Sunday, March 23, 2014

History of Kitaro, #21

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.

"Death God War Record" and "Ghost Trip in Kitaro's World"
Kitaro's Character changes with the times.

Let's look at Kitaro in the mid-70's. First, both volumes of the Gakken "Shinigami Daisenki" (Death God Big War Record) gekiga (dramatic manga) collection. Mizuki drew a dramatization of Genshin's "Ojouyoushuu" (Essentials of Birth in the Pure Land) with writing by Kiyoshi Miyata. In the story, after leading the southern island in "Sono go no Gegege no Kitaro" (see History #20), Kitaro returns home. In order to stop the western world's monsters from their plan to rule the entire universe, Mizuki himself and 12 children set out to retrieve the Unicorn Mirror from hell and deliver it to Buddha.

In drawing "The Other World" and "The World of Hell", he also put himself into the work, adding a dark influence from the feeling of life and death, and deep philosophy. Continuing, "Gegege no Kitaro - Lotus Empire" appeared in the July, 1977, issue of Short Story Magazine. Here, Kitaro gets a request from Enmaoh (Gate Keeper to Hell) to travel to the past to save the Buddhist monk Jianzhen.

Then, in Weekly Shonen Action, from Jan. 26, 1976 to Aug. 23, we have "Kitaro no Sekai Obake Ryokou" (Kitaro's World Ghost Trip). This time, Kitaro receives a baseball cap, then travels around the world, from the northern polar ice cap to Africa, defeating yokai.  After which, he returns home.

Also during this period, in the July, 1976, issue of Monthly Shonen Jump, in #4 of the "Eien no Seisaku Shiri-zu" (Immortal Masterpieces Series), was the publication of "Akuma-kun - Waru wo Horobose!! no Maki" (Akuma-kun - Destroy the Evil!! chapter). This is a sequel to "Akuma-kun no Fukkatsu! Sennen Ohkoku" (Akuma-kun's Revival! The 1,000 Year Empire), where Akuma dies. After unifying Hell, Akuma decides to return to the surface to unify humankind. The government dispatches Kitaro to defeat Akuma. This is a dream match-up of two very popular characters. On a side note, the title of the collected volume of the manga was changed to "Kitaro vs. Akuma-kun".  We can see through this comparison how one of Mizuki's characters evolved over time to fit the changing tastes of society, and Mizuki's own changing preferences.

Then, on Nov. 25, 1976, Play Comic published their "Kaettekite Hi-ro- Shiri-zu" (Returning Hero Series), which included "Hakaba no Kitaro". The story speculates that western yokai were behind the scenes of the Lockheed Scandal. These yokai have heard that Kitaro has a weakness for beautiful women, and they try to use that to manipulate him, but he's saved by Backbeard. Backbeard became Kitaro's friend in "Kitaro's Vietnam War Record".

Next time: The Shuukan Jitsuwa (Weekly True Stories) Kitaro Series

Bottom Right Picture: From "Shinigami Big War Record". This work has the same appearance of Mizuki as in "The Other World", with his opinions on life and death, and deep philosophy.

Bottom Left Picture: "Akuma-kun - Destroy the Evil!!" (titled "Kitaro vs. Akuma-kun" for the collected manga volume), showing the confrontation between Akuma-kun, newly returned from hell, and the yokai army.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dinner with Witch & Shigeru Mizuki

There have been a couple manga worth paying attention to in Big Comic Original recently. The first is a 4-page short story from Shigeru Mizuki (Gegege no Kitaro) regarding a flashback he had back to when he was serving in the Japanese army during WW II. The other is a 32-page stand-alone story titled Dinner With a Witch, by Rumiko Takahashi, that is part of Original's 40th anniversary celebrations. I don't have time to translate the dialog, so I'll just put a link to the scans here.

----- Spoilers -----

If you can't read Japanese and you want to know what's going on in the two stories:

Mizuki is dreaming that he's back in the army, and his superior officer has just given him a pistol and orders to shoot himself in the head.  

In the other story, a company president is mourning the passing of his wife. Later, he's at a dinner event where a strange, beautiful woman accidentally spills food on him. To apologize, she gives him a necktie, and invites him to have dinner at different restaurants with her. She eats like a horse but never gains weight. On the other hand, he's starting to pack on the pounds. Pretty soon, the woman is showing up on TV a lot as a talent. One day, the guy's cleaning woman is at his house and she notices the mystery woman on TV and asks if her boss believes in witches. She then asks if the mystery woman has given him anything. He hands over the tie, and she finds a strand of the woman's hair in it. She cuts the tie in two and it goes up in flames. The explanation is that the woman used transfer magic so that she'd get the calories from him, and he'd get her calories, which work out to be 500cal.  versus 5000 cal. That night, the mystery woman calls the guy to a hotel room and puts a new tie on his neck and says that she wants him to get even fatter. Then, the cleaning woman, dressed up as a bell hop, enters the room and sprays the witch with champagne formulated to reverse her spell. The witch runs away screaming. The cleaning woman explains that she's also a witch and is in fact the person that had taught the younger woman everything. The story wraps up with the president, still fat, enjoying himself at a ramen restaurant with his workers.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

History of Kitaro, #20

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.

