In my travels across the interealm, I have come into contact with a fair amount of anime fans who are less than pleased with the shows airing in the Winter of 2008. Now I don’t frequent a wide variety of internet communities, (especially not anime-related ones) but the general consensus seems to be that 2008 has been ho-hum so far. I agree with this sentiment to a certain extent; there is plenty of moe garbage out there this season, (including the new Gunslinger Girl—what an outrage) which has required me to put a little bit more effort into finding quality shows. A week or so ago, one of my friends asked me if I had seen Hakaba Kitaro. After telling him that I had no idea what he was talking about, he pointed me to a current thread on 4chan’s /a/ board about the series. The thread contained some screencaps that caught my interest, but I really knew that the show had to be good when one poster complained that the series was hardly ever discussed on /a/. I was torrenting the first episode seconds later.

This was the first that I had heard of the series, but I was surprised to learn that Hakaba Kitaro (“Graveyard Kitaro”) goes all the way back to 1959 in the form of a manga by the same name. Before its current run, Kitaro has previously been broadcast as an anime series five separate times. The story is centered around Kitaro, the last remaining member of an ancient tribe of ghosts, who is reluctantly raised by the salaryman that found him as a baby. For whatever reason, Kitaro’s biological father still exists as well, but in the form of an eyeball with a tiny body. Kitaro’s daily life straddles the normal world and that of the supernatural, meaning that wherever he goes, he is sure to attract some sort of trouble with otherworldly origins.

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What initially attracted me to Hakaba Kitaro and what I still find striking is its unique art style. Possibly because of its classic roots, Kitaro is very cartoonish in nature. While the human characters are drawn in a realistic manner, the majority of the show’s supernatural characters, including Kitaro himself, are given ridiculous physical features, such as bulging eyes and buck teeth. In a medium known for its shiny eyes and tiny mouths, I find the deliberate ugliness of Kitaro charming and refreshing. These purposeful distortions do not mean, however, that the animation in this series is cheap. On the contrary, this show features consistent quality animation done in the most stylish fashion possible. Hakaba Kitaro is the best-looking anime that I have seen this season.

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As a form of entertainment, Hakaba Kitaro is simply a good story. The show has a certain zaniness and contains elements of humor, but I wouldn’t call it a comedy series. The offbeat nature of this anime obviously disqualifies it from being taken very seriously as either. The first three episodes have all contained independent plots for the most part, presenting supernatural situations that Kitaro and his caretaker are confronted with. The otherworldly characters that have been introduced so far are various monsters and demons from both Eastern and Western folktales. I have no complaints with this format for the time being; each episode is entertaining throughout its run, and there is never a dull moment. While Kitaro has the potential to degenerate into a “monster per week” show, I doubt that this will be the case, as the series is simply introducing a cast of characters at the moment. All in all, I am very pleased with Hakaba Kitaro so far. Since being introduced to the show, I have been eagerly checking Tokyo Toshokan daily for fansub updates. If the winter season has you down, I suggest giving Kitaro your attention.

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Both Shinsen Subs and Spoon Subs are subbing this. I’ve seen fansubs by both groups, and either one of them is a good choice for this series. Spoon Subs was the first to release episode three, so I guess they get a few extra points in my book.

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