Tag Archives: yokai

Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro Returns with 7 More Volumes

kitaro_coverssmBack in 2013, Drawn and Quarterly introduced Western readers to Kitaro, a yokai boy who grew up in a grave yard and is the last of the Ghost Clan. Kitaro is the creation of Shigeru Mizuki, the mangaka who is credited with the yokai boom that started back in the 1960s. The 400+ volume was a collection of some of Kitaro’s best stories and was named as one of YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2014.

Drawn Quarterly has now announced that they will be releasing 7 more volumes of Kitaro, and packaging them in more “kid-friendly” size and price. Kitaro follows the adventures of an inhuman boy who straddles the line between the world of the living and the supernatural. He helps both humans and yokai, who are troubled by either other humans and yokai. The first volume announced is “The Birth of Kitaro”, and features stories about Kitaro’s origins, introduces popular recurring character Neko Musume, a girl who turns into a cat when she is hungry or angry, as well as drawing heavily on Japanese folklore. Kitaro will have to take on legendary yokai like Nopperabo and Makura Gaeshi, as well as recurring villain Gyuki.

The first volume will be out in March 2016, with successive new volumes coming out in the spring and fall through 2018. The other six titles have been announced as:

  • Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon
  • The Great Tanuki War
  • Kitaro’s Strange Adventures
  • Kitaro the Vampire Slayer
  • Kitaro’s Yokai Battles
  • Trial of Kitaro

Each volume will be about 150 pages and will retain for $12.95. It appears each volume will be a collection, collecting similar stories to create a theme. The stories will all be translated by Zack Davisson, who also translated the first volume, and who is a big avocate for Kitaro and Shigeru Mizuki. Critics have wondered why Drawn and Quarterly would release more Kitaro after the first volume didn’t sell as well, but the first volume was designed for older fans and collectors that can afford a higher price point for a thicker volume. By making the books smaller and at a lower price point, it can attract younger fans who have been discovering yokai their other manga like Nura Rise of the Yokai Clan and Black Bird, and may be looking for similar titles. And you know it’s not just teens that will be picking up these books. Older fans have been clamoring for more Kitaro, and finally their wish has been granted.

Chics Dig Yokai

Since it is now officially October, it’s time to start breaking out the spooktacular stories! I have long proclaimed by love of Yokai, so I couldn’t pass up this story about a poll asking Japanese women to vote for their favorite anime and manga yokai. There are a lot of familiar names on the list. All but one title were manga before becoming anime. What’s really cool about the list, is that of those manga titles, we have access to all but three!

HellTeacherNube_vol1_CoverJigoku Sensei Nube, which placed 4th in the poll, is a Shonen Jump title from the 1990s, the same era as Yu Yu Hakusho, Slam Dunk, and Ruroni Kenshin. Jigoku Sensi Nube follows elementary school teacher Meisuke Nueno, aka Nube, who not only teaches his students, he also is a skilled exorcist. He protects the town of Domori from supernatural threats with the help of a powerful demon sealed in his left hand, a technique he calls the Demon’s Hand. This horror comedy ran for 31 volumes and had an anime made of it. It’s returned to the limelight recently with a live action drama set to debut this month. I would live to read this title, but it has a lot of strikes against it. It’s pre-2000s and is over 10 volumes long. It does have one very big plus going for it. It was drawn by Takeshi Obata. His name could balance out against one of the strikes, and maybe going digital could balance the other? With Obata being Viz’s guest at NYCC this year, wouldn’t it be awesome if they announced this title too?

Yokai WatchYokai Watch, which placed 6th in the poll, is a title that been getting a lot of buzz in the anime community lately. Starting out as a video game, it has been heralded as the next Pokemon. It follows Keita Amano, a boy who discovers a capsule machine in the forest next to a sacred tree. When he opens on of the capsules, a yokai pops out. The yokai, Whisper, gives Keita a special watch that lets him see other yokai that are haunting people. He and his friendly yokai fight off the ill-intentioned yokai.There are currently two manga running for it, a shonen that runs in CoroCoro Comic and a shojo in Ciao, both from Shogakukan. The shojo follows the female protagonist from the game. The shonen series was nominated and won the 38th Kodansha Manga Award in the Best Children’s Category. It might seem strange that a children’s manga placed in a poll for Japanese women, but with lots of cute yokai, including a two-tailed cat yokai, how could it not be loved. What is also strange, is that this series hasn’t been brought over; not the manga, anime or video game. Well, maybe the manga, since it’s just started and won’t have a lot of volumes for a while since both magazines it runs in are monthly.

