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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Shigeru Mizuki and Yokai

I realize this could be a little bit confusing for people as most, except for a little niche outside of Japan actually knows who Shigeru Mizuki is or what Yokai really is.

Let's talk about Yokai first. Most people are more familiar on what a kaiju is as popularized by monsters such as Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera etc. Plus there is Kaiju Big Battel also giving more attention to it. The more popular Kaiju, which literally means "mysterious beast" in Japanese, could be considered the younger cousins of Yokai, well at least according to the Obakemono Project. So what is a Yokai exactly? Well I won't pretend I'm an expert and will just give you a quote from the Fantastic Shigeru Mizuki English Language Resource Page:
"Yōkai, or youkai, also known as obake or bakemono, are the folk monsters of Japan. They constitute a hundreds-strong menagerie of bizarre and varied creatures. They are magical, nebulous beings that exist in some strange state halfway between spirit and flesh, and are often the physical manifestations of extreme mental states, or the monstrous alteration of some ordinary object, animal, or person. They are just as varied in temperament as they are in form, and range from strange but personable goblins, to harmless pranksters that love scaring people, to dangerous ghouls that feast on human flesh."
Further information could be obtained at this link Obakemono Introduction Page should you be interested for more.

I strongly suggest you click the pages I linked above as it is a great resource for more detailed info in regards to Yokai. They have alphabetical entries for each different yokais including all pertinent infos, illustrations including the one shown on top and geographical locations.

Now that you people know more or less what a Yokai is, let's move on to talking about Shigeru Mizuki. First some basic info from Wikipedia:
Shigeru Mizuki ( Mizuki Shigeru), born March 8, 1922 in Sakaiminato, Tottori) is a Japanese manga author, most known for his shonen Japanese horror manga Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro. A specialist in stories of yokai, he is considered a master of the genre. To a lesser but still notable degree, he is also known for his World War II memoirs, as well as a writer and biographer.
There is also an online gallery of some of his painted works of Gegege No Kitaro in a Japanese website that can be found here. That is where I got most of the painted pics I'm using for this particular entry.

Obviously, I want to talk about his specialty in yokai in regard to his work, more specifically his most famous work Ge Ge Ge no Kitarou. There are tons of artists and mangas who tackle the horror genre, many of which are of superb quality in Japan, ironically however few have focused their attention on yokais like Mizuki. This is something I really found ironic since most of their literature and entertainment always has a strong sense of cultural pride and yet this particular part of it seem to have been mostly neglected.

I will admit something here, besides being a horror buff, I'm a sucker for myths and folklores. The more complex and rich they are, the better. I find this to be a healthy interest because this immediately helps me to be familiarized with other cultures besides my own. People always link the word "globalization" to economics, I link it to knowledge, technology and understanding. I seriously despise xenophobia, but I digress now. The concept of the supernatural in every folklore fascinates me. The overly fantastic and unexplainable (or the ridiculous by modern standards) appeals to me. The fact that fear even, in the slightest, is a common reaction for some things not fully understood by every person, brings us back full circle to me being a horror buff. I know, I've beaten that simple little factoid over and over into your heads already. So let us move on.


This is probably Mizuki's most widely known work at least in the english speaking market. Weirdly enough it has not been licensed or translated and distributed officially in english though. Take note though that some volumes had been released in a dual langauge format that includes english by Kodansha for international release, I'm not sure how well it sold though. Even with the current popularity of manga in the US, ecclectic and older titles like this are yet to be picked up by license importers probably due to its niche status and so only die hard fans are probably aware or are actually interested with this, which is a real shame.

Of course if you've reached this point of my particualr piece, you're probably interested too in this title and want more pertinent informations like story synopses, character bios, plot elements etc. Or to put it more bluntly, "where can you find scanslations?" hehehe.

Well you're in luck I guess, there are about 9 shorts (which most Gegege No Kitaro mangas are) available at the Fantastic Shigeru Mizuki English Language Resource Page for your enjoyment. It also has a chock full of informations and goodies more than I can provide you. So if I were you, I'd seriously thank all the hardcore fans who may have contributed and made that site possible.

Now before I leave, yes, like most shonen mangas, Gegege No Kitaro has been adapted into anime. In fact, it has been adapted multiple times, and since I like to spoil you, my readers(if I ever do have any) I've done the effort of searching for you, notwithstanding the fact that I want to see some of them myself. You can find them here. Please don't forget to thank the person who made that website possible like I have lazily done myself. What? I swear I had just forgotten and just remembered it now.

Well? That's it for now. Shoo! Go and enjoy the links I've posted.


Anonymous said...

those are some really cool monsters,but the best part of all that is me and SHIGERU MIZUKI have the same brithday

Anonymous said...

Hey GF,

nice stuff, I like it a lot. Do you read Usagi Yojimbo? If you don't you should, it's full of Goblins, Kappa, Obakemono and all other kinds of weird and wonderful Japanese ghosts, myths and folklore.

Grasscutter, you'd probably particularly enjoy, it's a big arc about the discovery of a legendary sword. it has 2 or 3 issues dedicated to retelling the legend of the sword, the gods that weilded it etc.

I think you'd like Hellboy a lot too. Mike Mignola scours european folklore for stories to turn into Hellboy tales. I'll reccomend some stuff if you like.

Ask me on the thread.


Anonymous said...

Is really nice to know of some "obscure" (at least on this side of the planet) horror stuff.
I'll keep my eyes open for this!

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