GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 49 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
You know the world's coming to an end when Rat Man has the best advice. Of course, the show has at least in part spent the last forty-eight episodes reminding us (in a low-key way) of the fact that Rat Man is the living embodiment of one of its thematic elements – whether or not humans and yokai can get along. The son of a human and a yokai, Rat Man doesn't quite fit in with either piece of his heritage, leaving him largely on the outskirts of two societies, and therefore proof that while humans and yokai can, in fact, get together, the world isn't always kind to them when they do.
That places Rat Man in a unique position to inform the major plot twist of this week: Nanashi is himself the son of a human and a yokai who died before he could be born. His mother was most likely one of Mana's ancestors, and the one thing that her family and her beloved oni's family could agree on was that their children should be killed rather than allowed to live happily ever after with their child. They were murdered hundreds of years ago, before they could even name their baby. “Nanashi,” therefore, isn't so much his name as it is representative of his lack of one.
That's why he chose Mana as his vessel. Not only does she look remarkably like his mother, but her name is written with the characters for “true name,” so he might assume that making her a part of himself would allow for him to “truly” exist at last. And her name does appear to have been chosen with Nanashi in mind – Mana's great-grandmother insisted upon it. That might indicate that the story of that distant many-times-great-aunt has been passed down in Mana's family along with some idea of when things will come to a head. That would explain Mana's easy rapport with the yokai as well, but most importantly, “Mana” is revealed to be not so much a name as a title. Mana's job, the only way to truly stop Nanashi, is to give him a true name – because that's what his lost infant soul has been searching for as proof that he is loved.
I certainly never expected to find sympathy for Nanashi, especially after the events of the last two episodes, but the show does a good job of making that possible. In part that's because it links Nanashi to Kitaro in the similar manner of their births. In a sense, Nanashi is Kitaro if he hadn't had Daddy Eyeball from the beginning, and for Kitaro himself to be able to see that, he had to believe that his own father had died. When Kitaro loses his way after he thinks Nanashi has killed Daddy Eyeball, he's allowing himself to be ruled by the emotions that have shaped Nanashi's entire life. The difference is that he has had Daddy Eyeball for most of his life and that he now has people he can rely on to help him out of himself. As we saw in the stolen joke episode, Rat Man really does understand what's too far (even if he doesn't always act on it), and his similar background to Nanashi makes him the right person to choke some sense into Kitaro and remind him of who he is.
It all adds up to an unexpectedly touching finale to the Nanashi storyline. Nanashi has been wearing both a literal and a figurative mask as he's allowed himself to be ruled by his pain, and both Kitaro and Mana are also briefly consumed by the same feeling. But Kitaro and Mana have both each other and their other friends (although admittedly it feels like Mana just has Kitaro until the end of the episode), and they pull each other out. Mana is then able to perform the same task for Nanashi, because Kitaro did it for her after Rat Man did it for him. In the end it's not about human or yokai; it's about people, a point driven home by the scenes of the yokai helping humans to evacuate for everyone's mutual survival.
The best part, however, has to be little Cat Girl at the end. Even as it disproves theories linking this storyline to the upcoming Underworld arc, it's a wonderful scene while also marking a return to the more traditional Cat Girl character design. What Cat Girl's de-aging will mean for Mana and Kitaro's relationship has yet to be seen; even if there's no romantic subplot (which I don't really think there will be), the two have often interacted through Cat Girl, so having her much younger than them should mean at least a little change.
And so the sun sets on another gripping storyline for GeGeGe no Kitarō. When it returns we'll begin something entirely new with a cast who has overcome not one, but two major threats to their continued existence. I can't wait to see what happens next.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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