Sunday, April 20, 2014

History of Kitaro, #23

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.

"Gegege no Kitaro Chousen Shiri-zu" (Gegege Kitaro Challenge Series)
Stories of Kitaro's attempts to solve the world's various mysteries

The pattern of "Kitaro" stories was set in place in the boy's magazines. However, in the latter half of the 70's, Mizuki began exploring the young men's (seinen) magazine market. About one month after the ending of the run in Shuukan Jitsuwa (Weekly True Stories), the Gegege no Kitaro Challenge Series started in Weekly Manga Sunday with the Aug. 16, 1977, issue for a total of 10 chapters (3 volumes). Here, Kitaro and company face a number of the world's mysteries.

In volume 1, "UFO no Himitsu" (The UFO Secret), aliens (underground dwellers) make their appearance. They create a peaceful utopia underground, which they protect by ensuring that the humans on the surface are wrapped up in their own discords. They send up a group of dead to create strife. The lesson of this story is, "If both sides fight, neither can be happy". While Kitaro defeats the dead, mankind remains ignorant to the solution of the UFO mystery by the end of the tale.

Volume 2, "Taiko no Himitsu" (Ancient Secret), the editorial department runs a strong adult-themed front page illustration. Mizuki Pro studios has been taken over by a licentious Youko (Fox spirit). The fox spirit eventually causes a suicidal person to actually die and in response an angry religious pilgrim confronts the Youko in a lengthy, grand sex battle.

The next story was a remake of the 5-chapter "Majo Monro-" (Monroe the Witch)  which ran in Comic & Comic from Oct. 31, 1973. In "Chijoue no Himitsu" (Geoglyph Secret), volume 3, a space ship kidnaps 1,000 of earth's beautiful women. Kitaro and gang are enlisted to save them, so they visit Easter Island, some of South America's ancient ruins, and other locations before tracking down a witch and freeing up both the women and some ancient Incans.

In this series, Mizuki Pro constantly sets out on adventure trips to investigate the paranormal, as if to show Mizuki's own belief that the world is filled with mysteries waiting to be seen.

Next, Kitaro returned to Weekly Shonen Magazine in the Apr. 9, '78 issue, for an 8-year run, to mark it's 20th year anniversary. This was "Kaettekita Hi-ro-(1) Hakaba no Kitaro Tokubetsu Dousetsu Umibouzu Sensei" (Returning Hero (1) - Kitaro of the Graveyard, Special Edition, Umibouzu Teacher). It's a satire on schools that are too strict, and a statement that new technology can't buy happiness. Thus, the 1970's marked a period in which Mizuki experimented with a variety of approaches to the Kitaro series in order to attract readers.

Next time - "The 1980's Kitaro"

Bottom Right Picture: From "Kitaro of the Graveyard, Special Edition, Umibouzu Teacher". The "Guillotine Classroom" and "Puncturing Holes in You with an Awl if You Don't Get 100 Points on a Test", as criticism of overly strict Japanese teaching methods.

Bottom Left Picture: From the "Gegege Kitaro Challenge Series", "Geoglyph Secrets". Politicians approach Kitaro to help get back the 1,000 kidnapped beauties.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

History of Kitaro, #22

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 Shuukan Jitsuwa (Weekly True Stories) Kitaro Series.
Publications in general interest magazines, the unconventional Kitaro gang

We'll look at other intermittent publications of the Kitaro series following the end of the Weekly Shonen Sunday run. The full-blown revival in the Shuukan Jitsuwa magazine started in 1977. It is divided into 3 parts. First, in "Zoku Gegege no Kitaro" (The Gegege Kitaro Sequel), Kitaro appears in a sweater, rather than his signature chanchanko (striped vest). While attending "Haka no Shita Koukou" (High School Below the Grave), Kitaro hits puberty and is drawn as looking very gloomy.

While "Kitaro" was a unique creation, there were people that felt uncomfortable about it. Noticing this discomfort, but having differing views about it, Mizuki and the editorial department set out to produce part 2 in 1978: "Shin Gegege no Kitaro Supo-tsu-kyou Jidai - Suumo no Maki" (New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - The Sumo Chapter) in a daring change of pace. Tired of living in the mountains, Kitaro receives an invitation to come live with his aunt in Tokyo. Taking a sweater woven from souls, and after receiving a blood transfusion, Kitaro is turned into a normal human. From here, the story lifts parts from the "Ninja Secret Arts" rental book series "Ponta the Tanuki" chapter.

The story: Momoko, a female vampire, wants to get Kitaro's ESP powers. Kitaro fights Dracula and his minions, then without knowing why sets out to become a successful sumo wrestler. Momoko and the others succeed in draining him of half his blood and it's injected into Momoko. Following this, Momoko is chosen to become the next Miss Japan. The adventure ends with Kitaro and Momoko facing off against each other in the Sumo ring, and after a disturbance, Kitaro is banished from Sumo society. He then joins Nezumi Otoko on an aimless journey of Japan.

Part 3, "Shin Gegege no Kitaro Supo-tsu-kyou Jidai - Yakuu no Maki" (New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - The Baseball Chapter). Kitaro returns to the high school and joins the baseball club as their pitcher. While many of the yokai from the much earlier Kitaro works make their reappearances here, the plot is not recycled from those works. In the story, a Yakuza boss and various yokai via for Kitaro's super-human ESP abilities, and they're ultimately stunned at finding themselves being taken to Hell.

These works are an obvious example of Mizuki's motto, "Anything goes as long as it's interesting" at play. Nonetheless, after a year and a half, the experiment of bringing Kitaro-styled adventures to a general interest magazine was probably a good one.

Next time, the "Kitaro Chousen" (Kitaro Challenge) Series

Bottom right picture:
From the New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - Sumo Chapter. Facing off against the vampire Momoko. (Reprinted with permission from Kadokawa Books.)

Bottom left picture:
From the New Gegege Kitaro Sports World Era - Baseball Chapter. Tantanbou and Odoro Odoro also make their appearances. (Reprinted with permission from Kadokawa Books.)