GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 48 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Out of the vast spectrum of human emotions, hate is the most destructive. It doesn't need a solid reason to exist, and almost anything can cause and fuel it, although most often it seems to be an “us vs. them” situation that triggers its spread. Just ask my family two generations back, who died for the crime of being Jewish, or the generations before them who had to move from country to country for the same reason. Almost any minority group can sing the same song in their own key, and the only thing hatred serves is more anger and hatred. It's a lesson we all hopefully learn sooner rather than later, and for Kitaro, that lesson comes this week. Its price is a steep one.
Nanashi has proven himself repeatedly to be not only a tenacious foe, but a clever and sly one, and this week he outdoes himself. Last week's episode showed that his close observation of humans led him to realize that social media would be a perfect vehicle for the despair and hatred he's been trying to seed, and this week he fully realizes that stage of his plan. When he records Mana killing Cat Girl (after Cat Girl gravely injured Mana's mom, also part of the broadcast), he makes sure that it's distributed to all of the users of his proprietary social media platform, which he spent a substantial amount of time and money making the hottest thing on the market. This has the dual result of humans calling for yokai blood and people hounding Mana to the point where she can't think clearly anymore; the former giving him power and the latter enabling him to put the last mark on Mana and to absorb her into his body. He's truly an awful being, but you do have to admit that he's good at what he does.
Where does Kitaro come into all of this? The yokai in the GeGeGe Forest have all seen the video as well, and while most of them are out for human blood (Mana's in particular), Kitaro at first seems moderately more rational, saying that he needs to talk to Mana and hear what happened directly from her. Unfortunately, that means setting foot in the human realm, where Nanashi's despair has saturated the air. While we don't specifically see that infecting Kitaro, it can't help, and when the first thing he sees is a group of humans threatening to beat a harmless yokai, we can see his sanity slip. That opens up the door for his negative emotions – his initial distrust of humans and reluctance to befriend Mana come to the fore so that by the time he actually reaches her at the hospital (where her mother is apparently crashing), his demand for information feels hollow. What he's seen and absorbed along the way has already convinced him that Mana must be bad.
Mana, meanwhile, is not only struggling with having watched her best friend attack her mother but with then having inadvertently killed that friend, and now her mother seems to be on the verge of death. She's in no shape to handle Kitaro's accusation, and Nanashi takes shameless advantage of that fact by making it sound like her mother dies, when in fact the doctors manage to stabilize her again. By pitting Mana and Kitaro against each other, he manages to achieve the level of despair and hatred that he needs. Daddy Eyeball immediately realizes that his son's played right into Nanashi's hands, but by this point there's nothing to be done.
That may really be why he sacrifices himself. Just like Mana needed a major loss to make her ripe for Nanashi's plucking, Kitaro needs a major loss to wake him back up into the person he should be. When Nanashi transforms into a giant evil demon baby (with an ominous shadowy umbilical cord implying that he's still developing), things are about as bad as they've ever been. Kitaro needs to wake up so that he can stand up and really fight. Is the loss of his father and greatest advisor going to be worth it? I really, really hope so.
Now that Nanashi (no name) has absorbed Mana (true name), he's going to be very hard to stop. That may be why the next story arc is going to focus on the underworld, the land of the dead. Can Cat Girl and Daddy Eyeball mount a counterattack from Izanami's realm? Is Mana truly gone, or can the power of her exorcist ancestor be used from inside Nanashi (or the underworld) to stop him? GeGeGe no Kitaro has never shied away from being dark and scary, but the stakes are especially high this time. We'll just have to rely on the opposite of despair: hope.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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