A Cry in the Night With a Quick Linguistic Lesson – Queen Seondeok, Vol. 1 – Part 1

This year, I’m rearranging our reading schedule back to the old order I usually do them in, so I’m starting with my short-term Korean selection, Eunkyeong Ryu’s Queen Seondeok (류은경의 “선덕여왕”), which is a novelized version of the Korean TV show by the same name. It was a very popular show when it came out, and I know it is among my favorites though I haven’t watched it recently. This novelized version comes in a three volume set, so I will look at volume 1 for this go round through the region. The cover has a paper wrapping with a partial secondary cover featuring a photo from the show. The characters here are Mishil and Seondeok, left to right.

Published in 2009, volume 1 runs 343 pages and has front matter printed on thick, pearlized silver paper with a decorative border. It’s a bibliophile’s dream if you’re into print books and feels very nice to the touch; many of these novelized TV shows have spared no expense in the printing. This section includes a character list with descriptions and a chart of character relationships that I will at some point do a modified translation of for you.  The book, therefore, has a very nice presentation.

It also is my first example of a mixed text in Korean, especially with its historical footnotes, which is probably kind of hard for a foreigner to run across. I think in the US there is a very low perception that Korean is structured even remotely like Japanese or still retains anything in common with Chinese since there is an overemphasis on the hangul alphabet to the exclusion of the actual historical development of the language and the limited continuing use of hanja in US pedagogy.  Korean actually does use hanja (though in the US, Chinese characters are usually known by their Japanese name, kanji, rather than either the Korean name hanja or the Chinese name hanzi. These are all the regional pronunciations for the same word/characters  漢字).

Historical novels are no joke anyway in any of these languages, and they should be approached as more advanced texts than novels set in contemporary settings, even for TV tie-ins. They use antiquated language, definitions of words are often not in most Korean-English dictionaries, and verb endings that aren’t explained in most available textbooks. This book has enough of an emphasis on hanja that I’m going to do a quick rundown of the main characters of the novel and give the hanja as well. Every single character listed has hanja for their name as well as hangul.

Here is my abbreviated character list – I’m not switching names to American order just for the sake of my sanity as I read the book:

King Jinpyeong (眞平王) – Deokman’s father, the 26th king of Silla.

Mishil (美實) – Silla’s unsurpassed beauty, power hungry and skilled in seducing kings and hwarang.

Empress Maya (摩耶) – King Jinpyeong’s wife.

Munno (文努) – I’m going to translate this as the 8th Hwarang master. The word used here is a historical title with the hanja 風月主 (p’ungwolju), wind and moon master.

Deokman (德曼) – Silla’s 27th ruler, also known as Queen Seondeok.

Princess Cheonmyeong (天命) – Deokman’s twin sister.

Kim Yushin (金庾信) – The 15th Hwarang master (風月主) and descendant of the rulers of the Korean state of Gaya. He is a well-known historical figure in his own right. He was born in 595 and died in 673 AD.

Bidam  (毗曇) – Mishil’s son with King Jinji and a minister in Queen Seondeok’s court.

Kim Chunchu (金春秋) – Silla’s 29th ruler and Princess Cheonmyeong’s son.

Kin Yongsu (金龍樹) – Son of King Jinji and Princess Cheongmyeong’s husband.

Kim Yongchun (金龍春) – Kim Yongsu’s younger brother and Kim Chunchu’s uncle.

Misaeng (美生) – Mishil’s brother.

Sejong (世宗) – Mishil’s husband.

Seolwon (薛原) – Mishil’s lover.

Wolya (月夜) – The son of Greater Gaya’s Crown Prince Wolkwang.

Seolji (雪地) – A migrant from the fallen Gaya state.

Chilsuk (柒宿) – A character in Mishil’s faction.

Seokpum (石品) – A hwarang with royal blood.

Jukbang (竹方) – A refugee from Gaya.

Kodo (高島) – A character who serves Jukbang like a brother.

Bojong (寶宗) – Mishil’s son with Seolwon.

Hajung (夏宗) – Mishil’s son with Sejong.

Seungman (勝曼) – Silla’s 28th ruler, also known as Queen Jindeok.

Kim Munhui (金文姬) – Kim Chunchu’s wife and Kim Yushin’s younger sister.

Sohua (昭火) – Deokman’s foster mother.

Seori (誓理) – Mishil’s ally and head of a shrine. This is the character whose description I’m least certain of.

Yeomjong (廉宗) – Bidam’s closest advisor among the hwarang.

