Manga Recommendations

5 Manga Featuring Yokai: Supernatural Creatures from Japanese Lore

If you’ve consumed enough Japanese media, — be it anime, manga, games, or even traditional literature — chances are, you’ve already heard of yokai. But for those who haven’t, or who need a refresher: “yokai” is a catch-all term for all sorts of supernatural beings.

Though the word tends to be translated as “beast” or “creature” in English, yokai vary immensely: with some looking humanoid, and others looking animalistic, or maybe even like anthropomorphic objects. Yurei (ghosts) are also commonly considered to be a subset of yokai, though some scholars may disagree.

With August being the month for Obon, a time when the dead are believed to visit the living, this month has, traditionally, been Japan’s spooky season. Though Halloween is popular nowadays, August is still the time of year in Japan for releasing local horror films and opening haunted-house attractions.

On our end, we’re saving our spookier manga recommendations for Halloween, but we’ve definitely got Obon and the supernatural on our mind. So, for this month’s recs, enjoy these five manga titles that feature yokai!


1. The Summer of the Fox

5 Manga Featuring Yokai: The Summer of the Fox Author: Nacolat
Genre: Boys’ Love (BL)
Status: Completed (1 chapter)
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Returning to his hometown for the summer, Norihiro is greeted by a man in bridal robes, who says that they should consummate their marriage.

Norihiro initially dismisses this strange sight as a cosplayer pulling off a prank, but the man seems genuinely hurt by Norihiro’s inability to recognize him. Who is this enigmatic man, and what does he have to do with Norihiro?

From the title, it should be fairly obvious as to what kind of yokai the mysterious man is: a kitsune (fox spirit), but we won’t spoil, so we’ll leave it at that.

This one-shot makes for a quick read, but short as it may be, it’s got a little bit of everything that makes for a nice BL: a touch of fluff from the flashbacks to Norihiro and the fox’s childhood days, and some red-hot spice from the sex scenes (the Spicy rating of this title being a 4). And, as an added bonus, Nacolat’s art is quite beautiful — the cover itself is already quite eye-catching.

If you’re looking for cute but horny yokai-themed BL that can be read in one sitting, The Summer of the Fox may be it for you!


2. The Crow Loves Kyoto’s Cuisine

5 Manga Featuring Yokai: The Crow Loves Kyoto's CuisineAuthor: uota minami
Publisher: SHODENSHA Publishing Co.,Ltd.
Genre: Shojo/Josei
Status: Completed (4 volumes)
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One common origin story for yokai is that they’re animals or objects that gained human-like sentience after being around for so long — and that is how our protagonist, Karasuma (nicknamed “Karasu”) came to be.

His name translates to “crow,” and that’s because he is indeed a crow who’s lived for so long that he gained the ability to transform into a human.

Focusing on Karasu’s culinary adventures around Kyoto, this slice-of-life manga will be a delight to read if you’re into food and travel. It’s four volumes long, with a total of 61 chapters,  but since each chapter is quite short, you can also read this manga while on the go.

With the richly detailed illustrations, mouth-watering descriptions, and trivia after each chapter, author uota minami’s love and passion for good food and Kyoto’s cityscape shine through in this series. There’s so much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi and ramen, as you’ll discover when you dive into this manga.

If you’re ever planning to visit Kyoto, one of Japan’s most popular destinations for locals and foreign tourists alike, you might want to take some notes while you’re at it. This manga depicts actual dishes from real-life establishments across Kyoto: restaurants, bakeries, izakaya pubs, you name it!

Karasu is just as passionate as his creator, making him a very likable protagonist. It’s a delight to experience Kyoto through his eyes, and you might find yourself enjoying Kyoto vicariously through him. And while this series is episodic, you’ll meet a cast of recurring characters throughout, some of whom are just as fun as Karasu.

A word of advice, though: it might be best not to read The Crow Loves Kyoto’s Cuisine on an empty stomach, as it might leave you craving for Japanese food!


