Tomoe is a kitsune in Kamisama Kiss (or Kamisama Hagimemashita), a manga and anime by Julietta Suzuki built on the premise of a teenage girl, Nanami, being given kami (land god) status and needing to learn about her new powers while balancing her life as a kami with her life as a teen. Tomoe is not only a kitsune, but also the familiar of the previous kami. At the start of Kamisama Kiss, Tomoe has been maintaining the kami’s shrine for twenty years while the kami was absent. When Nanami appears as the new land god, Tomoe feels betrayed and does not immediately accept her.
Tomoe’s character is aloof and arrogant. He wears fine kimonos, moves elegantly, and sports white fox ears and a white fox tail on his otherwise human body. His history is slowly revealed as the story progresses with elements of his past bearing strong importance on the plot. Tomoe is hundreds of years old, but does not appear to age. He has shown himself to be incredibly loyal to a select few individuals. For example, even after the previous kami’s disappearance, Tomoe continued to faithfully tend the shrine for twenty years as he waited for the kami’s return. Tomoe strongly disdains weakness. His problem with the new kami is that she is a powerless human girl. Tomoe sees no strength in humans and believes yokai (a variety of magical creatures) and humans should not mingle. The title of the story, Kamisama Kiss, refers to the binding of the familiar to the kami with a kiss. Much of the initial conflict in the story arises from Nanami binding Tomoe to her, which doubles as the beginning of a slow romantic story arc.
Avoiding story spoilers, Tomoe went from a warmongering kitsune famed for his casual brutality and sweeping destruction to a kami’s familiar because of a story twist that involved Tomoe’s near death and a human. Tomoe’s dark past adds depth to his character and works in sharp contrast to his modern self. An implication is made at the start of the story that foxes are highly non-traditional as familiars. The kami prior to Nanami required Tomoe to soften his attitude and change his ways in order to complete his new duties. Despite centuries of service as a familiar, yokai regularly refer to Tomoe as having once been a wild fox. Even with Tomoe’s acknowledged power, many yokai seem to feel that the position of a familiar is too high for a wild fox. Other than Tomoe’s bursts of anger, particularly regarding the treatment by others of his human kami, he appears suave and collected, perfectly suited to working as the familiar of a kami and the caretaker of a shrine.
The romantic angle of the story revolves mainly around Nanami becoming aware of her feelings towards Tomoe. Despite his longevity, Tomoe is fairly clueless about many aspects of the human world and does not understand Nanami or her actions. Initially he uses his role to try and cloister Nanami away from portions of her new position that he deems difficult. He does this while meticulously learning to cook human food and caring for Nanami as best as he can. He naively makes statements as her familiar which have different meaning from a human standpoint. This creates an off-balance dynamic ideal for the romantic comedy side of the story. Of course, Tomoe’s feelings towards Nanami change dramatically from those he felt at their initial meeting. He proves himself loyal to his new kami and the end result of their relationship is still in the writing as the series is still being written.
Tomoe’s kitsune powers are very strong. He can use his foxfire in battle and one historical reference clarified his ability to create a sea of flames, killing vast quantities of yokai at once. His foxfire can also be used as a light. As an added touch to a shrine festival, Tomoe lit the area with foxfire. On at least one occasion, he sent several small flames out on an information gathering mission. The flames flew around town searching and were able to speak briefly to Tomoe of their findings. Tomoe can also shape-shift both himself and others. A simple shift involves removing his fox ears and tail in order to walk with Nanami in the human world. On an occasion when Nanami was ill and it was decided that she should not miss too much school, Tomoe changed into a replica of Nanami and attended school for her. An example of him changing another person arrived when a yokai asked Nanami to facilitate her love affair with a human. Tomoe transformed the fish yokai into human form so that she could meet with the human she loved. This transformation had the power to last for as long as the yokai did not use her own magic. Besides foxfire and shape changing, Tomoe used his powers to maintain the shrine. This ability became most clear at a point when Tomoe was not available and the meticulous shrine suddenly appeared neglected and in need of major repairs.
Tomoe’s wild fox reputation ties in with the tradition of the kitsune as an irrepressible trickster. Tomoe, however, does not play tricks. The romantic angle of the story, which seems to promise that Tomoe and the kami will end up together, links Tomoe with the tales of kitsune as lovers and mates. Kamisama Kiss appears to be intended for adolescent girls, and Tomoe’s primary role as man and kitsune seems to be that of a sigh-worthy love interest. I have found the story light and comedic.
Julietta Suzuki’s Kamisama Kiss manga volumes 4, 8-14 (English translation)
Kamisama Kiss anime, 1 season (English subtitles)