GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018) Episode 3: The Mysterious Yokai Castle

Episode three of the 2018 GeGeGe no Kitaro involves the reappearance of a yōkai castle previously sealed away by humans; it also features three antagonists, motivated by their anger towards humanity to establish supremacy by transforming people into yōkai. They abduct children in order to restore the castle, which grants them the ability to regenerate; when Mana informs Kotaro of rumors regarding the abductions, however, he advises her to not get involved in yōkai affairs, as he believes a friendship between members from the two communities cannot occur. He explains that his group should remain feared by humans – despite his willingness to help humans in the previous two episodes, he feels that that the current social dynamic (where humanity remains socially distant from yōkai) should be maintained. This perspective is a bit harsh, one likely informed by Kotaro’s irritation with humans; as he explains in this episode, he has observed people’s general arrogance towards the natural world. Still, he does not tolerate the same attitude in yōkai, as shown in his fight with the antagonists; he recognizes terrible behavior, and would not want anyone to make the mistake of attempting of removing an entire group from existence for any reason. His victory over the three villains of this episode illustrates Kotaro’s desire to make the world a more peaceful place – he would punish fellow yōkai who threaten the planet, as they are no better than the humans they express anger towards.

Kotaro may be frustrated with how people treat the world around them, but he would rather not resort to punishing humanity in a violent manner; he disapproves of either group wanting only themselves to exist, and he would fight to prevent that attitude from becoming universal. The world may be a complicated mess, but taking such an aggressive approach would not solve anything – it only perpetuates anger and hatred, with people wishing to harm others instead of pursuing a more amicable resolution. Kotaro’s willingness to fight any yōkai who desire to destroy humanity shows that he’s willing to enforce his principles; threats to social stability must be treated as such, regardless of who they are. As for the yōkai villains, their anger clouds their judgments, resulting in them adopting a rather severe attempt at holding humans accountable for their behavior; they genuinely believe that humans must be eradicated before any meaningful improvements can occur, which Kotaro clearly disagrees with. They themselves became more dangerous than those they have grievance with, and Kotaro took it upon himself to defeat them before their plan could come to fruition; he’d oppose anyone willing to go to such an extreme measure, as seen in the fight. The episode concludes with the group reminding Kotaro that a coexistence beween yōkai and humans is based on mutual respect – there’s no reason for yōkai to remain isolated, and being able to establish an accord with humans is paramount. Kotaro’s hesitation at the beginning of the episode likely stems from wanting to avoid confrontations; people can be complex, but they have the capacity to show kindness, and Kotaro can take the initiative here and become friends with Mana.

As a bit of trivia, one of the villains in this episode is called Kamaitachi – this refers to a yōkai of the same name from folklore, who wields nails that resemble sickles. Their colleague Futakuchi-onna similarly derives from folkore, specifically to a being who has a mouth on the back of their head; this is unsurprising, as the series draws heavily from historic forebears. To give another example, one of Kotaro’s allies in this episode is based on the konaki-jiji – this yōkai resembles an old man who can transform into a stone, an ability they use to kill unsuspecting humans. Japanese folkloric traditions abound with such beings, and one can find various examples of them in popular media – Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is another show specifically based on yōkai, and the Super Famicom game Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyūshutsu Emaki features the kasa-obake (which resembles an umbrella) as a common enemy. One fairly famous series, Inuyasha, features the eponymous character, who happens to be half-yōkai; such shows take care to present yōkai in a fairly complex light, with both heroic and villainous members.

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