Hakuba no Kitaro article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 11, October 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Whether confounding criminals or mashing monsters, Kitaro is a stalwart, resourceful hero. He's also not quite human. With hair that can shoot like a needle machine-gun, enchanted clothing, detachable limbs and many ghoulish allies, Kitaro's one of a kind. If you have supernatural troubles, just drop a letter into Kitaro's mailbox at the edge of town, and he'll soon be on the case.
Mizuki's late to his desk job at the blood bank, and he isn't thrilled his boss wants to see him. He's even less thrilled to be sent to investigate a case of "ghost blood," but when he sees the patient who received the blood, he's horrified. Worse, the address of the blood donor is his own!
It turns out an old temple shares Mizuki's house number. His mother says at night there are lights, as though someone lives there. Mizuki investigates and is invited in by a polite ghost who offers frog eyeballs to her guest. When Mizuki tries to flee, the ghost's husband, a mummy, carries him back to the table. The couple wants to share their story…
The world was carefree and peaceful, then humans appeared, destroying peace and the environment, forcing their people into deep, dark places. They made do with worms and such, but eventually they starved. So at night, they'd creep from their holes to gather bugs and frogs for food. The last of their clan, they risked leaving the secret places for the human world. Thinking leprosy was curable, they gave blood to earn money for treatment. They'd like Mizuki not to report them, for if he does, they'll become lab rats. They desperately want to avoid this because the wife is pregnant.
Mizuki promises to say nothing before the baby's born. After several months, he returns to find the couple dead. He buries the wife. Three nights later, a child crawls from her grave. It's Kitaro! Mizuki is terrified but can't bring himself to kill the hideous infant. Instead, he runs away.
In the temple, the left eye drops from the father's skull, forming a tiny body and becoming its own being. Later known as Medama-oyaji (Eyeball Pop), the little creature seeks Kitaro to comfort and guide him. Kitaro crawls his way to Mizuki's house, and Mizuki pities him and takes him in.
Six years later, Kitaro realizes he's not human and eventually leaves Mizuki's house to wander between the lands of the living and the dead. Ever since, he has worn his dated schoolboy outfit and geta (traditional wooden sandals). Kitaro's tales vary from foiling conmen to rescuing fishermen from sea creatures to playing baseball –local monsters versus local kids. Over the course of his adventures, he has been mutated, crushed and even killed, but this resilient hero always manages to outwit his opponents in the end. The monsters are usually portrayed like people; there are good monsters and bad monsters with motives ranging from loneliness to greed. Several regulars include easily amused Konaki-jijî (Crybabyman), grim Sunakake-babâ (Sandwoman), bristly Neko-musume (Catgirl) and scheming Nezumi-otoko (Ratman).
The treasure trove of monsters portrayed in Shigeru Mizuki's Hakaba no Kitaro ("Kitaro of the Grave" a.k.a. GeGeGe no Kitaro) has helped preserve this unique aspect of Japanese culture, making the series a classic. Since 1968, there have been five different GeGeGe no Kitaro TV series, eight movies, and numerous video games, a testament to its eternal popularity. Not only are the tales diverse and entertaining, they're filled with lush, fantastically detailed backgrounds essential to the creepy yet unhostile mood of the comic.