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Gegege no Kitarō 5 (2007-09): Ep. 92: Wave Lad and Father Trout

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Episode 92 Overview
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Added 3/12/2013
Updated 2/19/2024
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猛烈!妖怪水車!!がんばれ波小僧 [Mōretsu! yōkai suisha!! ganbare nami kozō, or “Furious! Yōkai Waterwheel!! Take heart, Wave Lad!”] is a typical episode of Gegege no Kitarō, in that it involves the main character and his close associates in a conflict involving other figures in regional Japanese folklore. In this case, the two guest characters are 波小僧, Nami Kozō, or “Wave Lad,” and 岩魚坊主, Iwana Bōzu, roughly “Father Trout.” Each is the central figure in two completely different local supernatural legends, and the plot of this episode is a fanciful way of imagining how they might get along with each other if they did form an unlikely alliance.

First the folklore: Nami Kozō, according to the folklore of Shizuoka Prefecture, is a sea creature who was accidentally trapped in the net of a band of fishermen. Thinking it some kind of kappa, they first decide to kill it, but the creature begged for its life, promising to help the fishermen in some way if they spared its life. In the end, the fishers had mercy, and Nami Kozō promised to provide a weather token. If the weather will continue fine, it promised to make a sound like a drum beating from the bottom of the sea. But if the direction from which it sounded began to come from another direction, that was a sign that a storm was coming.

The story (and the distinctive sound of the surf in those parts) became widely known in the region. There are at least two seaside statues of Nami Kozō, one in Omaezaki, and the other at Maisaka Beach.

Iwana Bōzu, by contrast, is described in Gifu Prefecture lore as a mysterious monk who accosts a group of fishermen who are about to cast their lines. Sitting down with them for a meal of rice (Buddhist monks are strict vegetarians), he warns them that taking animal life for food is sinful and subjects them to karma.

Sozan Iwana-bozu
A woodcut of this scene from an 1821 Japanese yokai catalog.

After he departs, the fishers nevertheless try their luck and soon catch an unusually large trout (a char, strictly speaking, but fish of this order are almost always referred to as trout by English-speaking sports fishers). They take it home in triumph, but then are shocked when they cut it open to dress it, and a belly full of rice spills out. They conclude that the mysterious bōzu who tried to talk them out of their sport was the protective spirit of the local trout, and that he had given his life to protect his companions.

The premise of the anime episode is that Nami Kozō becomes a disciple of Iwana Bōzu, in order to gain control of his impetuous personality and learn to wield spiritual powers like that of his master. That’s logical on the surface, for a bōzu is literally a Buddhist monk and a kozō can refer to a novice in a monastery, who would of course be trained in a strict path of self-discipline under the supervision of a bōzu. (“Kozō” more normally means “lad” or “youngster.”)

But when you know the folklore background, it’s totally illogical, as Nami Kozō lives in the ocean, while Iwana Bōzu, being a spiritually ascended trout master, lives near a fresh water stream. Fans point out this incongruity, for the Nami Kozō legend is attached to seaside areas such as the famous Omaezaki beach in Shizuoka Prefecture, while Iwana Bōzu stories are told in the mountains, such as the region of Gifu, which is one of the rare prefectures in Japan that are totally landlocked. So even granting the existence of a yōkai realm, the two entities would never, ever come in contact with each other. Except in an episode of Kitarō 5, where the overall story arc involves finding a "chosen yōkai warrior" from every one of Japan's 47 prefectures.

The script for the episode was written by Reiko Yoshida [吉田 玲子], an eminent writer and script/series supervisor. In addition to scripting the Ghibli film The Cat Returns (2002), she also was credited for series composition of Jing: King of Bandits (2002), Kaleido Star (2003), Scrapped Princess (2003), Maria-sama ga Miteru (Mother Mary Watches over Us, 2004), D.Gray-man (2006), and Romeo x Juliet (2007). She also wrote the scenario for the manga Tokyo Mew Mew (2000-03), afterwards a successful anime series.

The series remains unavailable in this region, even on fansubs, but I’ve recovered the context of most of the sketches with the help of online episode summaries, some of which were illustrated with screen captures from the same scenes as my sketches.

Briefly, the good-hearted Nami Kozō, a little scaly webfooted yōkai creature with a surfboard, falls afoul of a powerful demonic entity called Mourei Yassan [猛霊八惨] This baddie is an especially deadly type of revenant more commonly known as funa-yūrei, roughly translated “ship ghouls.” It is made up of a gang of sailors who have drowned at sea and thus have not been buried with full rites. Unable to rest, they cause deadly storms and incapacitate boats with living passengers, intending to draw their souls to them for company. To gain the spiritual power to defeat this menace, Nami Kozō agrees to become the apprentice of the powerful but emotionally distant Iwana Bōzu.

The lad takes residence in “Father Trout’s” shrine deep in the mountains, but the training does not go well. After a series of accidents followed by a serious misunderstanding, the monk dismisses the lad. The Kitarō-tachi investigate and unravel the mix-up, and Iwana Bōzu regrets his rash judgment. Following the lad’s trail back to his seaside home, he finds him about to have a climactic showdown with the demonic menace. Along with Kitarō and his friends, the monk takes his side, and the confrontation that follows (with the demon taking the form of a rogue wave, of course) includes a virtual catalogue of magic attacks. During the battle, both Nami Kozō and Iwana Bōzu are revealed as two of the 47 "chosen yōkai warriors," (representing Shizuoka and Gifu, of course) whom Kitarō is seeking to identify during the overall course of this series.

This episode was directed by Hiroyuki Kakudou [角銅 博之], who had previously done episode direction for Toei’s 1996 cel-based Kitarō 4. A veteran of Digimon and Jigoku Sensei Nube, he later did storyboarding and directing for many other recent series, including Powerpuff Girls Z and Dragonball GT. Animation director for this episode was Shinobu Ohkochi [大河内 忍]. A much-travelled genga- and douga-artist, he has recently emerged as an animation director for Toei and other studios. He supervised this and one other episode of Kitarō 5 (2007-09), plus others for The Snow Queen (2005), Glass Mask (2005), Powerpuff Girls Z (2006), Bodacious Space Pirates (2011), and AKB0048 (2012-13).

This set of sketches appears to be what I like to call “foul papers,” or the necessary intermediate drafts that animators use to work up their ideas. At the end, they lead to a “clean-up” drawing that might be a layout, rough, or genga. That drawing becomes part of the official sketch set that moves from unit to unit, leading in time to the douga and finally to the scanned and colorized image on the final footage for the show. Meanwhile, the earlier drafts are no longer needed and, presumably, are discarded – or perhaps spirited out of the studio to show up on auction.

It is unclear who the artist or artists are. Some look to be nearly final versions of layouts, and at least one appears to be a genga that at a late stage was radically repositioned and presumably redrawn. Many are in a very distinctive and enjoyably expressive “scribbly” sketching style that begins with a flurry of strokes in colored pencil, out of which (with a great many visible revisions) the contours of the characters finally emerge with surprising intensity. These “scribbly” sketches may well be the work of animation director Shinobu Ohkochi [大河内 忍] and represent early stages of the artistic work that led to a cleaned-up rough.

However, it’s safe to say that there are several animators’ hands represented in this batch of sketches, and lacking a more clearly attested example of Ohkochi’s work, I’ve not tried to identify individual authors. The sense of character design is sharp, as is the animators’ command of foreshortening, so the art is a treat whether or not one knows the exact artist involved. Toei’s house style excels in quirky minor characters and vivid action scenes, and this gallery amply displays these strengths.

Next: Mōrei Yassan    

Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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