King Wija (義慈王) – Baekjae’s king during Queen Seondeok’s reign in Silla.

Yeongaesomun (淵蓋蘇文) – Koguryo’s general and government official.

One such historical reference that comes up here that you won’t find in any Korean-English dictionary is 화랑 (hwarang), which is the special military corps of young men during the Silla era that emphasized integrity and artistic cultivation beyond merely fighting. They engaged in writing poetry and other more civilized arts.

The hanja for hwarang, 花郞, it literally means flower gentleman. (I would never translate it as flower boys in US English, though that is a commonly encountered translation, because of the disrespectful way the word boy has historically been used for adult minority men in our country. The word 郞 isn’t a casual word for man or boy anyway but is higher style and can be seen used in words like bridegroom throughout the region.) But you have to be able to read dictionaries that are Korean-Korean, Korean-Japanese, Korean-Chinese or Korean-Spanish to get even the most basic, accurate historical definition of hwarang.  According to historical texts, the hwarang was originally all female, but jealousy and murder among the female leadership caused them to be banned in favor of an all male corps. However, here we have the main villain of the story, Mishil, who is a woman still formally connected to the hwarang.

The story is set in the time of the Three Kingdoms, with some references to the proto-Three Kingdoms states, and focuses on the royal court of the Silla, which puts it roughly in the first thousand years of the common era. Here is a decent map of the region during that era with the incorporation of the Gaya state in it.

Map by Ashraf Kamel, courtesy of the Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited


I’m going to just look at the first chapter this time, which is split into four parts. This chapter mostly introduces the characters of King Jinheung, the 24th king of Silla who reigned from 540 to 576 AD, and Mishil. It also mentions two other Silla kings, Beopheung his predecessor, and Jinji, his successor who only ruled three years, as well as Baekjae and Koguryeo rulers, too.

The chapter starts off describing the cold wind, the early frost after the harvest, and the Buddhist temple where prayers were going up for King Jinheung to be cured of an illness. It gets very detailed about the Buddhist service’s wooden bells and overnight prayer sessions.

Mishil is introduced next with a very detailed physical description since she is considered so strikingly beautiful, and she is presented in the context of the hwarang.  It also talks some about her intense love affair with her husband Sejong, whom she fell in love with at first sight, and their son together. Sejong was King Beopheung’s grandson through an illicit affair, therefore a relative of King Jinheung and a member of the true bone class rank in society, which was the extended royal family’s class rank as opposed to the king’s closest family’s rank. That’s the best I can tease out the rather complicated relationship described here. Mishil and another character introduced here named Myodo are both one rank below Sejong’s, which would make it sixth rank.

Mishil spends most of the chapter talking with King Jinheung, the Empress and the Crown Prince Dongryun.  In the final section, Mishil goes to King Jinheung’s bedchamber late at night with medicine, but when she knocks on his door and announces herself, he doesn’t answer.  She enters and puts her hand under his nose but doesn’t feel him breathing. She touches his body with a trembling hand. He is as cold as ice. All of the information in the chapter is just preliminary, years before the title character is born, so I’m not going to spend too much time on the minor characters that come up here. But the chapter ends on the dramatic note of the king’s death.

Two long footnotes in the chapter, which feature a lot of mixed text, too, describe the background of Silla Founder Pak Hyeokgeose and Silla Kyeongju Kim Clan founder Kim Alji. There are actually quite a lot more short footnotes in this chapter, considerably more than you usually see in a fictional piece, but those two were the most in-depth.

Part one of a three part series.

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2019 Preliminary Appearance Schedule

The new year is nearly here, and I’ve already got a few events lined up where I’ll be selling my books.

First up will be Steel City Con in Monroeville, PA, from April 12th through 14th:


Then in May, I’ll be at Three Rivers Comic Con in West Mifflin, PA. The event is set for May 11th and 12th:


I’ll be announcing more event dates as we get closer to summer.

Just a programming note for this blog in the new year: I will be switching the Literati Corner back to it’s usual sequence and will start the year reading a different Korean language selection, Queen Seondeok.

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Contemplating Death and Leaving for Pusan – Land, Vol.3, Part 8

Wrapping up volume 3 of story arc one in Kyeongni Park’s monumental literary work, Land (박경리의《토지》) by picking out some highlights , the rest of the novel picks up with the first chapter, “Dispute.” Seohui and Bongsun are sitting by a pond talking about their sadness over the loss of their families in the cholera epidemic.  Bongsun talks about how she wants to see her mom again and wishes she could die, too, but Seohui tells her she couldn’t cope if Bongsun wasn’t there with her. This conversation brings memories of Seohui’s mother Byeoldangasshi, who ran away with a former slave earlier in the novel.  One of the girls angrily curses them both; the dialogue isn’t tagged, so it’s hard to tell, but I’m going to guess it was Bongsun based on Seohui’s reaction to the comments.  She throws sand into Bongsun’s face.

