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.

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