I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kazuo Kumakura/Ikuzo Yoshi -- Theme from "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro" (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎)

Long ago in an apartment far far away (actually St. James Town), I was reading one of those Japanese kindergarten readers that my parents had gotten me at the old Japanese food store, Furuya, in Chinatown. One of the comics in there stood out since the main hero was a young boy who didn't look particularly cute (unlike the heroes in a lot of the other manga I had seen) and only had one eye (that could be a dealbreaker in the omiai scene later on). Plus, when I saw that the kid's Dad was a talking eyeball, and his buddies included a rat/human hybrid and a huge stone block....well, let's say that these guys were not exactly in my neighbourhood.

"Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro" is a manga series that was created all the way back in 1959 by Shigeru Mizuki(水木しげる) who had based his magnum opus on a folk tale from the early 20th century titled "Hakaba no Kitaro"(墓場の鬼太郎...Kitaro of the Graveyard). Although I know that the manga has been adapted into anime since 1968, my exposure to Kitaro and his buddies have mostly been through the printed stuff. There is something of Charles Addams in there; perhaps not through the drawings, but just the idea of normally terrifying yokai(妖怪...supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore) being just folks and trying to fight the good fight with Kitaro in the lead.

The opening theme song for "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro" , released in September 1968, has also become one of the most recognized in anime history. With lyrics by Mizuki himself and the music by Taku Izumi(いずみたく), the theme has that playful spookiness so that despite the initial outer appearance of the yokai, the kiddies soon find out that they can play with them just as easily as they can run away. And the lyrics point out that it's pretty fun to head to school where the gang doesn't need to take tests, and that they will never get sick or die. But the guy who brings it all together is the singer Kazuo Kumakura(熊倉一雄) with that creepy but enticing delivery of his. Along with his talents as singer, Kumakura has also been an actor, voice actor for a number of anime, and a theatre director. He's also done his fair share of Japanese dubbing for foreign productions such as his voiceover for the title character in "Agatha Christie's Poirot", a program that has gotten a lot of airplay in Japan.

There was a 1980s version of the theme which was performed by enka singer Ikuzo Yoshi(吉幾三). And it definitely sounds 80s.

November 30 2015: I'm sad to announce that Shigeru Mizuki passed away today at the age of 93.

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