I enjoyed the first Kitaro compilation Drawn & Quarterly released back in 2014, so I has happy to hear that they had licensed more of the series. This first volume doesn’t disappoint as it features stories from its first two years of serialization.
This first volume starts with Kitaro’s birth. He becomes the last of the Ghost Tribe after the death of his parents and is raised by a human man and his mother. With a foot in both the human and yokai world, Kitaro helps humans who are troubled by disruptive yokai.
The yokai that seems the most disruptive is Kitaro’s friend Nezumi Otoko. He is a bit of a scam artist, always looking to make a buck. Throughout the volume, Kitaro is having to stop Nezumi from scamming or kidnapping humans, having his face stolen by a Nopperabo yokai, and keeping him from freezing to death from a Buru-Buru yokai. Kitaro also helps humans who seek his aid, such as saving a boy from a Makura Gaeshi and breaking the curse of a Gyuki.
Kitaro uses both his knowledge and yokai skills to stop the bad yokai, from his elastic arms, to his porcupine hair, to his magical dream sandals. He is also helped out by other yokai. Nezumi can actually be helpful sometimes. He also employs yokai such as Neko Musumu, a half cat yokai to keep Nezumi, a half-rat in line.
Kitaro was definitely writing with young readers in mind, as there is a good amount of body humor in the stories. Yokai that are in ingested often end up coming out the other end, with appropriate sound effects. But there is also a bit of serious side to Kitaro, as he often speaks of how bad man can be as well.
Kitaro: Birth of Kitaro was a fun read. The history written by translator Zack Davisson is insightful, and the activities at the end will entertain kids or anyone who likes puzzles, mazes or word searches. The translation is also well done. It reads smoothly and is easy to follow. The art in the first chapter differs greatly from the rest of the volume. It has a more realistic look, while the rest of the chapters have a more humorous style that is better fitting to the stories. Kitaro: Birth of Kitaro is a great read for any young readers or fans of Shigeru Mizuki or yokai.