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Manga / GeGeGe no Kitarō

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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 Kitarō (Kitaro of the Graveyard). The story focuses on the adventures of the 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. If you've never heard of this series, it's because it doesn't often show up in Western media, where it remains very obscure.

The story follows 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 Nezumi Otoko, a half-human half-yōkai filthy rodent, Neko Musume, a Cat Girl who can transform and harbors a crush on Kitaro, Sunakake Baba, the sand yōkai woman who runs an apartment for yokai, Konaki Jiiji, an absent-minded elderly yōkai who can turn himself to stone, Ittan Momen, a sentient strip of white cloth, and Nurikabe, 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 sixth adaptation 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 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, going from a competent but weak fighter who is easily taken out to a ferocious and powerful warrior who is now just as strong as Kitaro.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Neko Musume is the most hit with this (see Progressively Prettier), though it also affected characters such as Kitaro's mother, who originally looked like this, but is significantly prettier in both the 1985 anime and the 1998 anime. In Hakaba, she looks closer to original manga appearance.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Most of the Kitaro 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 murderous cursed cat spirit. In the manga and anime continuity they are, collectively, a close knit "family" of friendly yokai defending humanity.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Miage Nyudo was originally just portrayed as a supernatural Grumpy Old Man, whose main goal was simply punishing disrespectful children. His 2018 counterpart banished thousands of people to the netherworld, with he ultimate goal to Take Over the World.
  • Afterlife Express: Episode 7 of the 2018 anime features a cruel businessman boarding a mysterious train late at night. Throughout the trip, the man has some supernatural experiences, such as encountering the ghosts of former employees who had killed themselves after being fired. It turns out that the man had been Dead All Along, having been killed by the restless souls of his dead employees, and that the mysterious train he's on is heading towards hell.
  • All Myths Are True: Kitaro often fight alongside, or against, other Youkai and even foreign mythological beings.
  • Animal Jingoism: Neko Musume and Nezumi Otoko are cat and rat, and therefore she attacks him when things go awry.
  • 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.
  • 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 arrogance, greed and apathy; often at the hands of an angry Yokai.
    • Also in the first 2018 episode, Charatomi, the arrogant vlogger who unknowingly removed the talisman that sealed away the episode's demon. By his second major appearance however, his status of this is deconstructed.
    • Episode 7 of the 2018 anime supplies an especially terrifying example, with a man getting stuck on a ghost train, being scared out of his gourd by Yokai, discovering he has been Dead All Along, that it was the restless souls of his employees who killed him, and finally being told that he is going straight to Hell! Yet considering this man is an extreme Mean Boss who physically and mentally abused his employees to a degree that they committed suicide and then made fun of their deaths.. No one is complaining. Also the bully girl at beginning and end of the same episode is strongly implied to be on the way to suffering the same fate, though she seems to have a (horrified) Heel Realization.
  • Author Avatar: When Mizuki addresses the audience directly, it's through Nezumi-Otoko. Even outside of this series.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Generally the easiest way to notice when Nezumi-Otoko thinks he struck it big.
  • Blood Knight: In the 2018 anime 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 fighting.
  • Breath Weapon: A lot of yokai have these. On a similar note, Nezumi-Otoko's halitosis can subdue people.
  • Cat Girl: Neko-Musume, natch.
  • Central Theme: Each version has it's own set of themes, but there are always two that pop up consistently:
    • The excesses of modern times is making people apathetic towards the environment and society.
    • At the same time, refusing to adapt to the times and being stuck in old ways causes just as many problems.
  • 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.
  • Cute Witch: Agnes she is young cute and she is a witch
  • 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 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 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.
  • Dark Is Evil: Backbeard, a big one-eyed ball of darkness and one of the most dangerous recurring villains in the series.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Some of the friendlier spirits, Kitaro most prominently.
  • Dirty Coward: Nezumi-Otoko, for a more literal interpretation than most.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Some of the more irritable yōkai are all about this.
  • Distant Finale: At the very end of the 2018 anime, we jump ten years into the future, when a new wave of yokai attacks brings Kitaro back to fight it, and Mana's memories are restored.
