GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 24 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
It isn't easy to pin an affiliation on Rat Man. He's out for himself, but he's also willing to stand up for those he cares about. He's sometimes behind evil deeds, but he's also capable of truly good ones, and yet despite this, he's certainly not “neutral” in the fantasy RPG sense. He's simply chaotic, without good, evil, or neutral fitting his beliefs and actions, and maybe that's why he's difficult to dislike. If we take into consideration the themes of this iteration of GeGeGe no Kitaro, that all may stem from what Wally Wall and Rollo Cloth discuss after Rat Man's wedding this week – that he's the product of a relationship between a yokai and a human. Rollo Cloth says that his very existence proves that such things can work, and while Wally Wall is less certain, he definitely hopes that Rat Man's parents set a happy precedent.
That Rat Man's marriage doesn't work at first seems like a definitive statement for the other side—until we find out that he didn't marry a beautiful, orphaned human woman, he in fact married a yokai who preys on men. Her name is Sekiyo (although she goes by Yoko as a human), and while she's not in any of my sources, Kitaro says that she's a yokai who traditionally showed up in quarries to soothe the stoneworkers out of their exhaustion – and their cash. Even though stone quarries aren't the big business they used to be (just ask all the granite islands), Sekiyo is still around and up to her old tricks, seducing men and then leaving with all of their worldly goods.
What makes her an interesting choice as Rat Man's bride is that he doesn't have worldly goods. That's been a central facet of his character for the entire franchise, let alone this series – he's perpetually poor and looking for a way to make a quick buck. He doesn't even look affluent in his crummy robe and bare feet, something Sekiyo was fully aware of when she met him and they both reached for the same fallen apple in a stereotypical meet-cute. So why, then, did she go so far as to marry him? Sure she left with the cash he'd borrowed for their honeymoon, but when you look at her other victims later in the episode, he's clearly not the kind of wealthy benefactor she normally goes for. She also leaves the silver wedding band behind when she goes, all of which may indicate that Sekiyo really does have feelings for her erstwhile groom.
All of this contributes to the idea that perhaps this episode isn't so much a case of Rat Man getting a taste of his own medicine and more a tragic love story. He's not a likely protagonist for such a tale, I'll grant you, but he does have a heart and at the end of the day just wants to be happy – and maybe that's the case for Sekiyo as well. This brings us back to the Shiro episode, where both human and yokai desperately wanted to make their relationship work but were unable to because of Shiro's nature; what if that's the same case here? Maybe Sekiyo really does love Rat Man, as the final scenes might indicate, but she simply cannot overcome who she is as a yokai? Preying on men is her literal raison d'être; it is why she exists as a supernatural creature. If she can't overcome that, no matter how much she cares for Rat Man, their relationship is doomed.
Caring, then, becomes the underlying theme for this week. Kitaro and Co go after Sekiyo because they, too, care about Rat Man and they don't like to see him unhappy and taken advantage of, although it later becomes more of Kitaro's job as the human/yokai peacekeeper. Rat Man and Sekiyo care about each other, but they can't be together. And once again the specter of relationships that are doomed to failure because of who the participants are rears its head.
As episodes go, this one doesn't feel quite as well put-together as many of the others, and its message is a little garbled, much like the one about boys' unwanted attention. But it still encourages us to see Rat Man in a slightly different light, even if he's back to his old ways at the end – and maybe that's out of self-defense this time, because he doesn't want to remember the hurt he's suffered. It's something to ponder, at any rate, as we anticipate next week's episode, which looks like it's going to be much scarier.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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