3. Peacock King

5 Manga Featuring Yokai: Peacock King Author: Makoto Ogino
Publisher: Thirdline
Genre: Shonen/Seinen
Status: Completed (17 volumes)
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It’s hard to describe Peacock King without spoiling, because this seinen manga from the ‘80s is an over-the-top wild ride from start to finish. In its heyday, this series was such a hit that it spawned numerous adaptations, including an anime that was released in the USA as Spirit Warrior, games, and live-action films.

Put simply, Kujaku is a demon-hunting Buddhist monk who uses his abilities to defeat all sorts of supernatural entities wreaking havoc on Japan. As he goes about investigating a string of paranormal incidents across the nation, he eventually discovers the existence of a secret evil organization hell-bent on unleashing the ultimate evil on the world.

Don’t let the cover for Volume 1 fool you; this story takes place in a modern setting. In fact, it doesn’t just borrow elements from Buddhism and Japanese folklore, but it also makes use of motifs from other major religions, and even features villainous figures from around the world. The mash-up of elements and motifs can be quite out there, but in an entertaining sense — don’t be surprised to see Buddhism-inspired demons and cyborgs in the same story!

Also, while Peacock King was serialized in a magazine for seinen manga, do note that a number of scenes depict nudity and graphic violence — this is just a heads up for those who aren’t up for that kind of content.



4. The Strange Tale of the Life Draining Specter

5 Manga Featuring Yokai: The Strange Tale of the Life Draining SpecterAuthor: Inaba
Publisher: Tokyomangasha
Genre: Boys’ Love (BL)
Status: Completed (1 volume)
Content Warnings: Some scenes contain dubious consent
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Nagi’s just turned 20. That’s the legal age of adulthood in Japan, but Nagi is about to find out that there’s more significance to his 20th birthday than that.

Poor Nagi runs into a creature that attempts to molest him, but he’s saved by a stranger. His troubles are just beginning, though, as Nagi’s mysterious savior tells him that he’s half-yokai. He’s not just any half-yokai, but rather, the son of all yokai’s supreme commander, Lord Nurarihyon — making him a prime target for low-ranking yokai who seek to feed on his vitality to gain a shot at power.

The stranger introduces himself as Toshiro, a crow tengu tasked to protect Nagi. And although Nagi initially brushes Toshiro off in his desire to not get caught up in yokai affairs, he just keeps getting attacked by one power-hungry yokai after another. Nagi has to admit that maybe he does need Toshiro around, after all…

The Strange Tale of the Life Draining Specter is a title to read if you’re into spicy hot BL with a smattering of references to classic yokai: tengu, kappa, the dream-eating baku, and more. For those uncomfortable with scenes depicting dubious consent, rest assured that you can turn away from the pages depicting Nagi being molested by various yokai and still follow the story. 

It’s enjoyable to see how Nagi and Toshiro go from mutually grumbling about being bound to each other, to warming up to and even caring about each other. Plot-wise, you also can’t help but become intrigued by Nagi’s lineage. What is his absentee father like, and how will Nagi live his life knowing that he’s practically yokai royalty? You’ll just have to read this manga to find out!



5. Inugami Kai

5 Manga Featuring Yokai: Inugami KaiAuthor: Masaya Hokazono
Publisher: LEED Publishing Co. Ltd.
Genre: Shonen/Seinen
Status: Completed (10 volumes)
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A fascinating story that blends supernatural and sci-fi elements, Inugami Kai asks, “What if there was a scientific explanation behind the inugami, the supernatural canines from folklore?” 

Seeking a place to temporarily hide away from the world and forget about his problems, Fumiki holes up in an abandoned building to read poetry, one of the few things in life that give him solace. There, he encounters a large dog who, despite its intimidating appearance, seems to take a liking to him. But Fumiki also stumbles upon a gruesome sight in that building: a pile of mangled cats.

Could the dog be behind the deaths of all those cats — and more? Just what exactly is with this dog? All that Fumiki knows for sure is that this is no ordinary dog.

It’s hard to talk more about Inugami Kai without spoiling, but Masaya Hokazono’s gritty, mostly realism-based art style is very fitting for this intriguing series, what with its sci-fi and occult themes. Fumiki’s bond with the dog is also rather sweet, and the story is well-paced in such a way that you’ll find yourself hooked, wanting to read this 10-volume manga in one sitting to find out what exactly is up with this manga’s titular canine.

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