  • Does This Remind Youof Anything: The 808 Tanuki are clearly meant to represent fascists, and are even directly compared to them in the original manga. The 2018 version cuts that, but makes it more explicit with scenes of them arresting innocent people who are suspected of being “anti tanuki”.
    • Backbeard, the ruler of the western Yokai who believes that his kind is superior and often tries to conquer the eastern ones, is essentially a Yokai imperialist. The 2018 version again makes this more explicit by giving him a Motive Rant where he outright says that he deserves to rule the world because he’s naturally powerful and his takeover is doing everyone a favor.
  • 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 anime: 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.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Backbeard is a giant ball with a big eye in the centerthat wants to Take Over the World and dislikes japanese yokai
  • Evolving Credits: The 2018 series had Nanashi floating ominously behind Mana at the train station, after his defeat, he is replaced with several friendly yokai that appeared over the course of the series up to that point.
  • Faceless Eye: Medama-Oyaji and Backbeard.
  • Fantastic Racism: Backbeard, the ruler of the western yokai, hates Japanese ones and is always trying to conquer them.
  • Fartillery: About the only ability of note that Nezumi-Otoko possesses in addition to halitosis.
  • Fish out of Water: When coaching a girl in tennis, the yokai Hihi finds out the hard way that not only does preaching about “spirit” not work with everyone but that smacking your student around is frowned upon in modern society.
  • Gag Echo: In the Halloween episode of the 2018 anime, Neko-Musume rants about how Halloween is so commercialized and basically an excuse for cosplay. She lets up when Mana invites her to a movie event. But at the theater, she has to listen to ticket-puncher Nezumi-Otoko's word for word identical rant.
  • 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 has a conflicted view about it, moving by happily bragging to a human child to be far superior to regular yōkai because of his half-breed nature to berate Kitarō because he feels pure blooded yōkai are always looking down to him.
    • Nanashi, The first major villain in the 2018 anime, turns out to be this.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Nezumi-Otoko can always be trusted to be untrustworthy, in the older series more than the more recent ones.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The GeGeGe 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.
  • Honest John's Dealership: It is easier to count the times Nezumi Otoko HASN’T made one of these in an episode.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Neko Musume in the 2018 anime, where she is taller and more mature.
    • The Yuki Onna, in earlier seasons they weren’t ugly but were drawn in the same cartoony style as other yokai. In the 2007 anime however they are drawn in a more realistic style and all but one are portrayed as unquestionable beautiful. Best exemplified by a recurring Yuki Onna named Aoi who has a cute face and incredibly large breasts.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Heavily Zigzagged and usually Subverted. Throughout the franchise we do see that humans are responsible are for many problems in the series, especially in the 2018 series where most antagonistic yōkai justify their actions by claiming they're just taking back the Earth from the undeserving, greedy and polluting human beings that stopped respecting and revering them. However we also see entire communities of humans who work to fix these mistakes and even build positive relationships with yokai. Also the those aforementioned antagonistic yokai? They are often just as bad, oftentimes even worse, than the humans they are angry at. Furthermore, all of the most wicked characters in the series are always yokai.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 GeGeGe 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 to his side by giving him a reason to hate mankind.
  • Impact Silhouette: Nezumi Otoko leaves this behind after spotting a cat.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: 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, humans 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Once In a blue moon, Nezumi Otoko actually makes a strong point on something.
    • Many villainous yokai are miles more corrupt and arrogant than the humans they hate, but even they sometimes make good points criticizing humanity’s pettiness and selfishness.
    • Hihi may have gotten himself into his own mess by refusing to adapt to the times, but he was right saying the reporters going after him were being bullies.
  • Karakasa: The karakasa appears as a minor character, although its appearance varies wildly between versions.
  • Lighter and Softer: Progressively. The 1980s and 2007 anime in particular, which made the few times someone actually died in that version much more shocking. Subsequent adaptations made the 1980s anime seem grimdark. Averted with the 2018 anime which is considerably darker and outright becomes a Horror anime at times, as well as the Truer to the Text Hakaba Kitaro mini-series, though they are still lighter than the original picture show.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: The 2018 anime features the Token Human Mana Inuyama, a Girl Next Door schoolgirl and Neko Musume, a Sexy Cat Person with Tsundere tendencies.
