Sunday, August 18, 2013

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.

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