Hakaba Kitarō (墓場鬼太郎, Graveyard Kitarō) is a manga by Shigeru Mizuki, printed as rental books. It is the official beginning of the GeGeGe no Kitarō franchise. The books were released from 1960 through 1964. Throughout the run, Mizuki switched publishers multiple times. The stories are often collectively referred to as the Rental Manga.
From about 1933 to 1935, the was a popular kamishibai by Masami Itō titled Hakaba Kitarō (ハカバキタロー), an adaptation of the folktale of the Kosodate-Yūrei. It became quite popular, even surpassing Ōgon Bat.
In 1954, Mizuki was working as a kamishibai artist when his boss requested he make some stories based on Hakaba Kitarō. After getting permission from Itō, he set about making four stories: Snakeman, Karate Kitarō, Galois and The Ghost Hand. These stories introduced the concept of Kitarō being born from the grave and having one eye (Snakeman) and the character Medama-Oyaji (Karate Kitarō), ideas Mizuki would use later. However, other than Karate Kitarō, none of these Kitarō stories became very popular, and so no more were made after The Ghost Hand. Although pictures from Mizuki's stories no longer exist, a scene from Itō's original was included in Koji Kata's book The History of Showa Kamishibai.
By 1960, Mizuki had turned to writing and drawing rental manga (comics that could be rented from stores like a library book) for the publishing company Togetsu-Shobō. He began writing his own book, Yōkai Legends, which included a story titled The Ghost Family. This story would set the stage for the more familiar GeGeGe no Kitarō story. The Kitarō in these stories was not yet an ally of humans, but rather an ominous child who brought about horrific ends to the people around him. The next issue of Yōkai Legends had a sequel to The Ghost Family, titled The Ghost Family: Hakaba Kitarō, but sales from issue 2 were the lowest in company history, so the book was cancelled soon after. However, Mizuki was able to talk his bosses into giving him another shot, and soon he started a new book, Hakaba Kitarō, which featured the stories One Way Ticket to Hell (Vol. 1), The Boarding House (Vol. 2) and An Appointment with Death (Vol. 3). The Boarding House saw the character Nezumi-Otoko introduced into the Kitarō franchise.
Until then, Mizuki worked exclusively for Togetsu, but financial troubles for the cpmpany led to disputes over pay, and he soon left for Sanyō. At Sanyō, he retitled the series Kitarō Yawa (鬼太郎夜話, Kitarō's Night Tales) and released the stories The Vampire Tree and the Neko-Musume, A Walk to Hell, Mizugami-sama Comes to Town and In the Face of the Enemy. From The Birth of Kitarō up to In the Face of the Enemy was one continuing story, and Mizuki would later redraw the story for Garo under the reused names The Birth of Kitarō and Kitarō Yawa. A fifth story was written for Sanyō, Kame-Otoko (カメ男の巻), but at the time it was to be published, the company president was hospitalized, and the manuscript was lost in the confusion.
Meanwhile, Togetsu decided to continue Hakaba Kitarō under a new author, Kankō Takeuchi, and published 16 more stories. Mizuki and Togetsu eventually reconciled, and in 1962 Mizuki published two more Hakaba Kitarō stories for them, The Strangest Showdown and Johnny in the Mist. Soon after, though, Togetsu went bankrupt. In 1964, Mizuki continued the story at Satō Pro with An Odd Fellow, I'm a Freshman and A Foolish Man. Unfortunately sales weren't too high, so Satō Pro dropped the series. Tōkōsha then hired Mizuki to make a sequel to Johnny in the Mist, so he rewrote his story Kaijū Raban as A Secret Story. In 1965 Mizuki switched to weekly manga and began drawing Hakaba no Kitarō for Shonen Magazine.
By the end of the rental manga run, Kitarō began showing traits of the more familiar heroic character.
- Main article: List of Hakaba Kitarō characters
- Ghost Family
- Ghost Family: Hakaba Kitarō
- One Way Ticket to Hell
- The Boarding House
- An Appointment with Death
- Kitarō Yawa 1 - The Vampire Tree and the Neko-Musume
- Kitarō Yawa 2 - A Walk to Hell
- Kitarō Yawa 3 - Mizugami-sama Comes to Town
- Kitarō Yawa 4 - In the Face of the Enemy
- Togetsu-Shobō (second run)
While the weekly manga GeGeGe no Kitarō would go on to become a popular anime franchise, the original rental manga story didn't get an adaptation until 2008. When Fuji TV began airing Hakaba Kitarō. It was aired during the second year of the current GeGeGe anime at the time (also on Fuji TV). It saw the return of voice actors Masako Nozawa and Chikao Ōtsuka as Kitarō and Nezumi-Otoko respectively, having originated the roles in the original GeGeGe anime in 1968. Isamu Tanonaka, the original voice of Medama-Oyaji, also reprised his role, though he had been voicing the character during the entire GeGeGe franchise up to that point.