Sunday, December 15, 2013

History of Kitaro, #14

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.

Weekly Shonen Magajin "Kitaro", Part 2.
Magajin and Toei: Mizuki's tenacity pays off with the release of the anime

With the completion of the Kitaro "Youkai Jou" (Yokai Castle) story, an opening arose with Bessatsu Shonen Magajin, so "Kyuuketsuki no Eri-to no maki" (Elite the Vampire Volume) started with the April 7th, 1967, issue. This story was a remake combining the rental book stories "Kiri no Naka no Joni-" (Johnny in the Mist) and "Naisho no Hanashi" (Secret Conversation), which was a masterpiece at 7 chapters and 120 pages. During its peak, Kitaro and the Yokai Castle were featured on the cover of the June 18, 1967, issue (#25). In that same year, Kitaro appeared on the covers of issues 32, 34 and 41. These issues are now expensive collector's items at antique bookshops.

(Translator's Note: I previously wrote "Naisho no Hanashi" out as "Naisho no Monogatari", which was a mistake on my part.)

At the same time, Weekly Shonen Magajin was promoting both Akuma-kun and Hakaba no Kitaro. As Akuma-kun was being serialized, the anime version was being produced to boost Mizuki's popularity in preparation for the production of the Kitaro anime. All was going according to Magajin chief editor Katsu Uchida's plans. Finally, Toei Douga (now, Toei Animation) got the rights to Kitaro and Akuma-kun began airing on NET (now Asahi TV).  But, the Kitaro anime was delayed because of objections to having "Hakaba" (Graveyard) in the title.

However, Uchida did not give up. In order to change the title, he followed a daring plan. According to Mizuki later, "televising the show was more important than just maintaining the title".  The new title became Gegege no Kitaro, and Fuji TV kept the rights to televise it. To remain consistent, Magajin changed the manga title to Gegege no Kitaro starting with the Nov. 12, 1967, (#46) issue and the beginning of a new story. To digress, in breaking new ground with the airing of Kitaro, Toei Douga developed much stronger ties with Fuji TV, turning out successive hits. The success of the Gegege no Kitaro anime was a big triumph for Toei.

Next time, Weekly Shonen Magajin, "Kitaro" Part 3.

Picture bottom right: Cover of the June 18, 1967, (#25) issue of Weekly Shonen Magajin. It includes Kitaro and the Yokai Castle. Incidentally, this was when chapter 7 of the "Elite the Vampire Volume" was published.

Picture bottom left: Beginning of the serialization of Akuma-kun, and the cover of the Jan. 1, 1966 (#1) issue of Weekly Shonen Magajin. This is when Kitaro started running intermittently.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

History of Kitaro, #13

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.

Weekly Shonen Magajin - Kitaro, Part 1
Finally, the beginning of serialization of "Kitaro" in a boy's magazine

Weekly Shonen Magajin quietly began the irregular serialization of "Hakaba Kitaro" at the back half of the magazine. At the time, Kitaro would wander the country and resolve various incidents. Shigeru Mizuki used Kunio Yanagita's Youkai Discourse as the source of the names of his good yokai, and Sekien Toriyama's Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Demons for the bad yokai. Additionally, as part of the plan to tie in with the TV anime, "Akuma-kun" also began serialization in Magajin in 1966, and filming started on the TV series.

The "Kyuuketsuki" (Vampire Tree) storyline started in the April 3, 1966 issue, based on "Suijin-Sama ga machi e yattekita" (Mr. Water-god Goes to Town) from volume 3 of the Kitaro Night Stories rental books. Then from April 17, 1966 (issue 15), Hakaba Kitaro started gaining traction. Also with volume 4, in the long-running "Yokai Daisakusen" (Yokai Big War), we get the concept of "Kitaro's Family", although the characters don't yet demonstrate definable individual traits. "Daikaijuu" (Big Sea Monster), which ran from May 22nd (issue 20) to issue 7 (of the following year) was a "power-up" of the "Naisho no Monogatari" (Secret Conversation). The frontispiece for this story is a classic masterpiece for a boy's magazine. His popularity slowly growing, Mizuki scored the cover of the June 12, #23 issue. "Youkai Jou" (Yokai Castle) appeared in issues 40 and 41, and included the exquisite yokai army of Niguchi Onna (2-mouthed woman), Kamaitachi (Weasel Trio) and Tantanbou (Violent Boy). The deft interweaving of the Nezumi Otoko-Chanchanko (Japanese Vest) storyline went over well with the readers. The drawing of the castle is so well-done that even now it feels like the monsters are really going to step out of the page. Young readers actively anticipated the release of the next issue. 20 chapters for Kitaro appeared in Weekly Shonen Magajin from 1965 to '66, totaling 326 pages.

From there, after nearly half a century has passed, there have been "Kitaro Booms", which have probably surprised even its creator. Through the interweaving of different people's fates, the impact of Shigeru Mizuki's character and personality on others has grown.

Next issue, Weekly Shonen Magajin - Kitaro, part 2

Picture on bottom right: Weekly Shonen Magajin, April 3rd, 1966, issue #13, with the publication of Vampire Tree. A reworking of Mr. Water-God Goes to Town, from the Kitaro Night Stories rental book.

