Book Review: Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki

According to the forward of this book, this collection of short comic stories is “quite possibly the single most famous Japanese manga series you’ve never heard of, even if you happen to be a manga fan.” And I confess, even though I’m not an avid manga fan, I had never heard of this series. The collection contains short graphic stories published from 1967-1969. I happened across this book in the manga section, though I don’t read as many manga as I used to, and it intrigued me, as the back of the book compares it to the “offbeat humor of the Addams Family story.” I am a massive fan of the original Addams Family comics as well as the tv show, so I figured I would read this one.

And, I must say, I was not disappointed.

Release: 2013 (original stories published from 1967-1969)

Synopsis: Kitaro is an ordinary boy, except for the facts that he has only one eye, his hair senses paranormal activity, his geta sandals help him fly, and he’s a three hundred and fifty year old yokai, a magical spirit. Together with his father (an eyeball) and his best friend Nezumi Otoko (a half-human, half-yokai) he works to protect humanity and yokai people alike.

Review

The collection is part horror, part comedy, and all-over adventure. Each story takes about forty or so pages, and is entirely self-contained, which means they can be read in any order. The drawings are eerie and beautiful, but my favorite part was the macabre sense of humor. However, because this is only a short collection of a wider mythos, often times I felt confused about who was who. For example, Kitaro has an eyeball with arms and legs who helps him, and I didn’t figure out it was his father until a few stories in. I also liked how many of the stories give a moral lesson (like don’t laugh at that which you don’t understand, and don’t kill people…things like that).

I won’t review each story because there are quite a few of them, but I’ll mentioned quickly my favorite.

My favorite was “The Great Yokai War,” in which the Japanese yokai face off against the western ‘yokai.’ In other words, western monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, a werewolf, and a witch fight against Kitaro and his yokai friends. It’s interesting to see the world of American monsters meeting Japanese monsters.

Kitaro himself is an excellent protagonist. On one hand, he has many powers for defeating both human and yokai enemies alike. On the other hand, he is also a little boy. When he is turned into a massive, hairy monster, he sits down and cries as a child would. In this way, he is both the most an adorable and interesting character, because he has his weaknesses and insecurities. He sometimes runs headlong into danger, despite his father’s warnings, and gets into trouble because of it. And yet he is also good and moral. He fights to protect innocent humans, and is merciful towards those who treat him cruelly.

Likewise, many of the characters we meet within the stories (whether they are recurring characters or in only one story) each have their strengths and weaknesses. They can be fearful, or selfish, or sometimes purely evil, and yet they all seem incredibly real for being monsters and cartoons.

The mythology of different yokai is also fascinating. The back of the book features an index which explains what each monster is, so as you enjoy the stories, you can also learn about Japanese mythology.

However, do not assume this is a typical modern manga. The art is much different. Here’s an example:

See the source image
Page from Kitaro
See the source image
Page from Naruto

As you can see, they are quite a bit different.

So don’t go into reading this book assuming it will be like your average, modern manga. This is historical manga from the 1960s, so it’s a bit different.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading it and if you enjoy manga or horror comics in general, I highly recommend this book.

Have you heard of this character or the book series? What is your favorite horror manga? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki

  1. Great review! Japanese yokai cuture is very intriguing! I want to read the mange after reading your book review.

    The only mange I’ve ever read, similar to this one, is 地狱先生ぬ~べ~( Jigoku Sensei Nube ). I just recalled it and searched its name online. The mange introduces many yokais.

    What I like about yokai culture the most is, Japanese culture really adds souls to their monsters! The characteristic, I suppose, has much to do with Japanese religious culture. I hear they believe that everything has its soul. Thus, whether these monsters are horrible, kind, ugly or cute, each and every one of them feels real and unique, making us want to get to know them. I like the way Japanese culture personalizes monsters!

    There is one scene in the comic I can still recall. It is about the things we once used and then threw away. They feel sad, upset and lonely. And they still miss their ex-owners. The story is really moving.

    Liked by 1 person

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