Gegege no Kitarou – First Impressions

The Spring 2018 season is here and there are plenty of anime series vying for attention. I’m not sure how many I can get to, but, there are a number of interesting (both in a positive and in a negative sense) new shows that I’d like to cover. The first is Gegege no Kitarou, a supernatural comedy shounen series produced by Toei Animation.

The Story

Long before Yusuke Urameshi, Kitarou fought evil yokai with his spirit gun and his remote controlled sandals and hair that can turn into needles.

Kitarou is a young yokai (spirit) boy who helps humans that have been harmed by malevolent yokai in an effort to get humans and yokai to coexist with each other. He is assisted by his ghostly father who is in the form of a walking eyeball. Other reoccurring characters include Neko Musume – a young female yokai who has a dangerous cat form – and Nezumi Otoko – a rat-like half yokai/half human who is generally Kitarou’s friend but is always on the lookout for a quick buck.

The Fine Print

The original Gegege no Kitarou series came out in 1968 and has remade several times since then. This latest series is a remake to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary and does not require any sort of prior knowledge to watch. Thanks to Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book of Friends) I’ve long had an interest in yokai and decided I had to give this show a watch, even if it seems skewed to a younger audience.

After only a couple of episodes I can see way this show gets a remake every decade or so. It’s equal parts charming and cute with a surprising amount – for a “kids show” – of clever and creepiness. I’m definitely hooked.

When someone is getting turned into a tree, it’s a good idea to run away – not take pictures.

The first thing I noticed is that the production values for Gegege no Kitarou are solidly above average. The updated character designs are attractive and do a good job balancing the desire of being faithful to the original with the desire for something fresh. The animation won’t win any awards when compared to say a top tier Bones production, but, it’s been well-above what’s needed to effectively tell it’s story. The pacing has been excellent, not too slow or too fast. I like the seiyuu chosen for the various roles, particularly Miyuki Sawashiro who is voicing Kitarou. A similar role that she’s played in the past, a young boy, is Kurapika on Hunter x Hunter. And the OP/ED are both pretty well done.

The next thing I noticed was that Gegege no Kitarou got it’s portrayal of the yokai right. They are unsettling and discomforting and do not see things or behave quite like humans, even the good ones. This was a very important question I needed answered if I was continue watching. It is also, the more I research Gegege no Kitarou and the author of it’s manga, a rather silly thing to say about it. Shigeru Mizuki, the author of the manga, is credited with creating or popularizing most of the modern visual images of yokai. It’s like saying that J.R.R. Tolkien got his depiction of hobbits right in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

I can also tell that Gegege no Kitarou will be structured closer to a slice-of-life series with no overarching intricate plot. That’s not necessarily a problem, assuming there is an interesting cast of characters and, so far, I’m liking the characters that have been introduced in Gegege no Kitarou. Natsume Yuujinchou has run for over 70+ episodes without an overarching plot and it’s one of my favorite anime series. I am curious to see how much character development we’ll see in Gegege no Kitarou. Past versions of this series have run long, from 45 to 114 episodes, so there should be time to see the type of slow character development like in Natsume Yuujinchou where the characters slowly change due to the people they meet and bonds they form. Even if there’s not much in the way of character development, the sheer number of different and strange yokai should keep the show feeling fresh for a long time.

I’m a firm believer in the idea of watching a diverse array of anime as a way to avoid suffering “anime burnout”. I can’t prove this has worked but in the last decade I’ve watched over 800 TV series and have avoided feeling even the slightest amount of anime burnout. I’ve also discovered many great series I probably wouldn’t have watched if I wasn’t on the hunt for different anime. Gegege no Kitarou might not turn out to be a top series of the season, but, it’s a solid series that will be a welcome break from all the overly serious anime airing this season. I definitely recommend giving this series a watch.

A few more screenshots:

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One thought on “Gegege no Kitarou – First Impressions”

  1. I’ve quite a soft spot for this series as well, despite usually shying well clear of these sorts of extremely long-running franchises. This is partly because I find Gegege no Kitaro genuinely charming (plus, how often can ‘family-friendly’ and ‘horror’ be used in the same sentence?), and admittedly also partly because I’ve been to Sakaminato in Tottori, where Mizuki Shigeru spent much of his childhood. Perhaps surprisingly, wandering down Mizuki Shigeru/Kitaro Road is about as charming an experience as watching the series itself.

    Like

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