Gingitsune – The Fox and the Orange
October 8, 2013 2 Comments
The Fox or ‘Kitsune’ is one of the most well known spirits/youkai in Japanese religion and belief. Kitsune are believed to possess superior intelligence, long life, and magical powers, they are also tricksters and many local traditions and stories tell of unwary travelers, or drunken revelers being tricked by a cunning Kitsune. These spirits are rarely malicious, although there are stories and myths of people being terrorized by kitsune for a variety of reasons. Whereas the tanuki in Uchouten Kazoku are fun loving, and a bit silly, as shown in their love for drink and care free attitude, kitsune can be seen as a more serious, occasionally solemn creature. Significantly, Inari is associated with the kitsune to such an extent that the kitsune is often seen as Inari and vice versa. Foxes are ichnographically ubiquitous and many practices at Inari shrines involve them, such as the pair of guardian fox statues in front of the main sanctuary or on the altar.
Because of its qualities of independence and wildness, the fox is associated with the mystery and fundamental unruliness of nature. Strange happenings in nature are attributed to foxes and tanuki; rain from a sunny sky, strange lights at night, rocks that emit sulfuric fumes, and even volcanic eruptions. What unites these phenomena is not that they are necessarily bad or violent, but rather that they are unexpected and uncontrollable. Like the power of nature, the original Japanese kami were amoral (although beliefs and meanings have changed since the Meiji, and post-war eras) – potentially beneficial or destructive depending on how much humans appeased them. To some degree they were synonymous with the powers of nature, or at least had these powers at their control.
The sacred fox, similarly, cannot be controlled by humans, and although many own fox statues as signs of good luck, those same foxes could equally make all of the families secrets public thus destroying them. Gintarou is equally uncontrollable; he is childish and demanding of Makoto, with the drama in the middle of the episode showing us his immaturity. Gintarou’s relaxed demeanor also suggests a being of great power and knowledge, he knows that he is powerful and doesn’t really have to do anything he doesn’t want to. That he listens to Makoto however also points to a being who wants some form of interaction now that his guardian deity partner has left and he is alone. Those who employ foxes must be wary or how they use their powers, and if one were to use the foxes considerable magic for their own lust or greed, then the fox can leave them and never return. Furthermore, spirit foxes, or ‘Kitsune’ can possess a person against their will and bring retribution for some slight or misdemeanor. So, as with Japanese kami, the proper attitude of respect toward sacred foxes is required to avoid misfortune.
In Gingitsune, we see how capricious the kitsune can be, and how many people take these powers for granted, or even lack the proper understanding to take knowledge imparted to them by a divine being and use it properly. Ikegami Yumi wants to use the knowledge of Uka-no-Mitama to clear up a misunderstanding with her boyfriend, but in doing so we see someone who cannot understand, or even listen to the full message, which only leads to more problems. In this case we see the tricky nature of prophecy in Japan, nothing is certain and the future is not set in stone. While Gintarou’s oracle may ring true, it does not tell the way to get a favourable conclusion, something that humans must find out for themselves. Furthermore, Makoto takes her relationship with a messenger of Inari lightly, never truly thinking about the kind of being she talks to on a daily basis. Their fight is a case of childish individuals butting heads over a small, but perhaps important issue. Makoto wants to help, but like Yumi she doesn’t truly understand the nature of divine beings and prophecy in Japan.
If one were to lose the ability to relate to the fox, then they may also lose the gifts the fox bestows, gifts that are very special and have a strong connection to the power of nature and almost an inverse relation to money. A fox gift is not concerned with piles of minted metal, but, rather, with instinct, the cyclical bounty of nature, knowledge of nature’s patterns and how to read them, anime communication, protection from fire, and, more valuable, the gift of life – none of which money can buy. By arguing with Gintarou, the shrine itself is endangered, because without his presence the power of Inari will gradually wither and disappear. What the resolution to their squabble also demonstrates is the uncertain nature of a kami’s blessing, or divine oracles. Yumi makes up with her boyfriend and the cat is found through a series or apparently incidental coincidences that nonetheless demonstrate how right Gintarou was. In essence we see the fickle, and potentially dangerous nature of kami in everyday life, and how childish and impossible to control the kitsune truly is.