Reviewed by: Joe
Released by: Drawn & Quarterly
Publishing Country: USA
Author: Shigeru Mizuki
Page Count: 176
In the seventh volume of Shigeru Mizuki s defining series, our beloved hero Kitaro stands accused of beating up his fellow yokai to protect the human populace. He is put on trial for crimes against Yokai. Witnesses are called from both sides, but when Nezumi Otoko takes the stand, all bets are off. Will Nezumi Otoko be for Kitaro or against him? Only the biggest bribe will tell! The Trial of Kitaro features five bizarre and amusing adventures. In every story, Kitaro has his hands full. He faces off against Kasha, a vicious demon cat; tries to quell a magical cooking pot; battles a sea monster; and solves the mystery of a three-eyed bird. This volume features comics from the golden age of Gegege no Kitaro - the late 1960s. These stories appear in English for the first time in a kidfriendly edition, with translations by Mizuki scholar and series translator Zack Davisson. The Trial of Kitaro also concludes Davisson s History of Kitaro essay and offers another round of Yokai Files, which introduce the folklore of Japan s monsters and supernatural beings. This final volume of Shigeru Mizuki s renowned Kitaro series is not to be missed!
Drawn & Quarterly have been lovingly releasing the classic Kitaro manga stories. They follow the adventures of manga author Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro. A young yokai (Japanese monster of folk law) who battles with other yokai and monsters to save the day.
While they haven't been releasing every single Kitaro story (as that would be a huge undertaking), they've been publishing a selection of best of Kitaro stories. The stories in each volume are pretty much standalone, so you can dip in and out.
Not only are the stories entertaining, the world Mizuki's presents forms a great window into understanding the world of yokai and Japanese folk tales. You may have seen similar things in other anime and manga too.
As well as the translation, Zack Davisson has provided an intro to the History of Kitaro, which fills in the behind the scenes story of Kitaro's publication. At the end of the book are 'The Yokai Files' which explain the monsters encountered and their abilities. I see this as another great extra as many readers would not be familiar with all the creatures in Japanese folk law.
Kitaro: The Trial of Kitaro is the final volume in the selection. The title of book comes from an adventure where Kitaro is put on trial after being falsely accused of breaking yokai law as a result of one of Nezumi Otoko's money making schemes. With Kitaro in peril, who can save him?!
At first glance the artwork is simple, but if you look again you'll start to see extra details. Different characters have different kinds of screen tone or patterns applied to their costumes. Buildings are drawn in detail, with each brick and beam being drawn. The woodland and forest scenes are especially lush. The panel layout and framing is excellent too.
Kitaro is very much a product of its era. Kitaro is a straight forward hero who doesn't like taking money for his services and fights to save the day from the more evil side of the spirit world. The stories are very action and event driven. There is a problem, Kitaro comes along and gets into scrapes. Sometimes his friends have to save Kitaro too, after all, even a hero needs help! For the target audience of children and the young at heart, it's a great story. No wonder it's a classic.
Eager to know more about this volume of Kitaro and the conclusion of the manga series we got in touch with Series translator and editor Zack Davisson to ask him some questions.
With the Kitaro collection now concluded, was there anything in particular you found amusing or unexpected to translate?
After translating Mizuki for so many years I can sink into his voice easily. The thing I love is his ability to swing from the high to the low without missing a beat. In one panel, Kitaro will be quoting the philosophy of Goethe, in the next TV executives will be talking about filming Poop Island. The story Nezumi Otoko Versus Neko Musume is a good example. The piece opens with Nezumi Otoko giving a lecture on the ancient Doaist religious beliefs and the nature of wealth and sin, and a few pages later we have him getting set up in a swanky suit to try and meet a gal.
Miyage Nyudo has to have my most classic line though. "From now on, I shall only poop in the bathroom... I promise!"
Which is your favourite Kitaro adventure?
It's very hard to pick a favorite. All of the stories in these collections were hand-picked by me as the best of Mizuki's output from this era, and my list was personally approved by Mizuki. There's not a single story that isn't the best. But if I had to pick a favorite I would probably say The Great Tanuki War. This was Mizuki's breakout story that catapulted his career from obscurity to stardom. There is so much in there; the Yo-kaiju monster that became one of Mizuki's most famous monsters, the commentary on nuclear war, the clash folklore and science... there's a lot going on in that one story.
Did you discover anything interesting while translating Kitaro?
Almost every Kitaro story is a multi-layered treasure that can be read so many ways. I don't think Mizuki had it in him to tell a plain story without interjecting some personal philosophy or some aspect of his experience in war. I learn something new from every story.
What I learned the most from, however, is writing the History of Kitaro supplemental features that accompany each volume. I'm glad Drawn & Quarterly agreed to my suggestion to include those, and I think they give a fascinating overview of the rise of one of Japan's most enduring characters. I learned much about Mizuki's career while researching and writing those.
Are there any other of Shigeru Mizuki's works you'd like to work on?
All of them, basically. Mizuki did literally hundreds of stories. They range from children's tales to works of Buddhism and anthropology that are used as classroom texts today. Drawn & Quarterly has my wishlist and they know what I want to work on next. After doing Kitaro I would like to swing back to some of Mizuki's more complex adult works, like his adaptation of Tales of Tono. I would love to do his Yokai Encyclopedias one day as well. Those were his magnum opus and something he was proud of, and I would like to make them available in English.