Japan lost a great artist: RIP Mizuki Shigeru, creator of Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro and a master of yokai (Japanese ghosts) and horror. On a personal note of remembrance, when I was living in Koenji as a child in the early 80s we didn’t own a television.
So, as a small white kid in Tokyo, I would make my way through the winding back streets of the dense suburb to a friend’s house and we would watch Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro together. By the time the show was over at around 7:30pm the sun had set and my path home was only partially illuminated by sporadic street lamps.
I don’t quite remember if my parents came to pick me up or if I would walk home alone, but what I do remember is seeing Mizuki’s yokai in the dark corners of the path where the street lamps neglected. Strangely, I wasn’t scarred in their presence. They watched over me and protected me from robbers, murderers and all the other chaotic possibilities of life which, even as a child, felt so much more dangerous.
But more recently, one of his most memorable works was this powerful illustration (above) that appeared in the NYT just 9 days after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. The horrific image depicts a hand desperately reaching out of turbulent currents. At a time when mainstream media was flooded with messages of courage and hope, a 90-year old manga artist was the only one with the strength to grab us by the head and force us to look at the destructive power of nature. It was as if to say, “This is what real horror looks like. This is real.”