Picture on bottom left: Weekly Shonen Magajin, Oct. 9th, 1966, issue #40. Niguchi Onna (2-Mouthed Woman) was renamed Ooguchi Onna (Big-Mouthed Woman) for the 1960's TV anime series.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

History of Kitaro, #12

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.

Before and After Winning the Kodansha Award for Children's Manga
The irregular serialization of "Hakaba Kitaro" in Weekly Shonen Magajin

With the switch of the title from "Graveyard Kitaro" to "Gegege no Kitaro", the subject matter also changed and was gradually geared more for children. Then, world-wide interest shifted to monster and ghost fads, and the timing was finally right for "Kitaro" to find its niche.

At the time, there were two fans of Shigeru Mizuki's who wanted to call more attention to his rental book manga. They started up a newspaper column, which led to the following related episode. The day after they collected data on Mizuki for the article, suddenly Shigeru himself appeared in the newspaper offices. He then said "I can't go back to doing rental book manga, so stop bad-mouthing my publishers and editors", and he left. Three days later, he said the same thing at a print shop. The reason was that his "Terebi-kun" manga had been nominated for a Kodansha children's manga award, and he was worried that Kodansha would start paying closer attention to articles being written about him. "Like waking up after last night's dream, I was afraid of losing my shot at the award." Therefore, after looking at the newspaper galleys, he was reassured, and left with his bag over his left shoulder.

After getting the award, he was suddenly in great demand and his works were appearing everywhere. Rather than turning down any of the offers for contracts, he was ultimately forced to break up his workload.

Therefore, from Aug. 1, 1965 (vol. 32) on up, "Hakaba Kitaro" ran sporadically in Weekly Shonen Magajin. We know that Mizuki would remake certain stories that kept his interest. The irregular manga were: #32, "Hand" (手), a reworking of the rental book title "Bizarre One-Round Contest" (怪奇一番勝負). #38, "Yasha" (夜叉) came from "Hakaba Kitaro (2) - Lodging House" (墓場鬼太郎(2)・下宿屋). #42, "Cruising to Hell" (地獄流し) was originally "Black Magazine (2) - World in the Water Drop" (黒のマガジン(2)・水品玉の世界). Also, "Cat Sage" (猫仙人"), which ran in issues #44 and #45, was mixed together from "Plastic Man", "Strong Man (4) - Plastic Boy" (プラスチックマン and 鉄人(4)・プラスチックボーイ), and the concept from "That Odd Person" (おかしな奴). You should compare them side-by-side with the original rental books. The sporadic Kitaro release ended with the original story "Obake Nighter" (おばけナイター) in issue 46.

Next up: "Weekly Shonen Magazine - Kitaro (1)"

Picture at bottom right:
One of the remakes, this one from the "Plastic Man" rental book. Plastic Man moves like rubber towards Neko Sennin (Cat Sage).

Picture at bottom left:
From Weekly Shonen Magazine #46, "Obake Nighter". It wasn't based on an earlier work, but it was turned into the first TV episode for season 1.

Monday, October 21, 2013

History of Kitaro, #11

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.

Mizuki's Watershed, Part 2 - The making of "Akuma-kun" and the secret of "Gegege"

According to Weekly Shonen Magajin reader surveys, Mizuki's Graveyard Kitaro was consistently at the very bottom of the rankings. Especially with the earlier chapters, the feeling of an "underground comic" was very strong, and readers accustomed to story manga couldn't follow his plotting or were put off by his unique art style. If the former chief editor had still been in charge, regardless of an artist's success, if their manga was ranked at the bottom 3 times in a row, their contract would be canceled. However, chief editor Katsu Uchida had faith that Shigeru Mizuki's bloodcurdling art would catch on eventually.

At about that time, Mizuki was again smiled on by fortune, in the form of Toei's TV department's leader, Ryoutoku Watanabe. With the popularity of the TV anime version of Marude Dameo, Watanabe was looking at creating a synergy with a mixed TV lineup. And, he found in Uchida a kindred spirit. They decided that the next Weekly Shonen Magajin title to be animated would be, without question, Hakaba Kitaro. The two of them approached the various TV stations, but the responses were "it's too creepy" or "no one will sponsor it".  So, Watanabe changed tactics. If they could produce a relatively gentler Mizuki work first, they'd be able to push Kitaro after that. That's when they decided to film Akuma-kun.

Weekly Shonen Magajin immediately started serializing Akuma-kun and the TV anime began airing soon after. Finally, when work was to start on animating Hakaba Kitaro, the sponsors objected to "Hakaba" (Graveyard) as being too dark. In a bold move intended to express the nature of the stories, the title was changed to Gegege no Kitaro (note: gegege is the sound some people make when they encounter something scary). The common view is that "gegege" was used because Mizuki was nicknamed "gege" as a child, or that it's related to the "gegege no ge" chorus sung by the insects in the last scenes of the manga. However, before the anime was released, Magajin produced an LP record called "Weekly Shonen Magajin - Big Manga Collection". One song with lyrics by Shigeru Mizuki and music from Taku Izumi may have been a big influence on the show's name.

