Having just recently finished Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of Japan, it seemed like a golden opportunity to sample his most enduring work Gegege no Kitaro. So when D+Q offered us a review copy of The Birth of Kitaro we jumped at the chance.
If you have ever enjoyed Mushishi, Natsume Yuujinchou, Mononoke, xxxHolic, Kekkaishi, or Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan then you owe a great deal of thanks to Shigeru Mizuki. Much like Osamu Tezuka, Go Nagai, or Rumiko Takahashi he is an artist that has influenced countless titles in an unmistakable manner. Every manga and anime that has spirits, demons, ghouls, ghosts, gods, devils, or monsters has a touch of Gegege no Kitaro in it. In fact most of them are either borrowing heavily for the structure of Gegege no Kitaro or dipping into the cavalcade of mythical Japanese creatures that Shigeru Mizuki popularized. In fact most of them do both.
Yokai existed before Shigeru Mizuki started writing about them and would have been the topic of anime and manga even if he had never been born. They are an integral part of the Volksgeist of Japan. What Shigeru Mizuki did was put his own very particular take on the concept that has become just and much part of Japanese storytelling as the Yokai themselves.