GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018) Episode 2: Attack of the Miage-Nyudo

As mentioned in my commentary for episode one, GeGeGe no Kitaro happens to be a fairly old work, with its origins stemming from the kamishibai tradition of storytelling; the 2018 adaptation is the sixth such anime, with the original running on Fuji TV between January 1968 and March 1969. The work concerns a community of yōkai, led by the eponymous Kitaro, who assist humans whenever they encounter the more malevolent members of their society – yōkai, like humans, exhibit a diverse range of behaviors, ranging from mischievous and benevolent to fearsome and deadly. Episode two introduces the manipulative and greedy Nezumi Otoko, a humanoid rat who manages to accidentally free the formidable miage-nyudo by destroying the seal containing him with his urine; as this episode (and subsequent ones) demonstrates, Nezumi Otoko desires fame and fortune, and the miage-nyudo‘s promise of wealth motivates him to work alongside the yōkai, helping him to achieve his goal of dominating Japan. To accomplish this task, the miage-nyudo makes Nezumi Otoko purchase an idol company and stage a concert – this way, he can manage to gather enough souls to increase his power sufficiently for his goal. Thus, the yōkai in question appears as a wicked being who wishes to become more powerful and control the country; like humans, spirits and monsters can exhibit more grotesque qualities, where they desire authority and strength rather than understanding and cooperation (behavior that Kitaro opposes directly by fighting those fellow spirits who wish to resist any efforts to coordinate with humans).

The aforementioned promise of wealth is a key element here – Nezumi Otoko demonstrates his avaricious nature by quickly allying himself with the miage-nyudo upon being offered gold bars, revealing that he is primarily motivated by materialistic desires. He displays arrogance throughout the episode, as he feels he cannot be opposed as long as he remains connected to his superior; by episode’s end, however, he is duly punished for his behavior when the gold he received from the miage-nyudo suddenly turns into ordinary, worthless rocks. This illustrates how power and wealth can both be temporary, and one should not overly rely on their continued presence; the longing for fortune shown by the yōkai encouraged him to be bolder and more assertive when approaching the owner of the idol company, but he can not maintain that position of authority for long, since he relies upon the miage-nyudo for protection. Kitaro and company’s defeat of the one-eyed ogre results in Nezumi Otoko losing all pretenses of social and financial advantage – the illusory nature of superiority cannot be upheld for long, especially if said superiority is dependent on wanton displays of strength and autocracy. The miage-nyudo exploited the Nezumi Otoko for his own personal gain, as he intended to gain control of Japan through his physical might; he had no real intentions of promoting his crony or even recognizing his contributions, as he was willing to sacrifice the rat when he no longer served any immediate value to him.

By contrast, Kitaro and his clan operated like a close family rather than a hierarchical group with him as the leader; the individual yōkai protect and look after each other, deferring to Kitaro as the head of the group who exhibits wisdom and a desire to defend his family. This shows the more benevolent nature of yōkai society – monsters and ghosts aren’t all evil and malicious, and Kitaro wants to cooperate with humans and establish social cohesion between them and his yōkai. By confronting the miage-nyudo directly, he illustrates his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to assist humans – rather than give orders from a distance, he will fight to protect the country from any danger that threatens society. In the beginning of the episode, his allies help him recover from an arrow wound received from his previous battle in episode one; his protective coat prevented him from being seriously injured, but the group retreated momentarily to help restore Kitaro’s health. The clan, as said, looks after its members, demonstrating a more egalitarian social structure – the miage-nyudo, on the other hand, shows a conceited personality motivated by his desire for political control. He has a complete disregard for humans, seeing them merely as victims to discard in his pursuit of dominance; Nezumi Otoko has a more capitalizing side, as he is willing to associate with anyone he believes will bestow wealth and authority on him. The rat yōkai‘s opportunistic nature ultimately fails him, however, as he loses the gold given to him – thus, his power is transient, and he is left to confront the justifiably-angered former idol company owner and his colleagues.

Like the first episode, this episode establishes the main theme of cooperation – as mentioned, Kitaro wishes to establish a connection with human society, rather than reject it like some of his more vicious peers (who seem to view humans as an inferior group that should be opposed, rather than understood). Through their coordination with humans, the Ghost Tribe (led by Kitaro) illustrate how yōkai can be helpful and benevolent to humans rather than fearful of them; yōkai do not all exhibit the same characteristics, and Kitaro knows he can manage a way to connect with humanity through a shared aspiration for a peaceful coexistence. Centuries of folktales and stories depicted this difficult relationship between the two societies throughout history, but GeGeGe no Kitaro presents yōkai as a more diverse community – not everyone wants to kill or subjugate humans, and those that want peace will fight to protect the world from their more harmful and villainous brethren. Kitaro and his Ghost Tribe associates show this rather well – in the two episodes covered so far, they’ve defended Japan from a mysterious phenomenon that causes people to transform into trees and a freed miage-nyudo, and they will continue to protect Japan from any future incursions.

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