Hozuki no ReitsuHozuki no Reitetsu, which placed 10th,  is a Kodansha title and runs in Weekly Morning. It is a supernatural slice of life comedy about a demon ogre, Hozuki, who works with King Yama and other demons in the afterlife. He tries to manage and troubleshoot problems there with calm demeanor and super-sarcastic tongue while his free time is spent fawning over cute animals and raising “goldfish flowers.” The series is currently 15 volumes long and was nominated for the Manga Taisho in 2012 as well as the 38th Kodansha Manga Award in the Best General Manga category. It just received an anime adaptation in January which was streamed by Crunchyroll, and is still available to watch. This is a title I would love to see picked up anyone that can license from Kodansha. The series is too long for Vertical which is a shame, since it seems quirky enough to fit into their eclectic catalog, so maybe Kodansha Comics or Yen Press would be interested.

The rest of the list, available in English, broke down as follows:

1. GeGeGe no Kitaro
2. Yu Yu Hakusho
3. Inuyasha
5. Natsume’s Book of Friends
7. xxxHolic
9. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan

One thing I noticed about this list, is that. other than GeGeGe no Kitaro, all of the male protagonists are drawn for the female gaze. They are very appealing to women, some even crossing into bishonen territory. Yusuke, Inuyasha, Natsume, Watanuki, and Rikuo are all drawn to appeal to a female audience, and by the looks of this poll, succeeded.  There might even be some nostalgia at work, with the top four titles being at least 20 years old or more.

I would add Majin Tantei Neuro, or Neuro: Supernatural Detective. We’ve only gotten the anime in English so far. It passes the post-2000 test, but went 23 volumes. I was so hoping when Viz announced the anime for their VizAnime.com site, they would accompany it with the manga.  It was not to be, so I can again only hope for a digital release from Viz. Being a Weekly Shonen Jump title, no one else will get the chance.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Volume 10-15

Rikuo and his allies reach Kyoto, where the seals the that hold Hagoromo-Gitsune have been broken. They must fight the enemy yokai and with the help of Yura and her human allies replace them.  Along the way, Rikuo must face Tsuchigumo, and to do so, must gain a power that was one his father’s. The battle finally makes it to Nijo Castle, but it is too late as the reincarnation of Nue is born, and Rikuo and Hagoromo-Gitsune begin to battle.

Nura 10Nura 11Nura 12 Nura 13 Nura 14 Nura 15

 

 

 

 

By Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genra: Action/Supernatural
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve been lukewarm about Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan in general, but the story in these six volumes brought it up. I got sucked in by the end of volume 10, and each subsequent volume just kept feeding my hunger. While I thought the fighting and training was tedious in previous volumes, here, in the midst of battle, it seemed to fit right in. A lot of characters backgrounds are revealed in these volumes as well, which proved to be the biggest draw for me.

Volume 10 starts out slow, concentrating on the human side of the battle in Kyoto with Yura and her onmyoji clan, the Keikain clan, defending the humans as Hagoromo-Gitsune’s yokai grow stronger. But once the ship Rikuo and the rest of the Kanto yokai forces reach Kyoto airspace, that’s where the story starts to move. I loved Rikuo’s battle with Hakuzozu. He shows his guardians that he has come into his own, and doesn’t need to be shielded by them all the time. Rikuo’s growth in strength and as a leader continues to the volumes, as he learns Equip, a power his father developed that allows him to use his followers fear with his own. This was a power-up that I actually liked, as it isn’t just about strength. It’s about trust that both he and his followers feel for each other. It actually meant something more than having a stronger punch, which is what I find tedious in a lot of these shonen manga.

Throughout all the action, there is some good character development as the past of several characters are revealed. I loved the reveal of Ao’s past and how he became a yokai as he protects the children at the Keikain main house. Kubinashi’s past is also revealed as he gives into his anger at not being able to protect Rikuo in the battle against Tsuchigumo. His connection to Kejoro is explored some, and their battle together at the sixth seal was great. Finally seeing Abe no Seimei’s past was illuminating, as it explained not just his desire for immortality, but also his hatred for humans despite being half human. But what I liked best was the glimpses into Rikuo’s past and the death of his father. By the end of volume 15, I was dying to read the next volume and find out more.

There were some really fun shorts in these volumes too. Watching the Supreme Commander taking care of his baby son was funny, and I loved the Mysterious Tales of Ukiyoe Middle School. Seeing that all the mysteries were really just yokai was amusing, and seeing another potential girl enter Rikuo’s life was entertaining.