Next up - Before and After Winning the Kodansha Award for Children's Manga

Bottom right picture:
Hakaba Kitaro began serialization in the 8/1/65 volume (#32) of Weekly Shonen Magajin with the story "Te" (Hand). For a while, it was very unpopular with readers.

Bottom left picture:
Akuma-kun began serialization with the 1/1/66 volume (#1) of the same magazine. The TV anime started in October of the same year, and a total of 26 episodes were aired.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

History of Kitaro, #10

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.

Mizuki's Watershed, Part 1
From the Decline of the Rental Books to the encounter with Monthly Garo and Weekly Boy's Magajin.

In 1965, Shigeru Mizuki's life had reached a crossroads, but he wasn't willing to give up manga yet. Drawing manga for Tokyo Hino no Maru (Rising Sun) Books and Sato Pro, Mizuki was never able to build up a readership and he was getting pegged in the rental manga industry as being unmarketable. Rather than drawing for the readers (young working males), Mizuki created only what he wanted, so of course he wasn't going to sell well. At about this time, Monthly Garo magazine founding editor Katsuichi Nagai bought the rights to several stories for Ninpou Higo (Secret Ninja Techniques). Incidentally, many of the big magazine publishers were looking for new artists and picking up people from the rental manga field. Sanpei Shirato (Legend of Kamui), Kazuo Umezz (Fourteen, Drifting Classroom) and Shinichi Koga (Wizard of Darkness) were all hired as magazine illustrators this way. However, it was still rare for rental manga artists to become successful.

Masaru Uchida was the new chief editor at Weekly Shonen Magajn, and was constantly involved in meetings and program planning. One of the editors that he met this way was Shouji Ootomo. Ootomo told Uchida about the special effects drama produced by Tsuburaya Studios for TBS TV - "Ultra Q". He went to see the series at TBS for a private screening, and felt that it was in the same vein as Toho Studio's Godzilla movies. But, the monster designs were very popular with kids, so he became interested in planning something similar for his magazine.

While there was resistance within the editorial department, the publication of the feature article "The Monsters of the Ultra Q TV movies" was well-received by the readers. This marked a turning point in Japanese magazine editing, where the editors "Think from the point of view of the readers", and is the beginning of Shonen Magajin's "Great Leap Forward" in popularity. Using this same argument, Uchida decided to publish the cherished Hakaba Kitaro manga. Kitaro was unlike all other story manga at the time in terms of plot, character designs, pacing and atmosphere. There was some hesitation regarding Mizuki's ability to work minus his left arm, but this was overcome in time. There was merit in betting on this one-armed manga artist, and chief editor Uchida had faith in him.

Next time - "Mizuki's Watershed, Part 2", The beginning of serialization in Weekly Shonen Magajin.

Bottom right picture
Mizuki wrote 16 Ninpou Higo stories. In contrast to the mainstream ninja action stories at the time, Mizuki used sarcasm to comment on the human condition.

Bottom left picture
"The Monsters of the Ultra Q TV movies" from the 12/26/1965 issue of Weekly Shonen Magajin. This was used as the impetus for serializing Hakaba Kitaro.

Monday, September 23, 2013

History of Kitaro, #9

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.

Rental Book Era, Part 9 - "I'm a New Student" and "The Stupid Man".
Appearance of Mizuki himself in the manga.
Introduction of the last 2 rental book stories.

These two stories were also published by Satoh Pro.

"I'm a New Student": Manga artist Shigeru Mizuki gets into a disagreement with a yakuza thug in a coffee shop. Nezumi Otoko starts out the story by admonishing the two with "Stop fighting, I'm hungry". From here, Kitaro and Nezumi want to turn Mizuki's manga into a play. They move into Mizuki's house in Chofu (near Tokyo) which then gets the "Brigadoon Effect" (disappearing from the face of the Earth). A girl, Caroline, gets into a love triangle with Nezumi and Kitaro. Later, Gamoshi, a monster who wants to create a country of monsters, shows up. The heroes have a showdown against Gamoshi, who uses a "Brigadoon" monster cannon on them. At the end, Medama Oyaji reverses the cannon, and Chofu is returned back to normal in the land of the living.

In this story, Mizuki addresses the idea that in the distant past, humans and monsters had lived together but fell into discord, and the result was the creation of separate worlds for humans and yokai.

"The Stupid Man": In this, the last Kitaro rental book, the leading actor is Nezumi Otoko. A yakuza searches a hospital regarding "immortality blood". He proves that it is monster blood. Nezumi Otoko, who had sold the blood, is looking at making more money by creating a "hair restorer"... Kitaro, wanting to live in human society, starts the door-to-door selling of after-life insurance. "For a minor installment payment plan, you can guarantee that you will have happiness in the next world". At that moment, in the other world, the yokai are sending out tickets to the Yokai Olympics. Manga artist Mizuki buys one ticket. He turns into a spirit and goes to the other world to watch the games. But, when he returns to our world, he discovers Nise-Mizuki (fake-Mizuki) living in his place.

Back during that period, while society as a whole was enjoying gradually improving living conditions, Mizuki himself couldn't escape working-poverty. This resulted in a "rebellious scar in his heart", that helped him produce many bitingly satirical short stories.