Gilsang and Sudong come on the scene at this point, but Seohui only stops crying when the young hunchbacked boy Byeongsu appears. She surprises everyone by asking Byeongsu if he’ll marry her.  After Wife Yoon’s death, Byeongsu’s mother Hong gets into a big controversy with Seohui over her jewelry, though Hong’s relationship with Seohui hadn’t been good from the beginning, and it had only gotten worse after Wife Yoon’s death.   

The next chapter, “Year of Famine,” declares that 1903 was the year of terrible famine and launches into a description of the people’s level of starvation.  Cho Jungu tries bringing rice into the village, but someone summons for him. Trembling, he runs to a storeroom where a group is assembled which includes Seohui, Bongsun, Yong Lee, Yeongpal and others.  Sudong asks him to give them instructions, but he doesn’t know what they mean. They are concerned that the grain isn’t being evenly divided in the village. After some discussion, he calls for Gilsang. The next day, they all come to the Choi Champan estate where they talk about receiving the favor of the Seoul yangban, Cho Jungu, there.

Moving on to the last chapter in part 4, “Kim Hunjang’s Grudge,” it is Chuseok at the Kim Hungjang household.  Ten days after Chuseok, the fields are golden with a new crop of ripened rice. The rest of the chapter follows character Kim Hungjang, and I have been mostly skipping his storyline.

Turning to the story arc’s last part, “Departing Child, Remaining Child,” which has ten chapters, it starts with the chapter, “Floral Patterned Shoes,” which jumps to mid-July when Wolseon crosses the river to visit a temple to pray to Ksitigarbha about her dead mother during the worship service.  She hears people there talking about Yong Lee and Imineo, about how he bought leather shoes for her in the market, and other about how Imineo had Yong Lee’s baby and was possibly having a second child with him.

In the next section,  Yong Lee goes to see Wolseon at her house, but she isn’t there. He doesn’t think of the significance of the date, so he doesn’t realize she would have gone to the temple for the anniversary of her mother’s death.  I think he wishes Wolseon had given birth to his son instead of Imineo.  A third segment starts off with a rooster crowing at daybreak and shows more of Yong Lee, this time talking with Wolseon about her stay at the temple. This chapter is one of the more memorable ones in the story arc

Skipping around a few chapters, “The Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905” returns to Kim Hunjang and Cho Jungu and the new treaty signed in November, 1905. I talked about both this and the big cholera epidemic when I covered volume 2 in the series earlier this year, so I won’t get into it again here.   

A later, particularly notable chapter in the book focuses on Wife Yoon’s son through rape, Kim Hwan. Titled “The Tonghak General’s Son,” it has three scenes, the first one only a few sentences long set in a dark pine forest. It mentions Kucheon is there alone, but suggests that Byeoldangasshi is probably dead. I’m not sure what either of them have to do with Hwan here, though he is mentioned in the couple of sentences, too.

The second scene features a woman with dialogue addressing someone as “darling” who asks to be helped up, and the next sentence notes her body is as light as a feather.  Hwan wipes her face with a towel, pulls off her socks, wipes her feet, and brushes her hair. Hwan is nearly in tears as he takes care of her. The woman is ill, but the passage doesn’t ever use her name but just calls her “the woman.” I suspect it may be Wife Yoon, his mother, before cholera takes her, though since the earlier passage mentioned Byeoldangasshi, I guess it could be her, too.  At the end of the scene, the woman dies, and Hwan cries as if he’s in a dream.   

The third long scene in the chapter returns to Hwan as he is talking with an old man at a thatched hut deep in the woods. The man is skinning a weasel in the hut’s sunny courtyard.  Hwan addresses him as “esteemed father” as their conversation starts. The old man asks how old Hwan is, and he responds that he is thirty.  Then he asks where Hwan was born, but Hwan is vague about the place.

The old man goes into his kitchen with the weasel and comes out with bowls of porridge for the two of them, which Hwan accepts. Hwan asks if he knows Monk Wugwan. The old man asks if he means he’s looking for the Yeongoksa chanting monk, but Hwan is vague about that, too. The old man mentions Tonghak Army General Kim Kaeju, Monk Wugwan’s brother, which gets Hwan’s attention since that is his father’s name. They discuss Kim Kaeju for awhile before Hwan says goodbye and returns to the road.  

