Animated features set for December

“Gegege Kitaro — Nihon Bakuretsu!!” (Gegege Kitaro — Japan Explodes!!), a feature toon skedded for a December bow by Toei, will be released in six versions, one for each major region of the country.

The unusual release –  a first for the Japanese biz — is being made to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Gegege Kitaro” TV toon about the adventures of tribe of spooks and goblins, based on Japanese folklore.

The franchise started in 1959 as a comic created by Shigeru Mizuki, which morphed into five TV toon series spanning as many decades, as well as generating many games and pics, including a live-action version distribbed by Shochiku last year that earned nearly $23 million.

The main difference in the versions will be the character of Neko Musume (Cat Girl), the girlfriend of the eponymous hero, a boy raised in a cemetery and possessing unusual powers. She will take a different form in each version: In frigid Hokkaido, the farthest north of Japan’s main islands, she will be a snow maiden, while in Kyoto, the center of traditional Japanese culture, she will be a geisha.

 The toon’s story will not change substantially from version to version, but Toei had to scout 47 locations about the country for the regional scenes, nearly doubling its usual production time for an animated pic, to two years.

 The idea for the regional versions came from Mizuki himself, now 86.  “It’s an appropriately big-scale project for the 40th anniversary,” he said in a statement.

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