GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Welcome to our first “to be continued” episode of Gegege no Kitaro! It makes sense that it would be – as anyone following the most recent release of the manga series will be aware, this particular storyline comes from a multi-chapter arc that got its own volume from Drawn & Quarterly's new curated translation. It's also loosely based on a longer folk legend about the so-called “Matsuyama Disturbance,” which features a bake-danuki (monster tanuki) known as either Inugami Gyobu or Gyobu-Danuki. Presumably the show went with the latter because “Inugami” sounds a little too similar to Mana's family name (Inuyama), but also doesn't scream “tanuki” to those unfamiliar with the legend. (It's worth noting, however that “inugami,” or “dog god,” does fit with the translation of “tanuki” as “raccoon dog.”) In any event, this multi-episode story isn't likely to last long enough to end the cour, but it is being linked to whatever the end game of the season is, because the reason those 808 tanuki are able to return to threaten humanity in the first place is because our favorite mysterious bad guy removes the seal holding them back in the first couple of minutes of the show.
Since it's been a while since we saw him, having him, rather than more human stupidity, trigger the tanuki attack is a smart move. He knows that the tanuki, who are firmly anti-human, won't take kindly to Kitaro; in fact, Gyobu-Danuki disparagingly talks about him as “that yokai who's acting like he's some sort of hero.” Gyobu-Danuki and his followers are soundly convinced that theirs is the superior species, so some plucky young kid from the ghost tribe isn't likely to impress them with either his apparent fondness for humanity or his human looks. This leads me to suspect that rather than Rat Man simply falling in with the group he sees as being the winning one, the tanuki may very well have sought him out – it can't be a secret that Rat Man is frequently in Kitaro's company, and his habit of trying to be on the superior side and fondness for making a quick buck would both make him an easy target for someone looking to hurt Kitaro. Sure enough, Rat Man leads them right to Mana, and Gyobu-Danuki is very quick to take immediate advantage of that fact.
What's also interesting is that the eradication of humanity doesn't seem to be anywhere in the tanukis' plans. Instead they prove their wiliness by scheming to use humans in order to further their own ends. First order of business? Scare the furless morons into using their fear and weaponry to hatch the yokai egg the tanuki can't get out of the sky with their (apparently Edo-era) technology. It's brilliantly done – they make it look as if there's a second, red moon in the sky that's going to crush Tokyo. When the humans run mad with fear and decide to shoot it down, they're playing right into Gyobu-Danuki's paws, because the minute the egg returns to Earth, it will hatch the monster he derives his power from. Kitaro's dad mentions that the tanuki can't get the egg down themselves; if humans had known more about yokai matters or simply been less fearful and thought it through a bit more, they wouldn't have become the authors of their own displacement as the dominant species in Japan.
In the Prime Minister's defense, she really is shown trying to think things through. That's one of the most interesting changes to this story for 2018; in the original manga, pretty much all of the humans involved are men. More interesting than a gender swap, however, is the way she's shown really making the effort to consider what's going on rationally – we see her trying to overcome her fear in order to make the best decision, but her advisors are all panicking in her ears, pushing her to give the order to shoot the red moon yesterday. Had they given her a chance to think more calmly, or had she been able to tell them to just shut up for a minute, Gyobu-Danuki's plan might not have gone off quite so smoothly.
But it did, so now Kitaro's been turned to stone (because Gyobu-Danuki really did think of everything), Mana's in danger of turning tanuki, and humans have become second-class citizens. Whether this extends past next week or not, it will be interesting to see how Kitaro gets himself out of this mess and saves the day – and what his watcher in shadows has to say about it.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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