As he leaves, he hears the old man cry out and is reminded of his father, whom Hwan hasn’t thought about for a long time. He didn’t think about his father at all even when he prostrated himself before Wife Yoon’s grave the night before. Hwan talks to his father for a page, perhaps in a flashback to a conversation they once had late at night, then Hwan approaches a temple looking for Monk Wugwan.  The sun is setting when Hwan gets there, and when he introduces himself, it produces a bit of a commotion. Hwan asks to see Monk Wugwan, but Hyegwan comes to the door, so they chat a bit.

The chapter ends with Hwan’ss memory of once meeting his half-brother Choi Chisu before he died. It’s quite a nice chapter in the story arc, one of the best in the first three volumes, and here is the picture that goes with it.

Interior Illustration, Land Volume 3

Skipping ahead for the sake of time, in the final chapter, “People Departing Their Home,” Seohui firmly decides to leave along with Sanghyeon. A number of people are also leaving, including a whole family that I haven’t seen mentioned in the story before. Sanghyeon and Gilsang are looking into whether they can get a boat to take a shortcut to Pusan. People are lined up at the agency where they are waiting.

Wolseon is selling a house that Imineo has vacated, and Sanghyeon and Gilsang are following Wolseon to Pusan.  Wolseon asks Imineo where she and the children will go now that she’s leaving the house and Wolseon is selling it, but Imineo tells her not to worry. Yong Lee, meanwhile, is going with Sanghyeon and Gilsang, too. Bongsun will be traveling separately by palanquin and spends the next few days talking with Gilsang and Yong Lee. The city of Jinju is also mentioned throughout this part, so perhaps this is a stop on the way. It seems like the whole cast of characters I’ve been looking at is moving to Pusan, so it will be interesting to see how the story develops once they are there.

The chapter wraps up with all of the group leaving Hadong and arriving in Pusan on May 15th.

Part eight of an eight part series.

Stay tuned for story arc 2 from Land in 2019 when I will be covering volumes 4 through 6 with the next generation of the clans we have been reading about so far!

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A Cholera Epidemic Wipes Out the Village – Land, Vol.3, Part 7

For volume 3 of story arc one in Kyeongni Park’s monumental literary work, Land (박경리의《토지》) , I’m going to consolidate my original three post plan into just two. The volume is small anyway, like the others have been, so that shouldn’t be too difficult. So this time I will cover some of part 4, titled “Plague and Revolution” in the table of contents, though the section title page has the slightly different variation of “Plague and a Year of Famine.”  This section has nine chapters, and the chapter titles suggest some tragedy ahead in the story.

Chapter 1, “Guests from Seoul,” starts off with Cho Jungu observing a woman in a palanquin passing by. The woman stops to talk with him, and it’s clear she and the handsome, hunchbacked little boy with her are coming from Seoul.  The text gets into a detailed description of the woman, whom the little boy appears to be afraid of, and she’s wearing a jade green skirt and white summer jacket.  Gilsang is reprimanded for dawdling since he is supposed to serve the woman, and he shows her into the detached house while Jungu goes elsewhere.

When Bongsunneo arrives, the woman, whose name is Hong, asks about a seamstress and demands washing water to be brought to her quickly. She barks a lot of orders and calls the servants names while the boy clings to her skirt. Hong wanders into Seohui’s room where Seohui is writing a letter. Thinking the girl is rude and another of the servants, Hong calls for Bongsunneo. The little boy’s name is Byeongsu, and the women discuss his age and Seohui’s, determining that since she is ten and he is twelve, it is improper for Byeongsu to have entered her room due to the Confucian age restrictions on mixed company after age seven as a safeguard on morality. Seohui tells Bongsunneo to show the guests into the guest parlor, where Samwol comes with the washing water. Hong and Byeongsu wash up there, and Hong puts on her makeup as Seohui continues writing back in her quarters.

Next, we see Cho Jungu and Wife Yoon elsewhere in the house, alert to their coming since they can hear them, and they discuss finding their guests a vacant room. When Hong meets Wife Yoon, she asks them why women are in the men’s quarters, then mentions Seohui’s quarters and other parts of the estate, such as the detached house, the garden, the lotus pond. It turns out that Hong is Cho Jungu’s wife, and she blames her son’s hunchbacked condition on him. Meanwhile, the servants have a lot to say about these extraordinary guests. The chapter wraps up with a visit between Wife Yoon and Kim Seobang a few days later while Cho Jungu puts his family in the back wing of the house.

