GeGeGe no Kitarō Episode 7
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Up to this point, Kitaro has been a generally friendly figure. Sure he's a stick-in-the-mud, but he's consistently been shown helping humans. This week, that all appears to change in what turns out to be the scariest episode yet. Taking place primarily on a ghost train, the story follows a vicious bully of a businessman who, we slowly find out, has driven many of his workers to commit suicide. When he lashes out at Kitaro one night, he suddenly finds himself on an old-fashioned train on a journey that will take him not to the home he's anticipating, but to his final one.
It's a lot like an episode of Hell Girl in that this is really about curses coming home to roost – the man's past is very definitely catching up with him. The thing is, it actually caught up with him about a week ago, and he's unaware of it: the opening of the episode shows a teenage girl snapping a mean-spirited picture of the man who pushed her only to click the shutter at the very moment he's hit by a train. That man is, of course, the businessman, and he's been dead the entire episode. Most frequent consumers of horror will have figured this out, along with the fact that the man he's been with the whole time is a ghost as well before it's officially revealed, but that's not the important part – what's so well done about this episode is not the “what” but the “how” of the man's realization of his death and misdeeds.
From the moment we see a much more ominous Kitaro than we ever have before, it's clear that this is going to be a darker story. After he tells the businessman that he can't deny the existence of things that are real, the visuals begin to take over in terms of setting the stage and delivering hints as to what's really going on. The streets are empty, even for midnight. The station grows more old-fashioned the further into it the businessman walks – signs, trashcans, public phones, everything that he passes suddenly looks like it's from the early twentieth century. When the train pulls up, even more than the comment that the door opens like a crematorium we notice the wooden floors of the car and the old-fashioned rings and seats. The businessman is still too caught up in himself to pay much attention to anything beyond the fact that the other passengers are strangely quiet until a conductor comes to punch tickets – something rendered obsolete by automated ticket gates. The fact that the businessman's train pass is a week expired and that his companion hasn't been home in two weeks are less concrete hints at the truth, but they add to the ominous atmosphere and help to give the episode more weight when you think back on it.
As it turns out, Kitaro is helping a human – just not the one we've been following. The girl who snapped the picture, which turns out to be of ghostly hands throwing the man in front of the train, contacted him. Essentially what we're seeing is Kitaro doing what he always does from the other side: the point of view of the ghost he's taking care of. It's a whole other side to the yokai, one that's much more frightening, enhanced by both the more exaggerated way his face is drawn and the casual, ominous slowness of his walk whenever he approaches. The ghosts of the people bullied to death by the businessman are frightening in a visceral horror sense, but Kitaro is scary in a more psychological terror one. If this is what the bad guys see, it's easy to understand why Kitaro's good at his job.
But back to the girl at the beginning, the one who contacted Kitaro in the first place. When we meet her, she's busy texting with a few of her friends about bullying a girl at school, something she's clearly taking delight in. She takes the picture of the businessman not to capture what happened, but so that she can humiliate him online. She's not a very nice person, something Kitaro reveals that he's fully aware of at the end of the episode when he tells her why the man was pushed by the spectral arms.
His job is to take care of yokai and other creatures who wreak havoc on the human world. Wouldn't it be easier if he stopped some before they started?
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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