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Backbeard
Img backbeard2018
2018 anime art
Name
Japanese バックベアード
Pronounced Back Bayard
AKA Beard
Profile
Species Yōkai
Gender Male
Home USA
Abilities Hypnosis
Dizzying Glare
Affiliation Western Yōkai
Other Information
Awards 3rd Place at the
World Yōkai Rally
Hobbies Causing traffic accidents
with his gaze
Favorite sport Sumo
Dream vacation Outer Space
First Appearance
Manga The Great Yōkai War (1966)
Anime Series 1 Episode 10 (1968)
Portrayals
see Cast
[v · t · e]

Backbeard (バックベアード, Bakkube'aado) is a semi-recurring yet major antagonist in the series. Backbeard is the most powerful of all the Yōkai in the western nations.

Cast

Appearance

Img backbearddetail2018
Backbeard is a giant shadow with a single large eye in the center.

Backbeard appears as a giant, black spherical being, with a single large eye in the center, around it is a light eyelid. He has short, root-like tentacles all across his body.

In the first anime, Backbeard's appearance is relatively the same to his manga appearance, being a large black ball that has a single eye and short tentacles all over his body. His appearance during the yōkai rally however is much different, the most notable being that his skin is much lighter, appearing light grey and his eye has a visibly lighter iris.

Within the third anime, Backbeard is still a large black sphere with a single eye and numerous tentacles. The eye appears larger, while also having a yellow sclera and a red iris, around his eye he has a blue eyelid. His tentacles are shorter and they split off into two or three strands.

In the fourth anime, Backbeard's appearance has few changes. His eye's yellow sclera and red iris remains, now having a visible pupil. His tentacles appear shorter and his black aura appears fuzzy.

Within the fifth anime, Backbeard appears much larger than before around the size of a small castle. His eye now has a white sclera, having a red iris and a visible pupil. His tentacles are longer and appear to have less split ends.

In the sixth anime, Backbeard's appearance has relatively few differences from previous adaptations. The most noticeable being that he has a green eyelid, surrounding his eye which has a yellow sclera, a red iris with several veins and a dark ring around it and at the center of it is his black pupil. His body is still in the shape of a giant black circle, however it seems to be rather flat and aligned from a certain angle. The texture has additional faint blue highlights, his tentacles also have sharper edges and are now much longer.[1]

Personality

Not truly known, but he is sometimes moody, full of pride, and egoistic. He hates all of Japan's yōkai, and believes they are too weak to even be considered yōkai. He becomes surprisingly obedient in the presence of stronger yōkai, such as when he accepted Akashita's ruling on the Yōkai Rally[2]

While he was normally portrayed as an antagonist, some manga stories portrayed him as an ally of Kitarō.[3][4] However, even in these appearances he still has a wicked side to him, such as causing traffic accidents purely for fun by blinding drivers at night in New York.[3]

History

Backbeard first appears in the Shonen Magazine series story The Great Yōkai War. He appears as the leader of the Western Yōkai Army living in the Brigadune phenomenon. He leads Dracula, the Witch, the Wolfman, Frankenstein and many others to invade Kikai Island and turn it into a Yōkai Country. They killed half the islands population and nearly wiped out the Kitarō Family, who had come to save the islanders. Backbeard managed to control Kitarō with his hypnotic powers, but he was killed when Medama-Oyaji used the chanchanko to fly up to him and stab him in the eye.[5]

In Yōkai Rally, he represented the USA in the titular race. When he arrives for the race, he hits the Umibōzu child with his car, and when chided by Kitarō he simply brushed it off and said "It's common sense to move out of the way of a moving vehicle". Throughout the race, he stays ahead by using his powers to make the other racers dizzy until he he gets whiplash after driving into a lake. He perseveres, however, and later sprays Kitarō's car with whiskey and sets it on fire. He ends up finishing third behind Kitarō and Gremlin and complains about the results. Head judge Akashita angrily suggests Beard do the race again if he's not satisfied, but Beard obediently declines.[2]

