License request day: GeGeGe no Kitaro

You know what yôkai are, right? Mysterious, morally ambiguous sort-of-demons that crop up all over Japanese folklore? Chances are you do, even if you don’t automatically identify them by that term, because they’re all over manga. One of the reasons for that ubiquity is the subject of today’s license request, suggested by Kate Dacey.

According to Wikipedia, Shigeru Mizuki’s GeGeGe no Kitaro gets the credit for pushing yôkai into the pop-culture spotlight, at least in terms of manga. It was originally created for the manga rental market in 1959, then serialized in the late 1960s in some of Kodansha’s shônen magazines. It ended up being nine volumes long, and it’s been republished in other formats, as will happen with really popular series.

Our hero, Kitaro, is one of those supernatural types that just want everyone to be friends, Casper the friendly yôkai, if you will. He uses a wild arsenal of weapons and body parts to protect humans from the schemes of his kinfolk, aided by his father, a disembodied eyeball. There’s also his rat-like companion who hasn’t bathed in over 300 years and, for balance, a cat girl, plus lots of other yôkai, including an elderly landlady type. Among the things that almost always make comics better are elderly landlady types.

Three volumes of the series were published as a part of the defunct, possibly cursed Kodansha Bilingual Comics initiative. I say “possibly cursed” because, well-intentioned as the effort may have been, it’s left some really terrific-sounding comics in licensing limbo. Doraemon, [Update: KBC can't be blamed for that one.] Sazae-San, Section Chief Kôsaku Shima, and others are hanging out in this foreboding realm, so it’s hard not to view Kodansha Bilingual Comics with some superstition. (Of course, it’s also handy to trawl through their catalog and find entries for this feature.)

The series has been published in French as Kitaro le repoussant by Editions Cornélius. Pika Edition has published Mizuki’s two-volume Yôkai : Dictionnaire des monstres japonais. This is not to be confused with Kodansha International’s Yôkai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, by Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda, but if you can’t read French or Japanese, it might be a good starting point. (It shows up as a result for Mizuki when you search on Amazon.)

7 Responses to License request day: GeGeGe no Kitaro

  1. Ed Sizemore says:

    David,

    Thanks for including this work. I’m hoping that all of Mizuki’s manga will get translated. He did one about his experience in WWII, where he lost his right arm. He was right handed and so had to relearn how to write & draw, which makes me that much more impressed with his work.

  2. maehara says:

    The first of two Kitaro movies was recently released in the UK, which I quite enjoyed watching. Hadn’t realised it was based on a manga, so I’ve learnt something today – always worth a thank-you!

  3. Thanks for writing this up, David! I know that classic manga can be a hard sell, but I’d love to see Vertical or Viz put this out in a deluxe edition.

  4. Heather says:

    Awesome recommendation. I am hoping Vertical will pick up this title, but their recent licensing has been more current stuff, not much classic manga.

  5. Jura says:

    I was just thinking about this. Loved the last anime adaptation.

  6. joey says:

    Yes, please! After discovering some of the 80’s anime via the Hawaiian subs, I’ve totally devoured any fansubs and info about Kitaro I could find. And I have to say, the anime series that I enjoyed the most was the most recent one (I think) which actually adapted the comics. I’d love to read it.

  7. [...] the classic front, an English version of Shigeru Mizuki’s GeGeGe no Kitaro would be more than [...]

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