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September 23, 2017

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Local comic book artists recall days of simpler, less cute Kitaro

The China Post--For Taipei's comic book artists, the one-eyed and stringy-banged boy called "Kitaro" is a throwback to simpler times.

"Kitaro" is just one character in a graphic novel cast created by Japan's Mizuki Shigeru (水木茂) in 1959 — after World War II but before East Asia's rush into modernity.

"It was a simpler era. This series has a simpler strength," said artist Zeco (皇宇) at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914文創園區).

Zeco and other artists of the Taipei-based Friendly Land Creative Co. visited Huashan's "GeGeGe no Kitaro Monster Park" (鬼太郎的妖怪樂園) yesterday.

"Shigeru's panels are plain rectangles, one after the other ... He uses these basic grids with uniform gutters," said manager Debut Wang (王士豪), pointing to a blown-up image of Shigeru's original series.

"Today, artists would fool around with shape to tell the eye where to go."

In a market saturated with splashier comics, Shigeru's style is "bound to be at a disadvantage," he added.

Kitaro Gets Cuter

But the simple manga has displayed tremendous staying power.

Since 1959, Shigeru's spirit-monster assortment has been adapted multiple times for PlayStation games and the silver screen. Since 1968, a new anime series based on the original has come out every decade.

This year Huashan is running a manga-based interactive museum.

The "monster park" was packed yesterday with local youth. Amy, from Blessed Imelda's School (靜修女中), said she has seen the recent TV series — and read the books.

"Kitaro is not scary. He's really cute," she said.

One way the manga has maintained traction over time is by making Shigeru's monsters cuter with each adaptation, according to Gran, an assistant at Friendly Land.

Lights Out

Original versions of the monsters "straddled the border of cute and scary," said artist Kurudaz (惟丞), who has worked with Zeco on three books published in Japan and two in Taiwan.

It's these classic variants that are on display at Huashan until April 29.

For manga fans who want it even scarier, the monster park is set to switch off all lights between April 13 to 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Bring a flashlight.

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