Hakaba Kitaro, The Original Kitaro Manga Series Animated

I was really excited when I heard the animated Youkai, “Gegege no Kitaro” series was coming back on Fuji TV last spring but dropped it after a few episodes.

It was good in the sense the characters looked pretty much the same as I remember them from when I was around six years old and, they still showed the names of the Youkai that appeared. However, it lacked the same creepy touch and seemed to be modernised too much. It was bright, colourful, had snapshots of children playing their Wii and DSes and, there were lots of Neko Musume fan service showing her in different costumes and poses.

The original Kitaro.

This year, another version of the show just started on the same station while the other remake continues (at around episode forty one now). I didn’t know about it until a friend pointed it out to me. Probably because I just download random RAWs and don’t actually keep up with announcements. So I looked up the name “Hakaba Kitaro” and found a very ugly looking Kitaro. Not exactly the Kitaro I remember but it turns out this version of the show is based on the very first, original Manga series that started back in 1959 before the character designs underwent some changes.

Unlike the remake, the very first episode “The Birth of Kitaro” begins the story by explaining how Kitaro came about and why his father is a walking eyeball. It also has a much darker atmosphere which is exactly why I liked the show. This is what the show should be like! I recommend watching this if you’re interested in Youkai based stories. The artwork’s very stylish (although it feels a bit American) and the sound effects are great. Shinsen Subs are doing a good job of fansubbing it so far.

Opening song “Mononoke Dance” was pretty boring but I like the ending song, “Snow Tears” which just happens to be sung by Shoko-tan, the multi-talented “cat eating” girl that’s managed to capture the attention of Otakus for a while.

Kitaro isn't helping humans yet.

I did a little look up on the Japanese Wikipedia too after seeing the completely different presentation in this show and found that Kitaro began as a very popular slideshow story way back in 1933 known as “Hagaki Kitaro (Postcard Kitaro).” Basically a show where the audience listens as someone tells a story with a collection of illustrated cards in their hands or canvas. Then in 1954 Mizuki Shigeru took this story and created his own original set of four slideshow stories beginning his Kitaro series of works.

The four stories were “Jajin (Snake Man)”, “Karate Kitaro”, “Garou (Wolf)” and “Yuurei no Te (The Hand of a Ghost)”. However, his works did not gain much popularity thus, was discontinued until he was back as a Manga artist to start a new story, announcing “The Yuurei Family” that was to be published in Manga form in 1959. That said, this new story still took elements from his slideshow works. Specifically, Kitaro being born in a graveyard and being left with one eye came from “Jajin” and the appearance of his eyeball father came from “Karate Kitaro”. At this point of the story, Kitaro had not sided with humans yet and was considered a young man who brought ill fortune which explains his behaviour in the show.

Character design changed.

As time went by and the series began to grow, a decision was made to change the character design so that it was tailored towards Manga aimed at young boys. This is the more normal looking version of Kitaro that you see in the remake and was used since 1965. Following the character design change, the story itself was also shifted towards the whole “Kitaro of justice will defeat all bad Youkai” idea which actually helped increase the series’ popularity.

Then in 1968 when the Manga series had settled down and turned into an Anime show, they decided to change the title too because “Hakaba (Graveyard)” sounded too dark so they made it “Gegege”.

Pretty interesting no? Always good to know why changes are made. It’s just a pity that I read Habaka Kitaro will only go on for eleven episodes and three has been on already.

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