Sunday, January 31, 2010

Garo #24



August, 1966: Garo issue #23. As with #22, the magazine held up pretty well for its age, although the glue in the spine is badly degraded and the staples have really rusted. This issue is 202 pages long, and over 1/3 of that belongs to Kamui. Sanpei can't quite maintain an average output of 100 pages per month, I guess.


カムイ伝 (Kamui-den) #21


Kamui follows various intrigues, and is in turn followed by Saesa, who has become a shinobi in order to find him. At one point, they both try testing Koruko (the crazy guy on the cover) to find out whether he's really all that strong, or is being used as a front by another ninja. Looks like the latter is the case, which presents a problem because the one using Red Eye to kill others is both the little sister's would-be lover, and Kamui's next target to rub out - Shousuke. 84 pages.


ジャーナリズムの中のヴェトナム (Journalism in Vietnam) #17
Another a 2-page text-only essay by Koshi Ueno (上野昂志).


勝又進 作品集 (Katsumata's Creation Collection) #3


More of Katsumata Susumu's (勝又進) short-panel gags. This time, there's 5 pages of them. The two top gags on this page are self-explanatory. Most of the rest are fairly involved and require some cultural knowledge to comprehend.


祖国は誰のものぞ (Whose Fatherland is This?)


Set in Denmark during WW II, this cautionary tale centers around a Dane that refuses to be part of the protests against the Nazi occupation of his small town. He's a school teacher that tries to straddle the gap between the occupiers and the resistance forces, and is derided by both sides. Finally, he is forced to teach propaganda to his students, and rather than cave in, he speaks his mind, warning the townsfolk of what is about to become of them. Of course, this small act of rebellion costs him his life. 29 pages.

Suzuki Shigeru (鈴木茂) is actually a fairly common name, and there are 5 entries for him in the Japanese wiki, none of which seem to be an obvious match (a couple religious types, an industrialist and a guitarist). Half are too young to qualify, and the other half don't mention any artistic output.


青空太郎の絵日記 (Aozora Tarou's Picture Diary) #7

(Visualize change.)

In the comments for the last Garo issue, I'd stated that I'd overlooked scanning Mitsuo's gag manga, but that it wasn't much of a loss. I'm making up for it this time by making his story one of the two featured on Nihon-go Hunter. In this chapter, two would-be ninja are trying to turn into trees, but their master is unimpressed by the results. Finally, one of the students succeeds at becoming a convincing tree, but suffers the consequences when the master breaks off a branch as part of the testing. By Mitsuo Fujizawa (藤沢光男).


日本忍法伝 (Japan Ninja Arts Legend) #11


The next 6 pages of the on-going essay by Mamoru Sasaki (佐々木 守) and Satsuko Okamoto (岡本 颯子).


宇宙の出来事 (Space Event)


This is a simple text-less story that runs 19 pages. A scientist approaches a snake charmer to have music played into a balloon. The balloon is placed in a rocket and fired into space. Eventually, it crashes onto another planet, and the alien there tries to analyze the notes he captures to figure out what they are. In the last panel, he's managed to reverse engineer the flute to make the music himself.

There are a couple of Japanese hits on Tashiro Tamehiro ( 田代為寛) to indicate that he'd continued doing some manga, but there's not much to really go on.


諸行無常有響 (The Sound of Impermanence)


Kuniko Tsurita (つりた くにこ) is back with another of her bizarre space fantasies featuring Ishinomori and Nezumi Otoko. This time, the rocket suffers a malfunction (the captain claims that it must be crew incompetence because foreign-made rockets work perfectly) and they crash-land on a planet inhabited by Poplers. No, wait, by tasty little critters that ask to sign a mutual non-aggression pact with the humans. Problem is, there's no other food on the planet, and before the crew starves to death, they break the pact and eat all the little critters. Shortly after, another ship crashes, and a really big alien shows up, complaining of being hungry. One of the crew suggests they sign a non-aggression pact...


ベム (BEM)


Rather than being a bug-eyed monster, BEM is a retro-style robot. Its creator is initially pleased with himself for making the first self-aware intelligent robot, but it starts asking for a metallic outer skin and a stronger motor, giggling weirdly etc. When it starts hanging out looking over the scientist's shoulder, he panics and smashes it to pieces with a monkey wrench.

