Publisher Drawn & Quarterly brings legendary manga creator Shigeru Mizuki’s stories to a new English-reading audience of a younger generation with a special collection series. Mizuki studied for many years the “yokai” of the world which writer and translator Zack Davisson defines as “mysterious phenomenon” but he focuses on the supernatural that inhabits Japan in the first volume “The Birth of Kitaro.”

Thanks to the help of a human family, Kitaro the surviving member of the dwindling ghost tribe helps both humans his yokai kind. While western modernization in the protagonist’s home of 1960’s Japan grows, the old traditions still have deep roots with magic strong in the air. Sometimes the two don’t mix well and people call for Kitaro to restore balance. Sadly, the mischievous and selfish yokai Nezumi Otoko is a common factor for a number of the problems. Whoever or whatever causes the conflict, it is up to the famous one-eyed yokai boy to answer the call.

Shigure Mizuki’s illustrations are a work of art rarely seen in the manga of today’s time. There are painstaking details in the realistic backgrounds of the panels, especially the dotwork technique used to give depth. His characters however are not lost within the art for he gave them a more cartoonish form that reflected the style many comic and manga artists had during his time. His stories are both entertaining and informative as each introduce different creatures and aspects of Japanese folklore. In case for those that want to understand more about the yokai, Davisson gives readers a special chapter with additional information along with some fun activity pages. As mentioned this is the first installment of Drawn & Quarterly’s Kitaro collection. Along with “The Birth of Kitaro” there are three others that can be found on the publisher’s site. These books are a wonderful way to check out the spooky past of Japan.

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