GeGeGe no Kitarō
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
GeGeGe no Kitarō (TV 2018) ?
Anything was going to be a let-down after last week's spectacular episode. That doesn't mean that the much more prosaic storytelling of this week's Kitaro adventure isn't still a disappointment, although it does do a decent job of playing with the idea of perspective once again. For most of the episode, we're basically in Kitaro's viewpoint, watching as Mana and two boys from her class who knocked over an old gravestone are pursued by a monster we're meant to assume is Kagami Jijii, a name that old-fashioned folklorists would have translated as Old Man Mirror. He's a yokai who lives within mirrors, and he sees what happens when the grave is disturbed. It isn't until the end of the episode that we realize that he's actually been protecting Mana from the real villain, a gasha-dokuro. It's actually a little odd that the giant skeleton is the monster of the week, because these so-called “hungry skeletons” are said to be the result of the amassed bones of the unburied dead who lost their lives to plague or battle, so a gravestone seems an unlikely trigger for his awakening. Regardless, he's terrifying and by the time he tracks Mana down, the two boys are already catatonic in the hospital, so she's got plenty of reason to be afraid.
The way that this perspective trick is pulled off is interesting. We never get a glimpse of the gasha-dokuro until the final moments of the episode, but we do see plenty to implicate Kagami Jijii as the villain – Mana is running through her house screaming when he pulls her into a mirror (backwards, usually a sign that she's unwilling) and when she wakes up in the mirror world, she's lying on a bed of roses, code for “dead,” or at least sleeping like death. Our first actual glimpse of Kagami Jijii in full is him calling Mana's name while he holds a bouquet of similar roses, leading us to perhaps consider him as in love with the girl, who in turn wants nothing to do with him. Since she screams and promptly takes off running again, it seems pretty obvious that it's Kagami Jijii she's afraid of.
When he figures out that Mana's been pulled into the mirror, that's Kitaro's initial assumption as well, which just further works with the interpretation that the episode is selling. That's interesting in and of itself, as no one actively tries to dissuade Kitaro and Neko Musume, but it also marks one of the few times Kitaro is shown to be actually wrong in what he thinks is going on. Granted, concern for Mana is definitely a part of this, but it's a rare show of vulnerability for our yokai friend. In fact, it's Kagami Jijii who actually defeats the gasha-dokuro, not Kitaro, putting him in an unusually young place as a character.
That's all very important to making Kitaro more rounded than we've seen him, but it is still lacking in the terror and horror of last week's Ghost Train. There are some good visual details that help to make up for that somewhat, though, from the brief shot of Shiro walking past in the GeGeGe Forest to Neko Musume talking cat to a, well, cat, which is fun. Most interesting is the fact that neither she nor Kitaro take their shoes off when entering Mana's house, something generally shown as reflexive behavior in anime. Do yokai predate that particular facet of Japanese culture? In Kitaro's case it could just be that his shoes do function as weapons, but what about Neko Musume?
Incidentally, concerning her name, I've noticed that she's only subtitled as “Cat Chick” when she's actually called “Neko Musume” by a character; if they refer to her as “Neko Nee-san,” we get a more modern translation, which seems to vary by who is the one talking to/about her. Probably not important, but certainly interesting to note.
Next week's episode is going back into Rat Man's machinations, this time as he attempts to take over internet services with…water spirits? Somehow kappa don't seem like the most intuitive choice, but this is Rat Man we're talking about – he's got to screw things up somehow, if only to show Kitaro and his awesome crow chariot in a better light.
GeGeGe no Kitarō is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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