Manga / GeGeGe no Kitaro

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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 include a half-human half-yōkai filthy rodent, a Cat Girl who can transform into a much more monstrous form, the sand yōkai woman who runs an apartment, an absent-minded elderly yōkai who can turn himself to stone, a sentient strip of white cloth, and a large yōkai shaped like a wall.

The original manga ran for about ten years, between 1960 and 1969, and multiple versions and adaptations 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 beginning in 2018. 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.

The series is finally available in English, courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly.

Tropes exhibited in at least one version of this series include:

  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Many yokai get more dramatic powers than they did in mythology. The standout example is Makura-Gaeshi, originally a rather harmless prankster whose main goal was to move people's pillows around while they sleep, became an outright Dream Weaver.
    • Neko Musume got this in the 2018 version to coincide with her Age Lift.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Miage Nyudo was originally just portrayed as a supernatural Grumpy Old Man, who's main goal was simply punishing disrespectful children. His 2018 counterpart devoured thousands of people, with he ultimate goal to Take Overthe World.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Most of the Kitarō Family, in the japanese lore, are human-killing monsters or nuisances. Nurikabe is meant to block travelers, preventing them from following their path and causing them to lose their bearings, Sunakake Baba, like the occidental Sandman is a witch scattering sand around and causing sleepyness and red eyes, Konaki-Jijii disguises himself as child and then uses his weight-altering powers to crush the human coming to help, Ittan Momen wraps himself around people, strangling them and Neko Musume, while being an original creation of the author, is meant to be a female Bakeneko, a cursed cat spirit. In the manga and anime continuity they are, collectively, a close knit "family" of friendly yōkai defending humanity.
  • All Myths Are True: Kitaro often fight alongside, or against, other Youkai and even foreign mythological beings.
  • Anti-Hero: Believe it or not, Kitaro and Medama-Oyaji were this in the beginning as seen in 'Kitaro Night Tales', which basically follows Hakaba Kitaro's storyline with a few deviations here and there. Kitaro was a very creepy child who mostly cared about his father, pretty girls and making money to survive; he was, more or less, a younger Nezumi Otoko. Medama-Oyaji tricked Mizuki into falling down a hole to Hell when the man called the cops on them. This can be seen as a bit of Disproportionate Retribution since Mizuki raised Kitaro from infancy despite his creepy nature. Thankfully, they showed him the way back to the world of the living.
    • Nezumi Otoko is this on a good day, when he's not plotting something horrible. He'll sometimes save Kitaro's life, even when it's not to his benefit, and he has a soft spot for pretty girls and will try to impress them anyway he can. Other times though, he's a Villain Protagonist.
  • 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 and the 2018 design for yourself.
  • Asshole Victim: VERY frequently Nezumi Otoko, he takes a huge amount of abuse but is so selfish and duplicitous it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Also a lot of humans over the series end up paying big time for their greed and apathy; often at the hands of an angry Yokai.
  • 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.
  • Cat Girl: Neko-Musume, natch.
  • Chickification: Neko-Musume in the 2000's series was a heavy subject of this. While still capable of holding her own and being scary, her girly side was much more notorious. Her wardrobe also saw a massive upgrade on variety. The role of her crush on Kitaro was also heavier than other incarnations, at points bordering on slightly flanderizing her.
  • Chick Magnet: A minor case, but Kitaro had shades of this in the 80's version.
  • Children Are Innocent: The usually grouchy and grumpy Sunakake-Babaa has a soft spot for children in every incarnation of the trope, and in the 2018 anime Medama Oyaji declares that, since human children are still growing, their soul is also in flux and their natural innocence makes puts them halfway between human beings and yōkai, allowing them to believe in the supernatural, seeing spirits and ghosts and access the mystical GeGeGe Forest where yōkai thrive and gather in modern times.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Child: Kitaro, specially in the original manga and Hakaba Kitaro. Neko-Musume counts too.
    • Neko Musume, who is a cute little assassin of the wicked.
  • Crossover: The fourth Yo-kai Watch film Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside - The Return of the Oni King features Kitaro, Neko Musume, and a few other characters.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 2008 anime Hakaba Kitaro took the series back to its horror roots and away from kid friendliness.
    • The 2018 anime, while still kid friendly, leans more towards the grim side of the scale. There's a stronger focus on utilizing horror aesthetics than some previous incarnations, and as of episode 5, a yōkai has gone as far as committing murder, albeit offscreen.
    • Despite the the kill happens offscreen, the yōkai keeps bragging about his actions with Kitarō. The retribution is swift and brutal
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Some of the friendlier spirits, Kitaro most prominently.
  • 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 featured throughout the manga and animes: the original Dracula, Dracula II, Dracula III and Dracula IV.
  • Dub Name Change: A short lived 2002 print of the manga used this, which carried over to the Crunchyroll subtitles of the 2018 show. Neko Musume became Cat Chick, Medama Oyaji Daddy Eyeball, Nezumi Otoko Ratman, Nurikabe Wally Wall, Ittan Momen Rollo Cloth, Konaki Jiji Old Man Crybaby, and Sunakake Baba Sand Witch.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The main motivation for many evil yōkai in the 2018: while they spent most of their immortal life revered and feared by humanity, the XXI century has no place for them. So, they try to bring back the fear of the Darkness humanity used to have.
  • Eye Scream: Kitaro's father lives in his eye socket. In some incarnation of the myth, Kitarō was born with both eyes, and he lost his left one when Mizuki dropped him as a kid and he fell facefirst on a tombstone.
  • Faceless Eye: Medama-Oyaji and Backbeard.
  • Fantastic Racism: Especially in the 2018 series, most evil yōkai justify their action by claiming they're just taking back the Earth by the undeserving, greedy and polluting human beings that stopped respecting and revering them.
