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Gegege no Kitarō 3 (Toei, 1985-88)

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Yobuko Attacks
Source: TV
Layers: 1
Sketches: 4
Cel Number: A1-A4
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Added 7/10/2019
Updated 7/10/2019

This set of four gengas features a prominent secondary figure in the saga, usually named Yobuko (呼子) or “calling boy.” Here he seems to appear on the end of a root or vine of some sort, which magically grows, allowing his body to rise high in the air, then swoop down toward the unlucky viewer with an intimidating shout.

He is often represented, as in these sketches, with huge round eyes, a big mouth with two buck teeth, a straw rain hat with a top-knot, and a yukata tied around his middle. He also typically has only one leg, here replaced by the snaky vine. Yobuko is described in the Gegege no Kitarō Wiki as one of Kitarō’s devoted allies, frequently helping him out in difficult confrontations.

The thumbs add still scans of two of the gengas, the A2, showing him rising on his vegetable “leg”, and the end key, the A4.

Caution! Fussy Notes

The provenance of this sketch set is not clear, though the use of black felt pen to fill in shadows clearly places it in the third series (1980s). The top of the A1 genga seems to say “#29 C-66.”

But it does not come from Episode 29; the seller thought it might come from Episode 79 (perhaps misreading “#29” as “#79”), and Yobuko does appear (per the Wiki) in that adventure. But it’s impossible to tell as Toei is quite strict about having raw or fansubbed episodes removed from YouTube or other streaming services.

Anyhow, I think this notation must reflect Toei’s usual system of organizing sketches, where a cut would be labeled Scene #29, Cut-66. If I’m right, then “Scene 29/Cut 66” would put the sketch set close to the end of an unidentified episode, part of the climactic battle with the bad yōkai of the week.


Interestingly, Yobuko fits into Japanese folklore in a complex way. More often named “Yamabiko” (山彦), the yōkai was often a reference to a strange echo heard in uninhabited parts of the mountain. This was sometimes interpreted as coming from an uncanny trickster animal or spirit with the ability to imitate the human voice, calling to travelers to lead them astray.

In some areas, the voice was attributed to a “Kodama” (木霊 or 木魂), thought to be a kind of shy and reclusive tree spirit. This angle of the legend was used by Miyazaki in Princess Mononoke, where such creatures are used as a sign that the forest ecosystem is healthy. For more on this grouping of paranormal creatures in Japanese folklore and popular culture, see Michael Dylan Foster's The Book of Yōkai (California, 2015), pp. 115-17 and 127-29.

The Yobuko in the Kitarō saga doesn’t have much in common with Miyazaki’s Kodama, but Mizuki at times drew this character as a kind of eerie scarecrow standing on top of a single leg that looks more like a wooden pole.

Courtesy: Yobuko Gallery in the Gegege no Kitaro Wiki.

And this character’s ability to make this pole grow dramatically, making him a scarier crow than usual, shows that one of his powers is to make tree branches grow dramatically, much like (Cardcaptor) Sakura’s Wood Card.

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