GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 43 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
GeGeGe no Kitarō has been dark and heavy before, but I think this episode may be in a category of its own. Also hailing from the original 1968 series like the grimmer ones that precede it, this week's episode is about a man whose determination to prove his scientific value leads him to injecting himself with an immortal cell of his own creation…which in turn causes him to nightly transform into the yokai Odoro-Odoro. In folklore, Odoro-Odoro isn't all that bad, but in this show he's a vampiric creature, and the man has been preying on women in Tokyo for weeks. He sends a letter to Kitaro begging to be put out of his misery, but Kitaro's on the fence, not only because he's not sure he wants to kill a human, but also because the man in question is the father of Mana's friend Mikoto.
What's truly cruel about this episode is not that Kitaro has to kill a man, an apparently single father, because of a mistake his own hubris brought about, though. Instead it's the false hope the ending offers before yanking it away. When Kitaro realizes that he has to honor the Odoro-Odoro's request after the yokai begins preying on his own daughter, he at first turns back into a human. As Mikoto rushes to his side, there's a faint glimmer of hope that maybe all Kitaro did was kill the yokai, leaving the human behind. That's swiftly dashed as his body dissolves, leaving only an empty suit behind. The final scene then takes place in the graveyard.
For all of the hard lessons this show has sought to teach, this may be the most difficult: that sometimes doing what's right can feel incredibly awful and will earn you no thanks from the very people you did it for. Kitaro doesn't respond to Mikoto's words that end the episode, that she hates him and will never, ever forgive him for what he's done. It doesn't matter that he had to do it, or even that a piece of her may understand that. It doesn't even matter that he saved her life and that he was carrying out her father's wishes. Mikoto's father is dead, and he's the only one she has available to blame.
This is particularly interesting in conjunction with the opening scene of the episode, where we see Mikoto standing at a train crossing looking up suicide on social media. The initial assumption is that she's looking to commit suicide herself and that Mana's arrival on the scene saves her, but we later find out that she was actually considering offering people a chance to kill themselves via Odoro-Odoro. Even when she's reprimanded for her idea, she doesn't seem to understand what was so wrong about it. But what she doesn't realize is that in the end she's blaming Kitaro for basically assisting her father's suicide, which is precisely the position she would have been putting herself in with her grand plan. Death hurts the people left behind, no matter why or how someone died. The episode may not come out and explicitly say that, but it does a good job of showing it nonetheless, even if Mikoto is too young to really understand.
After three dark episodes in a row, it's probably a good thing that next week's story looks like it's going to be a little more lighthearted as it deals with a nopperabou, a faceless ghost. But even if this is some very heavy material, GeGeGe no Kitarō deserves full credit for not shying away from it or dumbing it down. This particular episode may be difficult for some viewers, but it also makes its point. Even if Mikoto never forgives Kitaro, even if she never really understands what drove her father to do what he did, she does give viewers a vehicle to contextualize things. That may not be easy, but it is important.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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