GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 35 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
If ever there was an episode ending that said, “Well, that's not good,” it would be this week's GeGeGe no Kitaro's final scene. Both Backbeard and the whole Brigadoon project are bad enough, but when Nanashi picks up the Ring of Arcana as the episode comes to a close—let's just say that it's proving the truth of the old folktale It Could Always Be Worse.
Of course, we're clearly gearing up for an end to the Western Yokai arc, so this is the point when we'd expect things to look the darkest. Following Kitaro's defense of Agnes two weeks ago, Agnes came to the decision not to involve him or the other yokai in her problems anymore, with the result that Cat Girl asks Mana if maybe she can find the young witch and figure out what's going on. (Yes, further proof that if Cat Girl ran the world, things would be different, and quite possibly better.) When Mana catches up with Agnes, she finally gets the whole story out of her – Agnes is a member of a clan of witches who feel that their honor depends on giving their lives to Backbeard, and to be chosen to form the core of the Brigadoon Project is a duty that is the ultimate expression of that devotion – because it means giving up your life to power it. That's what happened in the hantu's homeland: Agnes and Adele's mother died to turn all of the humans in that country into yokai slaves for Backbeard, and she was honored to do so. Adele agrees with her mother, but Agnes has been haunted by the image ever since, doubly so because Backbeard chose her to be her mother's successor.
This is where things get weird, but in a way that makes a lot of sense for Agnes' attitude throughout the arc. Backbeard's choice of Agnes over Adele caused the older sister to resent the younger, because Adele thought that she ought to be the one given the “honor” of dying to prove her devotion to Backbeard. She wants Agnes to die because she does believe that the dignity of the clan rests upon it, but also because she's terribly jealous of her little sister. It's almost like a variant of the Singing Bones tale Binnorie, where one sister kills the other only to have her come back as a magical harp to tell of her misdeeds. If Adele succeeds in getting Agnes to die, I'm pretty sure that Agnes will come back somehow to tell the world, or at least Mana and Kitaro.
That does not, however, mean that Agnes isn't conflicted about the whole thing. She may not want to sacrifice herself for the ambitions of a monster whose goals she doesn't believe in, but she also doesn't necessarily want Adele to either. She resents both Adele and Backbeard for her mother's death, but she also loves Adele because she's her sister and the only family she has left. It's a complicated situation, made more so by the fact that she's now got true friends in the form of Mana, Kitaro, and Cat Girl, as well as the rest of the main yokai cast. (Except Rat Man. He's already headed for the hills, though I'm half-sure he'll be back.) She doesn't want anyone to die, and she also doesn't want Mana to become a yokai slave – which means that she's going to have to stand up and do something.
That she won't have to do it alone is probably the most moving part of the episode. It bears similarities to the scene in One Piece when Nami finally asks Luffy for help defeating Arlong, but even without that, the quiet determination of Cat Girl and the others to support Agnes, Agnes' own ceaseless march forward despite the stones hurled at her, and even Mana's entreaty to go to Kitaro in the first place followed by her walking Agnes to the forest's edge all speak of the fact that Agnes is not alone. That's powerful stuff for a kid who feels there's no one to turn to, and once again the series taps into a basic childhood trauma and shows how to make it better, or at least gives a different way of looking at what's going on.
It's a good thing, too – next week Backbeard appears to launch his all-out attack, doubtless with the help of Nanashi. If Kitaro fails, there's a lot more at stake than anyone can imagine.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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