There are a few vocabulary words that I want to bring up here since they are old fashioned and maybe not that easy to find if you are attempting to read historical novels in Korean:

남녀칠세부동석 (男女七歲不同席) – this refers to a Confucian idea that children over the age of seven of different sexes shouldn’t mix

사랑 – usually this word means “love,” but it comes up in historical novels a lot with the meaning of either the men’s quarters of the house or the parlor of the men’s or general quarters used for receiving guests.

오라버니 – this is a term that I have heard in historical TV shows and nowhere else, and it means a girl’s older brother. The modern term most typically used would be 오빠.

In the next chapter “Cholera,” Kim Seobang arrives at the Choi Champan household at night, his body aching. They put a mattress on the floor for him to rest on, but he has to run out and vomit because he’s so sick. Nothing seems to stop the symptoms, and he is so ill everyone thinks he’s going to die.  They consider that a lot of people have died in recent years, like Choi Chisu and Guinyeo who died under quite different circumstances earlier in the novel, but news comes from the village that Yong Lee’s wife Kang Cheongtake has also died.  An epidemic of cholera has been sweeping the are and affecting them.

The second section of this chapter returns to the Choi Champan household, where their daily life has become seriously disrupted due to the disease just like the village’s has. The village is suffering under a dark cloud of anxiety with the epidemic, and it’s really turning out to be a bad year for everyone. When Wife Yoon dies, the Choi Champan household falls into ruin, and Gilsang and Seohui also fall ill. Bongsun, who lost her mother in the epidemic, is crazy with fear of dying.

In the next chapter “Life & Death,” the story returns to Yong Lee sitting in his garden looking at the sky.  He’s miserable, and Imineo, whom he has a child with, hasn’t shown up today.  There are some doubts about the nature of his wife Kang Cheongtaek’s death, however, with people questioning Imineo’s role.  The rest of the chapter continues with conversations between Yong Lee and Imineo.

In the next two chapters, this storyline continues and adds Yong Lee’s former love Wolseon to the mix. Yong Lee is talking with Yeongpal at the market, where rumors of Wolseon’s return are spreading, and Yong Lee trembles when she finally appears. They catch up on what has happened in the village. The story then returns to the subject of Kang Cheongtaek’s death and Imineo giving birth to Yong Lee’s son as it shows Makttakneo gossiping a bit with Yamuneo before finishing up with Yong Lee at the inn.   

In “Wu Guan Leaves the Temple,” the story changes gears entirely and pivots briefly to a visit with the Buddhist monk. Someone is running around the village yelling about Japanese soldiers at the beginning. The story spreads around the village quickly, and the villagers come out to watch the Japanese troops passing in the distance. Monk Wugwan appears. Now he’s over seventy with shaggy white eyebrows hanging over his eyes, though he still looks imposing.  Kim Hunjang greets him, and the men mostly discuss Seohui, whom Kim Hunjang has been teaching to write for a number of years.  They realize she is in a situation where she has no one to rely upon anymore.

I’m going to stop there and finish the book in the next post.

Part seven of an eight part series.

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The Arrival of the Spirit Guardian Hanyuu Furude – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.2, Part 3

Finishing up Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”), the next major section of the novel begins with nine short chapters referencing earlier story arcs in the series. All of them have the word カケラ in the title, but I can’t get a clear definition of this word even though it’s very prominently used in the text. Any suggestions would be helpful.   

The first chapter we come upon that looks particularly intriguing is “カケラ’s Trash,” which is a very long section that starts off with a brief segment in larger font about fate.  Then the main character in the next segment turns out to be Officer Akasaka, though there’s a lot of references made to an embassy and international diplomacy, which is rather startling since the anime never pulls back to get an international view. This segment is very long, with Akasaka is hanging out in the business district, but I’m going to skip it for the sake of time.

Towards the end of the chapter, we come to another segment that starts talking about his wife Yukie who fell and died in the hospital but also mentions the Great Hinamizawa Disaster and the way Rika Furude predicted her murder five years before. Even the fact that Rika was gutted alive comes up. I don’t think we’ve talked about the details of her murder much in the two story arcs I’ve been looking at from the series, though I think the very brutal type of death she suffers over and over wouldn’t sound as shocking to the Japanese since seppuku/harakiri was regularly done during the Edo period and was attested to as far back as 1,000 years according to online sources I consulted. To a Westerner, however, it’s a luridly shocking type of murder, especially for a little girl to endure. Perhaps the connection to seppuku gives it a deeper meaning when Takano uses it on Rika? According to Wikipedia, it was also used as a form of capital punishment.  But  I’m getting off topic here. This segment ends with the speaker repeating  a few times not to give up.

