Ge, ge, ge ge ge no ge—!GeGeGe no Kitarō
is a well-known (in Japan) manga and anime that is largely credited for bringing back knowledge of traditional yōkai and folktales to modern generations. Written by Shigeru Mizuki, it was originally known as Hakaba Kitaro
(Kitaro of the Graveyard). The story focuses on the adventures of yōkai boy Kitaro, who fights for peace between the yōkai and humans using a variety of strange abilities and tools. "Ge ge ge no ge" is a sound effect meant to represent ghostly laughter.
That's the simple explanation. The reality is that if you've never heard of this series, it's because it doesn't often show up in Western media because it is just plain weird.
The weirdness starts off with Kitaro himself: a "ghost boy" who is missing one eye. The empty socket is usually covered by his hair, and usually houses Medama-Oyaji (Papa Eye), literally an eyeball with a body
, who is also his father. (Yes, really.) Kitaro also has remote-controlled geta sandals, a detachable hand, and a spiky hair vest which he can use to attack enemies, as well as a few other abilities. Other characters in the main ensemble, as described by The Other Wiki
(Rat Man): Nezumi Otoko is a rodent-like yōkai-human halfbreed. He has been alive for three hundred and sixty years, and in that time has almost never taken a bath, rendering him filthy, foul-smelling, and covered in welts and sores. While he is usually Kitaro's friend, Nezumi Otoko will waste no time cooking up vile schemes or betraying his companions if he thinks there's money to be had or a powerful enemy to side withNeko Musume
(Cat Girl): A normally-quiet yōkai girl, who transforms into a frightening cat monster with fangs and feline eyes when she is angry or hungry for fish. Predictably, she does not get along well with Nezumi Otoko. She seems to harbor a slight crush on Kitaro, who sees her only as a friend. She bears some resemblance to the bakeneko of Japanese folklore.Sunakake Baba
(Sandspray Hag): Sunakake Babaa is an old yōkai woman who carries sand which she throws into the eyes of enemies to blind them. She serves as an advisor to Kitaro and his companions, and manages a yōkai apartment building. The original sunakake-baba is an invisible sand-throwing spirit from the folklore of Nara PrefectureKonaki Jijii
(Crybaby Geezer): Konaki Jijii is a comic, absent-minded old yōkai man who attacks enemies by clinging to them and turning himself to stone, increasing his weight immensely and pinning them down. He and Sunakake Babaa often work as a team. The original konaki jijii is a ghost which is said to appear in the woods of Tokushima Prefecture in the form of a crying infant. When it is picked up by some hapless traveller, it increases its weight until it crushes him.Ittan Momen
: Ittan Momen is a flying yōkai resembling a strip of white cloth. Kitaro and friends often ride on him when traveling. The original ittan-momen is a spirit from Kagoshima Prefecture myth which wraps itself around the faces of humans in an attempt to smother them.Nurikabe
: Nurikabe is a large, sleepy-eyed wall-shaped yōkai, who uses his massive size to protect Kitaro and his friends. The original Nurikabe is a spirit which blocks the passage of people walking at night.
The original manga ran for about five years, between 1966 and 1970, and multiple versions have been written since, developing a rather different canon as the series progressed. (Kitaro especially is much weirder and much less child-friendly in the original.) The different anime versions have been running more or less from 1968 to the present, with the most recent series starting in 2008. It has also been adapted into multiple live-action versions and video games, as well as earning a place in several theme parks, like Fujikyu Highland. The creator's hometown of Sakaiminato has also been marked with multiple statues of the various characters in recognition of the series' influence.
Tropes exhibited in at least one version of this series include:
- Author Avatar—When Mizuki addresses the audience directly, it's through Nezumi-Otoko. Even outside of this series.
- Animal Jingoism: Neko Musume and Nezumi Otoko are cat and rat, and therefore she attacks him when things go awry.
- Art Evolution—The most obvious sign is Neko-Musume, who was progressively drawn less pudgy and had her hairstyle changed from a bowlcut to a more natural-looking short cut that also went from black to red. Compare the drawings in the picture above to the 2007 Character Roster for yourself.
- Badass in a Nice Suit—Generally the easiest way to notice when Nezumi-Otoko thinks he struck it big.
- Breath Weapon—A lot of yōkai have these. On a similar note, Nezumi-Otoko's halitosis can subdue people.
- Came Back Wrong—Medama-Oyaji is technically a Type 4: He died at the very beginning of the series, but when Kitaro emerged from his mother's grave (long story) concern for the newborn son (again, long story) resurrects him... however the only part of the body that hadn't decayed by that point was his left eye, which formed into the Medama-Oyaji that everyone is familiar with. This grissly origin of both Medama and Kitaro can be viewed in the much darker Hakaba Kitaro's first episode. Although Hakaba is a mostly separate continuity to Gegege, Kitaro's origin in both is essentially the same.
- Cat Girl—Neko-Musume, natch.
- Clothes Make the Superman: Kitaro's vest and sandals.
- Continuity Nod—The third episode of the 2007 series is basically a rematch with the Yasha, a soul-eating musical yōkai that the gang faced in the 1986 series.
- The 1968 series too. Episode 2, in fact.
- In the brief flashback, the animation seems to be intentionally made to look retroactively black and white, similar to the 1968 visuals.
- Dawson Casting—The most recent live-action movie went out of its way to simulate the look of the 1980s anime version, except that Kitaro and Neko-Musume were played by adults. This was "justified" in-story as them having hit puberty without the older yōkai having noticed, but the actors were still clearly older than the age their characters were.
