Sunday, June 1, 2014

History of Kitaro, #26



Any mistakes in the translation are mine and mine alone. All rights to the translation belong to Curtis H. Hoffmann. Please do not reproduce without permission. All images used here for review purposes only.

"Kitaro" from "Kitaro Reidan"  (Kitaro Ghost Troupe) on up.
Kitaro's weirdness in all forms of media.

The 90's TV anime series got its impetus from the release of the hit 1995 summer movie, "Gakkou no Kaidan" (School Ghost Stories). From this point, the occult genre, which had been declining in popularity, got refanned somewhat and the 4th season "Gegege no Kitaro" anime started in Jan., 1996. Once again, the public could hear the sound of clopping geta (wooden sandals). This time, though, instead of being based on Mizuki's manga, various scriptwriters were allowed to put their own spin on his yokai characters in each episode.

In the first half of the 90's, Mizuki ran "Fushigi Shiri-zu" (Mysterious Series) and "Youkai Henka Shiri-zu" (The Monstrous Apparitions Series) in Big Gold magazine (from Shogakkan), while, after a short break, the editorial department announced the upcoming publication of "Kitaro Reidan - Abenohou Rensou" (Kitaro Ghost Troupe - Abenohou Association). In this story, Kitaro and friends work to maintain the balance of happiness on Earth. The plan was for Nezumi Otoko to act while no one could see him... However, the story violated a TV anime copyright and it was canceled.

Then, Mizuki fans, developed from the different Kitaro variants, started to despair. Shuukan Manga Sande- (Monthly Manga Sunday) from Jitsugyo no Nihonsha, started running "Sekuhara Youkai Iyami" (Iyami, the Sexual Harassment Yokai) in their March 4th, 1997, issue. It totaled 50 pages. Actually, this was the second chapter of the canceled "Kitaro Reidan" story, and may have been intended as a service to Mizuki's fans following the roughly 1-year gap in the stories.

Additionally, "Gegege no Kitaro Special Yokai Hyakkusen" (100 Yokai Battles) was serialized with the July, 1996, issue of Monthly Comic Bonbon (Kodansha Publishing) as an illustrated story, continuing to the April, 1998, issue. This was the last of the Kitaro manga to-date.

Starting as kamishibai, from rental books, through manga, as TV anime, and then to movies, from its birth 50 years ago Kitaro has appeared in all forms of media, making it an historically unique manga. No matter how much time passes, Kitaro will continue to be with us. While it's just one of Mizuki's many creations, it's one that I still want to enjoy.

Bottom right picture: From "Kitaro Reidan - Abenohou Rensou". The Kitaro group is pretty much absent from the first half of the story. In the second half, the characters appear in Mizuki's dreams.

Bottom left picture: From Monthy Manga Sunday's "Sekuhara Youkai Iyami". The yokai Iyami manipulates its victims through their sexual desires. The plan is to use "Yoroke electricity" to enhance sekuhara force. (Translator's note: The closest I can get for "yoroke" is "to stagger".)

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Well, this is the last Kitaro History entry. The DVD series only ran for 27 volumes (and one volume didn't have the history page). If you want to check out the full list of DVD reviews, click here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

History of Kitaro, #25



Any mistakes in the translation are mine and mine alone. All rights to the translation belong to Curtis H. Hoffmann. Please do not reproduce without permission. All images used here for review purposes only.

Kitaro during the 80's and 90's
The hugely successful third season anime, and the freewheeling "Kuni Touri Monogatari" (Country Stealing Story)

One month after the airing of the "Gegege no Kitaro" TV series, in the summer of 1985, Mizuki Pro started drawing "Saishinban Gegege no Kitaro" (The Latest Version of Gegege Kitaro) for Monthly Comic Bonbon. "Saishinban" was used in the name because, at that time, there were multiple versions available in tankoubon (collected book) form.

Then, in October, 1985, season 3 of the TV anime started. There was an increase in heroic action, and Kitaro's character became more rounded and competent in multiple fields. It was a big hit, with a peak TV rating of 29.6%. This was followed by the beginning of "Shinpen Gegege no Kitaro" (New Edition Gegege Kitaro) with the May 7, 1986, issue of Weekly Shonen Magazine. Here, the story returned to the extermination of malevolent yokai, and the introduction of many new enemies.

