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Tanuki are a type of canid that lives in Asia (and now Europe), commonly referred to as 'raccoon dogs'. In Japanese mythology, tanuki are said to have magic powers such as Shapeshifting (usually performed with a leaf on their forehead). Pranksters and tricksters, Tanuki spirits are generally fat and jolly, and are often associated with good luck.
They can also cause ... certain problems during localization outside of Japan due to them being characterized with enormous testicles. Another issue is their tendency to be erroneously localized as "raccoons" or "badgers," as they are close to unknown in America. These errors are less common in Europe, which has a large feral population of tanuki, and there aren't many problems localizing raccoons and badgers into Japanese media, as actual raccoons and badgers are present in Japan.
Many of the tropes that Americans associate with raccoons also apply to raccoon dogs or (in Japanese) tanuki. Though raccoon dogs are canids and not true raccoons, they enjoy the same reputation in Japanese folklore that true raccoons share in the Western Hemisphere -- both this and their superficial resemblance to raccoons are the reasons this animal is called "raccoon dog" in English.
The eight traits commonly associated with the tanuki:
- A hat, to be ready to protect against trouble or bad weather
- Big eyes, to perceive the environment and help make good decisions
- A sake bottle, representing virtue
- A big tail, providing steadiness and strength until success is achieved
- Oversized testicles, symbolizing financial luck; this is an exaggeration of the real-life raccoon dog's already-large testicles
- A promissory note, representing trust or confidence
- A big belly, for bold and calm decisiveness
- A friendly smile
Tanuki are particularly associated with alcohol in Japan. This may be the result of a story in which a tanuki orders liquor using money that is actually leaves he transformed with his magic; it transforms back into leaves after the tanuki departs. Their statues often are placed outside bars.
Sometimes their large genitals are just there, but in some stories, the tanuki use them for a variety of purposes. You can see some humorous examples here, though they might not be safe for work.
The species is also becoming The Woobie for an animal rights campaign against its slaughter in Chinese fur farms. If you want to know more, you can start here, but be warned of potential High Octane Nightmare Fuel.
Finally, it can be kept as a pet in some areas. See this page for information.
Compare Rascally Raccoon, its Western Hemisphere counterpart and the source of the English-language name "raccoon dog."
Anime and Manga
- Early unnamed example in the Yu Yu Hakusho manga.
- A clan of them feature in the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko.
- When exported to America, their testicles were referred to as "pouches".
- Miroku's buddy Hachi in Inuyasha. Shippo is sometimes referred to as a tanuki because of his shapeshifting abilities, which always prompts an angry correction that he's a kitsune.
- In Naruto, the one-tailed beast Shukaku is an enormous demon in the form of a huge (and somewhat insane) tanuki (rather than oversized testicles, though, he has a humongous tail). Gaara's ultimate defense uses his personal sand to craft a statue of Shukaku similar to wayside statues seen in Japan.
- Personality-wise, Tsunade fits the role: fun-loving, heavy-drinking, and always on the run from her creditors. Like the tanuki, she uses her ninja magic for shape-shifting (to escape her creditors, and also for vanity reasons, and she has some chakra stored in the seal on her forehead. (It may also be the origin of her large breasts; sort of a Distaff Counterpart to the large testes of the tanuki.) That's about where her association with the tanuki ends, though, and it isn't mentioned in the series.
- A one-episode character in 090-Eko to Issho, which, not having ever mastered the transformation business, would hide by possessing people. Last of His Kind. Is used to cause a Ship Tease and maybe, just maybe, advance the plot.
- Ponta, the Team Pet from Raideen
- Referenced in One Piece, where Tony Tony Chopper is mistaken for a Tanuki by nearly every character he encounters outside of the crew.
- The Tanuki from the Kincho clan in Shikoku guards the Orb of Gold in Yaiba.
- A tanuki in Hell Teacher Nube once started impersonating him, not out of mischief, but simply because it was a regular animal possessed by a trickster spirit. Unfortunately for Nube, it was very fond of wreaking havoc across town, up to and including streaking the school and giving Miss Ritsuko an up-close and personal encounter with a tanuki's pride and joy... while still in Nube's shape.
