Written by Jonathan Wojcik and Revereche
Kitaro Manga Review: Blood Battle on the Ogasawara Islands
Last time, we looked at a pretty straightforward Kitaro story with a single major monster. Today, on this Halloweeniful December 25th, we see Kitaro and his friends join together in an epic struggle against a who's who of vampires from across the globe!
It all begins with one of Shigeru's numerous interpretations on a vampiric tree, this one named "Youkaiju," which is at least a three way pun because "kaiju" is also the name of an actual type of tree. It's a great design, too, with that single baleful eye at the center of a tightly woven basket of branches.
This particular specimen is feeling a little under the weather in her old age, and has called on Dracula for a check-up because Dracula in this continuity is also a vampire medical practitioner. A Dr. Acula if you will.
The good doctor diagnoses Youkaiju with a deficiency of youkai blood, which is fortunately stored in abundance at the youkai blood bank on Mt. Osore, and even more fortunately, Youkaiju has the power to hypnotize other vampiric creatures to do her bidding.
Meanwhile, we find Kitaro lounging in the remnants of Akaname, now known as Gegege Forest, when his anti-friend Rat Man alerts him to how much mail has been piling up, because of course Rat Man goes through everyone else's mail.
One such letter is an invitation for Kitaro to visit the tropical Ogasawara islands, which Rat Man gets excited about because he assumes for no reason that Kitaro would ever want him to ever come anywhere nice with him. While Rat Man accidentally or perhaps just "accidentally" pisses directly on Kitaro's dad, the goblin boy sneaks off by himself for a vacation.
When Kitaro arrives on the island, he's tricked by a couple of children into drinking poisonous "youkai cactus" juice, and awakens in a cave surrounded by the aforementioned prickly flora.
One of Kitaro's major powers is to fire needles from his hair, but you can't out-needle a cactus, let alone hundreds of them.
The same kids who were forced by Dracula to poison Kitaro are nice enough to drag him back out of the cave, but they run off as a giant, hand shaped sea sponge shows up to drain Kitaro of blood with the help of Dracula's bats. This sponge is only referred to as "youkai cotton," because sponges are apparently known as sea cotton to the Japanese.
With Kitaro's withered body stranded on the reef, whoever should show up to the rescue but dear Rat Man on a boat he probably stole. I mean, it looks like it was made out of garbage, but Rat Man would almost never resort to that much manual labor, so he probably stole it from a poor person.
It's Kitaro's chanchanko (his striped vest) that actually floats away in the breeze and alerts the rest of his friends to the whole situation, and they band together to defend the youkai blood bank from Youkaiju's vampire minions, the first of which is supposed to be a vampiric form of Yaksha, a class of spirits with Hindu origins. Sand Witch takes care of him easily enough by throwing sand in his face, the only thing she does and still the best solution to almost every problem she ever faces.
Next, the heroes face what is clearly a Balinese Leyak, but gets referred to here as a Langsuir, which is a completely different female ghost from Malaysia. Konaki-Jiji turns himself to stone, as he is wont to do, bragging that she can't possibly bite through his rocky head, which taunts her into shattering her teeth.
This allows Medama-Oyaji to dive down the poor vampire's throat, nestle in her stomach, and threaten to tear his way back out if she doesn't do exactly as he says. This is actually by far neither the first or the last time that Kitaro's dad, Kitaro himself, or one of their friends tamper in some way with a fellow monster from the inside of their body.
Before they can put their hostage to any use, the youkai are attacked by what is apparently Mizuki Shigeru's take on a penanggalan. You and I know that the penanggalan is a woman's floating, severed head and trailing intestines, but Shigeru decided that should look more like a flying sea cucumber sock puppet, and I'm not going to question his artistry. Together, Konaki-Jiji and his sand-throwing wife make pretty short work of the poor dear.
It winds up being an Asasabonsam that finally captures the youkai. This African vampire, stylized here like a wooden carving, is known for having iron teeth and sharp, hook-shaped feet it dangles below as it sits on tree branches. Here, it's also said to constantly chew on tree sap, and a torrent of sticky sap barf is finally too much from the youkai warriors to handle. Covered in goop, they flee from the battle to find a hot spring...
...But there, they regroup with Kitaro and Rat Man, refresh themselves and dive back into the fray, first battling the sponge vampire and its chiropteran allies.
Those toxic cacti earlier were apparently the strongest link in Dracula's plan, because a Kitaro without cactus poisoning is able to drink his own blood - and then some - right back out of the sponge monster.
This draws the attention of the Yaksha, but that's okay, because its subsequent meal only returns Kitaro to normal size while bloating itself silly, and Kitaro just sort of puts a big rock on it.
The Asasabonsam is up next, and Kitaro's friend the Nurikabe simply cements the ghoul up in its own blocky body, never to be seen again!
None of these efforts have stopped Youkaiju from going to seed, however, and she can't wait to spread her offspring all around the world...
...But Kitaro has one more youkai friend we haven't seen yet, and Ittan-Momen waits until nightfall to unleash the awesome youkai power known as "lighting stuff on fire."
Rewarding their victory with a nice day at the beach, the youkai force Dracula to serve them drinks while bragging about the superiority of Japanese monsters, unaware that many of Youkaiju's seeds have already escaped!
The heroic youkai are quickly surrounded by a horde of lovable, fanged mandrake babies, who even sing a victorious little song that just goes "Kyahh-ho! Kyahh-ho!"
Soon, they'll be growing into mighty, hypnotic vampire trees just like their mother, going to seed and spreading exponentially!
Or not, because the sprouts abruptly wither in only a panel or two. It turns out that, while nobody was looking, Medama-Oyaji tunneled underground and befriended a bunch of root-eating cutworms, depicted by Shigeru as these wonderful mealworm lizards, and doom to all mankind is averted, as it is every single day, by the existence of bugs.
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