"Kitaro Jigoku-pen" (Kitaro Hell Edition) ran with the June, 1987, issue of Monthly Shonen Magajin, for a total of 180 pages and 4 chapters. Kitaro is established as being half-human, half-yokai, and he plans on traveling to hell (the after world) to visit his mother. While Nezumi Otoko is not a half-yokai, the two of them secretly change birth statuses (trans. note: not sure about this part).

With the Nov., 1990, issue of Monthly Comic Bonbon, we get the 17 chapter, 527 page "Kitaro Kuni Touri Monogatari" (Kitaro Country Stealing Story), then continued in Monthly Comic Bonbon Deluxe with the May, 1992, issue for another 331 pages (11 chapters). In this series, we're introduced to Netarou ("Ne" is the kanji for "sleep"), a yokai relative treated as Kitaro's older brother. Plus, we get mole people, Gaikotsu Bebi- (Skeleton Baby) and other highly individual characters. Kitaro wants to visit the underground empire of Mu, there's the reappearance of Nurarihon, and lots of wild hijinks.

Additionally, with the Feb., 1992, issue of Terebi (TV) Magazine, we get the 35 chapter "Gegege no Kitaro Yokai Fushigi Hanashi" (Gegege Kitaro Curious Yokai Stories). These were short 2-3 page emaki (set up like picture scrolls) aimed at lower school-grade readers. At this time, Shigeru Mizuki founded the "Koufuku Kansatsu Gakkai" (Happiness Observation Association) for the worldwide research of yokai, and participated in a variety of other activities.

There were plans to start work on the fourth series of the TV anime in 1991, but these fell through. This series did actually begin in 1996; however, since it was not in collaboration with any of the magazine manga, the stories were all original to the anime.

Next time: The Final Chapter - Kitaro from "Kitaro Raidan" (Kitaro Spirit Group) on up.

Bottom right picture: From the Monthly Shonen Magajin Kitaro Jigoku-pen. This episode was created for the third season TV series, and ran for 7 shows in the 1988 anime.

Bottom left picture: Kitaro and gang make plans for the trip to the underground empire of Mu in Kitaro Kuni Touri Monogatari. There's a yokai sumo showdown, among other wild events.

Monday, May 5, 2014

History of Kitaro, #24



Any mistakes in the translation are mine and mine alone. All rights to the translation belong to Curtis H. Hoffmann. Please do not reproduce without permission. All images used here for review purposes only.

"Kitaro" in the first half of the 1980's.
From the "Kitaro" of social satire to the extremely rare "Paper Wrapper Publications".

In the first half of the 80's, Mizuki was still searching for a solution for "Kitaro". "Daibora Kitaro" (Big "Bora" Kitaro) ran for 5 chapters starting with the April 18, 1980, volume of Monthly DONDON magazine. Heavily tinged with social satire, Kitaro joins the "Bakemon Kumiai" (Monster Association) and sells "Kanzen Sha" (The Perfect Car), and Nezumi Otoko becomes a "Kaiketsuya" (solutions broker) (Kaiketsu Kurozukin (Wonderman Black Hood)), discussing various worries. These works show Shigeru Mizuki's pen work aimed at adults.

Also in the same year, with the Aug. issue of Monthly Boy's Popi- (Poppy?), "Yukihime-chan to Gegege no Kitaro" (Snow Princess and Gegege Kitaro) ran for 11 chapters. The story establishes that Kitaro has a younger sister, Yuki-hime. While babysitting, Kitaro is involved with various events and his yokai power is slowly absorbed by Yuki-hime. We also get appearances by Nise-Kitaro (Fake Kitaro), a space alien and Kuso-sennin (Crap Master).

This is a fun manga that includes remakes of the rental book works "Kyuuketsuki to Nekomusume" (Vampire Tree and Cat Girl) and "Jigoku no Sampomichi" (Promenade to Hell). While there was also the special edition of Weekly Boy's King, it was discontinued in June the following year, and Mizuki's manga was inevitably canceled as well. This was unfortunate timing. In the next year, Mizuki was looking for new work in the war journal magazine Monthly Maru ("Maru" is "circle", as well as a reference to the Japanese flag). He drew 4 pages for the April, 1982, edition of "Norakuro's Big War". (Note: Norakuro (Black stray dog) is a famous military manga featuring dogs as soldiers, by Suiho Tagawa.)