  • 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 Yōkai 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.
  • Marshmallow Hell: In the first episode of the 2018 anime, Mana is so relieved Kitaro is ok she gives him a big hug... And he is about a head shorter than her. Though not stacked, Mana is endowed enough to where Kitaro can’t breath during said hug.
  • Minorly Mentioned Myths and Monsters: Quite a lot of stories focus on rather obscure monsters, and not just from Japanese mythology. When was the last time you saw creatures from Malaysian mythology in anything other than Shin Megami Tensei?
  • Missing Mom: Kitaro's mother, Iwako, died while she was pregnant with him from illness, and unlike her husband, didn't come back.
  • Monster of the Week: Arguably one of the progenitors of this trope. Nearly every episode features some sort of yokai that either causes problems, helps Kitaro in some way, or both. The sheer variety of Yokai, both from myth and from the author himself, makes this a very strong usage of this trope.
  • 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.
    • One episode of the 2018 series has Kitaro become obsessed with a Dating Sim featuring a character who looks a lot like (and is voiced by) the 2007 version of Nekomusume.
  • The Noseless: Dracula IV after Nezumi-Otoko accidentally snatched his nose off trying to get at Medama-Oyagi.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We don’t see exactly what Sara-Kozō does to Poor Man Isamu, only that it almost assuredly resulted in the comedian’s painful death. The fact we don’t see the audience or Isamu’s family’s reactions to this makes it even worse.
  • Nue:
    • In the fifth anime, Nue is depicted as a large shadowed equine figure, resembling that of the Qilin or the Longma. He has voluminous and flowing mane and tail, as well as having tufts of hair around his hooves. His face has a long thin snout with a thin pair of whiskers, glowing green eyes and lighter bushy eyebrows. He usually covers himself with a black cloud.
    • Within the sixth anime, Nue's appearance returns to the usual depiction, being a chimerical youkai, having the head of a monkey, the body of a tanuki, the limbs of a tiger and the tail of a snake.
  • Oblivious to Love: Kitaro has absolutely no idea whatsoever that Neko Musume loves him. Afterall, Kitaro has the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old kid.
  • 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.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: As expected most dragons in the series are of the Eastern variety, though some such as Kouryou don’t look like any sort of traditional dragon. The main villain of the 2008 movie is a demonic dragon named Yato-no-Kami who for most of the movie takes the form of a little boy.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Kitaro. It's because he's only got one eye.
  • Pokémon Speak: Nurikabe (at least in the 80s and 2018 series).
  • Power Walk: The second ending of the 2018 anime ends with Kitaro and his companions doing this.
  • 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 adding height, turning her cat eyes into large Tsurime Eyes, an adding a more feminine figure to her.
    • 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 lest he get dragged off to hell by a more uncompromising Yokai.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Threaten someone Kitaro cares for and you're bound to get this.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Dai-Tengu who presides over Kitaro’s trial is this, giving the defense plenty of time to prove Kitaro’s innocence (even after the trial is technically over).
    • As strict and terrifying as he is, Lord Enma also is 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.
  • Shout-Out: In the 2018 series, the harmless yokai Nopperabo's (poor) attempt to draw himself a face looks suspiciously like the Egg of the Perfect World from Berserk.
  • Soul Jar: In most appearances, the Yasha kept stolen souls inside balloons.
  • Take That!:
  • To Hell and Back: The finale of the 80s series took place in Hell itself.
  • 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.
  • 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. The yokai themselves fall under this as well, especially if they aren’t familiar with modern technology.
  • 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.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Some of the villainous yokai will outright claim to be this, though few of them actually are.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Medama Oyaji REALLY let’s Kitaro have it after he lashes out at Mana for Neko-Chan’s death.
  • 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.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Nanashi is an especially tragic example, being the spirit of an unborn half-human, half-yokai hybrid who was killed in his mother’s own womb! The only reason he thrives on death and despair is because it is all he has ever known.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Nezumi Otoko, full stop. In both the literal and metaphorical sense.
  • Youkai: of every shape, size and inclination, which is really saying something. In fact, the series has often been credited with popularizing/reintroducing youkai and the folklore surrounding them to a modern audience.