Next time, From Rental Books to Magazine Serials - "The Mizuki Watershed, Part 1"

(Lower right picture)
"I'm a New Student", (publication starting in 1964). A few of the characters appearing here are altered in the rewrite, which was also turned into an anime for the first TV season.

(Lower left picture)
"The Stupid Man", (publication starting in 1964). Another version of "The Stupid Man" also exists, in which Kitaro has a little sister.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

History of Kitaro, #8

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.

Rental Book Era #7, "Secret Conversation" and "That Odd Person"
The predecessor to "Dai Kaijuu" (Big Sea Monster), and Kitaro, the Bizarre Incident Investigator.

After Izumi Books went bankrupt in 1962, Shigeru Mizuki drew a number of fantasy books and illusionary romance series installments. In 1964, his "Naisho no Hanashi" (Secret Conversation) story was released by Toukousha, "Japan's smallest publishing company". The president, Sakurai Shouichi, was a former manga artist. He was the older brother of the founder of the gekiga manga movement, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and the model for Mizuki's bucktoothed, glasses-wearing Yamada character. Sakurai held Mizuki in great esteem, and Shigeru in turn trusted Sakurai, producing various rental book, short story and romance series manga for him, including his masterpiece "Akuma-kun". Now, let's look at "Naisho no Hanashi", and the Satoh Pro version of "Okashina Yatsu".

"Naisho no Hanashi" (Secret Conversation) - Nezumi Otoko goes to a battered old town and buys a dried-up human soul. However, Kitaro eats it and the next day his body melts. To restore him, Medama Oyaji (Father Eyeball) and Nezumi carry the liquid body up to the yokai hospital on Osore-zan mountain. On the ascent, a snowstorm hits and Medama takes refuge in the hut of a guy named Yamada. The story changes; Aomori University's genius student, Yamada, and someone named Muraoka, are participating in a scientific expedition to New Guinea to search for Geijin (or Kujira-kami - Whale God). Geijin attacks the party and pretty much wipes it out. Nezumi obtains some of Geijin's blood, and he and the surviving member, Muraoka, inject it into Yamada. Yamada immediately turns into Geijin. At the yokai hospital, Kitaro has been restored to normal. Also there is Yamada in Geijin form. Kitaro has "clean blood" injected into the patient, and Yamada turns human again. This story was later rewritten as "Dai Kaijuu" (Big Sea Monster) and serialized in Weekly Shonen Magajin.

"Okashina Yatsu" (That Odd Person) - Published by Satoh Pro. The prologue is a retelling of "Hakaba Kitaro's" birth (when he still had 2 eyes). In this story, Kitaro has a sign hung at his door announcing him as a "Bizarre Incident Investigator". This time, his client's lover has been possessed by a "suspicious person", and trapped inside a painting. What sets Kitaro apart from other manga is that we see him partaking in normal everyday activities. This story was also rewritten for magazine serialization and the scenes made more fragmented.

Next time: The Rental Book Era, Part 8 - "I'm a New Student" and "The Stupid Man"

(Picture on the right)
"Okashina Yatsu" (started in 1964). A remake of Kitaro's birth and Nezumi Otoko's first appearance. The second half was remade as "Onmaragi" (Shadow Penis Demon).

(Picture on the left)
"Naisho no Hanashi" (started in 1964). Geijin's form as a Zeuglodon shows up in "Daikaijuu" unchanged as a Basilosaurus.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

History of Kitaro, #7

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 Rental Book Era #6, "Bizarre Contest" and "Johnny in the Mist"
The 2 Unique Kitaros, Both Weird and Filled with Illusions.

After reconciling with Izumi Books, Mizuki drew the full 8 volumes of "Sanpei the Kappa". Then, in 1962 he started up the new "Bizarre Contest". The title didn't include "Kitaro" in order to avoid conflicts with Kankou Takeuchi's "Graveyard Kitaro", which was still running through Izumi. The idea of a publisher having two competing brands with the same character may seem strange, but Izumi was teetering on the edge of collapse and didn't really have much of a choice. Let's now introduce the two stories.

"Bizarre Contest" - Just as unique as "Kitaro Night Stories", and the weird atmosphere is just as strong. Looking for a place to live, an unsuccessful manga artist falls in with a gangster named "Kinta", and the two of them evict Kitaro from his house. However, Kitaro throws the two into a "Jirase dream" (irritation dream). A phantom dream guide appears and says "your life in exchange for one volume of manga". It's not possible to simply sum up this story. In with the otherworldly pictures, there's the callous, nihilistic Kitaro. This series is similar to "Mizuki's Bizarre Manga" and has the same kind of absurd ending.

"Johnny in the Mist" - as is the case in all the other Kitaro stories, Nezumi Otoko is set to work against society. This time he's joined an anti-establishment group.

Johnny the Vampire demands the blood of celebrities, and he's targeted Prime Minister Ikida. Kitaro is hired to be Ikeda's bodyguard, and he tracks Johnny to his lair, but falls into some acid. Only his skull remains. Nezumi Otoko, who easily changes sides, sets the lair on fire and turns both it and Johnny to ash. Nezumi then wraps Kitaro's skull in a cloth and takes it to Mount Osore for restoration.

