Yes you are
If anyone can give themselves the title of “Yokai Professor” it is Mizuki Shigeru. He is the greatest living authority on the Japanese folklore monsters, and has dedicated his life to preserving the ancient legends along with adding bits of his own.
“I am a Yokai Professor” is one in a recent series by Shogakukan that mixes some of Mizuki’s older work with new material, and repackages the master for a new generation. The books are not typical manga size, nor are they the full-length of some of Mizuki’s Yokai Encycopedias, but a sort of half-way size between the two.
In “I am a Yokai Professor,” Mizuki takes a biographical look at the events that made him the leading authority on yokai. It starts with his first experience of the mystical, with a flower that he thought could change into a bird, and the influence of his neighbor Nonnoba who taught him all the local folklore and revealed to him the secret world of yokai. From there Mizuki presents small memories from his childhood, like his favorite collections (found animal bones, pura models, bugs, and all the usual treasure of a young boy) and his dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete.
From there, Mizuki presents the yokai he has had personal experience with, such as the crying Kawaakabo (Red River Baby) and the bizarre Kurobozu (Black Monk). For Mizuki, the yokai are all those mysterious sensations and noises that people encounter but that most people dismiss as tricks of nerves or senses. To Mizuki, as he explains, these strange feelings and sensations are the realm of yokai, open to those willing to experience it.
He gives two longer comics presenting “true story” encounters sent in by readers. One is a young boy taken to the underwater realm of a kappa, and one is a boy who is given an accidental glimpse into the spirit world and protective ancestors. Mizuki follows this up with personal memories and photographs of traveling the world looking for mystery, and finding the monsters of Africa, Europe, New Guinea and Easter Island. Finally, there is a longer story of an encounter on Easter Island, and one of Mizuki’s “Yokai Quizzes” to test yourself against the Yokai Professor.
All of the artwork is by Mizuki and done in his signature style. If you are not familiar with it, Mizuki is the absolute master of a technique known as the “masking effect,” where cartoonish figures are presented in detailed and realistic backgrounds (ala Herges’ “Tin Tin”). Some of the pictures in the “Yokai I have Met” section are reprinted from his “Yokai Encyclopedias,” and some of the other material is new.
Because I love Mizuki Shigeru, I liked this glimpse into his childhood and his personal thoughts about yokai. If you are just starting to get to know the master, then “I am a Yokai Professor” might not be the best place to start, as the book assumes familiarity with the man who has entertained and educated generations of Japanese children.