- Darker and Edgier—The 2008 anime Hakaba Kitaro took the series back to its horror roots and away from kid friendliness.
- Dirty Coward—Nezumi-Otoko, for a more literal interpretation than most.
- He is in fact a Lovable Cowardly Sidekick. The Hero had his ass saved by him plenty of times.
- Usually from situations Nezumi-Otoko had caused by his greed and cowardice in the first place, naturally.
- Disproportionate Retribution—Some of the more irritable yōkai are all about this.
- Dracula: Four generations of Dracula have been seen throughout the manga and animes: the original Dracula, Dracula II, Dracula III and Dracula IV.
- Eye Scream—Kitaro's father lives in his eyesocket.
- Faceless Eye—Medama-Oyaji and Backbeard
- Fartillery—About the only ability of note that Nezumi-Otoko possesses in addition to halitosis.
- Greed—The dictionary would have Nezumi-Otoko's picture next to the word.
- Green Aesop—Sort of, several of the episodes have humans' abuse of the environment anger the local nature yōkai.
- Half-Human Hybrid—In the 2007 series, Sunakake Baba explains this as reason for Nezumi-Otoko's questionable relationship with other yōkai and his penchance for dabbling in human society.
- Heel-Face Revolving Door: Nezumi-Otoko can always be trusted to be untrustworthy, in the older series more than the more recent ones.
- Honest Nezumi-Otoko's Dealership
- Immortality: The Youkai are all immortal beings, although just how immortal is often up for grabs. Although Kitaro can survive all sorts of seemingly death insured fates, and even be regenerated or resurrected if the need calls for it...it does seem sometimes that Youkai can be killed. Kitaro's race was killed off somehow after all. The specifics however are never really explained.
- Immortal Immaturity: Although Kitaro does display wisdom and sensibility far beyond his appearance, he's also many times shown very childlike impulses and feelings. Nezumi Otoko, Neko Musume, and other "childlike" Youkai have all displayed this quality at times as well.
- Immortality Begins at Twenty: Not quite twenty, but Kitaro was born the old fashioned way (albeit out of his dead mothers' grave), but aged from being an infant, to a pre-teen adolescent whose remained that way ever since. Certain works of disputable canon have poked at the idea of Kitaro physically aging to adulthood though, and although it's established that he's immortal, it's never been specified whether or not Kitaro is meant to be a child forever, or if maybe his race (The Yurei Zoku or "Ghost Tribe") simply age far slower appearance wise.
- Just Kill Nezumi-Otoko—Most of the time, anyways. There are exceptions.
- Lighter and Softer—Most of the adaptations. The 1980s anime in particular, which made the few times someone actually died in that version much more shocking.
- Limited Wardrobe: Self-explanatory, Kitaro and co outfits don't change within the various series.
- Occasionally averted by Nezumi-Otoko's penchance for suiting up when the smell of success is in the air, and Neko-Musume in the 2007 series with dabbling in various fashions.
- Living Forever Is Awesome: The very theme song in all its incarnations over the decades explicitly says that the Youkai never die, in such a way to make it sound like a ton of fun! However there's also many instances of this trope's opposite, located below.
- Magical Database: One of these becomes a plot point in an episode when it turns out the encyclopedia of yokai some kids have doesn't contain the Monster of the Week and it goes on a rampage in revenge for being left out.
- Magic Carpet: Ittan Momen acts like one, rather than just flying around and choking people to death like in the original myths.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Neko Musume. Yikes.
- Mutual Kill: Dracula IV and the Ox-demon (Otoroshi) kill each other over the human they were planning to eat.
- Name's the Same: Partially averted. Well-known New Age musician Kitaro took that stage name in honor of this manga, but written with different kanji.
- No Export for You Almost none of the manga has been translated into English. This is beginning to change; partly thanks to scanlations, and partly because in the summer of 2013 an official English translation was finally released by Drawn & Quarterly, though it's only one volume of carefully selected stories.
- The Noseless: Dracula IV after Nezumi-Otoko accidently snatched his nose off trying to get at Medama-Oyagi.
- Oblivious to Love: Kitaro has absolutely no idea whatsoever that Neko Musume loves him.
- Pokémon Speak—Nurikabe (at least in the 80s series)
- Prehensile Hair:
- Kitaro's hair can be used as a rope. The Yasha in each series is a strangling hair monster.
- The Otoroshi also has this kind of hair.
- Progressively Prettier: In the 2000s series, Cat Girl goes from a squat, weird-looking... thing with a bowl cut and mouth full of needle-like teeth to a pretty girl with an attractive, if tomboyishly scruffy hairstyle, Cute Little Fangs and the figure of a ballerina. She's also red-haired now for some reason, too.
- Really 700 Years Old: Kitaro looks like a human child no older than 8 to 12 years, but in the 2007 movie he is revealed to be 350 years old.
- Soul Jar: In most appearances, the Yasha kept stolen souls inside balloons.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: The 80s anime brought a human girl to the main cast as the Girly Girl Counterpart to the rather boyish Neko Musume.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Despite the casts' generally okay view with living forever, as they have eachother, with Kitaro in particular this sentiment occasionally rears its ugly head. A few times, even in the live action movies, Kitaro has shown a quiet but very apparent longing to have human friends and love...but is often stopped, sometimes by his father behind his back, by the notion that outliving friends or a love is just too painful for Youkai and is generally avoided. This has led to many scenes of Kitaro walking lonesomely away from humans he had just helped, or staring longingly at a world he can never really be a part of.
- You Dirty Rat: Nezumi Otoko