Manga artist Saburo Tsuyuki (real name: Gorou Sugimoto) was the model for Johnny. Tsuyuki drew the "Mummy Island" and "Parasite Man" rental books, and Mizuki had produced some of the covers for them. These two titles are now real collector's items.

Next time: The Rental Book Era, Part 7 - Toukou Company's version of "Kitaro"

(Translator's note: Using the kanji for "east" and "filial piety", Toukousha was a rental book company, but there's virtually nothing on it in English. Manga Updates lists one of their titles, from 1972, but that's about it. One artist mentioned in the Japanese wiki article is Yuu Takita, who had appeared frequently in Garo magazine from about 1967 to 1970. Another is Yoshiharu

(Picture on the right) "Bizarre Contest" (first published in 1962)
The information guide demon in the world of the "Irritation Dream". Mingling fear with the surreal, you can feel the nature of this wonderful place.

Dialog from right to left:
Artist: I don't think we want to talk to him now.
Gangster: I agree.
Guide: Let me know when you've decided.

(Picture on the left) "Johnny in the Mist" (first published in 1962)
Vampire Johnny shows up in the Season One anime in "Vampire Elite". His guitar sounds like "jan jan".

Thursday, August 22, 2013

History of Kitaro, #6

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 Rental Book Era, Part 5 - "Kitaro Night Stories #4"
Finally, the conclusion of "Kitaro Night Stories", and the fabled Volume #5 is...?
"Kitaro Night Stories #4" - "Kao no Naka no Teki" (The Enemy in the Face)

From the previous volume, while Suijin-sama (Mr. Water God) fought with Kitaro and friends on a roof near the Pacific Ocean, an air ship appears with Nezumi Otoko inside. He promises to save Kitaro and Nise-Kitaro only if they both promise to be his servants for life. However, in the air, the story soon changes. Nezumi Otoko has a first love - Gama Reijou (Beautiful Daughter Frog) - and she has a second suitor, a guy named Zentoruman (Gentleman). It's a love triangle. Eventually, Zentoruman fights Suijin-sama one-on-one and uses a "make water burn" process to exterminate Suijin. Afterward, the three guys - Kitaro, Zentoruman and Nezumi Otoku take a special train to "Tama Cemetery". The story ends with the line "Everyone is powerless in the face of Kitaro and his father's spiritual energy". The entire final volume is filled with strange heart-stopping twists and turns. Incidentally, Mizuki's anger at the guaranteed contract he'd had with Izumi Books pops up in a scene where Kitaro demands that his money is returned. "Even in the case of yokai, if you borrow money, pay it back!"

Although 3 volumes were initially planned, "Kitaro Night Stories" wasn't over yet. In fact, Mizuki had already drawn #5, "The Kame Otoko Chapter" (Turtle Man). At that point, even the rental book publishers were having a hard time staying in business, and would cancel payment on manuscripts (one manuscript was worth 30,000 yen, or about $100 USD). So, Mizuki would exchange his manuscript for money in-hand. However, Sanyo's president, Katsuichi Nagai fell ill and the company failed. During a later visit, Mizuki wanted to find out what would happen to his manuscript, but was afraid they'd demand their money back, so he decided to simply not ask.

The elusive story that fans are searching for: Medama Oyaji (Kitaro's father) eats a bakudan kashi (bomb candy) and turns into a giant. Mizuki recycled this story for the manga in Weekly Shonen Sunday, 11/14/1971, issue #47, and it was turned into the anime "Shinigami" (Death God), second season, episode 30.

Next time, The Rental Book Era, Part 6 - "Izumi Book's Hakaba Kitaro"

[Picture at the bottom right] From "The Enemy in the Face"
This is Reijou Gama, Nezumi Otoko's first love, and the object of Zentoruman's affections. One of her charms is the zipper on her mouth.

Caption: "I'll close it up like this now." (sfx: zip)

[Picture at the bottom left] Last page of "The Enemy in the Face"
The afterward says "Please wait for the very interesting "Kitaro Night Stories #5", advertising the release of the next book.

History of Kitaro, #5

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 Rental Book Era, Part 4 - "Kitaro Night Stories #2 and #3"
Getting overwhelming fan support
The "Kitaro" masterpiece of the rental book period

During the rental book period, "Kitaro Night Stories" ran for 672 pages in 4 volumes, which is more than what 5 rental books normally contained. Saying that this body of pages had nothing to do with the competition with Kankou Takeuchi's "Hakaba Kitaro" over at Izumi Books would be a lie. Therefore, Shigeru Mizuki had the right to brag about doing all of this by himself. In his pictures, we can see him putting his energy into his brush. Additionally, Sanyo's Katsuichi Nagai's favorable payment conditions (per finished page) was a major factor.

There are many fans that say that this "Night Stories" is Shigeru's masterpiece within the "Kitaro" collection. Incidentally, during this time, both of his parents were pushing him to get married. Anyway, let's summarize "Night Stories" #2 and #3.

With "Kitaro Night Stories #2" - "Promenade in Hell" - Medama Oyaji can sense Kitaro's feelings regarding Neko (kanji reads as "Sleeping Child"; in fact, she is Neko Musume (Cat Girl), who had died in volume 1) and he helps the boy travel to Hell. However, Nise-Kitaro (Fake Kitaro) had also fallen into the same Hell along with Neko. With Neko's help, Nise-Kitaro returns to the surface world and stops misbehaving.

