GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 29 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Kitaro's never been the most gregarious guy around, but after the events of the last two episodes, he's gotten downright cold and surly. It's hard to blame him – he opened up his forest to the Malay hantu only to find their lifestyles incompatible with those of the yokai, and then when he tried to help Agnes, her former associates attacked Japan. It isn't difficult to see why he might decide that Agnes is more trouble than she's worth, especially since during the battle with Backbeard's army a number of Kitaro's own friends and family were injured. He basically tells her to find her damn ring and get out (something he's willing to help her with in the interest of getting rid of her sooner), but he figures without one very important detail: Mana.
This too is understandable. After all, only Rat Man regularly wanders the human streets, so why would Kitaro assume that Agnes would do the same? Unfortunately for him, though, that's just what she does, and that puts her right in Mana's path. For her part, Mana's friendship with Cat Girl and the other yokai has made her perfectly willing to walk right up to a girl on a broom with a pointy hat and simply accept that she's a real witch, and that same friendship makes her unafraid of the results. After her poor reception by Kitaro – which was largely her own fault – Agnes isn't sure she should trust the human girl, but Mana quickly wins her over. Although Agnes tries to leave before Mana gets any more involved in the whole Ring of Arcana mess, it's clear that she's touched by Mana's kindness and her allowing her into the Inuyama family home, something which allows Kitaro to begin to realize that Agnes is prickly because of what she's facing, not just because.
Of course, this comes about after Mana's put in danger due to her new friendship with Agnes. Victor Frankenstein comes calling to bring Agnes home to the fold, and Mana happens to be there while he's trying to kidnap her. Victor immediately falls in love with Mana and tries to force a truly gross kiss on her to cement their marriage (making Mana the Bride of Frankenstein, I guess?), at which point Kitaro charges in to the rescue. I doubt this is from any sort of romantic rivalry, though – Kitaro's very protective of all of his friends, and Mana especially because she's a human and doesn't have any powers beyond her belief in yokai. To him it just looks like those pesky Western interlopers are just causing more trouble for people he cares about.
That's what makes the finale of the episode so important – it's Agnes who ultimately saves Mana. It's the first unselfish act she's performed since showing up in Japan, motivated by the fact that she likes Mana rather than her worry about the Brigadoon Project. Appropriately it's the result of a theme in both eastern and western folklore: if you are kind to someone in trouble, they will return to help you in your time of need. Whether it is feeding your last crust to an old woman on the roadside who turns out to be a fairy or greasing a gate's hinges so that it unlocks for you when you're fleeing the monster, Mana's act of kindness in helping Agnes when she was lost and alone falls under the same category – and now Agnes will help her in turn. Because Mana knows nothing about what brought Agnes to Japan, that makes her kindness that much more important; it is done entirely without ulterior motive. When Kitaro sees Agnes do the same, he begins to see that there's more going on here than he thought, and that maybe Agnes is worth giving another chance, provided he gets to keep an eye on her.
It's a nice, straightforward message about motivations, second chances, and to a degree how there's almost always someone worse out there to watch out for. Victor's definitely that last thing, a strange mix of Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Monster, and, weirdly, the Incredible Hulk. (Because superheroes are contemporary American myths according to some theories?) Even if he didn't have that creepy giggle, I'd definitely not trust him after that mash-up of characters was revealed. But probably he's less dangerous than Carmilla, who looks much more human. She'll get her chance next week to try to take down Mana. Time to see how much of her original literary character the show leaves in.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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