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Gegege no Kitaro Magazine DVD Series, volume 12
We're finally starting the original black and white series for Gegege no Kitaro, which originally ran from Jan. 3rd, 1968 to Mar. 30, 1969. I'm not sure how much longer I'll continue to buy these volumes, since they're $16 apiece and there's still 15 left to go. The really interesting historical information running in the "History of Gegege" section has pretty much been covered and I expect the author is just going to summarize the chapters that appeared in Weekly Shonen Magazine from 1965 on up, with occasional anecdotes regarding Mizuki or his editors. I wish Kodansha would include more interviews on the DVDs, and dump the current easter egg (10-15 minutes of the sounds of wooden geta walking across a floor). There should be one more interview in the next volume, with Toei producer Yasuo Yamaguchi (he's worked as a planner on Candy, Candy; episode director on Kick no Oni; and producer on Maple Town Stories). It's probably worth noting that I went to the DVD website to get info on the upcoming volumes, and they only list information for the first seven DVDs. However, the facebook page has some nice artwork on it.
(Page 2, introducing the first season anime.)
There are five episodes on the DVD this time, but no specials or interviews. Because eps. 5 and 6 are the first and second halves of a story, this DVD contains 1-4 plus 7. Generally, the magazine dedicates 4 pages to summarizing each episode and highlighting the featured monsters, so we get 30 pages now instead of the previous 26. However, the first page just talks about the start of serialization of the first season TV series, and only one page is spent showing the early character designs for Kitaro again. I guess the pattern from now on will be to repeat the descriptions of the starring monsters and then finish up with the supporting characters, like we got with volumes 1-11.
(Featured starring yokai: Kitaro.)
The first poster is Hyakki Yagou (Many Monster Night Parade), and the second is Zen Yokai Bikkuri Sekai Chizu (The Amazing Monster World Map). Hyakki Yagou is Mizuki's spin on a famous ukiyo-e woodblock print. Chizu is a world map showing various monsters and their country of origin. (The U.S. gets the skeleton. There's nothing for Canada.) The rest of the magazine includes a look at the 1960's Kitaro, summaries of the 5 DVD episodes, the Mizuki Shigeru Collection (ads drawn to promote the next week's chapters in Shonen Magajin), History of Gegege no Kitaro, Part 12, Where's Yamada (everywhere), and a look at a really creepy singing and talking Kitaro doll that came out at the end of the 60's from the TV anime's main sponsor.
(Page 1 of the Obake Nighter episode, ep. #1.)
The featured monsters are Kibagurui, Chimi, Hyaku-me-bouya (100 Eyes Boy), Yasha, Tantanbou, Kamaitachi, Ooguchi Onna (Big Mouth Woman), Kyuuketsuki Ra Se-nu (Vampire La Saine) and Yuurei Densha (the Spirit Train). Actually, the English name for "Ra Se-nu" is "La Seine" on one page and "La Saine" on another. He drinks blood through his long fingernails. There are a few other yokai mentioned in the magazine as members of the monster baseball team, but they're ignorable. Yasha will need a bit of explanation - the name Yasha, or Yaksha, refers to a Buddhist garden deity. In this case, though, Mizuki uses it to refer to a monster that possesses its victims, starting out with a guitar-playing musician. The one-page monsters are: Tantanbo, Kamaitachi, Oguchionna, and Azukiarai. In specific, Oguchionna is a yokai with two mouths, one at the back of her head, which she feeds by using her tendril-like hair. Azukiari is a river sprite that likes washing red azuki beans (azuki=red beans, arai=wash).
The TV episodes are: Obake Naita- (Monster All-Night Baseball Game, 01/03/1968); Yasha (Yasha, 01/10/68); Yokaijo (Monster Castle, 01/17/68); Kyuuketsuki Ra Se-nu (Vampire La Seine, 01/24/68) and Yuurei Densha (Spirit Train, 02/14/68).
(La Seine/La Saine)
Three and a half years ago, the Suginami Animation Museum, just west of Tokyo in Nerima Ward, had a special exhibit on Kitaro to promote a new anime release. It included screenings of the original TV series, and two of the episodes I was able to watch then were Obake Nighter and Yuurei Densha. At the time, I was impressed by how dark and scary they were, especially since they were aimed at kids. Later, I read the Hakaba Kitaro manga in Garo, and now I can see the similarities in character designs between the early manga and the first TV series. This similarity completely disappeared in the second season. However, the story in Obake Nighter seems laughably overblown now. Kitaro is much too nice and easy-going; nothing like the "spirit guide" image that he projected in Garo, when he brought hardened criminals to hell and left them there. Still, it is amazing that even after being watered down, the TV anime is scarier than what would even have been allowed for children in the U.S. The closest analogue I can think of is the original Johnny Quest series, but for 7-year-olds.
I'll also mention here that in volume 11, in the Binbogami and Shinigami episode, the 2 of them visit a high rise where the people have their names on the doors. Three of the names that appear in the episode are all staff members: Kazukyo Shigeno, Nobutaka Nishizawa and Masaharu Eto. And, I think that one other episode from that volume, Amagami Yamchak, is visually the best one of the entire series. Lots of great artwork and some pretty good animation sequences.