Kitaro: The Trial of Kitaro

By Shigeru Mizuki. Released in Japan as “Gegege no Kitaro” by Kodansha and Shogakukan, serialized in various magazines. Released in North America by Drawn & Quarterly. Translated by Zack Davisson.

This is the final volume of D&Q’s Kitaro collections, and, while Kitaro has never really been serialized in a plot or characterization way, it picks an apt final story to end on. The largest story in the book is the titular Trial, where Kitaro is brought up against the Yokai Supreme Court and charged with helping humans at the cost of yokai. Which, admittedly, there’s a grain of truth to. A number of Kitaro’s adventures have featured him helping hapless humans who are being used and/or outright tortured by yokai – indeed, we’ll see some later in this collection. That said, no surprises for guessing who’s really gotten Kitaro into this mess. After much foofaraw, the trial ends with Kitaro agreeing that he will not only help innocent humans beset by yokai, but also the reverse – such as not helping the shady TV producers who are manipulated by Nezumi Otoko into the documentary stat starts this all off.

As this is the final Kitaro review I’m writing up (presumably), I’d like to expound once again on Nezumi Otoko, the Donald Duck to Kitaro’s Mickey Mouse. The trial story features perhaps Nezumi Otoko at his most iconic – setting up the entire situation in the first place for cash, teaming up with an even worse yokai, framing Kitaro and testifying against him, and then quickly rolling over when things turn against him. Of all the many and varied yokai we’ve seen over the course of the series, Nezumi Otoko’s actions are perhaps the most jaw-dropping – even the evil yokai are more consistent in what they do day to day. But of course Kitaro gives the reason why Nezumi Otoko is who he is – he’s half human, and it’s the humanity in him that makes him crafty and a bit of a complete snake. That said, for Kitaro to continually hang out with him after everything shows he has the patience of a saint… or that Nezumi Otoko has the love of the author.

The rest of the stories in the volume are more typical, featuring the classic Kitaro way of doing things… get devoured and killed by the enemy, then come back and do something about it. The most interesting story other than the trial episode has to deal with a cursed toilet in the middle of the woods (yes, really) and Kitaro also losing all his hair… which, as is pointed out by Nezumi Otoko, is one of the sources of his strength. Honestly, without it he’s almost unrecognizable. I also liked the story of the merman who blackmails/tortures Kitaro into getting him fish, and actually ends up living in a mansion as a human. This leads to the dark punchline where Kitaro agrees to turn him INTO a human, and then the merman finding out that life as a human is not all that greater after all. Also, watch out for the cute maid working in the merman’s mansion who walks off with Kitaro in the end – Mizuki rarely drew cute girls in this series.

The seven volumes of Kitaro released over here, as well as the compilation that came first, do so much to show off the strengths of Shigeru Mizumi as an artist and storyteller. They’re a must for any library. Ge! Ge! Ge-ge-ge-no-geeeeee…

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