Nothing coming up for Norihiro Takeyama (竹山ノリヒロ) except for some mentions of being in Garo.


アメーバ (Amoeba)


A scientist develops a new form of amoeba, but his boss wants to claim the credit for the work. The scientist rebels, and everyone in the lab disses him for not being "a team player". Eventually the amoeba grows large enough to try to eat him, and in the resulting struggle both of them die. In the end, the lab president has the last laugh because tradition has been maintained and the misfit eliminated.

Nothing much on Shigeaki Tsuge (柘植茂晃).


マチコミ (Machi Comi)


This seems to be a commentary on mass communications. An artist suddenly finds himself being overwhelmed by requests by representatives of monster newspapers and magazines to create strips for them. He collapses from exertion, and a doctor comments that the monsters feed on creative thoughts. The artist realizes that he's going to die from over-popularity. This is the first of two more stories from Shigeru Mizuki.


五円玉 (5 Yen Coin)


This is the second of the two stories by Shigeru. Again, I liked this one enough to run it on Nihongo Hunter. On an isolated road way back in the hills, someone dropped a 5 yen coin. What happens when different people find it? First is Yoshiharu Tsuge, who's disappointed that it's only 5 yen, and then makes a silly pun about snot. Second is Akira Ogawa ("Poem of heaven and weeds"), who rants about someone somewhere crying over the loss of this coin and demanding that the readers turn found change into the police. Third is Shigeru himself, in the form of Nezumi Otoko, who says "don't laugh at 5 yen", while pocketing the coin. Finally, we have Sanpei's Kamui, who spends three pages leaping from tree to tree, dropping in to examine the "strange object", then tossing it away when he realizes it's just a 5 yen coin.

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Over all comments: There's a fair amount of social and political commentary this time. About half of the manga works, and the other half is just "eh". I'm really liking Shigeru's work and Kamui is starting to grow on me. I'm waiting to see what Kuniko comes up with next.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Coco's



Coco's is a Japanese family restaurant chain that carries curry rice, pastas and salads. It's fairly inexpensive ($6-$8 range USD) and tasty for the price. They've got a marketing tie-in campaign with Doraemon.



The banner here advertises a free all-you-can-drink soft drink bar.



This is also an example of Japanese "plastic food". Plastics makers in Japan have raised the creation of display dishes to be put in showcases to a high art. There's one district in Tokyo where you can buy these plastic food displays for yourself. They're very popular with tourists.



This is the "California taco salad".

Friday, January 29, 2010

Doraemon for 110

Doraemon is probably one of the most popular young childrens' characters in Japan, and is definitely one of the most instantly recognizable. Basically, it's a robot from the future that travels to help out schoolboy Nobita Nobi. Doraemon has a pocket that lets him pull out a variety of fun and wonderful toys and tools that Nobita then uses to get into trouble. The original manga was created by Fujio F Fujiko, one of Tezuka's former assistants at Tokiwa Manor.



Here, Doraemon has been enlisted to tell children to call 110 (Japan's equivalent of 911) in emergencies. This sticker was plastered on a wall along a residential street. The text says "let us know immediately if you find something scary. Children: 110".

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ultra Machi, Part 4



As I was walking along the main street from Soshigaya-Okura station to the first flying Ultraman figure, I happened across this guard dog at a construction site. Initially, I thought it was a statue, but it did look around a lot, trying to keep track of all the high school girls walking past it on the street.







Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ultra Machi, Part 3


Figure 1

As mentioned in the previous post, there are three flying Ultraman figures at the ends of the main streets at the edges of Soshigaya-Okura. They represent three different versions of the Ultraman heroes. Unfortunately, the sky clouded over during the hour that I walked around to find them, and the later photos came out pretty dark.


Figure 1

It's hard to get a good clean shot of some of the figures because the street wiring runs right over or under them.


Figure 1


Figure 2


Figure 2


Figure 3



The street light poles are also designed with an Ultraman theme. This specific style shows up once every few blocks. The more common design is more like a red and silver sickle.