The story now shifts and Kitaro encounters a Beatnik (reckless young people that emerged after the war and rebelled with rude language and behavior), and in retaliation to his severe treatment, Kitaro summons a group of yokai for a "sukiyaki party" (cooked beef with vegetables; implied that the beatnik is the main course). In this way, Kitaro extracts 1,000,000 yen (at the time worth maybe $3,000 USD, now is $10,000 USD) from him, but the money is stolen by Nezumi Otoko. Nezumi uses the cash to buy back the blood-sucking tree.

In "Kitaro Night Stories #3"  - "Suijin-sama" (Mr. Water God), Kitaro has fallen on hard times and has gotten work as a debt collector. He is visiting Suijin-sama to collect payment. Using an anesthetic, and having a water-based body, Suijin breaks free and then goes on a rampage across the city. It uses heavy rain and thick mud to attack Kitaro's house - which he calls Neko-shop. With the unfolding of the story and the entangled relationships therein, the reader becomes entranced as well. So, what happens to Kitaro and friends!? At the very height of the climax, the story ends.

[Bottom right picture] "Promenade in Hell" (1960)
After meeting Neko, Nise-Kitaro returns to the living. He shaves his head and lives a life of reflection on his past ways. Notice that in the narration, the kanji for "Kitaro" is given the reading "Onitarou" (Demon Boy).

(Caption: For some reason, there's a child that looks just like Onitarou.)
(Book: Family Register)

[Bottom left picture] "Suijin-sama tears up the town" (1960)
Turning into a giant water bubble, Suijin attacks the town with a dump truck. Shigeru Mizuki personally remade this story several times.

We apologize. In volume 3, "Kame no Maki" was incorrectly written as "Kane no Maki".

Next time, the Rental Book Era, #5 - "Kitaro Night Stories #4".

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

History of Kitaro, #4

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.

Rental Book Era, Part 3 - "Kitaro Night Stories"
Looking into the future with the true essence of yokai?

Sanyo Publishing's "Kitaro Night Stories" started up while Izumi Book's "Kitaro" continued its serialization. It's unusual for a story to keep running after a change in publishers, but maybe it was because this was still the age of rental books. At any rate, "Kitaro" was the work that Shigeru Mizuki really wanted to draw, and Sanyo's president, Katsuichi Nagai, rated it pretty highly. Izumi was located near Sanyo, and when Mizuki exited the first company, he went immediately to the second and said "here, please take this". Since he really needed the money, and he'd be allowed to draw "Kitaro" as he liked, it was a case of killing two birds with one stone.

"Kitaro #1" came out as a rental book tankoubon (collection), and was a long 176 pages. Chapter 1 was subtitled "Kyuuketsuki to Nekomusume" (The Vampire and Neko Musume). It was a perfect match of a view of modern society woven in with the introduction of Neko (Sleeping Child) and the presence of Nise-Kitaro (Fake Kitaro). In the story, Nezumi Otoko schemes to have Neko Musume shape-shift into a cat-girl in front of human witnesses so that she and Nise-Kitaro will then attempt suicide. The story is tightly organized, and Mizuki is obviously having fun drawing what he likes.

The subtitle was actually misprinted. Originally, the kanji for "demon" was supposed to be for "tree". ("Demon" and "tree" are both pronounced "ki", so phonetically each title would have sounded the same, but the meaning turned from "Blood-sucking Tree" to "Blood-sucking Demon", or "Vampire".) In the story, there's the line, "If you find a blood sucking tree and raise it in your house, then strange things start happening, you'll know you've crossed the line between the world of logic, and the world of insanity". This is the essence of Mizuki's view of yokai. It's not that you can understand or not understand something, but that there are many pockets of "the world we can not understand" scattered around our normal world. In "a world we don't understand", there will be yokai.  Conversely, if there aren't any yokai, then maybe our logic will work at that time.

Within the story, Nezumi Otoko steals the Chanchanko (Kitaro's yellow and black striped magical vest) and gives it to Nise-Kitaro, saying that with TV and movies becoming so popular, maybe they'll start making money soon. Was this a prediction of Kitaro's popularity as an anime starting up 8 years later and continuing on into the present?

Next time, the Rental Book Era, Part 4 - "Kitaro Night Stories #2 and #3"

[Bottom right picture] "Kitaro Night Stories #1" (1960)
The cover has written on it "A new work" plus "Volume 1". This time, the Kitaro that appears on the cover isn't as macabre and gloomy.

[Bottom left picture]
In this volume, Kitaro goes to elementary school. But, he smokes cigarettes, and his character as a supporter of the righteous is still far off. Ne-ko (Sleeping Girl, AKA: Neko Musume) makes her appearance here as one of Kitaro's classmates.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

History of Kitaro, #3

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.

Rental Book Era, Part 2 - "Graveyard Kitaro"
The 2 "Graveyard Kitaro" Rental Book Artists

During the rental book period, there was a second manga artist drawing "Hakaba Kitaro". He was Kankou Takeuchi. Like Shigeru Mizuki, Takeuchi also switched jobs from doing kamishibai.

