because it had two strong story arcs in it. Both arcs had very compelling emotional aspects to them, which made the viewer care about the characters and what was happening to them. At the end of the second season, though, it was clear that the story wasn’t over yet. I hope that at some point in the future, there will be a third anime season for Noragami.