Afterwards he made many more appearances in other series. In Kitarō's Vietnam War, he runs into Medama-Oyaji while the latter is in New York searching for Spy 67. He shows no sign of bearing a grudge from their previous meetings and instead aids Medama-Oyaji in his search.[3] He then appears in Kitarō's World Obake Tour, traveling to England with plans to travel to space. When a meteor is discovered falling toward England, plans begin to send a rocket to it, and Beard hides in the clouds in order to blind the pilot and steal the rocket. After knocking out an investigating Ittan-Momen, he hides out in an old castle, where the Kitarō Family goes to confront him. He knocks out and captures Nezumi-Otoko and attempts to cut him in half with a pendulum, but Konaki-Jijii immobilizes him and puts him in Nezumi-Otoko's place. Despite being cut right in half, Beard lives and uses his dizziness powers on everyone. He is defeated when Medama-Oyaji tricks the two halves into glaring at one another and set on fire while he is dizzy.[6]

In Yōkai Lockheed, Medama-Oyaji calls on him to help reverse the Great Witch's hypnotism spell on Kitarō. He also uses his powers to blind the Great Witch as she flies away.[4] In Kitarō Kunitori Monogatari, he participates in Boze's Yōkai Sumo Tournament. Aiming to defeat Kitarō, he uses underhanded tactics such as his dizzying glare and stealthily stabbing opponents in the heart with his tendrils to advance to the finals. However, Kitarō was able to avoid his cheating tactics and, taking advantage of their size difference, defeats him with an over-the-shoulder throw.[7]

While the manga often portrayed him as Kitarō's arch enemy, many of his stories were never adapted for the anime. As a result of this and Nurarihyon being portrayed as Kitarō's arch enemy since the third anime, in more recent adaptations he makes fewer appearances and is not nearly as prominent a character. According to Shigeru Mizuki, he enjoyed drawing Backbeard and would always look for opportunities to write him into stories.[8]

Abilities

  • Eye Powers - Backbeard's primary ability are his eye powers. Glaring at victims can have certain effects on them.
    • Hypnotism - Beard can hypnotize others into becoming his minions. He can counter other yōkai's hypnosis spells, such as he did in Yōkai Lockheed.
    • Dizziness - Beard can disorient enemies for certain periods of time, though the periods have ranged from momentarily to long-term.
    • Heat - Beard can fire a heat beam from his eye hot enough to set enemies on fire.
  • Tentacles - Beard can use his tentacles to stab enemies. He can also grow arms and legs when needed, such as he did for the sumo tournament in Kitarō Kunitori Monogatari[7].

Legend

The source of origin for Backbeard is unclear, though some believe he is very loosely based on the Bugbear, a boogieman-like spirit from English folklore. However, other than the similar names, the two have nothing else in common.

He first appeared in the magazine Shonen Book in 1965, as an insect-like creature made up of eyes in an illustrated article on monsters of the world. This article was written by Yukihiko Kitagawa and drawn by Toshio Okazaki, and the same drawing later appeared in a Shonen Book appendix.

Accusations of plagiarism

In a 1989 interview with the magazine Nihongaku, photographer Masatoshi Naitō claimed that Mizuki plagiarized one of his photos for Backbeard's design. His collage Shinjuku Phantom Chimera featured a similar imaged of a black sphere with a single eye and with root-like tentacles growing from it. The collage was published in the April 1964 issue of Asahi Camera, while Backbeard first appeared in the second chapter of The Great Yōkai War in 1966.

However, it has also been pointed out that both works were derivative of the painting Eye Balloon by Odilon Redon.

References

  1. GeGeGe no Kitarō (2018): Episode 27
  2. 2.0 2.1 Yōkai Rally, Shonen Magazine series
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Guevara Comes to Vietnam!, Kitarō's Vietnam War
  4. 4.0 4.1 Yōkai Lockheed
  5. The Great Yōkai War, Shonen Magazine series
  6. Beard, Kitarō's World Obake Tour
  7. 7.0 7.1 Yōkai Sumo, Kitarō Kunitori Monogatari
  8. Mujara

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