For my a story I'm writing, I have 3 species that are from the same evolution line; Kitsune's, Tanuki's, and Bakeneko/Nekomatas. All three are familiar in the lines of shapeshifiting animals.

Their most distinctive trait is that they can look like a furry/yiff (i.e. zoomorphic) and a kemonomimi, which is what I'm focusing on for this question.

Which got me wondering, would their be a evolutionary reason and standpoint to have their humanoid forms (let's use a Tanuki for an example) that could shapeshift to go to one extreme to another at the same time at will?

enter image description here enter image description here (second picture is from Yagi the Goat, who also made more cute anthro pics)

Edit: Made it sound less confusing. I'm asking how they could transform to look like human to an anthromorphic form of their animals (cat, fox, tanuki), etc.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I would say that, by definition, humans are anthropomorphic (which literally means "has a human form"). $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 6, 2018 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand what you are asking. As @Giter says, you may want to be more clear about some word definitions. Also, "All three are familiar in the lines of shapeshifiting mammals that can take on many forms." What does that mean? $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented May 6, 2018 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ if i remember right, kitsunes are actually doing illusionary change $\endgroup$
    – Swift
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry but it is still confusing. Are you asking: (1) how can they transform from human shape to zoomorphic shape? (2) how can they appear human when viewed from the perspective of their untransformed friends? (3) how can they magically simultaneously look like a human to a human and like an animal to an animal? $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DrBob Hoe is it still confusing? I'm asking how one can transform from mostly human to furry? The pictures should be a clear example of what I'm asking for. $\endgroup$
    – TGCF
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 17:03

4 Answers 4


Temperature Control, Hunting, and Shelter

So what are humans good at, making stuff, endurance, and heat loss. What are cats, foxes, and raccoon dogs good at, hunting, and not dying from hypothermia. So with this this shape shifting ability you gain the best of both worlds, when you need to build a shelter to protect you from predators well become a human with those nice hairless, clawless, dexterous hands, that are so good a building things. Or if it gets too hot just lose the fur coat and panting, just do the much more effective sweating method of humans. And for when you need to hunt, well just become a predator with claws and teeth, and if they ares still humanoid, them the advantage of human endurance. Also when it gets cold just become a furry beast who keeps all its heat inside and you will be okay.


The main benefit of a humanoid appearance is bipedalism (walking on two legs). This means that the species while bipedal can: engage in log distance jogging (arguably the first method of hunting in which the prey is worn down over time), and elevated head (in which more can be seen further) and the arms freed for tool use and social expression.

Lastly, speech is always a added benefit of a humanoid form, but assuming that the various species has had always had the ability to change between the two, I assume some form of communication that can be used in either form has been created.

The benefits of the animal form would be increased mobility (primarily speed and climbing), greater resistance to environmental conditions (weather, cold, heat etc), and increased senses; particularly senses of smell and hearing.

Additionally, if there are also normal human beings in your setting, being able to assume a completely-animal form would allow your species's to disguise their true nature.


bake-kitsune, bake-danuki, nekomata, and kawauso (which you don't mention but which I include for the sake of comprehensiveness), all hold in common the trait of being 'bakemono'. They are a categorization of yokai, which implies that they are spiritual beings created through a combination of allure and calamity (i.e. misfortunate occurence).

In short, they don't follow the biological principles of physiology that we are familiar with, but rather, they possess an appearance or series of appearances that derive from Japanese thinking on a multitude of life circumstances, and subsequently, they are expounded and further articulated upon by other thinkers exposed to an awareness of Japanese thinking (folklorists, entertainers, and the layman, for instance). So, the reason for a bakemono to resemble a human, but also to resemble another creature, is that they incorporate foreignness and familiarity alike--they are necessarily anthropomorphized, as a result of being products of human belief, much as elves or fairies are.

On the other hand, you do raise a curious question: Why do these creatures, and in particular, bake-danuki, hold such an emphasis on 'transforming' between one form and another, when other species of yokai, (and by extension, other spiritual beings) retain one particular popular form?

Since you're discussing a purely mythological species, the answer you're looking for lies in mythology, folklore, and history, not in biological theory.

While I'm not going to go out of the way to cite a ton of reference material, I would suggest from my own observations that bake-danuki at least, are a sort of meta-being, that crystallizes the 'mutable' nature of being, as the various strains of Buddhism (in this case, Zen) suggest. What this means from a biological perspective, if we're entertaining the notion of memetic beings as being alive and subject to adaptive processes, which is entirely speculative on my part and that of thinkers like Richard Dawkins, take it for what you will--is that bake-danuki are thought beings that adapted to having stories told centering around the impermanence of the living form, but because they were a figurehead for this sort of tale, they retained a core shape that could point back to this quality repeatedly for the purpose of human storytelling.

In layman's terms, because they were charismatic, idyllic little creatures that had a lot of stories told about how they could change, they retained this quality in human cognition. They are a way of looking at how we humans come and go, live our lives and pass on, feeding a circle of deaths and births.

As to how they would perform this transformation biologically, rather than merely cognitively, in our own heads as imaginary and illustrated beings; well, I would speculate that they would have to be some kind of hyperdimensional alien, that can alter its mass and chemical composition through a very thorough understanding of their anatomy. In other words, not all of what a bake-danuki actually is, physically, is existing in three-dimensional space, and for whatever reason, the default shape they manifest in our world is either human or raccoon dog, either because the original organism was one of the two and made a connection to an existing higher hyper-dimensional organism, or else became one itself through some unspecified process.

But you're welcome to come up with your own explanation, after all, since you seem to be fishing for ideas. That's just my current bake-danuki theory.

Now foxes... bake-kitsune... might be a different story. And I haven't even done enough study of nekomata or kawauso to say for sure. But there ya go. Food for thought.


I recommend checking out the popular 90's book series Animorphs (by K.A. Applegate) for ideas on how to depict physical transformation back and forth from human to animal, and how to frame world-building around these themes.

Generally speaking, The "Animorphs" conceal their identity as "normal" youth so no one knows they're the "Andalite bandits". Andalite (this is an race of centaur aliens) and Yeerk (slug parasites that enter peoples brains to control behavior) politics add a layer of complexity.


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