In 1983, Glico, with their Gag Make Bubblegum, offered special "Obake Bungu" (Monster Stationery) pamphlets. They had 8 versions of a sales promotions paper wrapper containing 2-panel manga. Of these, 2 sheets, "Miira Otoko Konpasu" (Mummy Compass) and "Nekomata Jikanwari" (2-tailed Cat Timetable) included Kitaro in them. Probably, very few people have seen these wrappers, and it'd be a miracle if anyone actually still has copies.

Then, in May, 1985, "Shougakukan Nyuumon Hyakka Shiri-zu no Tengoku - Jugoku Nyuumon" (Elementary School Primer Study Series, Warden Kitaro's Guide to Hell) contained "Kitaro no Jigoku Meguri" (Kitaro's Circumference of Hell). Aimed at the lower school grades, Kitaro provides information about the various aspects of Jigoku (Japanese version of the afterlife). Additionally, in Aug. of the same year Getsuyo Doramarando (Monday Drama Land) televised the filming of "Gegege no Kitaro".

Regardless of the era, Kitaro remains familiar to everyone. This is verified by it's continued presence from this point.

Next time, "Kitaro from the second half of the 80's to the 90's".

Bottom right picture:
"Daibora Kitaro", from the Complete Volume. This recalls "Kareha" (Dead Leaves) from the "Salaryman Shinigami" series, and the "Shinigami and Binbogami" episode from the second anime series.

Bottom left picture:
"Yukihime-chan and Gegege Kitaro". Nise-Kitaro and "The Other World" TV special program are from the rental book "Kitaro Night Stories" chapter, "Vampire Tree and Neko Musume".

Sunday, April 20, 2014

History of Kitaro, #23



Any mistakes in the translation are mine and mine alone. All rights to the translation belong to Curtis H. Hoffmann. Please do not reproduce without permission. All images used here for review purposes only.

"Gegege no Kitaro Chousen Shiri-zu" (Gegege Kitaro Challenge Series)
Stories of Kitaro's attempts to solve the world's various mysteries

The pattern of "Kitaro" stories was set in place in the boy's magazines. However, in the latter half of the 70's, Mizuki began exploring the young men's (seinen) magazine market. About one month after the ending of the run in Shuukan Jitsuwa (Weekly True Stories), the Gegege no Kitaro Challenge Series started in Weekly Manga Sunday with the Aug. 16, 1977, issue for a total of 10 chapters (3 volumes). Here, Kitaro and company face a number of the world's mysteries.

In volume 1, "UFO no Himitsu" (The UFO Secret), aliens (underground dwellers) make their appearance. They create a peaceful utopia underground, which they protect by ensuring that the humans on the surface are wrapped up in their own discords. They send up a group of dead to create strife. The lesson of this story is, "If both sides fight, neither can be happy". While Kitaro defeats the dead, mankind remains ignorant to the solution of the UFO mystery by the end of the tale.

Volume 2, "Taiko no Himitsu" (Ancient Secret), the editorial department runs a strong adult-themed front page illustration. Mizuki Pro studios has been taken over by a licentious Youko (Fox spirit). The fox spirit eventually causes a suicidal person to actually die and in response an angry religious pilgrim confronts the Youko in a lengthy, grand sex battle.

The next story was a remake of the 5-chapter "Majo Monro-" (Monroe the Witch)  which ran in Comic & Comic from Oct. 31, 1973. In "Chijoue no Himitsu" (Geoglyph Secret), volume 3, a space ship kidnaps 1,000 of earth's beautiful women. Kitaro and gang are enlisted to save them, so they visit Easter Island, some of South America's ancient ruins, and other locations before tracking down a witch and freeing up both the women and some ancient Incans.

In this series, Mizuki Pro constantly sets out on adventure trips to investigate the paranormal, as if to show Mizuki's own belief that the world is filled with mysteries waiting to be seen.

Next, Kitaro returned to Weekly Shonen Magazine in the Apr. 9, '78 issue, for an 8-year run, to mark it's 20th year anniversary. This was "Kaettekita Hi-ro-(1) Hakaba no Kitaro Tokubetsu Dousetsu Umibouzu Sensei" (Returning Hero (1) - Kitaro of the Graveyard, Special Edition, Umibouzu Teacher). It's a satire on schools that are too strict, and a statement that new technology can't buy happiness. Thus, the 1970's marked a period in which Mizuki experimented with a variety of approaches to the Kitaro series in order to attract readers.

