GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 47 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
An Astrid Lindgren novel I read a long time ago had one character making a list entitled “If I Ever Get Rabies, These are the People I'm Going to Bite.” Well, my own version of that list is now one fictional person longer with the very firm addition of Nanashi, or “John Dou,” as he goes by this week, as things take a very grim turn for GeGeGe no Kitaro.
Nanashi has been playing a long game. That's meant that he's done some fairly awful things before, but now that he's moving into his endgame, the gloves are well and truly off. He wants to end the world, as he's been telling us right along, and for that he needs people to fall into despair. What better way than with some judiciously applied death?
Whether this was the plan he was working towards all along isn't clear (although I wouldn't put it past him), with this week's moves he truly may have pushed Mana over the edge. Not to beat around the bush, through Nanashi's machinations, this week sees the death of Cat Girl at Mana's hands after she witnessed her yokai friend kill her mother. Mana's action was completely unintentional, of course; she can't control what Nanashi's four characters make her do in terms of releasing power. Likewise Cat Girl didn't know that she was attacking Mana's mom because of Nanashi's magic – she thought it was a banshee-like yokai. But because of Nanashi now two characters are, if not all dead, then very definitely mostly so, and Mana's carrying that blame around – just like he wanted.
Whether he's on your personal rabies list or not, it's hard not to admit that Nanashi has played his hand very well. Previous to Backbeard's entry on the scene he largely kept to the shadows, chortling to himself in darkness without tipping his hand overmuch. That changed when the western yokai were defeated and he got the fourth symbol onto Mana, which allowed him to force her power out. This week proves that he hasn't just been lurking in those concealing shadows doing nothing, because his John Dou persona is the head of a new social media app that seems to be a LINE/YouTube combination – both things that have shown up repeatedly in the series as evidence of human folly. With Nanashi taking control of those particular platforms for fearmongering and false information, he's essentially highjacked humans' good sense; with the internet novelist Terry Pratchett's observation that a lie can be halfway around the world before the truth has its pants on becomes even more true. That's what Nanashi is banking on (literally, assuming he's getting revenue from OMEGA), and he immediately begins by playing on old fears about Ubume, a baby-snatching yokai. (In one incarnation; it's worth noting that Ubume also appears as a bloody pregnant woman as the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth.) When he encourages a specific Ootuber to film yokai and the nation sees Kitaro saving all of the babies Ubume kidnapped, yokai-mania takes hold. But when neglectful parents later take advantage of the Ubume legend (as Nanashi may have reasonably expected them to do), things go south quickly, prompting Cat Girl to try to solve the problem on her own. Whether or not Nanashi planned on it being Cat Girl or Kitaro, it certainly does seem that he was gunning for one of Mana's yokai friends in order to take his plan to the next level.
And so here we are. It's not a great place to be, story-wise. While Mana's mother may survive, we've never seen a yokai come back from having their soul erased, as happens when Mana's power is used, and all of the guilt Cat Girl felt at encouraging friendship with the girl has now been transferred to her human pal. Mana doesn't believe that yokai are evil, but now she's seen something that may indicate that they are, and she might reasonably be afraid to see Kitaro after what she's (inadvertently) done. That would leave her suffering all alone, unable to confide in her human friends or her father, and that's what Nanashi needs: a Mana with no hope left. It would be a really great time for Agnes to drop by for a visit as the one person who might be able to help with this mess, but more likely it will fall to Mana and Kitaro, with Daddy Eyeball's counsel, to see what can be done.
Meanwhile we'll just have to hope. Thus far the show has avoided being part of the Bridge to Terabithia school of children's literature. I wouldn't want it to start now.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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