2 yokai books by Shigeru Mizuki

October 6, 2017 2:50 pm by Crocodile

2 yokai books (titles in Japanese)
by Shigeru Mizuki

Here’s a great collection of drawings of yokai, the ghouls ghosts goblins and “creatures of the night” of Japanese folklore. Monsters in general tend to crystallize a fear or anxiety, providing something clear and distinct (and fictional) to be afraid of instead of something vague (and real). These monsters are no different except maybe they are more specific? Like rather than a monster being “about” fear of change, or sexual awakening or whatever, they’re more likely “about” why you shouldn’t leave your dishes in the sink overnight. The little red guy on the cover is a baby that makes baby sounds in the woods, and if you pick it up out of concern it turns to stone and pulls you down to the ground and never lets go. Don’t need to be an anthropologist to figure that one out! Not every one is so purposeful though, and some of them are scary but not really interested in destroying humanity so much as just chilling in their zone, or only fucking with you if you fuck with them. Pretty reasonable!

These characters from Japanese folklore were drawn and I think written about and most certainly researched by Shigeru Mizuki, who did a lot to bring the world of the yokai back into popularity, in Japan and in the states. His most famous creation is GeGeGe No Kitaro, a yokai who intercedes when the drama gets too heavy between humans and yokai. The stories are great, D+Q reprinted some of them in English, along with the excellent book “Nononba”, which is an autobiography and sort of “origin story” that talks about Mizuki’s youth and obsession with yokai. His nickname growing up was Gege, a cute reduction of Shigeru that also means “spooky”. It’s the sound of your teeth chattering when you’re scared!

I should scan in every page of these, but I’m not going to, because the point of this blog is that I just shit out an entry whenever I want, without laboring over it. Fa! I can’t read the Japanese, and I wish I could– my Old Take was that I liked not knowing exactly what was going on, and making up my own story for things. The Now Me wants the full story if possible. There’s plenty of stuff on Earth I don’t understand- “I don’t understand it” isn’t a rare quality that needs to be protected. That said, poring over each picture and trying to figure out the narrative is really fun. And I have it on good authority that some of the stories are just like “lantern licker – this freak loves to lick a lantern’s burning wick”. Hell yeah.

These books are 4.25 x 6″, Japanese digest size, about 200 pages, black and white interiors printed on that rough paper they used to print Mad Magazine on (before it shit the bed). The 4-color cover is printed on a separate wrap-around dustjacket, nice style. I bought both of these from a comic book store in Japan for 200 yen each, that’s about $2. originally printed in 1984, original cover price 360 yen. I’m very shaky on the conversion here but I think that’s like $9 in today’s money?

The pictures are dynamite, and, even though I strongly criticized the D+Q books for saying this in their blurbs on the first Kitaro book, I must agree that the style of having a realistic background and a more abstract subject is used to great effect. It seems like the yokai are divided into categories based on where they haunt- forest, town, outskirts, houses, waterways. This is very helpful when you’re trying to ID a spook– it cuts down on the number of pages you have to flip through before you figure out if you should run or hide or simply bow and say “konichiwa”.

There’s a great movie full of yokai called “the Great Yokai War”, it’s very good! There’s an old (60s) one and a new (2000s) one, the new one is easiest to enjoy. Takashi Miike directs and a million Japanese comedians and rock stars have cameos. Gege himself has a great cameo as the most revered yokai of all, it’s very touching. There’s some parts that might be too scary for kids, and there’s a great part about beer and if you drink beer it’s going to make you want a beer, so stock up on beer. If you can get Kirin Beer, that’s ideal. If not, get any stupid watery beer you can drink a few of, and be sure to have one on hand to pound towards the end, when the guy onscreen pounds it. They don’t really do Halloween in Japan, but this is basically the ultimo Japanese Halloween movie, in that it’s about monsters and the world of monsters and some of the monsters are nice and all of the monsters have a party and it’s a graveyard smash. Here’s a link to the trailer (in Japanese) [link]

There are a few episodes of the Gegege No Kitaro TV show online, it’s pretty fun and the theme song is dynamite. There was a recent Kitaro movie too, I really really enjoyed it. Should you get beer for this one too? I mean, why not? Beer, popcorn, candy, have fun.

Happy Halloween!!!!


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