At the recent Book Expo America show in New York City, Drawn and Quarterly announced that they'll be adding another title to their collection of classic tales by manga legend Shigeru Mizuki. This time, they've acquired the rights to publish Mizuki's most famous, beloved and influential series, Kitaro (a.k.a. GeGeGe no Kitaro). Drawn and Quarterly's edition of Kitaro is tentatively scheduled for release in "early 2013."
So what and who is Kitaro? Well, if you've enjoyed stories like Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Black Bird, and Natsume's Book of Friends, you've partly got Shigeru Mizuki and Kitaro to thank for that. You see, Kitaro is probably one of the most popular manga series based in the world of yokai, or the Japanese demons/spirits/creatures of the night.
Kitaro is a yokai boy, who is one of the last living members of the Yurei Zoku (Ghost Tribe). With the help of his father (who is basically an eyeball with legs) and an assortment of yokai friends, Kitaro tries to keep the peace between the human and spirit world.
Kitaro (or Hakaba no Kitarō - Kitaro of the Graveyard) is based on kamishibai (paper play) stories that were popular in the early days of manga. The first Kitaro manga stories by Mizuki were introduced to readers in 1959 in the pages of Shonen Magazine, a magazine for young boys. Kitaro stories have also been published in avant-garde manga magazine Garo. Kitaro has also been adapted into several anime series, and recently, a live-action movie version of Kitaro's adventures was made in 2007.
While Kitaro has influenced several generations of Japanese manga artists, few readers in North America have read this series (with the exception of a lucky few who found some of the very out-of-print Kodansha bilingual editions of GeGeGe no Kitaro that were published in 2002.)
It's not yet clear if Drawn & Quarterly is publishing a single "greatest hits" or a few volumes of Kitaro, ala VIZ Media's abbreviated runs for long-running series like Golgo 13 and Oishinbo, or if they plan to publish several volumes, like their lovely editions of Moomin. Hopefully, more details will emerge as the publication date draws near.
In the meantime, if you want to get a taste of Shigeru Mizuki's yokai tales, check out NonNonBa. NonNonBa is a semi-autobiographical tale of Mizuki's childhood, and the woman who introduced him to the world of yokai, a family friend / elderly woman he knew as NonNonBa. You can also check out a preview of NonNonBa (PDF) via DrawnandQuarterly.com.
Image credits: © Mizuki Productions / KODANSHA