Kitsune (尾霊 (キツネ), Japanese for "Tailed Spirit") are supernatural beings that originated from the Old World. In contrast to Hollows, whom have lost their hearts, Kitsune are souls born with 'empty hearts'. It is unknown what their original forms were, but at some point, they adopted the canine-like form distinctive of foxes, which became their namesake. Similar to the masks of the Hollows and the horns of the Dragons, Kitsune are characterized by their tails. It is said that they were the first loyal retainers of the Soul King prior to the creation of the three worlds, but were eventually banished to the Beast Realm by the ancestors of the Five Noble Houses. However, much like the Werewolf clan, they defied their banishment and returned to the three worlds where they would later splinter off onto various tribes.
Just as Hollows are characterized by their masks and Dragons by their horns, a Kitsune is characterized by their tails which represent the connection between the world and their empty hearts in which all aspects can flow into them. When Kitsune are born, they possess a single tail, but over their lifetime, they continue to grow more tails in proportion to their own personal development. Obtaining a tail is reflective of a Kitsune's growth, with nine tails being the apex of their maturity, and are often the basis for the class system of a Kitsune society. Nine-tailed Kitsune are said to possess powers reminiscent of deities and often hold great positions within their community.
The core of a Kitsune's power is referred to as "emptiness" (無極, Mukyoku; Japanese for "Absolute Nothingness"). It is due to the fact that Kitsune are souls which possess empty hearts, which is different from Hollows which once possessed hearts but lost them due to despair. All living beings are born with hearts predisposed toward certain behaviors and emotions. Parents are wired to love their children, beings of similar origins are drawn to one another, prey instinctively fear predators, and of course, the survival instinct within all living beings; Kitsune are not born with any of these emotions. Their hearts are void of any such predispositions. As such, the notion of natural familial attachment and instinctive fear is unknown to them.
Because their hearts are empty and are therefore the equivalent to a blank canvas, the nature of a Kitsune's individual characteristics are entirely influenced by their surroundings. It is a phenomenon in which their heart is quite literally filled with the aspects of the world and the people who surround them over the course of their lives. As a result of their hearts being colored by the world around them, the strongest emotions generally developed by a Kitsune are typically territorial and possessive in nature. It is as if the world around them, the essence of which flows into their hearts, becomes a part of them and is therefore no different than an arm or a leg; it is a true extension of their own being. The same goes not just for the land and the skies, but for the other souls that reside within the world around the Kitsune as well. Living beings themselves, simply by existing near them, can color a Kitsune's empty heart. As a result, Kitsune can become protective of certain souls, even to the point of obsession and control.
Kitsune developed their fantastical abilities through this unique quality of their empty hearts. Adopting the aspects of the world around them enabled the Kitsune to perform countless magic-like phenomenon onto themselves based on those aspects, even replicating themselves in the form representative of those aspects. Among the various feats they discovered, transformation was among the first powers the Kitsune as a whole realized. They could change every part of their own forms, even changing their reiatsu beyond recognition, as a result of their unfixed spiritual nature. For the most skilled of them, it becomes impossible to distinguish their adopted forms from the real thing.
Being aware of their empty nature, and the phenomenon of aspects flowing into their hearts, Kitsune were able to learn how to do the same to other souls around them. In other words, just like how their own hearts naturally take in the essence of what exists around them, Kitsune are able to flow their own wills into the hearts of others; doing so by identifying the 'cracks' or openings within the hearts of their victims. By doing so, a Kitsune is able to impose their own will over that victim's heart. They are able to flow their own selves into their souls, taking up residence within their inner world and essentially adopting the victim's soul for their own. Some Kitsune are even known to remain dormant with a victim's soul, perhaps to hide from enemies or to heal themselves after being fatally wounded. Within Shinigami particularly, Kitsune are capable of interfering with the connection between them and their Zanpakutō, even to the point of fooling the Shinigami into believing the Kitsune itself is their Zanpakutō spirit. With more precision, a Kitsune can take advantage of the cracks in a victim's heart and flow their reiatsu into those openings, allowing them to place their victims under a state of hypnosis. In doing so, a Kitsune can create lifelike illusions which captivate all the senses of a living being, even their Reikaku, to such a degree of perfection that distinguishing illusions from reality become almost impossible.
Kitsune are also able to manipulate this natural ability of theirs and further cultivate it, making it possible for them to maximize the flows that enter their hearts to the point of actively absorbing those aspects at incredible rates. The Kitsune of legend were said to have devoured the elements of nature wherever they went, causing lakes being dried up, shivering coldness replacing tropical climates, trees and plants wilting away, and so on. They could refine this ability in order to absorb Reishi, which eventually allowed them to replicate Shinigami Kidō in their own unique way, and even made it possible for them to absorb Reiatsu itself from other souls and their active powers.
In many ways, Kitsune have been compared to that of Bounts in the way their souls play host to aspects from others. However, the difference comes in the sense that Bounts have a very specific ability, collecting souls and taking them within their own, whereas a Kitsune's powers are far more conceptual and extend to any aspect that can be distinguished. Furthermore, while Bounts can utilize properties from the souls they absorb, Kitsune themselves develop their own unique abilities through the integration of all aspects that are taken into their empty hearts. In a sense, a Bount's power is dependent mainly on quantity while also some focus on quality, whereas a Kitsune's power is dependent entirely on quality. It can even be said that Kitsune are closer to Hollows than that of Bounts in this regard.
- Seimei Abe (Partial-Breed)
- Seireitou Kawahiru (Partial-Breed)
- Seijūrō Arakami (Partial-Breed)
- Senshi of Gobi
- Tsuyuri Kawahiru (Partial-Breed)
Behind the Scenes
The original basis for this article was more focused on a mythological approach to the Kitsune. It was later decided by the author to rework the concept to give it a more unique Bleach feel to it. The author gives special thanks to Njalm who motivated the creation of this article and helped the author to formulate his thoughts in its initial conception.