The final section of the chapter repeats over and over at intervals “Thank you, Akasaka,” and ends with a request for him to help them. It refers to his feelings of regret and how he was god-fearing enough to start thinking he should pray. Following this sequence on Akasaka, we get a tenth brief section referring to the current story arc titled “Festival Accompanying Chapter’s カケラ.”

The next chapter begins with this drawing, which has the caption, “Transfer Student Hanyuu Furude.” Hanyuu is typically portrayed with horns I assume to show she’s really not human and is the spirit behind the shrine deity Oyashiro-sama, but her appearance at this point really is quite meaningful on multiple levels. Of course, Rika is hoping they can perform a miracle and break free of the time warp where Rika is repeatedly murdered by unknown government agents over and over, but it’s also notable that she comes at a time when Rika has no other human relatives, her remaining relatives, her parents, murdered by Takano because of their opposition to Takano using Rika as a test subject.

We have a lot of orphans in this story, all with varying outcomes. Satoko ends up with the worst of the lot, a stepfather with criminal connections who has controversial political positions that make them hated pariahs in the community. Takano loses her family in an accident, too, but she escapes a cruel orphanage by a miracle and is taken in by a gentle professor who provides her with a certain amount of prestige, a safe home, incredible educational opportunities and political connections. Rika, whose family was happy enough before their murder, had great prestige as the heir to the village shrine and her purported supernatural abilities due to being that heir and the reincarnation of the shrine deity. She never would have become an orphan if it hadn’t been for Takano’s spiteful focus on her. It almost comes off like some weird sort of jealousy of the young girl’s mystical position in the community, so it makes a certain sense that Rika would end up with a supernatural parent-type figure, though Hanyuu is seen as another school-age student like Rika even if I think she was an adult when she died in the distant past. This form Hanyuu takes masks something much more powerful.

As the title of the section points out, Hanyuu is introduced as a transfer student related to Rika, which is explained away as Hanyuu being a distant relative. Comparisons are made to other transfer students Rena Ryugu and Keiichi Maebara, but when they ask Hanyuu about where she is from and why she came to Hinamizawa, the responses she gives are vague.  They only talk about how she lived far away. As planned, she gets pulled into Rika’s circle of friends as they play “the punishment game.”

Next, in the chapter “Akasaka and Tokyo,” someone is giving a speech for a toast at a banquet, and it reminds me of some of the sections I read in volume 1 with Professor Takano and his war connections. The toast does include references to the war, this time to “Japan’s unconditional surrender,” troop withdrawal and such, with many of the speech’s statements ending with double exclamation points again. After it winds down, someone talks with Akasaka, and they decide to go to table F to talk to an old woman sitting there.  Akasaka introduces himself and says he called the day before to set an appointment to speak with her.  The story then moves on to a separate segment showing the interview. It seems there is something up with the use of public funds and official documents, which leads him to the Irie Clinic in Hinamizawa and the kidnapping case involving Minister Inuki’s grandson a few years earlier that Akasaka had investigated in Hinamizawa.

“Hanyuu and Everyone” is told from Keiichi’s perspective using the “I” ore and situates Hanyuu in their circle of school friends more firmly as they joke around. The perspective must change after a line break a few pages in since the “I” has now become watashi,though I’m not sure who it is. Usually Rika or Keiichi have been using the more distinctive forms, so the reader has to be on their toes with the rapidly changing perspectives without a consistent signal like a chapter heading. It’s a very unusual artistic choice, but I guess by the end of the series, when there are 15 books or so before this one,the reader should be able to pick up on it.

This section gets into the three ruling families of Hinamizawa and continues to focus on Hanyuu and her history. It seems she came from a wandering tribe and had to coexist with some indigenous villagers. This is where it gets into the mixing of their blood and the demon blood heritage in the villagers ultimately making it hard to determine whether they were human or demon, ancient documents in the forbidden part of the shrine that talk about some of this, and other very interesting topics. One part mentions that the Shinto priest exorcises the “fierce god” (鬼神, onigami) by doing this terrible ceremony where they pulled out the intestines and floated them downstream, the ancient version of the cotton-drifting festival.  The corpse of the victim is then buried in the swamp.  This is the time Hanyuu comes from. Later, there is a conversation about Hanyuu’s horn.