Some of the regular shops also like to show their "Ultraman pride". This one was a bar of some kind.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ultra Machi, Part 2

Back a while ago, I wrote up a little piece on Ultra Machi, which at the time I thought consisted solely of the statue outside the station, pictures from the Ultraman movies on the pillars in the train station, and some banners on the street.



A couple of weeks back, I was visiting my favorite Kaldi import shop and coffee roaster, just outside the station, and as I strolled a little farther along the street I noticed Cafe Melody Shot M-78, a coffee shop that billed itself as an authorized Ultraman goods store. Naturally I had to go inside to check it out. The people were friendly, but a little hesitant to speak to a foreigner since they didn't know if I'd understand their answers. At the counter, they have an old map that shows the various Ultraman-related spots in the area, although some of them no longer exist. The map is also out of print and there hasn't been a newer version issued yet.



Turns out that the reason Soshigaya-Okura took on the name "Ultra Machi" is because Tsuburaya Productions, which produced the TV shows, was located about 1 mile away. However, they moved elsewhere and now there's nothing at the site to show that the studio had existed. At the moment, the primary attractions are Shot M-78, the Ultraman-themed street poles along the main street running in front of the station, the statue and banners, of course, and the 3 Flying Ultraman figures at the far ends of the streets around the town.


(Fliers advertising the December, 2009, movie.)

To find the flying figures, exit the station. A short jog to the right will take you to Kaldi. Now, from the station if you go down the main street to the right, the first figure will be a 20 minute walk away. Taking the main street left from the station will bring you to the second figure in about 10 minutes. If you take the short jog to Kaldi, then keep walking forward, Cafe Melody Shot M-78 will be about 3 minutes farther down the street on the left, and the third figure will be about another 5 minutes past M-78. I'll post more pictures in the next entry.



Cafe Melody Shot M-78 has a wide food menu, including curries and pastas, drinks and desserts. I ordered a blend coffee and a chocolate cake. The coffee came in a small cup, but was thick and strong, as was the small slice of chocolate cake. Both were 350 yen a piece, which is a good price by Tokyo standards. It was mid-day on a Thursday and I was the only one eating. But, there was a constant flow of mothers with small children coming in to look at the toys and occasionally buy an Ultraman book. I expect that they're busier during the weekends.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Garo #23

I'm going to start up a new thread. The Mandarake used manga shop is about 4 blocks from my work, and they've got a fairly complete collection of copies of old Garo magazines. I've kind of gotten enamored with the idea of reviewing the manga that ran in Garo, and I figured "what the heck". Now, I do have to take back what I'd said earlier about the collectability of old Garo issues and the pricing of the first few issues. Actually, for the first year, Garo is priced between 1000 and 4000 yen ($12 to $45 USD) depending on condition. It's not until about July 1966 (2 years later) that the prices drop consistently to 200 yen each. Since I don't want to collect them, just comment on the manga in each one, I'm only going to buy copies that are priced under 500 yen. And, since the circulation drops off after "Kamui" ended, I'm only going to go up to about 1972 (or maybe as late at 1980 depending on what happens). In any event, I'm going to try to print 1 issue per week, and I'll run a selected story on Nihongo Hunter.

Another comment - Garo has this weird numbering system where certain stories are given 入選作品, or "chosen work" numbers. Apparently, these are assigned to guest artists, and don't represent anything like serialized chapter numbers. Also, the table of contents looks to be alphabetical or something. The stories aren't in page number order, making the TOC kind of hard to use.



I'll start with July 1966, which was issue #23. The magazine held up pretty well for its age, although the glue in the spine is badly degraded. This issue is 200 pages long, and over half of that belongs to Kamui. I guess the last chapter in this series wasn't an exception after all - each chapter appears to be ungodly long.

カムイ伝 (Kamui-den) #20


(Kamui in disguise, with the magistrate's attache.)

First, we have Sanpei Shirato's (白土三平) "Legend of Kamui", chapter 20. Turns out that Sanpei didn't have a chapter in *every* issue. Just *almost* every issue. Because Kamui has been translated into English commercially, I won't bother summarizing this one right now. 110 pages.


