Demon Slayer: 10 Creatures & Characters That Are Based On Real-Life Japanese Folklore

The biggest anime breakout of 2019 was Demon Slayer. It enthralled you with highly stylized action scenes, great storytelling, and characters that you wanted to root for. It’s the type of series that anyone who is a fan of action or shounen should check out.

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As you’d expect from a show about demons, it delves deeply into Japanese mythology, pulling either lightly from it or outright using the creatures. For those that don’t know, much of the mythology tied to Japan is demon or spiritual-based, lending itself perfectly for a series like this.

10 Spider Family

In mythology, there is a race of spider-like yokai known as Tsuchigumo. The term is also used to in a derogatory sense for renegade clans, fitting considering how unlike a true family they are in the series. Mother spider, in particular, receiving nothing more than abuse until she meets her end at the hands of our protagonists.

This is one of the more loose interpretations as only half the family seems to take on true spider-like qualities (the males), while the other half appears more human (females). The inspiration is still clearly there, however.

9 Nakime

The mysterious biwa playing demon is based on the Biwa-Bokuboku, a yokai whose literal head is a Biwa. While Nakime doesn’t have that appearance, for obvious reasons (it’d look ridiculous), she shares much of the yokai’s personality traits. It’s said to be ambivalent and seen calmly plucking its strings within a tatami room.

Sound familiar? That’s the extent of what Nakim does throughout the entire series, acting more like a gatekeeper than an actual character. The yokai also laments being seen as useless, something Nakime will never need to worry about.

8 Tongue Demon

This demon is only there to get killed in the show, but that doesn’t mean it’s design wasn’t found in mythology. He’s based on the Akaname, a yokai who appears in Toriyama Sekien’s book, Gazu Hyakki Yagyo.

They are known to be filth lickers, creatures who would lick the scum out of bathtubs and bathrooms. They aren’t exactly the most intimidating demon around, however, it’s fitting for the role the demon plays in the show. They are the bottom of the barrel scum, who are only there to serve others.

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7 Yahaba

The tongue demon wasn’t the only creature pulled from the mind of Toriyama Sekien, Yahaba coming from his pages as well. He’s based on the Tenome, creatures that are often blind, having their eyes in their palms rather than the face. They’ve even made appearances in other forms of media, such as The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth and being a boss in the game, Cuphead.

It’s a popular design and one that was altered some for the show as Yahaba isn’t completely blind, but the influences of the Tenome are shown throughout his character.

6 Susamaru

Ashura is a name that’s made its way into more than a few anime, chief among them in Soul Eater. The name’s origins in mythology are that of a demon god, one of the strongest in Buddhism. They have multiple appendages and faces, choosing to solve any problem that confronts them with violence.

They look down on anyone weaker than them, just as many of the demons in the series do, always seeing themselves as superior. Some of that doesn’t fit Susamaru, who is more playful than most demons on the show, but her transformation is a spitting image of what many Ashura look like.

5 Kyogai

Kyogai is one of the few based on an actual god rather than a yokai or demon, strange considering how low on the totem pool he ended up being in the demon hierarchy. Still, there are worse things than being based around Raijin, the god of thunder, lightning, and storms in Japan.

His personality differs greatly from his god counterpart, but the similarities between their appearance are uncanny. Both have Taiko drums surrounding them, said drums being the source of much of their power. With Kyogai he uses different drums to attack his foes while for Raijin, it helps him create the sound of thunder in the stormy sky.

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4 Kokushiba

Most of the characters on this list only have the appearance of gods or yokai, but Kokushiba is one of the few who has his backstory tied to Japanese mythology. His character’s arc is very akin to Tsukuyomi, one of the three noble children of Izanagi and Izanami. He is the god of the moon, tying directly into Kokushiba’s breath style.

More than just that, Tsukuyomi was shunned by Amaretsu after killing fellow god, Uke Mochi. This plays directly into his relationship with his brother, Yoriichi Tsugikuni, both choosing very different paths from one another and representing the same elements as their respective gods.

3 Yoriichi

He was already touched on in the above entry, but Yoriichi is a representation of Amaretsu, the goddess of the sun, and the universe as a whole. She is one of the greatest deities in Japanese mythology, as well as one of the strongest. It’s very apt for the strongest demon slayer in history and originator of breath style fighting.

He’s also in a way the beacon of hope for other demon slayers, just as Amaretsu is the shining heaven to her followers. While he doesn’t share the same gender as her, Amaretsu’s fingerprints are all over his character.

2 Inosuke

Not all mythical beasts are evil spirits or monster hellbent on consuming human flesh, some choose to protect humans. The Baku is a heavenly beast that watches over humanity, eating away at their bad dreams. Yokai fear it, much as demons grow to fear Inosuke for his combat prowess.

Where they are most similar is their appearance, Baku being made up of all the leftover pieces of animals, taking mutt to the next level. Inosuke can be seen in the same light, having an equally bizarre appearance, with the mix of animal hide covering his body, and his character-defining boar head.

1 Muzan

This is the most obvious of any of this list, especially for anyone who knows a little about mythology. Muzan is modeled after Nurarihyon, the supreme leader of all yokai. Every yokai listens to his every word, never questioning it, as the demons do with Muzan throughout the series.

Their personalities are also similar, having a vanity to them, Nurarihyon showing this through his love for expensive food and Muzan for consistently dressing in a fancy manner. Both are incredibly intelligent as well, a necessity when you are the top of the food chain. The only real difference between the pair is Muzan doesn’t have the misshapen head.

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For those that don't know, much of the mythology tied to Japan is demon or spiritual-based, lending itself perfectly for a series like this.

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