GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 17 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
There's been a lot said in GeGeGe no Kitaro about how yokai and humans shouldn't mix, and yet no one has really provided a good answer for why. Apart from the Shiro episode, where she was actively, albeit unintentionally, harming her beloved human, mostly there are just vague warnings and general reluctance on the part of older yokai. This week we finally get what might be a real answer: human lives are ephemeral when compared to the lifespan of a yokai.
Way back during the Sengoku Era, there was a yokai named Kani-Bozu (crab monk) who protected a human princess. The princess, her men having lost the battle for her territory, was fleeing, and Kani-Bozu was charged with keeping her alive. They made it as far as a mountain shrine outside Sakaiminato before the princess' enemies hired a magician to transform Kani-Bozu into a stone, which was then thrown into the sea. (Presumably he was awakened during the events of last week's episode.) Without her protector, the princess soon perished. Now Kani-Bozu has reawakened, and he's wreaking havoc on Sakaiminato looking for his beloved princess, either unaware that hundreds of years have passed or unwilling to believe it.
Although I couldn't find a source for this episode's backstory, it sounds like a folktale, and the entire episode runs like one, more so than any of the others in the series thus far. From Kani-Bozu's riddle, which he used to identify the princess' enemies back in the day, to Mana having to brave the mountain to find the Karasu-Tengu to help defeat Kani-Bozu and turn the people he enchanted back (he turns them into bronze), the whole thing has the air of a Rumplestiltskin story, and actually runs like AT500-type tales. The central issue is discovering Kani-Bozu's name, which, like in the Grimms' story and others like it, is the answer to a riddle – only if you don't know this guy's name, he'll turn you into a bronze version of yourself rather than taking your first-born child. The major difference here is that Kani-Bozu is doing this because he genuinely wants to save the princess he loves; he really is acting out of love for her rather than pure selfishness.
That the princess died centuries ago is something he probably knows, deep inside. He just doesn't want to accept it, and by rampaging through Sakaiminato, he's essentially grieving. That it's destructive for the people and yokai currently living there isn't good, but in Kani-Bozu's mind, he probably sees them as collateral for the death of the princess. Whether it was a fatherly or a romantic love doesn't matter; the point is that it was strong enough that he actually commits suicide to be with her in the end…which may have been his plan all along, back in the Sengoku Era. (Because honestly, he doesn't seem too upset about what he's done in town.)
This dovetails with Mana's encounter with a young Karasu-Tengu who saves her when she falls off the mountain. He's definitely crushing on her, so when his grandfather warns him not to make the same mistakes Kani-Bozu did, he's probably warning him not to get romantically attached to Mana. It'll be interesting to see how that pans out and if he'll show up in future episodes. He'd best not think about hitting on Sand Witch, though – she was not pleased to be mistaken for the deceased princess, and it didn't seem like it was just because Kani-Bozu was weird and creepy; she seemed genuinely annoyed at his persistence.
On the less analytical side, this episode also functions as a tourism advertisement – come visit beautiful Sakaiminato and check out the statues on Shigeru Mizuki Road! Judging from photos, the final scenes of the episode are very faithful recreations of the street, although I hope the statue of Rat Man doesn't feature him picking his nose like the gross patent medicine salesman he aspired to be. It does feel a little cheesy, but on the other hand, it makes for a good backstory for kids going to the city in the same way the film Balto made seeing the Balto statue in Central Park more exciting. And since I kind of want to go to Sakaiminato now, I guess these past two episodes have done their job.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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