政治の完全犯罪について (Perfect Government Crime) #16
This is a 2-page text-only essay by Koshi Ueno (上野昂志). I'm not going to try to read it - it'd take to long. Suffice it to say that Garo ran essays and fiction along with the manga features. Koshi worked as a journalist and/or critic, and has a series of blog entries for the Asahi Shimbun. As of 2008, he was the president of the Japan Journalist College.

大空と雑草の詩 (Poem of heaven and weeds) #5



This is one of the weakest manga in this issue. Since I'm coming in during the middle of the series, I'm not really following the story. Seems that a high school student is in the middle of a mystery involving a fellow student and some shadowy agents after the other student goes on a rampage. Fairly jingoistic (pro-group, anti-adult) and I don't care for the art style. 20 pages long. I'm not finding anything concrete on Akira Ogawa (おがわあきら) right away, either. This seems to be a fairly common name and hits come up on some musicians and physicists.


勝又進 作品集 (Katsumata's Creation Collection) #2



Katsumata Susumu (勝又進) was still doing his short-panel gag series in 1971, with the issue that I reviewed for the Garo vs COM post. Although here, the artwork is much cruder and he only did one page. In the first strip, the text reads "His shoes are Astro Boy, his shirt is Obake Q-taro, his backpack is Bambi and his grades are in the gutter." Susumu is best known in the U.S. for his English-translated "Red Snow".


L.ミゼラブル (L.Miserable)



This is an odd little story parodying "Les Miserable". An exploratory ship visits planet R, which starts out having large deposits of platinum. Then, the main land mass sinks and the ship escapes, but accidentally leaves the captain behind. Initially, the captain is happy because the land around him is made up of chocolate. Then, it turns out that he's been eaten by a large alien who visits an alien doctor for stomach problems. After the medicine does its job, the alien brings the captain's corpse in to the doctor, who declares it to be a new species and he puts it in a small display jar. Meanwhile, the ship has returned to Earth and the captain is lauded as a lost hero. Note in the fifth panel above, we have Shotaro Ishinomori, Tezuka and Nezumi Otoko from Shigeru Mizuki. 11 pages long.

There's a little coming up for Kuniko Tsurita (つりた くにこ) (1948-1985) in Japanese and a couple of French pages mentioning her, implying that she had some success as a shojo artist, although a lot of her early work was published through Garo. One fan page has a profile on her, but it is in Japanese only.


Silent Comics



"Silent Comics" looks like a one-shot. If so, then the subtitle is "Koma" (panel). The full 5 pages can be found at my Nihongo Hunter blog.

The only thing coming up for Tatsuji Namiki (並木達二) in Japanese are hits listing the stories that ran in Garo, and even then, only for "Koma". Almost looks like Namiki was either a pen name used once, or was just making a one-time special appearance in the magazine. There's nothing on him in English.


青空太郎の絵日記 (Aozora Tarou's Picture Diary) #6

I apologize on this one. The story was so short (4 pages) that I overlooked it when doing the scans. But, the artwork is pretty amateurish so it's not worth going back and just scanning one page. Essentially, a couple visits their friend's house for his birthday, and the friend hits on the girl, ignoring the guy. Until the guy offers a birthday present - a live snake. After the friend recovers from the shock, they open up bottles of champagne, and two of the corks go up his nose. End of story.

Mitsuo Fujizawa (藤沢光男) had a number of stories appear in Garo, but otherwise there's no information on him in English or Japanese.


日本忍法伝 (Japan Ninja Arts Legend) #10



As can be seen here, this is chapter 10 of an illustrated story. This one's 6 pages long. The artwork is fairly symbolic, and most pictures aren't as involved as the one shown.

Mamoru Sasaki (佐々木 守) did the writing, with art by Satsuko Okamoto (岡本 颯子). Sasaki was a prolific TV and film screenwriter, who died in 2006. His credits include a few "Ultraman" episodes. Satsuko is an established illustrator, with a long credit list on the Japanese wiki. The main hits in English are for some children's book work that she did.


ザ。ゴッド。オブ。デス (Shinigami)



"The God of Death" (AKA: Shinigami) is a 6 page one-shot. A patient visits a doctor, complaining about having the same bad dream all the time. In the dream, a vampire approaches him and attacks just as he wakes up. The doctor asks who the patient thinks the vampire is, and he answers "shinigami". The doctor turns around, saying "that's it exactly!" The newspaper in the last panel has an article about a patient that jumped out of a hospital window, killing himself.

