'Kitaro' sets Shochiku b.o. record

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TOKYO -- Shochiku's "Kitaro" has broken the company's record for best first-week grosses at the Japanese boxoffice.

The tale of a young ghost who lost his parents at birth, Kitaro grows up in the spectral world and duels with other monsters to protect humankind.

Earning more than ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) on a total of 339 screens across the country in its first week, it pushed "Babel" into third place in the charts, ceding first to the juggernaut that is "Spider-Man 3

"We are extremely pleased with the way the film has performed at the boxoffice so far," said Teruki Matsumoto, managing director of Shochiku Motion Picture Operations. "With so many high-profile films going up against us, we knew it would be a crowded market from the start."

Originally created by Shigery Mizuki in 1954, Kitaro remains a popular animated character, with fans anticipating a full feature-length movie for some years, the company said.

The manga and cartoon series delvd deep into Japan's folk religions, including exorcism and shamanism.

Combining CGI with live-action, "Kitaro" was directed by Katsuhide Motoki and stars Eiji Wentz and Yo Oizumi.

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