Closer to the end of this chapter, the font changes and is boldfaced, and it seems to be coming from either Rika’s or Hanyuu’s perspective since it starts something like, “It’s a child’s duty to bury their parents.” I’m leaning toward saying this is Hanyuu’s perspective since the expression for mother used here is a rather odd-looking “母上” (hahaue) that the dictionary notes was a pre-Meiji era term for mother used in samurai families, which would fit Hanyuu’s background as a spirit of the dead from hundreds of years before. It is a really disturbing set of brief passages on the subject with emphasis on horned demons and children killing parents. Then, in the middle of a sentence where Rika and Hanyuu are talking about Takano, there’s a huge bakemono (monster) written in katakana that takes up half the page at the beginning of the next page as they continue their discussion of Hanyuu remembering that Takano is the one with malicious intent after they encounter Takano and Tomitake. 

I’ll just briefly give the basic idea of the chapters finishing up the book. In “Akasaka Once Again,” Akasaka and Detective Ooishi are in Tokyo carousing together, but they discuss their fears regarding the death of Rika’s parents, Rika’s safety, and their plans to come to Hinamizawa.  The chapter “Hanyuu Transmits a Memory” gets more into Hanyuu’s restored memory of Takano killing Rika during their last cycle reliving her murder. They try to figure out from that bit of recollection who else might be helping Takano with her dirty deed and decide that the Yamainu also would be their enemy, Irie, too. They debate Tomitake’s position in this, though he is also murdered eventually.  In the brief chapter “Countdown to the End,” someone named Nomura is on the phone talking about Hinamizawa Syndrome and referring to the “lady” and her grandfather, the “lady” probably being Takano though Takano’s name isn’t mentioned that I noticed glancing over the passage.

The next three chapters are a string of consultations with various characters that runs about 75 pages and kicks off with a cute drawing of Rika and all of her friends captioned “the greatest friends.” About halfway through that is another drawing of Rika talking in the distance to Takano and Tomitake captioned “trusted adults.” However, we start off with Irie, and when Rika tries to tell him she thinks Takano plans to kill her, he wants to know why she thinks this and surmises it may be a sign of acute illness. Of course, he’s thinking in terms of the different levels of Hinamizawa Syndrome, and paranoia is part of the level 5 cluster of symptoms if I recall. He wonders if she might have level 5.

When that discussion ends on a tepid note with Irie finally admitting it could be possible Takano wants to kill her, Rika moves on. In “Consultation with Club Members,” Rika talks with her group of school friends about the Hinamizawa Syndrome research she has been involved with and her fate that she will be murdered by Takano, seeking their help to stop Takano. Their older friend Mion Sonozaki is the most prominently involved in the discussion.

The final chapter, “Consultation with Tomitake,” which is 50 pages long and primarily features a conversation between Tomitake and Rika about Takano and to a lesser degree Irie, ends with the comment that it is fated for Tomitake to be killed in three days and anticipates the night of June 16th. The story will continue in volume 3, which we’ll look at in 2019.  

Part three of a three part series.

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The End of the Furude Line and the Importance of Names – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.2, Part 2

Continuing our look at Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”), the story turns to Rika’s family and the third year of odd deaths surrounding the Cotton-Drifting Festival. 

“The Queen’s Mother’s Disbelief”is about Rika and her mother’s anger over the research Rika is involved with at the clinic with Takano, and the next section, “One Two Three Four,” once again returns to the subject of Takano’s multiple names, her relationship with her foster father and his research, then finally her hobbies of photography and investigating Hinamizawa’s “dark history.” What’s particularly notable here is the similarities and contrasts to the opening sections where Satoko’s relationship with her foster father and her multiple names are discussed. It seems to be an odd yet interesting parallel presentation of these topics since Takano and Satoko at least have certain superficial situational similarities and both have short blonde hair as children in most of the artwork related to the series. 

Both characters lost their parents young, both were orphaned, both changed their names a lot. Only in Takano’s case, she had better fortune in getting a kind-hearted, well-connected foster father and had more control over her own identity than Satoko does in her situation, being left either alone with Rika as her housemate or being stuck with her abusive, unrelated uncle as her guardian with his petty criminal connections. Unlike Takano, she doesn’t pick any of her names but has them thrust on her by her mother’s remarriages. It’s interesting, too, with Takano most of it is sound-alike stuff, all changes in spelling of her names and their meanings, where for Satoko it is a more dramatic change with clan connections.

