OP: 「ゲゲゲの鬼太郎」 (Gegege no Kitarou) by Kiyoshi Hikawa
“The Day the Youkai Awoke”
Gegege no Kitarou is the sixth animated adaptation of Shigeru Mizuki’s cult classic, that ended many decades ago. To this day, it is still loved in Japan, although it bears no particular relevance in Western markets. And I suspect the reboot is meant to coincide with the resurgence of youkai popularity within Japan – considering how Youkai Watch has broken into the mainstream. That said, what drew me to the series had nothing to do with these factors. There were vibes of a sleeper hit, akin to Mahoujin Guruguru, which also received an excellent remake last summer. Not wanting to miss out on anything like last time, I’m here to write an intro post, and what exactly do I feel?
Since I also wrote the spring preview, which requires some degree of background knowledge, I had already given the original manga a whiz. While the first few chapters were certainly charming, there was nothing spectacular. Instead, I got carried away rereading Piano no Mori and Golden Kamuy, leaving this old relic in the dust. However, the anime has convinced me that I should either stay put with the latest episodes, or go back and give the manga a second chance. Without further ado, allow me to give you the details on what caught my attention.
First off, you don’t have to be familiar with the franchise to enjoy this show. Over in Japan, the intended audience will be old-timers, and a generation of kids who never grew up with this show, meaning it’ll also focus on easing in newcomers. Perhaps older fans will have mixed feelings over an artstyle that’s generally cute. But for a younger generation, this moe makeover is going to hit the spot. It’s practically needed to catch their attention these days, considering the vastly differing needs of a modern audience. Consider it a compromise, that I expect most of the older generation to settle with.
Personally, I think its implementation mixed well with other aspects of the show, which brings me onto my next point – horror in moderation. When blended with lighthearted elements, it turns into chaotic mischief, that doesn’t stop oozing this strange charm. Random people were afflicted by a condition that turned them into vampire trees, which might sound grisly, but nobody got hurt at the end of the day. In addition to zany humour with a Logan Paul wannabe, and some bizarre eyeball antics, shounen style action was put on full display when Kitarou fought the Nobiagari, which really hammered home a fun and funky experience. Throughout the episode, lighting effects combined well with a subtly unnerving soundtrack, which helped to promote the spooky agenda. I especially enjoyed the sequence where Mana delivered the letter in the box. The creepiness built up an uneasy tension, and I almost jumped, when she accidentally slipped on the glass bottle.
Since I imagine that characters play a central role in these kinds of shows, here are my insights on the focal ones. Though Kitarou (Sawashiro Miyuki) is quite introverted, Sawashiro has been making her lines count, and I’ve been really impressed with how she’s successfully captured his offbeat personality. While I still wouldn’t know too much about Kitarou, given my limited exposure to the franchise, I get the impression that he’s is an aloof individual, who will always help out humans caught up in supernatural troubles. Rather wholesome, wouldn’t you say?
At first glance, Medama Oyaji (Nozawa Masako) is this eccentric and tiny eyeball who can’t seem to do anything. Upon closer inspection, he’s really knowledgable in youkai lore, and is just a worried father trying to protect his beloved son. Due to some hilarious quips, particularly when it came to marvelling at modern technology, I’d consider him to be my favourite character at the moment. I hope that he will be a source of wisdom as well as comic relief, in upcoming episodes.
That said, I’m not too sold on the introduction of a new character to the franchise, which would be Mana Inuyama (Fujii Yukiyo). Initially, I really liked her bright and spunky personality. But her determination became a double-edged sword, and I cringed when she messed up after standing her ground, which almost led to a disastrous outcome. However, these shortcomings provide room to growth over the course of the series, which is wholly beneficial. Plus her distinct differences from Kitarou should prove useful, by ensuring a delightful balance, due to their differing approaches in various situations.
Admittedly, the visual effects were gorgeous, the classical opening song was catchy, and the folky soundtrack meshed well with the show’s underlying themes. Most of all, I really liked how they distinguished Medama’s lack of familiarity with the modern era, indicating how this adaptation might function as a continuation, rather than being a remake. Maybe people haven’t had problems with youkai, and subsequently forgot about them, meaning that Kitarou hasn’t needed to intervene for a long time. During this period of inactivity, it would make sense that Kitarou and his friends wouldn’t know about how the world has changed. But I was hoping that there would be a greater focus on resolving these cases through detective-like acumens, as opposed to having Kitarou blasting through youkai with special powers. While action is fun, the fundamental appeal of the series stems from the mysteries of folklore, and such an intricacy is lost during the heat of battle. However, I understand that Gegege no Kitarou is trying to engage with kids, so the studio needs to have their target audience in mind. Anyway, expect the series to revolve around Kitarou’s quirky adventures with friends, as he continues encountering various problematic youkai.
My verdict? Coverage is probably gonna be a nope. But I will continue watching GeGeGe no Kitarou, because I need to find out what happened, after he got shot in the back! The previews also look promising, and I want to see all the other mainstay cast members come into the fray, such as Nezumi Otoko (Furukawa Toshio) and Neko Musume (Shouji Umeka). Here’s hoping that others also decide to give GeGeGe no Kitarou a chance, and come to enjoy this rather unassuming show.
ED: 「鏡の中から」 (Kagami no Naka kara) by まねきケチャ (Maneki Kecak)