KITARO on Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray
The Popular Yokai Manga is Adapted as a Live Action Film
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: BCI Eclipse LLC, Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Official Movie Site (Japan): GeGeGe
Special Thanks to Amy Killian, Brooke Carney, Cliff MacMillan, and Dan Ross
In modern-day Japan, the worlds of the humans and the yokai often collide, and usually not in the most pleasant of manners.
Half-human and half-yokai, one-eyed Kitaro (Eiji Wentz) lost his parents at birth. His father’s soul lives in one of his eyeballs. Raised within the yokai clan, he lives with his bickering friends, Nezumi Otoko (Yo Oizumi) and Neko Musume (Lena Tanaka), in Gegege Forest where he dedicates his time to maintaining peace between humans and yokai. Kitaro always keeps an eye on the human society, and fights the evil monsters in order to save the human beings from the threats from another world.
But when a magical ball of power ends up in the wrong hands, Kitaro must recover it or both worlds could fall into grave danger…
Shigeru Mizuki’s beloved manga series GeGeGe no Kitaro has seen numerous small and big screen adaptations since the 1960s but this 2007 film is without a doubt the most visually stunning effort yet. Directed by Motoki Katsuhide, KITARO is set in a delightful world populated by Japanese folklore creatures with supernatural powers called yokai demon spirits. Yokai come in many shapes and forms, with the film bringing them to life in a fanciful fusion of CG animation and live-action, with everything from cat spirits to walking eyeballs roaming through ancient forests and modern Japan.
KITARO (GeGeGe no Kitaro) is a live action fantasy film based on the incredibly popular manga series of the same name by Shigeru Mizuki. Known in Japan as “the father of yokai tales”, Mizuki created both Little Devil (Akuma-Kun) and Kitaro. He was awarded the Shiju Hosho Decoration (Medal of Honor with the Purple Ribbon) in 1991, the Minister of Education Award in 1996, and the Kyo-kujitu Sho Decoration (Order of the Rising Sun) and the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize in 2003 for his contributions to Japanese culture. Mizuki also acted as a consultant for Kadokawa Pictures’ THE GREAT YOKAI WAR (Yokai Daisenso, 2005), and inspired the yokai-themed Shigeru Mizuki Museum located in his hometown of Sakaiminato.
Shigeru Mizuki created Kitaro in 1959, and the manga premiered that year from publisher Togetsu Shobo as Hakaba Kitaro (Graveyard Kitaro). After three volumes Mizuki left Togetsu Shobo and moved to Sanyo-sha with the new Kitaro Yawai (Night Tales of Kitaro). Hakaba Kitaro continued on, drawn by Mizuki’s ex-assistant Kanko Takeuchi for sixteen volumes. Takeuchi’s stories were popular at the time but are mostly forgotten today.
Finally, Shigeru Mizuki’s GeGeGe no Kitaro manga landed at Shonen Magazine in 1966, where it ran until 1970. The series continued in Shonen Sunday, Shonen Action, Shukan Jitsuwa (True Stories Weekly), and many other magazines. In 1968, Toei Animation adapted GeGeGe no Kitaro as a 65 episode anime series which aired on Fuji TV. Over the past 40 years Toei has produced five different KITARO animated series; the most recent based on Mizuki’s original Hakaba Kitaro manga and released following the box office success of the 2007 live action film. A sixth series and an animated feature film are now in production.
The tremendous popularity of Kitaro and his supporting cast has led to decades of merchandising that includes toys, posters, costumes, trading cards, model kits, collectible figures, plush toys, and books. Since 1987, there has been a slew of KITARO video games released in Japan, most recently for the PlayStation 2, Gameboy, and Wii systems. Kitaro is also the mascot for the Japan Football League soccer team the Gainare Tottori.
The live action KITARO movie was produced by KITARO Film Partners (which includes Shochiku, Dentsu, and Fuji TV) and was released in Japan on April 23, 2007 by Shochiku Films. KITARO was directed by Katsuhide Motoki (the FREE AND EASY movie series, DRUGSTORE GIRL) from a screenplay by Daisuke Habara (HULA GIRLS, the TV series OBANZAI!).