Shigeo Masai (正井 滋魚) is yet another artist who only shows up in Garo. However, it looks like he may have contributed to a book on professional skier Yuuichirou Miura, and he has one more story appearing in the Sept., 1966, issue of Garo.


ノンセヌ。ミステリー (Nonsense Mystery)



The main character is a minor feudal lord who receives a threatening note saying that someone's going to steal his fundoshi (loin cloth). The next morning, sure enough, the loin cloth is gone. The next note promises the theft of his chest hair, which is later returned as a Beatles-cut wig. Finally, the last note threatens his life. His wives and vassals ask if he's done anything that someone would hold a grudge against him for and he mentions his womanizing, taking bribes and a penchant for lopping people's heads off, but nothing worth really getting upset about. Then, his wives and vassals pull out their swords, saying that they're the ones that sent the notes. The last panel says that his death was too ghastly to show in print. 10 pages.

Now, this is unusual. The author's name (嗚海幸保) doesn't even show up in the list of Garo artists in Japanese, and I'm not sure how to pronounce the kanji. You'd think that he'd surface in a search. Oh well.


惑星 (Planet)



Shigeru Mizuki was an established artist, coming out with "Hakaba Kitaro" a few years before the advent of Garo magazine. But, he seems to be trying his hand here as a short story horror writer in the Twilight Zone vein. He has two stories in this issue, both of which are 8 pages long. The first one, "Wakusei" ("Planet") features a very poor man who wakes up one day to the news that a strange planet has parked itself between the moon and the Earth. Anyone with lots of money is chartering a rocket to visit the planet. Afterwards, the planet disappears and the world's rich are taken with it, resulting in the world's poor being able to eat steak for cheap. The next day, he wakes up only to discover that he'd dreamed all of it. As he eats his breakfast gruel, his wife reads in the paper that Elizabeth Taylor is getting married again.


一万人目の男 (The 10,000 Person Man)



This is the second of the two stories by Shigeru. I liked this one enough to run it on Nihongo Hunter. I'm not going to translate it, though, unless I get enough requests. The story is about a house that sits in the darker regions of the forest. Two hikers that discover it enter the house and are then eaten. In reality, it's a monster in the shape of a house. As it eats more people, it takes on new shapes, becoming more modern over time, going from a wooden cabin to a hot spring resort, and finally to a glass and steel version of the Tower of Babel as it consumes its 10,000th person.

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Over all comments: Obviously, the main selling point for Garo is the Kamui series. Few of the other artists went on to make names for themselves, with the exceptions being Shigeru, Katsumata, Mamoru and Satsuko. The artwork is uneven, but even the lesser known people aren't all that bad. It's a pretty quick read. I tried to follow all of the Japanese text in the strips, and it took about 5-6 hours to go through. Not a bad value for 200 yen ($2.50 USD).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Manga Review: Kitaro, #1 and #1


(Graveyard Kitaro, chapter illustration.)

The creator of "Gegege no Kitaro" is probably 10 times more fascinating than the history of the manga title that he is best known for. Having served in WWII, Shigeru Mizuki suffered from malaria, and had his left arm blown off during an American air raid. Since he had been left handed, he had to relearn how to draw and write with his right hand. He was then captured and held as a prisoner of war in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. After the war, he returned to Japan, where he found work as a movie theater operator. Finally, in 1957, he debuted as a manga artist with "Rocket Man". Always attracted to ghost stories, his works revolve around both monsters and the military. Currently, his art is used to advertise a veteran's museum in Tokyo.


(Mizuki visits his first ghoul at the blood bank, from Hakuba Kitaro.)