Next time - "The 1980's Kitaro"

Bottom Right Picture: From "Kitaro of the Graveyard, Special Edition, Umibouzu Teacher". The "Guillotine Classroom" and "Puncturing Holes in You with an Awl if You Don't Get 100 Points on a Test", as criticism of overly strict Japanese teaching methods.

Bottom Left Picture: From the "Gegege Kitaro Challenge Series", "Geoglyph Secrets". Politicians approach Kitaro to help get back the 1,000 kidnapped beauties.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

History of Kitaro, #22



Any mistakes in the translation are mine and mine alone. All rights to the translation belong to Curtis H. Hoffmann. Please do not reproduce without permission. All images used here for review purposes only.

The Shuukan Jitsuwa (Weekly True Stories) Kitaro Series.
Publications in general interest magazines, the unconventional Kitaro gang

We'll look at other intermittent publications of the Kitaro series following the end of the Weekly Shonen Sunday run. The full-blown revival in the Shuukan Jitsuwa magazine started in 1977. It is divided into 3 parts. First, in "Zoku Gegege no Kitaro" (The Gegege Kitaro Sequel), Kitaro appears in a sweater, rather than his signature chanchanko (striped vest). While attending "Haka no Shita Koukou" (High School Below the Grave), Kitaro hits puberty and is drawn as looking very gloomy.

While "Kitaro" was a unique creation, there were people that felt uncomfortable about it. Noticing this discomfort, but having differing views about it, Mizuki and the editorial department set out to produce part 2 in 1978: "Shin Gegege no Kitaro Supo-tsu-kyou Jidai - Suumo no Maki" (New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - The Sumo Chapter) in a daring change of pace. Tired of living in the mountains, Kitaro receives an invitation to come live with his aunt in Tokyo. Taking a sweater woven from souls, and after receiving a blood transfusion, Kitaro is turned into a normal human. From here, the story lifts parts from the "Ninja Secret Arts" rental book series "Ponta the Tanuki" chapter.

The story: Momoko, a female vampire, wants to get Kitaro's ESP powers. Kitaro fights Dracula and his minions, then without knowing why sets out to become a successful sumo wrestler. Momoko and the others succeed in draining him of half his blood and it's injected into Momoko. Following this, Momoko is chosen to become the next Miss Japan. The adventure ends with Kitaro and Momoko facing off against each other in the Sumo ring, and after a disturbance, Kitaro is banished from Sumo society. He then joins Nezumi Otoko on an aimless journey of Japan.

Part 3, "Shin Gegege no Kitaro Supo-tsu-kyou Jidai - Yakuu no Maki" (New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - The Baseball Chapter). Kitaro returns to the high school and joins the baseball club as their pitcher. While many of the yokai from the much earlier Kitaro works make their reappearances here, the plot is not recycled from those works. In the story, a Yakuza boss and various yokai via for Kitaro's super-human ESP abilities, and they're ultimately stunned at finding themselves being taken to Hell.

These works are an obvious example of Mizuki's motto, "Anything goes as long as it's interesting" at play. Nonetheless, after a year and a half, the experiment of bringing Kitaro-styled adventures to a general interest magazine was probably a good one.

Next time, the "Kitaro Chousen" (Kitaro Challenge) Series

Bottom right picture:
From the New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - Sumo Chapter. Facing off against the vampire Momoko. (Reprinted with permission from Kadokawa Books.)

Bottom left picture:
From the New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - Baseball Chapter. Tantanbou and Odoro Odoro also make their appearances. (Reprinted with permission from Kadokawa Books.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

History of Kitaro, #21



Any mistakes in the translation are mine and mine alone. All rights to the translation belong to Curtis H. Hoffmann. Please do not reproduce without permission. All images used here for review purposes only.

"Death God War Record" and "Ghost Trip in Kitaro's World"
Kitaro's Character changes with the times.

Let's look at Kitaro in the mid-70's. First, both volumes of the Gakken "Shinigami Daisenki" (Death God Big War Record) gekiga (dramatic manga) collection. Mizuki drew a dramatization of Genshin's "Ojouyoushuu" (Essentials of Birth in the Pure Land) with writing by Kiyoshi Miyata. In the story, after leading the southern island in "Sono go no Gegege no Kitaro" (see History #20), Kitaro returns home. In order to stop the western world's monsters from their plan to rule the entire universe, Mizuki himself and 12 children set out to retrieve the Unicorn Mirror from hell and deliver it to Buddha.