- In Shaman King, Ponchi is a Tanuki that makes a pair with Conchi, a fox (or Kitsune), which is another animal regarded with mystical powers of deception in Japanese mythology. The less said about his testicles, the better. Suffice it to say that he inverts the Groin Attack.
- Yoh's father, Mikihisa Asakura, has a more traditional fox/tanuki pair as his spirit allies.
- Josephine in Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru is actually Hotori's dog, but she looks very much like a Tanuki. After her friends make fun the similarity, Hotori has a dream where Josephine informs her that since she's apparently a Tanuki, she's leaving the family to instead live among the other Tanuki's in the mountains.
- The Transformer Heinrad of Beast Wars Neo transforms into one of these. His corresponding toy prominently features the large testicles (he's got a clock on his stomach. The alarm bells are... lower.) which become the upper legs in robot mode.
- Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins has several sections about Tanukis as a Trickster Archetype and frequently mentions their giant scrotum.
- The Big Bang Theory: Kripke alledgedly draws a picture of "a 'raccoon' with an engorged scrotum" on Sheldon's survey. It was quite probably intended to be a tanuki.
- Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition supplement Oriental Adventures. The raccoon dog is a subtype of hengeyokai (basically an Asian animal-based Shape Shifter). They are always evil. They have enhanced strength but lower than normal wisdom.
- In Pathfinder, tanuki are monstrous humanoids with the shapeshifter subtype, tend to be Chaotic Neutral, and get more powerful when they're drunk. Also, they have a slam attack that they don't need to have their paws free to use.
- The Tanooki Suit for Mario in Super Mario Bros 3 is based on the appearance of a tanuki and named after it (though with the spelling of the name Anglicized), minus the large testicles. When Mario wears it, he has the same abilities as he does as Raccoon Mario while also being able to turn into a statue, which makes him invulnerable to enemy attacks at the cost of movement, making it so enemies pass by Mario without harming him.
- In the Japanese version, "Raccoon Mario" was actually called "shippo [tail] Mario" and was most likely meant to be a Little Bit Beastly version of a tanuki rather than a raccoon. (For the reason given at the top of this page, it's significant that the powerup which turns Mario into this form is a leaf.)
- Of Pokémon, Zigzagoon is one in Japan. Though insignificant in battle, with below average statistical abilities, a normal type, and a small pool of moves to learn from, it can be useful as a party member. It is one of the few Pokémon that can have the "Pickup" ability, which will sometimes give you very rare items such as Rare Candy and PP Up, and it's evolution, Linoone, can learn most HM moves, which are used to progress through otherwise insurmountable obstacles.
- Tom Nook from Animal Crossing is a Tanuki. Tanuki statues also appear.
- The KiKi KaiKai series of Cute'Em Up games features a Tanuki named Manuke (translated as Rocky the Raccoon), a playable character since the second entry in the series.
- Touhou Project introduced a tanuki in Ten Desires named Mamizou Futatsuiwa. Notably a female tanuki.
- Ibuki of Street Fighter III and Super Street Fighter IV has a pet tanuki.
- Ieyasu Tokugawa in Samurai Warriors is associated with the tanuki, in contrast to his rival Mitsunari Ishida, who is associated with the Kitsune.
- In Sengoku Rance, Ieyasu is a tanuki.
- The boss of the alternate fourth stage in Sexy Parodius is a tanuki. You can shoot it in the testicles, though the game tells you not to do that. The music for the Boss Battle is a medley of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and the Japanese children's song "Genkotsu-yama no Tanuki-san."
- Although not explicitly stated, Fox's trainer in the Training Mode of Star Fox 64 and its Nintendo 3DS remake appears to be a tanuki.
- One of the bosses in Beat Blades Haruka is a tanuki named Gokudarou. If Narika loses to him, he transforms into her and rapes her. If Haruka loses to him, she experiences the extent of his size firsthand.
- The Super Nintendo game Mystical Ninja has a tanuki marking checkpoints between action stages.
- Sonic Rush Series Adventure: Marine the Raccoon is actually a tanuki.
- Yo-kai Watch Busters has a boss tanuki.
- ↑ Thus making them more closely related to the domesticated dog and their wild relatives, wolves, which are also members of the same family