Very interesting read.
When I first saw anime containing Japanese folklore, I passed it off as fantasy content. I didn’t think about the youkai much differently than I would about fairies. I didn’t even notice that the word “youkai” was being used most of the time, as translators muddled along with words like “spirit” and “demon.” But over the years, I’ve learned that these youkai still have a more respected place in the Japanese culture than Western fairies and related superstitions do in our culture—even if very few people believe in them. At the very least, their modern portrayals are often fairly consistent with their portrayals from a few hundred years ago—even if creators mix in their own, new youkai with the older legends. Yet the portrayals themselves are not, to my mind, as important as the themes they carry with them.