Why were there two "Hakaba Kitaro" rental book collections at the same time?

Izumi Books canceled Mizuki's contract for poor performance, so he immediately moved over to Sanyo Publishing where he started work on "Kitaro Yobanashi" (Kitaro Night Stories). At the time, Izumi had 3 volumes of Mizuki's "Hakaba Kitaro" and they wanted to capitalize on this. As a last resort, they decided to continue pitching the short story collection under the same title. Kankou Takeuchi was brought on to draw "Hakaba Kitaro #4". Although the artist, character designs and story contents were going to change, the only requirement the editors had was that the readers would say "if it's interesting, then we'll accept it". Mizuki knew that Takeuchi was going to draw the manga for Izumi. However, while he didn't know of their kamishibai connection, he was aware of their similar circumstances. So, Takauchi's version of "Hakaba Kitaro" ran for 16 volumes. Readers comparing the two styles have carried on heated love-hate discussions of both versions.

As mentioned above, while Takeuchi worked on "Graveyard Kitaro", Shigeru Mizuki produced "Kitaro Night Stories" for Sanyo. 4 volumes were published by the end of 1960. Actually, there was a fifth - "Kane Otoko no Maki" (The Money Man). Unfortunately, Sanyo's president, Katsuichi Nagai, fell ill and was hospitalized. Without him, the company was dissolved and Mizuki's 5th manuscript was lost in the confusion. His continuation of Izumi's "Hakaba Kitaro" has been called a "masterpiece".
(Translator's note: It turns out that "Kane Otoko" was a misprint. A correction in a later volume says that it should have been "Kame Otoko" (Turtle Man).)

Next, Rental Book Era part 3, "Kitaro Night Stories".

(Picture 1, bottom right)
"Hakaba Kitaro" (Starting in 1960)
#1 - "Jigoku no Katamichi Kippu" (One-way Ticket to Hell), #2 - "Geshukuya" (Lodging House), #3 - "Au Toki wa Itsumo Shibito" (Always Meeting Corpses). The secret actions of the grotesque Kitaro.

(Picture 2, bottom left)
Kankou Takeuchi's "Hakaba Kitaro"
Reference publication. It's an impressive work for various reasons. With his right eye hidden, Kitaro in mid-journey looks at least every bit as harsh as the original.

History of Kitaro, #2

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.

Rental Book Era, part 1 - "Youki-Den"
Birth and Short-term Discontinuation of the Rental Book Version of "Kitaro".

The rental book period was no different from the kamishibai era - Shigeru Mizuki was always living at the poverty level.  He landed a position editing the military history manga "Shonen Senki" (Boy's Military History) for Izumi Books. (The covers were commissioned from Shigeru Komatsuzaki, and Mizuki would have to travel out to Kawashi City, in Chiba Prefecture, to pick them up each month.) The salary was too small to live on by itself and Mizuki was forced to take on work outside of Izumi.

Using pen names, he drew books (tankoubon) and short stories for a number of publishers. However, he still wanted to draw horror manga, so he suggested that Izumi Books produce a new short story collection. Somehow, he got permission to edit the line as "Youki-Den" (Strange Stories). (At the same time, he was also editing the SF collection "Uchu Shonen" (Boy's Space).)  In a departure from the kamishibai stories, Mizuki created the Youki-Den 1, "Ghost Family", concept as a long-running serialization. A race of monsters that predates humanity has dwindled down to just one remaining married couple. Because they both suffer from an incurable illness, they're trying to buy blood.

The problem is, where to get monster blood. They turn to a young man named Mizuki (unrelated to the author) who promises to search for them. But, soon after the couple suddenly dies. The wife begins to melt, so she's immediately buried in the graveyard. Three days later, a demon-faced child digs its way out of the grave. This is the birth of "Hakuba no Kitaro" (Kitaro of the Graveyard). With the depictions of an old temple, and mist coiled around the character's skin, this really was a "Youki manga".

Continued in "Youki-Den" 2 - "Yuurei Ikka Hakaba no Kitaro" (Ghost Family Graveyard Kitaro), we get the beginnings of Medama Oyaji (Old Man Eyeball), which picks up right after Kitaro's birth. The young Mizuki decides to take care of Kitaro. After turning 1 year old, Kitaro starts leaving the house every night to go play. Not understanding what's going on, Mizuki follows the child and becomes one of the living trapped in the underworld...

Shigeru Mizuki dedicated himself to creating a cover for "Youki-Den" that would be really memorable, up to the publication deadline. What must be remembered is that at the time, rental libraries were mostly staffed by older women, and they thought that the covers were so repulsive that they returned mounds of "Youki-Den" instead of trying to sell them. As a result, the series was discontinued.

Next time, Part 2 of the Rental Book Era - "Hakaba no Kitaro".

(Picture 1, bottom right)
"Youki-Den" (2) (1960)
The perfectly repulsive cover that caused the old women to revolt. This is Kitaro... right?