In drawing "The Other World" and "The World of Hell", he also put himself into the work, adding a dark influence from the feeling of life and death, and deep philosophy. Continuing, "Gegege no Kitaro - Lotus Empire" appeared in the July, 1977, issue of Short Story Magazine. Here, Kitaro gets a request from Enmaoh (Gate Keeper to Hell) to travel to the past to save the Buddhist monk Jianzhen.

Then, in Weekly Shonen Action, from Jan. 26, 1976 to Aug. 23, we have "Kitaro no Sekai Obake Ryokou" (Kitaro's World Ghost Trip). This time, Kitaro receives a baseball cap, then travels around the world, from the northern polar ice cap to Africa, defeating yokai.  After which, he returns home.

Also during this period, in the July, 1976, issue of Monthly Shonen Jump, in #4 of the "Eien no Seisaku Shiri-zu" (Immortal Masterpieces Series), was the publication of "Akuma-kun - Waru wo Horobose!! no Maki" (Akuma-kun - Destroy the Evil!! chapter). This is a sequel to "Akuma-kun no Fukkatsu! Sennen Ohkoku" (Akuma-kun's Revival! The 1,000 Year Empire), where Akuma dies. After unifying Hell, Akuma decides to return to the surface to unify humankind. The government dispatches Kitaro to defeat Akuma. This is a dream match-up of two very popular characters. On a side note, the title of the collected volume of the manga was changed to "Kitaro vs. Akuma-kun".  We can see through this comparison how one of Mizuki's characters evolved over time to fit the changing tastes of society, and Mizuki's own changing preferences.

Then, on Nov. 25, 1976, Play Comic published their "Kaettekite Hi-ro- Shiri-zu" (Returning Hero Series), which included "Hakaba no Kitaro". The story speculates that western yokai were behind the scenes of the Lockheed Scandal. These yokai have heard that Kitaro has a weakness for beautiful women, and they try to use that to manipulate him, but he's saved by Backbeard. Backbeard became Kitaro's friend in "Kitaro's Vietnam War Record".

Next time: The Shuukan Jitsuwa (Weekly True Stories) Kitaro Series

Bottom Right Picture: From "Shinigami Big War Record". This work has the same appearance of Mizuki as in "The Other World", with his opinions on life and death, and deep philosophy.

Bottom Left Picture: "Akuma-kun - Destroy the Evil!!" (titled "Kitaro vs. Akuma-kun" for the collected manga volume), showing the confrontation between Akuma-kun, newly returned from hell, and the yokai army.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dinner with Witch & Shigeru Mizuki

There have been a couple manga worth paying attention to in Big Comic Original recently. The first is a 4-page short story from Shigeru Mizuki (Gegege no Kitaro) regarding a flashback he had back to when he was serving in the Japanese army during WW II. The other is a 32-page stand-alone story titled Dinner With a Witch, by Rumiko Takahashi, that is part of Original's 40th anniversary celebrations. I don't have time to translate the dialog, so I'll just put a link to the scans here.

----- Spoilers -----

If you can't read Japanese and you want to know what's going on in the two stories:

Mizuki is dreaming that he's back in the army, and his superior officer has just given him a pistol and orders to shoot himself in the head.  

In the other story, a company president is mourning the passing of his wife. Later, he's at a dinner event where a strange, beautiful woman accidentally spills food on him. To apologize, she gives him a necktie, and invites him to have dinner at different restaurants with her. She eats like a horse but never gains weight. On the other hand, he's starting to pack on the pounds. Pretty soon, the woman is showing up on TV a lot as a talent. One day, the guy's cleaning woman is at his house and she notices the mystery woman on TV and asks if her boss believes in witches. She then asks if the mystery woman has given him anything. He hands over the tie, and she finds a strand of the woman's hair in it. She cuts the tie in two and it goes up in flames. The explanation is that the woman used transfer magic so that she'd get the calories from him, and he'd get her calories, which work out to be 500cal.  versus 5000 cal. That night, the mystery woman calls the guy to a hotel room and puts a new tie on his neck and says that she wants him to get even fatter. Then, the cleaning woman, dressed up as a bell hop, enters the room and sprays the witch with champagne formulated to reverse her spell. The witch runs away screaming. The cleaning woman explains that she's also a witch and is in fact the person that had taught the younger woman everything. The story wraps up with the president, still fat, enjoying himself at a ramen restaurant with his workers.