Fox Tales, by Tomihiko Morimi, focuses on spookiness rather than outright terror. The way each tale unfolds feels like a casual, odd story a friend or acquaintance might share. The kind of stories that leave you unsure if what you saw is real or if your discomfort misinterpreted light and shadows. Translated by Winifred Bird with a gorgeous yet creepy cover art by Gaku Nakagawa, this Yen Press short story collection has four tales tied, in some fashion, to a curio shop called Hourrendou.

Though the endings are unclear, the level of eerieness in Fox Tales cements this collection as a favorite for readers who do not want flat-out terror but love tales filled with an underlying disquiet and fear that crests and wanes. 

Fox Tales Is A Man And A Mask

I tried to pinpoint a favorite, but it is impossible to choose. Now, I cannot stand too much description, but with these tales, Tomihiko Morimi makes every piece feel essential. You need them to determine if something is off or lurking in the shadows. The stories are first-person narrated, including the first, “Fox Tales.”

An employee for the tiny curio shop, Hourrendou, delivers an item to an old mansion for a regular customer named Amagi. But there is something about Amagi. This man is not ordinary. “Fox Tales” makes you scream at the narrator because he ignores warnings. Yet, there is no clear answer as to what is going on. The story is chilling, particularly about the fox mask and how terrifying it is to see someone you know only to feel like they are a different person. 

A Storyteller’s Story

The second story, “The Dragon in the Fruit,” is even stranger, as a college student befriends a senior. The senior regales him with tales of wonder and fantasy, blurring the line between reality, mainly when his accounts reference Hourrendou. It is surprising how each story still manages to be eerie without building resentment that there is no concrete ending. Plus, whether oral or written, we love telling stories and hearing stories. Fox Tales makes you feel like you are attending a campfire story told outdoors in pitch blackness with a crackling fire as your only light source. Silence and sounds around you become ominous. 

Play The Paranoia Agent End Song

Fox Tales cover art of of small brightly lit alley with encroaching shadows.
Fox Tales by Tomihiko Morimi cover

“Phantom” is disturbing. The narrator is a tutor, and he arrives at a new client’s home. Everything seems to go well. He tutors the teen then walks around outside before heading home. But the description of shadows in the evening, alongside someone attacking people out alone at night in a similar fashion to Lil Slugger from Paranoia Agent, increases the stakes. Each time the tutor roams around in the middle of the night, you wonder if this is it. With a surprising but confusing ending, this tale left me eyeing the shadows around me. 

What’s In The Water?

The final story, “The Water God,” has an adult son attending his grandfather’s funeral and wake. As he, his father, and his uncles stay up with the body drinking and waiting for a delivery from Hourrendou. They start sharing stories that are creepy in the extreme. Since water outside of a tub terrifies me, this story scared me. The descriptions take something as harmless as carpet nightmare-inducing. Why they stayed drinking and chatting, I do not know, but the attention to detail is impressive.

Fox Tales may not be your cup of tea if you prefer clarity and a definitive ending to your stories. Usually, descriptions take a backseat to characters for me. But this book somehow made descriptions the most critical aspect. Fox Tales builds suspense and fear by creating unsettling surroundings where you feel every inanimate object could be a lurking presence waiting to pounce. You may not know the end, but the stories stick with you. 

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