Kitaro appears in Weekly Shonen Sunday.  
Sunday Publishing starts running Kitaro in preparation for the color anime series release.

From the end of the 1960's and into 1970, Mizuki's body was suffering from the pressures of overwork. Finally, he reached his breaking point, and in '71 he collapsed. Astonishingly, though, he was back at work after only one week of recuperation.

At that time, Toei Douga was preparing a promotion tape for the color anime version of Kitaro to lay the groundwork for the new TV series. While the first series was popular, they were running out of existing material for new stories. So, although they had the "go sign" to start season 2, there would be problems if they kept working with Shonen Magazine at that rate. In 1971, the serialized stories from Shonen Magazine had been used up, and the production window on Kitaro was being relaxed. Enter Weekly Shonen Sunday.

In those days, Weekly Shonen Sunday had a much greater circulation than Weekly Shonen Magajin.  It was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of that difference. Gegege no Kitaro then started serialization in the Sept. 26, 1971, issue (#40) of Shonen Sunday, as well as making appearances in 7 other Sunday magazines; Yoiko (Good Child), Youchien (Kindergarten), and Shougaku Year 1 through Shougaku Year 5. However, the series didn't last long, and Sunday Publications only printed 13 chapters with a total 231 page count. Having "Conclusion" printed at the end of the last chapter was very unusual, and made the ending more final.  We can guess that this was Mizuki's way of saying "I'm not going to draw Kitaro for a while".

This feeling is enhanced when, after being swallowed by the yokai Yakanjiru, Kitaro tells Konaki Jiji, "It's been a good 7 years". With the limited amount of new stories to work with, the second season color anime TV series did run about 1 year, but was padded with Mizuki's other non-Kitaro work.

Incidentally, in the summer of '71, "Takarazuka Family Land" (present day Takarazuka Garden Fields) opened the "Obake Taikai" (Ghost Rally) exhibit, which then continued running for over 20 years. Conversely, Mizuki himself escaped to his beloved island of New Britain in New Papua Guinea and deepened his friendships there.

Next time: "Shigami Oosenki" (The Big Shigami War Records) and "Kitaro no Obake Sekai Ryokou" (Kitaro's Trip to the Ghost World).

Bottom right picture:
One scene from the new serialization starting with the Sept. 26, 1971, issue (#40) of Weekly Shonen Sunday. Many of the regular yokai make their appearances. The episode is "Narikama" (Ringing Kettle).

Bottom left picture:
From the last chapter from Sunday Publishing, "Akuma Bueru" (Demon Buel). Kitaro and his father are swallowed by Yakanjiru. Do we take this to mean "I'm not going to draw Kitaro for a while"?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

History of Kitaro, #19

For some reason, Mediafire is not allowing hotlinking of the image for this page. Clicking on the link should work, though.

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.

"Kitaro" outside of Weekly Shonen Magajin.
The different versions of "Kitaro" published during the first anime season.

I'd like to talk about the other versions of "Kitaro" that appeared in magazines other than Weekly Shonen Magajin. Monthly Bokura published 13 chapters. From April, 1968, their supplement TV Comics published summarized versions of their illustrated stories (printed versions of the TV episodes) which was about half the volume of the Weekly Shonen Magajin manga. For half a year, monthly Fun Kindergarten ran eighteen 6-8 page digests of the Magajin manga.

From July, 1968, monthly Pearl published 6 chapters of "The Vietnam War History Documentary". In it, Kitaro and company team up with Miage Nyuudou and Backbeard to rescue the people's freedom fighters that have risen up in revolt. In the final chapter, Kitaro and company drive the government forces all the way back to Saigon. Being anti-war, this is an extension of Shigeru Mizuki's war journal stories.

In 1968, sales for Monthly Garo were dropping, and Aomura-Dou delayed Mizuki's guaranteed payments. To compensate, Garo Publishing allowed "Gyuuki to Kyuuketsuki" (Cow Demon versus the Vampire) (Kodansha KC "Gegege no Kitaro" #7), from the "Kitaro Night Stories" series, to appear in Bessatsu Shonen Magajin. Similarly, "Gegege no Kitaro" #8 was compiled from the first half of an edited version of "Night Stories". After the problems were resolved, Mizuki produced 25 chapters of "Hoshi wo Tsukamisokoneru Otoko" (The Man Who Would Seize the Star (?)) for Aomura-Dou. Having been friends since the rental book days, Mizuki understood Aomura-Dou's founder Katsuichi Nagai pretty well.