The role of Kitaro is played by 22 year old J-pop idol Eiji Wentz, a.k.a. Eiji Uentsu. In 2002, Wentz patnered with Teppei Koike to form the singing duo WaT. He has appeared in the movies MASKED RIDER THE FIRST (Kamen Raidaa Za Faasuto, 2005) and CAPTAIN TOKIO (2007), and was also a voice actor for the Gonzo Studio animated film BRAVE STORY (Bureibu Stori, 2006), based on the award-winning manga series.
Kitaro’s yokai friends and foes include the cat girl Neko Musume, played by Lena Tanaka (GTO, SUMMER OF UBUME, WAITING IN THE DARK); the rat-like Nezumi Otoko played by the renowned Yo Oizumi (GAMERA 2, SPIRITED AWAY, THE CAT RETURNS, HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE); the sand-throwing witch Sunakake Baba played by Shigeru Muroi (MAKOTO, OUT); the crying old man Konaki Jiji played by comedian Kanpei Hazama (GOZU); the long-necked woman Rokurokubi played by You (KISARAZU CAT’S EYE, NOBODY KNOWS); the ghost fox Kuko played by Satoshi Hashimoto (KING OF FIGHTERS, WHITEOUT); the fireball Tsurubebi played by Fuji TV announcer Shinichi Karube; the firewheel Wanyudo played by Toshiyuki Nishida (HAPPILY EVER AFTER, SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO); the fox goddess Tenko played by Koyuki (PULSE, THE LAST SAMURAI, ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET 1 & 2, BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE); and the goblin judge O-Tengu played by Shido Nakamura (THE NEIGHBOR NO. 13, DEATH NOTE, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA). KITARO anime actor Isamu Tanonaka once again provides the voice of Kitaro’s father, the yokai eyeball Medama Oyaji.
Caught up in their yokai adventure are two young humans; Mika Miura played by Mao Inoue (BOYS OVER FLOWERS, KAIDAN), and her little brother Kenta played by Ruka Ichida. Kitaro develops a crush on Mika, to the great annoyance of his would-be girlfriend Neko Musume.
Many of the yokai characters and visual effects were created via CGI by Centro Digital Pictures, Ltd. A post-production, digital effects, and computer animation company based in Hong Kong, Centro Digital has co-produced such films as THE STORM RIDERS (Fung wan: Hung ba tin ha, 1998) and A MAN CALLED HERO (Zhong hua ying xiong, 1999), as well as provided FX for movies like POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE (Jing cha gu shi 4: Zhi jian dan ren wu, 1996), BANGKOK DANGEROUS (1999), SHAOLIN SOCCER (Siu lam juk kau, 2001), THE EYE (Gin gwai, 2002), KILL BILL VOL. 1 and 2 (2004-2004), KUNG FU HUSTLE (Gong fu, 2004), and CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER (Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia, 2006).
KITARO was a big hit in Japan, earning $25 million at the box office. Most of the cast and crew reunited for the sequel KITARO AND THE MILLENNIUM CURSE (Gegege no Kitaro: Sennen Noroi Uta) which was released July 12, 2008 and also was a financial success.
Now KITARO comes to Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray from Ronin Entertainment, an imprint of BCI Eclipse. The film will be presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Running time is 103 minutes. Audio options include the original Japanese language with removable English subtitles and an English language dub. The DVD audio is 6.1, while the Blu-ray will have DTS HD and Dolby Digital TruHD sound.
The main supplemental feature is YOKAI IN THE CITY, a television special that aired in Japan before the film was released. Additional extras include the “making of” YOKAI IN THE CITY plus a selection of KITARO theatrical trailers and TV spots.
The DVD will be released October 28, 2008 with a MSRP of $19.98. The Blu-ray edition will go on sale November 18. The suggested retail price is $24.98.
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Language: Japanese, English
DVD Audio: 6.1
Blu-ray Audio: DTS HD and Dolby Digital TruHD sound
Run Time: 103 minutes
Extras: YOKAI IN THE CITY television special, “making of” YOKAI IN THE CITY, KITARO theatrical trailers and TV spots
DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008
Navarre # : 8020663
Blu-ray Release Date: November 18, 2008
Navarre # : 8023826