GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 38 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Ah, nothing says “happy new year” like seeing a yokai dragging a dead body through the streets. Mana's definitely not going to want to think too hard about what that says about her 2019, but for viewers of Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro it's a pretty good sign that the series is still going strong. This week's episode returns us to the yokai-of-the-week format of early days, with the creature in question being the kasha. While that may be an edible grain in other cultures/languages, in yokai lore, the kasha is a creature who carts the bodies of those who died from accumulated bad deeds off to hell. Kitaro takes that idea and plays with it a bit in order to make it scarier for a modern sensibility: in the show, Kasha is a yokai who eats dead bodies, preferring those he steals from funerals or processions because they are seasoned with the spice of grief.
This update does make more sense for the way we consume horror fiction today, to say nothing of the fact that Hell Girl basically already did the actual definition of the kasha as its primary plot device. It also gives Rat Man yet another opportunity to make a terrible business decision: when he realizes that Kasha is getting old and is having trouble getting bodies, he offers to start a body disposal service where he'll take inconvenient corpses off the hands of their killers or the unscrupulous and bring them to Kasha for his supper. As it turns out, there are a lot of people who have bodies they'd like to get rid of, which not only makes Kasha well-fed and Rat Man wealthy, but also may have something to do with Nanashi's mysterious and nefarious plans. The final scene of the episode, where we hear the people at a busy intersection thinking about all of the people they'd like dead, is chilling, not just because of the reveal about Kasha, but simply because there are so many of them.
Rat Man has made some questionable choices before (killing refugees for diamonds comes to mind), but his decision to go into business with Kasha may be the one with the greatest repercussions. Not only did he allow himself to get close enough to Kasha that the yokai could use his powers to switch into Rat Man's body, but he allowed him access to other, better bodies, which ultimately led to his hiding in plain sight, rendering his capture almost impossible. Essentially Rat Man didn't just validate Kasha's eating habits but also gave him the power to keep them up, and given whose body the yokai ended up in, there's no saying that Kasha won't eventually begin to kill his own meals – in front of their loved ones, of course, for added traumatic spice.
This may not be the darkest Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro has gotten, but it's certainly up there. It preys on human fears dating back to the so-called “safety coffins” of the 18th and 19th centuries or even the burial and funeral rites and beliefs of ancient civilizations (the souls going in and out the nostrils is a nod to this), stoking fears that an improperly disposed of or purified body will inhibit the soul's rest. It also plays with ideas of unscrupulous killers who can pay to have bodies removed, leaving families unaware of what happened, and this time there's no Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service to take care of things. This makes it fitting that there's some seriously upsetting imagery to go with all of these themes – Kasha (in Kitaro's body) attempting to murder Daddy Eyeball and Daddy's subsequent mochi resurrection are the two that got me the most.
Next week looks like it will deal with slightly softer material more in line with the series' ongoing themes about human/yokai interactions, but now we know that Kasha, like Nanashi, is still out there. There's no guarantee that Kitaro will be able to stop him, either. We can only hope that the original Kasha yokai from folklore is out there, too, waiting to drag him to hell.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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