GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 36 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Rumor has it that the darkest hour is just before dawn. Well, the hour's looking pretty dark right now for Kitaro and his friends, and indeed all of Japan: this week's episode ends with Agnes in a no-win situation giving up and activating Brigadoon for Backbeard, Mana's missing in action having fallen off Agnes' broom what looks like a mile up, Kitaro's been disabled by Backbeard, and, oh yes, the people of Tokyo are beginning to turn into blobby black monsters while Nanashi chortles maliciously from on high. Not what you'd call a good day. The only potential positives here are that Nanashi wants Mana for his own nefarious purposes and so is unlikely to have let her die, plus she's wearing Kitaro's spirit hair chachanko, so she's probably immune to Brigadoon. Find hope where you can, I guess?
This is a dark episode all around, but that doesn't mean that it's entirely hopeless. Apart from the fact that Mana learns (the hard way) that the number one rule of being in a folktale is “never randomly put on anything you find on the ground,” it turns out that I was largely wrong about Adele last week: she really does love her sister. Rather than being jealous of Agnes' superior magical power, she's worried, because once Backbeard learned of it, it meant that she would have to watch both her mother and her younger sister die. There's still some of her basic selfish nature in that she tries to be the one to die mostly so she won't have to be left alone (thus leaving Agnes alone in the world), but she's spent so many years playing the part of Backbeard's faithful lackey that some of that acting likely stuck to her. And even her decision to try to be the one to be Brigadoon's core may be read as her knowing that Agnes has made friends she can count on in Japan – she's seen firsthand how Kitaro, Cat Girl, and Mana have all stood up for her and how much Agnes cares about them. She may very well feel she's leaving her sister in better hands by dying.
We aren't going to find that out any time soon, though, because her plans don't work. Not only does she not have the power needed, but now she's played out her hand and Backbeard knows what she's really up to. That information allows the evil eyeball to put Agnes into an even worse position once he's conveniently knocked Adele unconscious: either she does his bidding or he kills Kitaro and Adele in front of her. (She already thinks Mana is dead, so this would be the final straw.) Because Agnes is still hurting and really isn't equipped to figure a way out of the situation, she believes that giving in (or up, depending on how you look at it) is the only way to save at least the remaining people she cares about. In a choice between them and the world, she takes them.
This is interesting not just because Backbeard had her over a barrel, but because it is so contrary to what we typically see in children's anime, or any anime featuring a girl in a witch costume. Typically the magical girl (or girl with magic powers) picks the world, making the necessary sacrifice so that the most people can live. While Agnes is still sacrificing herself, as we see in many shows, she's also still taking the world down with her, choosing the few over the many. Given what she knows about the Brigadoon project, this is striking – she knows that if things succeed, Kitaro and Adele will be alone in a world with Backbeard and his adherents. That's not a fate I'd wish on anyone.
Could Agnes be counting on Kitaro to find a way out of this mess if she buys him time by initiating Brigadoon? That's possible, but it's still a major risk to take, especially because he's barely moving when she agrees to Backbeard's deal. While there aren't any truly good choices for her, the path she does take feels like the last act of someone who has seen as much death as she can handle in one lifetime and will let Backbeard cry his tarry tears of doom and let the world go to hell. We'll get our answers, or at least some of them, next week. Hopefully we'll see dawn starting to peek over the horizon.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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