GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 32 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Perhaps the greatest mystery this week is not why Belial came to Japan from Portugal thinking he could take it over back in the Meiji era, but why he did so dressed like a 19th century sea captain with Elizabethan ruffs. It's a distinctive look, yes, but kind of an odd one. His story, however, holds more water, as does the way he was inadvertently repowered: apparently back in days of old, he was sealed by karasu-tengu Kojiro's village elder, who then had the foresight to not only trap Belial's power in a glowing purple orb, but also to then build a cairn over said orb, so that people and/or yokai attracted to shiny glowy things wouldn't break it. Unfortunately for him, he counted without young love and the lengths teenage(ish) boys will go to show off for their crushes, and Kojiro showing Mana how awesome he is at controlling wind accidentally breaks both cairn and orb. Oops.
As far as “ways yokai have been freed by hubris or stupidity,” this is one of the more relatable ones. Kojiro's got it bad for Mana, and the surprise of having her suddenly show up in Sakaiminato with Agnes is too much for his adolescent heart. When Agnes, who's a lot more astute than Mana in this case, immediately picks up on the fact that the girl Kojiro likes is Mana, she's only too happy to leave them alone while she goes looking for the Ring of Arcana. Since Mana's about as aware as a brick and Kojiro's emotions are in overdrive, the situation is ripe for something like this to happen.
Even though Belial is the villain of the week and there's the obligatory ring hunting going on, the romance plot is the main feature of this episode. That makes Mana's quoting of her favorite (or at least, most current reading) shoujo romance manga when Kojiro is down in the dumps particularly entertaining. The whole episode so beautifully captures the awkwardness of early teen romance that it really stands out. From Kojiro having no idea that Mana doesn't realize that the girl he likes is her (in her defense, he never actually says it) to Mana only having romance knowledge that she got from a paranormal romance manga aimed at teen girls, this is relatable without being totally cringe-inducing.
It also furthers the series' overall theme of whether or not yokai and humans can have any sort of relationship. Mana and Agnes have managed to forge a friendship, but Agnes is still clearly not sure what, if anything, she should be sharing with Mana about what she's really doing. Kitaro's still very much on the fence; although he feels affection for Mana and looks out for her, that's tempered by the thought that she wouldn't need protecting if they weren't friends in the first place. The karasu-tengu elder at first falls on Kitaro's side of “not a good idea,” but by the end he seems to see some value in allowing Kojiro to at least continue to crush on Mana without interference, although whether he'd feel the same way if Mana was more aware is up for debate. What's important here is that yokai are starting to come around to the idea of coexistence in a way that isn't Rat Man running yet another con job, and that may well be important to the overall character development and plot with Nanashi. (It's also worth mentioning that Cat Girl wins the show yet again as someone who has and maintains an equal friendship with Mana and won't hear any garbage from Kitaro about it.)
All of that said, I do feel like the Western Yokai Arc isn't progressing quite as well as it might. Next week looks like another interrupting episode, and while I really do enjoy those one-offs more than this multi-episode storyline, I also question the brilliance of dragging Agnes' story out. That's something worth keeping an eye on as we put it on the back-burner again.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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