(Picture 2, bottom left)
The young Mizuki with Kitaro's father prior to the change-over to Medama Oyaji (Old man eyeball). This is definitely a gloomy horror image, more so than that in the "Hakaba Kitaro" anime.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

History of Kitaro, #1

After picking up several of the Gegege no Kitaro DVD magazines, I started getting curious about one of the regular articles - The History of Gegege no Kitaro. This is an on-going text-heavy one-pager written by Shinji Yamaguchi, but it seems to be informative enough to justify the effort of translating it. I considered cutting the Japanese text from the scanned page and pasting in the English translation, but keeping the English text separate seems to be more readable. So, I'll do it this way - attach the page scan and make the translation the main body of the blog. Note: 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.


Serialized volume 1
Gegege no Kitaro History
Shinji Yamaguchi, Kanto Mizuki Association Chapter President

The Development of "Kitaro", Prolog

Kamishibai -> Rental Books -> Magazines
Kitaro makes a new start.

In what way did the nationally-recognized character Kitaro start out and how did he evolve? I'll explain a little in each of these "Kitaro" volumes. In this prologue, I'll talk a little about Shigeru Mizuki as a manga artist, and summarize Kitaro's start as kamishibai, up to the anime.
(Translator's note: Kamishibai was a kind of illustrated streetside storytelling format where certain key drawings were painted on sheets of wood or stiff paper. As the storyteller presented the tale, he'd switch out boards. Kamishibai was popular before WW II, and then saw a revival shortly after 1945. Although it lost popularity with the advent of TV, it can still be found in some schools and libraries.)

During the Pacific War, Mizuki was shipped to Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) as a private in the army, and was demobilized as the war was ending. After trying several jobs, he landed work as an apartment manager in Kobe. One of the residents referred him to a street performance kamishibai author, Katsumaru Suzumoto. Mizuki worked feverishly to produce 1 set of paintings at the first of the month (10 sheets each) for him. Thinking that Mizuki's scenarios were very idiosyncratic, Suzumoto would talk about the works of Masami Itou (who had been popular at the beginning of the Showa era, 1925) and Kei Tatsumi's "Hakaba Kitaro" to the point where Mizuki really wanted to tackle it. He then produced "Hebi-jin" (Snakeman) and "Karate Kitaro", and although they formed the foundations of Kitaro's later appearance, these original works no longer exist.

Later, Mizuki left the Kansai area (western Japan) to find work in Tokyo. Masami Itou gave him permission to change the katakana name to kanji and he began drawing "Hakaba Kitaro" (Graveyard Kitaro) for the rental book market. However, in 1953, television broadcasts started up and both kamishibai and rental books went into decline.
(Translator's note: There were certain bookstores in Japan that worked like DVD rental shops, renting out books. Often these books had red covers, and rental books are sometimes called "red books".)

It was rare for artists to become successful while making the transition from rental books to manga magazines. Mizuki began drawing his own stories for Kodansha, starting with "Terebi-kun" (TV Kid) in Bessatsu Shonen Magajin, for which he won the Kodansha award for children's manga. This propelled him into the world of well-known manga artists.

Afterward, "Hakaba no Kitaro" began running in Monthly Shonen Magajin, with a plan to turn it into a TV anime to start airing in January, 1968. However, the sponsor, Shisuko (now Nissin Shisuko, maker of instant cup noodle), thought that "Hakaba" gave an impression that was too dark for their product. So, recalling a noise he used to make as a child - "gege" - Mizuki voluntarily changed the name to "Gegege no Kitaro". The manga with the name "Gegege" began running in issue 46 of Weekly Shonen Magajin in 1967.

Next time, further detail on the rental book era of "Kitaro".

Shinji Yamaguchi, Kanto Mizuki Association Chapter President
Born in Aug., 1948. Currently the Chapter President of the Kanto Region of the Mizuki Association. He became a fan of Mizuki's works while reading Monthly Garo. In May, 2007, he began publishing "Mizuki's Complete Rental Manga" (Yanoman Co.) He has been in charge of a number of projects for Kodansha and Shogakukan Creative, and he supplied materials for NHK's 10th Year drama, "Gegege no Nyobo" (Wife of Gegege). He is also involved in other works with Shigeru Mizuki.

[Bottom right picture] "Karate Kitaro".
Mizuki's older brother was the model for Kitaro. Through effort and training, karate practitioner Kitaro strives to overcome stronger rivals in this sports story.

[Bottom left picture] "Snakeman".
Although a more recent creation, it no longer exists today. Born from the belly of a snake, this is a story about Kitaro's revenge against humans.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Time for a change

When I first started this blog, I didn't have that many visitors, or that many files. It was pretty easy, just putting the images on a site like photo bucket and adding direct links from there. As time passed, I outgrew the extreme limitations imposed by photo bucket, and I switched to mediafire because it was free, and they offered lots of space with no restrictions on bandwidth (number of times the images were viewed or downloaded). However, on the technical side, their servers crashed often, and they'd occasionally lose files. But, eventually they'd get better again and the problems would disappear for a while. Unfortunately, at some point, they changed the way they handle their file linking, and now the links to the photo albums seem to be permanently dead. I apologize for the inconvenience.

I've decided to try to go back to the first blog entry and fix the broken page links one at a time, working from oldest to newest. This is going to take forever. At the moment, I've finished updating the entries up to the first Garo posts. Let me know if there's a problem getting into the photo album now.

Direct links to:
Garo folder 1
Garo folder 2
Garo folder 3
Manga main folder