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.)

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