It took long enough, but now that Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is getting into its own mythology, and having battles that not only move faster, but move the story along, it has become something worth reading. The growing ensemble of yokai is a real draw too. I love not only seeing, but also learning about new yokai, which his title does as well as incorporate them into the story. I would now recommend Nura to fans of yokai as well as shonen fighting manga.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 32: Yokai are Friends, Not Foes

Manga Dome headerThis week I look at some news a new license from Seven Seas Entertainment, the Vizmanga.com update, the New York Times Top 10, and three manga about Yokai; Kitaro, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, and Yokaiden.

Yokai Doctor Volume 1

Yokai are mysterious, troublemaking spirits and demons that have tormented Japan for centuries. Kotoko’s grandfather exorcised them for a living, but Kotoko never thought that her family lineage was an asset. Then she meets Kuro, a yokai doctor. Yokai have doctors? Now Kotoko is learning firsthand that healing the yokai is a lot more challenging than getting rid of them!

By Yuki Sato
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy/Horror
Price: $10.99 OOP
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When I first ordered Yokai Doctor back in 2009, I was hoping for a more serious look at yokai. So imagine my disappointment when I read it and found out it featured a perverted protagonist and fan service galore. I was ready to pan it back then. With three years to get over my expectations, I find the title isn’t quite so bad, but the pandering is still annoying.

The protagonists of this title are Kotoko, the granddaughter of a powerful and well-known exorcist who inherited some of his powers, and Kuro, a yokai doctor. The introduction to these characters is handled in an unusual way. The first chapter is told twice, once from Kotoko’s perspective and once from Kuro’s perspective. While this novel concept might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it really failed in execution. Kuro comes off as really shallow in the first chapter, and scenes are held back from one chapter to make a bigger impact in the other. Sato would have made a much better impression had he just written the two as one chapter, and allowed the reader to see both characters perspective at once.

Of the two characters Kotoko is the more interesting, or at least the more developed. As would be expected of someone who can see spirits, she was teased and mocked when she was young. But now in high school, she is more popular because of her ability, causing her to feel the need to live up to her classmates expectations. She sees a kindred spirit in Kuro, and reaches out to him as a friend. She has the courage to stand up to yokai despite not having any way of defending herself, but also the compassion to see they aren’t all bad. By the end of the volume, I had warmed up to her.

Kuro, on the other hand, needs more work. He is a yokai, and while it might seem his pervy ways are just his attempts to interpret human culture, such as the bowing incident, his open confession for his love of “boobies” doesn’t make him any points with me. Neither did the wearing of underwear on his head. He is fascinated by humans, despite the fact it was a human that killed his mother. Like Kotoko has started to learn, he knows there are good sides to humans as well as bad, and doesn’t paint them all with a broad brush. He has potential, if the perviness can be toned down. Not that I’m holding my breath though.

I really enjoyed the stories about the yokai. The tsuchikorobi was touching and the baby oni was cute. They showed how easy it was for the yokai to be misunderstood because of their appearance or nature. It just took a little explaining from Kuro, and maybe some action from the yokai, for Kotoko to learn the nature of their heats. Now, I know not all yokai are going to be like that. But I like that the series starts off with some silliness. I loved the scenes where Kotoko would throw some of the smaller yokai at Kuro’s head when he was being dense or pervy. Add to that the touching moments and it starts to become apparent that this title isn’t all about T & A.

I was harsh on Yokai Doctor when I first read it, and didn’t get anymore volumes. Now, I regret that. I would really love to read more about Kotoko and Kuro, and the yokai they will encounter and try to heal. Unfortunately, being a Del Rey title, that won’t be easy, or even a series that will ever be finished, since they are no more. All I can hope for, is that Jmanga.com, who has already picked up several Del Rey titles to publish and complete online, will pick up this one as well. It has a lot more to offer than some fan service, and though I was slow to pick up on it, I’m now glad I did.

Horror MMF: Yokai Night Parade

Yokai are traditional monsters of Japanese folklore. The can range from mischievous to down-right terrifying! They are such an integral part of Japanese culture, that it’s no wonder that they populate a lot of manga! In many of the manga that have been translated here, the yokai can either be the leads or they can be helping a human interact with the yokai world.

Continue reading Horror MMF: Yokai Night Parade

Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide

Forget Godzilla. Forget the giant beasties karate-chopped into oblivion by endless incarnations of Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and the Power Rangers. Forget the Pocket Monsters. Forget Sadako from The Ring and that creepy all-white kid from The Grudge. Forget everything you know about Japanese tales of terror. The yokai are the spookiest Japanese creatures you’ve never heard of, and it’s high time they got their due.

Continue reading Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide