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.