Do you miss Mononoke? Here’s a new horror anime to fulfill your needs, as Hakaba Kitarou (墓場鬼太郎) enters the stage, airing 11 episodes in the Noitamina block on Fuji TV, Thursdays at 24:45 JST.
You may have heard of Gegege no Kitarou, but this is not the friendly neighbourhood monster who helps out with troubling ghouls. Instead it’s based on a much earlier 1960 version of Mizuki Shigeru‘s manga about Kitarou, before it was revamped as a weekly shounen series. Despite the evident popularity of the more cheerful franchise, with its recent remake from last year still running, someone’s decided that it’s time to let Kitarou show his true colours on television. Direction was handed to Chioka Kimitoshi, who again teams up with screenwriter Narita Yoshimi after doing Kamisama Kazoku together.
Young Kitarou is the main character, the lone survivor of a once mighty race of monsters. The story takes place around 1960, beginning with his birth in the middle of a cemetery. We’re introduced to his origins by following a man named Mizuki, who’s ordered to investigate a hospital patient’s strange transformation into an undead. The address given leads to a temple near his house, and in the rundown building he finds a frightened married couple, calling themselves the last living Ghosts. The tragic demise of the species is blamed on mankind’s advance, forcing them into hiding, and when the last hiding places were caves and cemeteries, humans who saw them came to refer to them as “ghosts”. The Ghost wife explains that they’re deathly ill, prompting her hospital visit, and she pleads with Mizuki not to tell anyone, since they would be found. She then reveals that she’s pregnant. Mizuki runs away in fear as the mummified husband starts decomposing, but a few days later his curiosity overcomes him, and he returns to the house. Inside he finds their corpses, and decides to bury them in the graveyard. As he’s leaving, a shrill scream chills him to the bone, and from the fresh grave of its mother, a baby crawls forth.
As befits the Noitamina tradition, Hakaba Kitarou is stunningly animated in an absolutely gorgeous style, using texturized colouring similar to that of Mononoke, only better. It generates a gritty but detailed look that works wonderfully with the dark story. Branded HV, the Toei Animation production still has the look of an upscale, but the manner in which it’s done makes it worth watching. Wada Kaoru also makes the musical score aptly eerie in a classic fashion. For the voice acting, most of the original Kitarou anime team has been brought back, with Nozawa Masako (Son Gokuu in Dragon Ball) as Kitarou, and Ootsuka Chikao (Gold Roger in One Piece) as Nezumi Otoko, to name a few. For some reason they also managed to drag in Nakagawa Shouko (Suzuna in Eyeshield 21) to voice the yet unseen character Neko, and she’s singing the ED theme as well.
I want to begin by demanding that you download and watch the OP sequence right now, because it’s so insanely funky; I’ve been looping it since it came out. How awesome was that? The show took me completely by surprise, because I watched the first episode of the Gegege no Kitarou remake last spring, and it didn’t interest me at all. This, on the other hand, is quite fantastic. The visual style is not to be missed, and any show that has a one-way ticket to Hell must be seen.