"Kitaro" started out as a kamishibai story, performed by traveling storytellers that would accompany their narration with pictures painted on stiff panels. Shigeru himself worked as a kamishibai artist and "Hakaba Kitaro" ("Graveyard Kitaro") was one of the stories he illustrated. Kamishibai became very popular following WWII as a way for unemployed men to make some money, but it eventually faded away with the growth of households owning TVs. According to the wiki, Shigeru created his first manga version of Hakaba Kitaro in 1959, for a rental book publisher, and created at least 6 volumes in this series. In 1966, he toned it down for children, and renamed it "Gegege no Kitaro" for Weekly Shonen Magazine. Both "Hakaba" and "Gegege" have been animated, and "Gegege" has been performed as a live-action movie.


(Graveyard Kitaro, with his bad eye on the right side, and the buck teeth.)

I've written about the Kitaro goods shop at the Jindaiji shrine grounds and the Kitaro Street, both in Chofu, and the little art gallery on the second floor of the goods shop. The main museum, though, is in Sakaiminato.



Hakaba Kitaro, by Shigeru Mizuki, Grade B
"Hakaba Kitaro" (or, "Kitaro of the Graveyard" if you prefer) started out as a series of ghost stories for an older audience. We get the origins of both Kitaro and his father in the first chapter. A man named Mizuki works at a monster blood bank, where he's told a well-kept secret - their blood really comes from monsters. Mizuki is tasked with tracking down a specific monster that is suffering from a blood disease. Mizuki is a typical human, not believing in monsters until he sees them with his own eyes, and then reacts with fear and loathing. The monster in question is a mole man, and together with his wife is expecting a baby. They're hoping that they'll live long enough to see the baby, but both of them pass away soon after. Mizuki, when checking up on them, finds the baby crawling around in a nearby graveyard - cute and human-looking enough - and decides to kill it to rid the planet of monsters. But his resolve soon fails and he throws it at a gravestone, badly damaging the eye socket. The father's spirit hasn't passed on yet, and it moves into his own eye, becoming an eyeball monster. The baby, and the eyeball, make their way to Mizuki's house, and out of guilt Mizuki decides to care for Kitaro for a while. And, since his left eye no longer works, Kitaro uses his empty socket as a home for his father.


(Original covers of the early books.)

What's amazing in this first book is that the human characters are generally drawn realistically. It's like looking at a 1950's Harper's magazine. And the backgrounds are all highly-detailed. It's just Kitaro himself and a few of the monsters that come off looking cartoonish. The bad eye switches from the left side to the right from the first story to the second, and the upper buck teeth just show up in the second story without explanation. Kitaro is fairly worldly early on, comfortable living in both the human and monster worlds. He acts as kind of a balancing force against malevolent beings in both environments. Initially, he doesn't resort to violence directly, just using arcane skills to defeat an opponent. He also likes smoking cigarettes when a case is finished.


(How Kitaro lost his eye.)

The first story, "Okashi-na Yatsu", (the strange guy) of the book continues past the origin story. A high school boy comes to Kitaro's house, asking for help. Seems that a poltergeist of some sort is causing a disturbance in his parent's house. Both of his parents are gone, and he's living well with a servant on the compensation money. He's willing to pay for the help. Nezumi Otoko and the Eyeball visit the house, where they discover something like a paper cutout of a human floating through walls and making spooky noises. A couple of days later, the boy's girlfriend comes by the house, complaining of Nezumi Otoko's presence, and trying to strangle the boy. This is followed by a weird little man that has been commissioned to draw the girlfriend's portrait. This is actually Kitaro in disguise, and he uses the "106 Questions" (what is your favorite color, what do you eat for breakfast, etc.) incantation to trap the girl's soul in the portrait. In fact, the girl had died 2-3 days before, and the poltergeist had taken over her body in order to possess the high school boy. Kitaro then shows his client that a hidden cave on the family's grounds contains the actual body of the spirit - it was a master of the occult that learned how to overcome death hundreds of years ago, and needed a new host body and lots of money to go out and party. The portrait is burned and the occult master finally receives death.


(How Kitaro's father turned into an eye.)

