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Ep. 29: Kitarō confronts a kyōkotsu
Source: TV
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Added 7/10/2019
Updated 7/11/2019
Episode 29 (Neko-Mesume’s Yōkai Bus Tour). This episode deals with an effort by the cat-girl character, who is trying to pass as human, to create a job for herself that will give her an identity and a purpose in everyday life. So she offers to serve as a tour guide for schoolchildren to picturesque places, like the hot-springs region where this story takes place. Not surprisingly, destinations with hot springs are volcanic in nature, thus rife with yōkai, and so trouble is sure to happen.

The “guest” yōkai in this episode is a kyōkotsu [狂骨], a term literally translating to “Crazy Bones.” In the story, he is accidentally summoned when some mischievous children on the tour throw stones into an ancient well, awakening the sleeping spirit of a corpse whose remains had been dumped there many years ago. (A similar motif appears in the Japanese horror film Ringu .) The wraith manifests as a vengeful ghost, full of anger both for the lack of respect shown his remains and for the new act of disdain. The kyōkotsu spirits away the children who awakened him, and then targets others until Kitarō intervenes and uses his magic to lay the offended spirit and rescue the endangered kids.


Courtesy: the Gegege no Kitaro Wiki.

The lot that I obtained contained images from four cuts, all near the end of the episode judging from the annotations on the sketches and summaries posted on Japanese websites. This is the first of these, Scene 29, cut 47 according to the annotation on the top of the sketch, showing Kitarō sliding into the frame from the right while the kyōkotsu looms in gigantic form out of a grove of trees. A similar sketch is added in the thumbnail: it shows our hero beginning to dash toward the yōkai as a miasma appears to form around him.


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This episode was directed by Morio Hatano [畑野森生], who entered the directing slot with One Piece and worked on (among others) Kaidan Restaurant (2009-10) and Saint Saiya Omega (2012-14). He has continued to work on the Kitarō franchise, also directing episodes for the new 2018 series. His most visible assignment, however, has been serving as one of the senior directors for Dragon Ball Super (2015-18).

Episode animation director was Tomoko Itō [伊藤智子], a Toei regular who first served in this role for the 1994-95 Marmalade Boy. She has contributed to many of the studio’s projects since, including both key animation and episode animation direction for Digimon, Inuyasha, Precure, and, most recently, Super Lovers (2016-17).


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The kyōkotsu is a semi-authentic piece of Japanese lore, appearing in Toriyama Sekien’s 18th-century yōkai encyclopedia “Konjyaku Hyaku Kishui” or “Supplement to the Hundred Demons of the Past.” His depiction of this entity shows a skeletal figure rising from a well, apparently draped in a burial kimono but otherwise made up of bare bones and locks of white hair.



The text printed on the woodblock reads, “Kyōkotsu rise from the bones in the well. It is said that whosoever commits the horrendous act of abandoning august bones will find it impossible to abandon the horrendous wrath that follows.”

Actually, yōkai scholar Zack Davisson notes that Sekien was compiling a second sequel to his enormously popular Gazu Hyakki Yagyō (1776). Apparently he was running low on authentic folk material and so began to manufacture “new” yōkai legends to fill out his catalog. The term “kyōkotsu” is a regional dialect term referring to a fit of violent anger, but ethnographers have found no similar variants of a legend describing a supernatural “crazy bones” entity. Possibly, Davisson says, Sekien invented the story, connecting the regional idiom with similar folk terms referring to “bare bones” and “rising up from the bottom.”

However, as noted, many genuine Japanese folk legends deal with the restless spirits of those who by accident, suicide, or murder, ended up in the bottom of a well. And demons in the form of skeletons likewise are a real motif in many Japanese sagas with supernatural elements.


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