Bessatsu Shonen Magazine published the concluding works from the "Kitaro" rental books. The same magazine's versions of "Kitaro" used the issues of pollution and lampoons of society as the basis of the problems in the stories. In July, 1970, also in the same magazine, was "Sonogo no Gegege no Kitaro" (After Gegege Kitaro). Kitaro, tired after fighting yokai, heads south. He tries to resolve the inequality of "The Island of Happiness" to make it resemble the equality of "The Island of Death". Although it's plain that Mizuki himself wanted to retreat to a southern resort to relax, he couldn't just allow "Kitaro's" ending to go unresolved.

Next up: "Kitaro Appears in Weekly Shonen Sunday".

Bottom right picture:
"Kitaro no Betonamu Senki" (Kitaro's Vietnam War History) (Monthly Pearl, July, 1968). The title was changed when the serialized manga was released in book form. In saving the freedom fighters, Kitaro and company fight the government forces.

Bottom left picture:
"Sonogo no Gegege no Kitaro" (After Gegege Kitaro) (Bessatsu Shonen Magajin, July, 1970). Kitaro goes to a southern island to govern the people there. This story is unique in that there are no enemy yokai this time.

Note: In chapter 16 of this series, Togetsu Bookstore was incorrectly identified as Ugetsu Bookstore (same kanji, different readings).

History of Kitaro, #18

I apologize. I got hit with a number of projects that were all fairly time-consuming, so I had to backburner these History of Kitaro page translations for a few weeks. I finally had a free day where I could sit down to transcribe the text in preparation to translating them. Transcribing takes 3-4 hours, and the translations and clean up take another 1-2 hours, each.

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 Influence of the "Gegege no Kitaro" TV anime
During the anime broadcast, the 5 magazines that serialized "Kitaro"

"Hakaba no Kitaro" took a break from Weekly Shonen Magajin, then reappeared in the 11/12/67 issue with the new "Gegege no Kitaro" title. It's likely that the title change had been decided on some months prior. The preparations for the TV broadcast had a lot of ramifications. The first episode was planned to be "Yasha", but that was suddenly switched with "Obake Nighter". One rumor for the change was that the president of the sponsor company, Cisco, (present-day Nisshin Cisco) was a big baseball fan. 

In 1968, Kodansha developed a tie-up with their monthly children's magazine, Tanoshii Youchien (Fun Kindergarten).  From this point, with each broadcast of the "Kitaro" anime, the kindergarten and grade school magazine would concurrently publish the associated manga. The first season anime would also appear in the Bokura (We) supplement Terebi Komimikkusu (TV Comics) as an illustrated story. Then, with "Dokyumento Gekiga Betonamu Senki" (Documentary Dramatic Manga Vietnam Military History) appearing in monthly Houseki (Pearl), Kitaro was being published in 5 different magazines at one time. During this year, Mizuki drew well over 2,000 pages of yokai manga.

After "Gegege no Kitaro" restarted in Weekly Shonen Magajin, it gradually turned into a battle manga with Kitaro fighting on the side of justice against bad yokai. With each episode, the powers and items used by Kitaro and the other yokai would increase, while the number of friendly yokai joining the "Kitaro family" also piled up. Further, many of the first season anime, such as "Hakusan-bou", "Oboro-sha" and "Onmoraki" were remakes of the earlier rental book stories. It's fun trying to track down the original versions of the modern manga.

As a side note, Mizuki took in several assistants, some of whom were somewhat peculiar. During this time, of the 5-7 assistants on staff, two that had manga running in Monthly Garo were Tsuge Yoshiharu and Ryouichi Ikegami. Mizuki had said that because they had styles similar to his, it helped him to have them on his staff. However, it might be more honest to say that he saw their potential and wanted to help them bring it out.

Next time, the "Gegege no Kitaro" of the various magazines.

Bottom right picture:
Splash page for "Youkai Keukegen no Maki" (The Feathery Monster Chapter). "Hakaba no Kitaro" had been on a 4-week break, then came back with this story with the new "Gegege no Kitaro" title, with no detrimental impact.

Bottom left picture:
Page from "Niwa ni Sumu Youkai" (The Monster Living in the Garden), the original source for the "Hakusan-bou" remake. While the story is largely the same, Hakusan-bou dies after being shot by a hunting rifle.