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.