In second story, "Kaiki Ichiban Shobu" (Strange Events One-Round Showdown), Mizuki shows back up, this time as an unsuccessful manga artist writing ghost stories, forced to become an assistant to a professional killer for lack of money. The killer has just returned from America, where he'd been lying low, and he wants to check on rumors that his old house is haunted. The two visit the house, which is now occupied by Kitaro. When a group of ghouls show up for a dance party that night, they're offended by the humans' reactions and send the two to purgatory. Eventually they make their way back to the house. Kitaro is seen looking into a refrigerator, and the two trap him inside, although his hand gets severed and it roams free throughout the house. The next day, the killer's wife, who he'd married in the U.S., arrives in Japan and they try to set up home in the haunted house. Unfortunately, the antics from the hand get fairly desperate before it's finally trapped and nailed to a board. Mizuki takes the board outside to bury, but another monster knocks him unconscious and takes the hand. Later, he wakes up and returns to the house to find the killer and his wife hanging by a rope from the rafters. Mizuki hears some splashing noises and follows them to the kitchen where Kitaro and his father (the eyeball) are taking a bath. Kitaro tells Mizuki that the man had been lucky - if he'd stayed in the house another 5 minutes, he'd also have died. Mizuki realizes that Kitaro had actually saved his life and goes back home happily, but regretting ever having doubted in the supernatural. Presumably, his horror manga will be more successful now that he's no longer just making this stuff up.




Gegege no Kitaro, by Shigeru Mizuki, Grade A
Shigeru took several story ideas from "Hakaba" and reworked them for this new children's series. Kitaro's character was redrawn to be softer and less malformed, while just about everything else remained the same. Nezumi Otoko, for instance, is pretty much unchanged. Kitaro doesn't smoke as obviously now, and rather than inhabiting an abandoned house, he lives in a tree house in the distant woods. He's also redefined to primarily be a protective force for children threatened by monsters.


(Note the softer features and lack of buck teeth. The empty socket is back on the left side.)

In the first story, Kitaro is already well-known. He's enlisted by a university to join an expedition to an isolated South Asian island, where an immortal beast has been found, and gather its blood for research. A young scientific genius resents Kitaro's presence (it offends his scientific values to have a monster on the ship), and after the immortal monster kills off the rest of the expedition, the genius infects Kitaro with the monster's blood. The genius hopes to win the Nobel prize for developing an immortality drug and he's afraid that Kitaro will try to share the credit. But, instead of dying, Kitaro turns into a copy of the immortal monster. After being attacked by the military, and by the university's giant robot program, the situation resolves itself, Kitaro returns to normal, and the genius apologizes for losing sight of his reason for becoming a scientist in the first place (to help others). 106 pages.


(The cat master.)

In the second story, "Cat Master", a town is terrorized by cats that are being controlled by a ascetic who'd abandoned his body long ago. Kitaro uses the 106 Questions incantation to trap the ascetic's spirit, and he's destroyed when the portrait is burned. This is a shorter retelling of the"Okashi-na Yatsu" story above.


(The immortal monster, Kitaro, and the young genius scientist.)

Then we have "Yasha", a guitar-playing youkai that traps children's souls in balloons; "Obake Nighter", with a boy that's found Kitaro's always-hit-homeruns bat having to play a night game against Kitaro's team of monsters, with the human team's souls at stake; and "Kyuuketsuki", an underground monster freed up to the surface by a recent earthquake, turning humans into trees. One common element to all the stories is that when Kitaro returns home at the end each time, the creatures around him hum the "Gegege" theme song.

I'll admit that when I grew up, "Johnny Quest" would air on broadcast TV every Friday evening, and I hated watching it because my bedroom was right next to the door to the attic, and I *knew* what was lurking on the other side at night. And when I saw "Godzilla" for the first time on TV, at home, age 12, alone, I couldn't sleep for a week. I have no idea what would have happened if I'd read "Hakaba Kitaro" back then.

Now, Kitaro is one of my favorite stories. I love the variety in the monsters, and the earlier TV series can be lots of fun. I especially enjoy listening to the opening theme song.

Summary: Author Shigeru Mizuki collects monster stories, and he makes up a lot of his own for this long-running series based on an earlier story teller's tale. "Hakaba Kitaro" is aimed at an older audience, but there's still a child-like innocence to the behavior of the supporting characters. "Gegege no Kitaro" was then retooled for children, and it's almost as if the monsters were upgraded to be even scarier. Both titles are great if you like spooky stuff, and at least some of the Gegege stories have been released commercially in English. Highly recommended.