Spring 2018 First Impressions: Gegege no Kitaro – The Yokai Are Taking Over YouTube

Yokai aren’t much of a problem in the modern world, or so they would have you believe. When a YouTuber desperate for views destroys an ancient seal, people in Tokyo start turning into trees and no one can understand why. Mana, a schoolgirl from Tokyo, teams up with the elusive Kitaro after sending him a letter through the yokai mailbox. The two work together to seal the Nobiagari, but it turns out that this is just the beginning.

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Gegege no Kitaro is one of several adaptations of a classic manga of the same name, which ran from 1965 to 1986. Each new version updates the setting but Kitaro, Daddy Eyeball and the other yokai all still come from the yokai world which is more analogous with mid 21st century Japan. This creates some interesting moments with the two yokai world natives because they are often befuddled by new technology. Or at least that’s the case with Daddy Eyeball; Kitaro doesn’t seem to have much of a reaction to anything, and remains quite mysterious for the entirety of this episode. I appreciated how current everything was and the idea of a YouTuber causing this whole mess just because he wanted more views was actually pretty believable. He basically seemed like a walking Logan Paul analogy.

I was really impressed by the shot composition in this episode, especially in the first opening minute or so where they introduce the yokai and the main conceit of the series, and the sequence where Mana first meets Kitaro. The warm tones of the scene belie its sinister nature and the lampposts all flickering to life at once enhances the tense atmosphere. We see Kitaro’s feet at first, clop-clopping as Mana was told they would, adding some diagetic sound to draw attention to the eerie silence that has fallen around them. Even though the actual visuals don’t impress me that much, the framing does all it can to make this production a little more interesting.

Outside of that the production seems middling. There are no standout animation segments but everything looks pretty on model and it gets the job done. One thing I like about the art style is the fact that, despite ostensibly being human, Kitaro is drawn in a very different style to the other human characters in the anime which draws attention to him being not quite of this world. It’s an interesting choice that helps to set him apart from the rest of the human cast members.

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The opening and ending themes for Gegege no Kitaro are particularly catchy, and I’ll probably have to give them a couple more listens even though I don’t actually plan to carry on with the show. They sound more traditional than most anime songs which fits the mood and aesthetic that the show is going for and the repetition makes the music get stuck in your head really easily. Unfortunately the animation sequences for the opening and ending aren’t quite as memorable.

Ultimately I wouldn’t watch another episode of Gegege no Kitaro. I don’t think it’s a bad anime, but it’s not to my personal taste. If you’re more interested in slow moving, monster of the week anime that are centred around yokai then this could be great for you, so if it piques your interest at all I would recommend at least trying this first episode. It does a good job of introducing the premise and setting up further conflicts without giving the whole game away. Even if you don’t like it, it’s worth seeing Daddy Eyeball with your own two eyes.

Highlights:

  • Interesting shot composition and storyboarding
  • Sets up story hooks for later episodes that keep you interested

Lowlights:

  • The pacing could be a little tighter
  • Kitaro is a bit too uninterested in everything

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