  • 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 penchant for dabbling in human society. He himself brings it up in the 1968 series, and in the 2018 series he happily brags to a human child to be far superior to regular yōkai because of his half-breed nature.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Nezumi-Otoko can always be trusted to be untrustworthy, in the older series more than the more recent ones.
  • 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.
    • Starvation. In every incarnation of the manga and the anime Kitaro's race choose willingly to hide from humanity and as a result they had to surrender their living space and became unable to gather enough resources for their race as a whole.
      • A minor detail in the anime and the manga, a major plot point in the live action movie Ge Ge Ge no Kitarō: Sennen Noroi Uta, where Medama Oyaji willingly witheld this tidbit of lore from Kitarō as he knows the Big Bad would try to turn Kitarō by his side giving him a reason to hate mankind.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Ge Ge Ge Forest, the mystical place where Kitarō and most yōkai live in modern times, a place where only children and yōkai can go, and the former have to abide the rules set by the latter.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Kitaro himself, as the Monster of the Week is almost always an evil yōkai threatening humanity and Kitaro, a yōkai himself, is called to stop him.
  • Immortal Immaturity: Although Kitaro sometimes shows wisdom and sense far beyond his appearance, he often displays very childlike impulses and feelings. Nezumi Otoko, Neko Musume, and other "childlike" Youkai have all displayed this quality at times as well.
  • Impact Silhouette: Nezumi Otoko leaves this behind after spotting a cat.
  • Karakasa: The karakasa appears as a minor character, although its appearance varies wildly between versions.
  • Lighter and Softer: Progressively. The 1980s anime in particular, which made the few times someone actually died in that version much more shocking. Subsequent adaptations made the 1980s anime seems grimdark.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Self-explanatory, Kitaro and co's outfits don't change within the various series.
    • Occasionally averted by Nezumi-Otoko's penchant 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.
  • Lucky Translation: Sunakake Baba, as a sand throwing old women, has a name that translates perfectly to Sand Witch.
  • 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.
  • Mutual Kill: Dracula IV and the Ox-demon (Otoroshi) kill each other over the human they were planning to eat.
  • Mythology Gag: Many of the 2018 redesigns take their color schemes form their 1980s incarnations, while Neko Musume looks like her 1990s one.
  • The Noseless: Dracula IV after Nezumi-Otoko accidentally snatched his nose off trying to get at Medama-Oyagi.
  • Once a Season: Many of the animated series open up with a buck-toothed, bespectacled, bowlcut wearing young lad asking Kitaro and co. for help. This also happens in the 2018 version, but he's more or less taken aside when Mana first appears.
    • In the 2018 anime the kid stays as a backgound character.
  • Oblivious to Love: Kitaro has absolutely no idea whatsoever that Neko Musume loves him.
    • Afterall, Kitaro has the emotional maturity of a 13 years old kid.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Kitaro. It's because he's only got one eye.
  • 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 gangly, 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. Her 2018 incarnation (at least, when she's not in youkai mode) goes farther by ading height, turning her cat eyes into large Tsurime Eyes, an adding a more feminine figure to her.
    • Even her yōkai mode actually has two form: a fangtoothed, cat-like transformation, and an intermediate form in which her girly face is left intact, but she gains unnaturally long fingernails and a Slasher Smile to go with her feral instincs.
    • Kitaro as well, just not to Neko-musume's extent. Over the years his Gonkish features have been done away with, leaving him a reasonably cute young boy.
  • Psycho for Hire: Neko Musume, the most trusted Yokai, punishes wicked humans. Kitaro employs her to threaten Nezumi Otoko to stop his latest scam should he get dragged off to hell by a more uncompromising Yokai.
    • In the 2018 Neko Musume, part of the Kitarō Family, the inner circle of Kitarō's close friends, is always at his side when there are fights to fight. When she's not fully transformed in her yokai form, her Slasher Smile and Badass Boast sentences tell how much she relishes and likes fighting.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Threaten someone Kitaro cares for and you're bound to get this.
  • Second Episode Introduction: In the 1968 series, Nezumi Otoko doesn't appear until Episode 2. Basically all of the recurring cast debut in the second episode of the 2018 show.
  • Setting Update: While the 2018 keeps the Ghost Postbox in which Kitarō receives letters asking for his help, Token Human Mana prefers to contact Kitarō sending messages to Neko Musume's cellphone.
  • Soul Jar: In most appearances, the Yasha kept stolen souls inside balloons.
  • Take That!: The very first episode of the 2018 reboot has a vlogger, after making an ass out of himself in the middle of Shibuya, transform into a large tree. Earlier that year, a Youtuber named Logan Paul got in trouble over vlogging in the suicide forest.
  • 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.
    • The 2018 anime reverses that, making Mana Inuyama, the Token Human, a tomboyish schoolgirl and Neko Musume a feminine girly girl with Tsundere tendencies.
  • Too Dumb to Live: the majority of humans who piss off Yokai either by accident or on purpose. Special mention goes to the "Not Logan Paul" who released the vampire tree spirit while recording it for his youtube account.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Kitaro every once in a while, such as the fact that in one episode, he causes a vampire and his human assistant to burn themselves to death inside their own shack.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Despite the cast's generally okay attitude to living forever, as they have each other, 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.
    • In the 2018 series Kitarō tries to pull a Shoo the Dog caper on Mana Inuyama, his human friend, After the Kitarō family calls him out he references this trope, claiming that humans should revere and fear the supernatural and the darkness because while yōkai can thrive and survive in the supernatural world, human cannot and thus a human among yōkai will keep risking needlessly her life. This time he just decides to keep Mana's friendship, but cautioning her to trust him and avoid dangers as much as possible.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Nezumi Otoko

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