I was raised on the classic myths and folktales from different cultures around the world. Particularly those of European lineage: the Norse, Greek and Roman, and the tales that came from the British Isles from which came the rich folk lore of fairies, elves, orges and dragons. My favourite epic stories like the Lord of the Rings, Final Fantasy, Harry Potter, Xena, the Dark is Rising, Buffy and many others drew from these sources and filled their pages with a vast array of creatures and old legends that I recognized.
As I was unfamiliar with the folk lore of Japan, I was floored by the strange new creatures and tales that were packed into their pages when I began to read manga and watch anime. The idea of Yokkai (supernatural creatures) , Tanuk (Raccon Dogs) , Kappa (frog monkeys) , Bakeneko and Okami ((supernatural cats and wolves) or Kitsune (Spirit foxes) resparked my interest and enthusiasm in folklore as they each had distinct personalities and abilities that enriched a story.
The works of Rumiko Takahashi (mangaka of Inuyasha and Ranman ½) abounds with an army of creatures drawn from Japanese folklore. And most anime fans will recognise the mythological creatures of Japanese folklore of the Kitsune in Naruto, the Yokkai in Saiyuki, The Tanuki in Inuyasha, the Bakeneko in My Neighbour Totoro and The Cat Returns, and the Okami in Wolf’s Rain.
I am constantly amazed by the wide variety of unfamiliar characters that can be developed by drawing from the Japanese mythology. The cast of Naruto, Fushigi Yuugi, Inuyasha, One Piece and several other mangas makes me green with envy as I struggle with creating a cast with supernatural abilities for my stories.