In “Sacrifice Number Three,” Takano turns much more malicious. After considering Rika’s father’s attitudes, she really zeros in on Rika’s mother because of her opposition to Takano’s research on Rika. Takano plots with Yamainu leader Okonogi to help get rid of Rika’s parents so the girl won’t have any relatives left to oppose Takano. She says here that this year the deaths will not be due to the Cotton-Drifting Festival mystery curse.

The chapter “The Furude Husband and Wife Death Cases,” told in the first person from Takano’s perspective, quickly recaps the mysterious deaths over the past two years that have been attributed to this curse, which originated in the Dam War among the village’s adults. We see Rika’s father in his role as priest and leader of the Furude Shrine at a festival banquet where he starts to look bad and not feel well. Kimiyoshi, another prominent local from one of the leading families of the village, asks if he is okay and calls for Irie to help. They decide to take the priest to the clinic in the car, but he dies.

No one thinks the shrine priest died due to poison put in his food, but he dies in twenty minutes while his wife supposedly commits suicide that same night in the Onifaguchi swamp near the village, which is the source of all sorts of unsavory regional legends. They never find her body, at least not officially. So now the Furude family only consists of Rika. Somehow, the political power behind the Sonozaki family, the matriarch Oryo, must find away to deal with the out of control curse yet another year and is referred to as a “political fixer”.  It doesn’t seem like she is coordinating with Takano, but she definitely is the clean up crew with messing situations that come along where too many questions could be asked.

The next section, “Club Activity Formation,” turns entirely to the children’s school life, which is the first sentence of the chapter. This is in contrast to the adult world with all of its prejudices and harsh judgments of the Houjous. Here, the Houjou children, Satoko and Satoshi, have at least a modicum of peace away from the adult world’s vicious gossip about their family. It actually notes specifically that the brother and sister were able to smile at school. It does infer a little that the school leaders didn’t allow the kids to be tormented there, though I’m not sure most of the other kids were really that worried about the dam war as far as they knew about it. They don’t seem motivated to act on the adult’s grudges.

I think this section is told from Mion Sonozaki’s perspective, though like much of the rest of the book, it is in the first person, which is an odd choice for what really turns out to be omniscient perspective. Usually that is done in third person, though again, the author likes to be experimental. Each chapter just has a different “I” speaking, and you have to figure out who. it is Still, it works on some level and is an interesting innovation. I’m not sure how often such a technique is used, but it isn’t traditional for novels.

This section also digs a bit deeper into Satoko’s relationship with her aunt. For this post I’m looking for some assistance from native Japanese speakers on a few points. Here in this part, I can’t confirm that the term used here for Satoko and Satoshi’s aunt has the same meaning in Japanese as it does in Chinese and Korean because the Japanese dictionaries are too vague on the issue. The term used here is 叔母 (oba), and everywhere I look in Japanese, it only mentions that it refers to the parent’s younger sister. In and of itself, that’s not really very informative until you look at the term in Chinese and Korean, where it actually infers which side of the family the aunt is on. So in Chinese and Korean, there are different terms based on whether we are talking about the father’s sister or the mother’s sister.  In Chinese, this term is shumu, and in Korean it is sukmo. In both languages, it has the shade of meaning of the wife of one’s father’s younger brother. 

This is significant since it’s never really analyzed anywhere in the anime. What does it mean for the kids to be in the care of their uncle Teppei Hojou? His name isn’t brought up often enough in the anime in the right context for the relationship to really jump out at the viewer quite like it should. Teppei Houjou and his wife are the brother and wife of their stepfather, whom Satoko hates. This would be the family of husband number 4 for the mother, so there are no blood ties here. Given the likelihood that the mother hadn’t been married to husband number 4 for that many years, would they have really been too happy about taking care of such wounded children who were probably not much more than acquaintances at that point? Plus Teppei Houjou had criminal leanings, which also doesn’t say much about Satoko’s stepfather. It sounds like she had good reason to be skeptical of her new stepfather as a surrogate parent in spite of Satoshi’s admonitions. 

Anyway, here it explains that Satoko is unhappy about going home after school to her aunt and uncle, and she thanks Mion explicitly for her help at school, which also brings up the tension between their families from the dam war. The Sonozakis were opposed to the Houjous in the dam war, so this puts them at loggerheads outside of the protected school setting when they are in the adult world which complicates so much.

The next few sections turn to Rena Ryugu, another friend of Rika, Mion and Satoko at school. First up is “Red Capsule Drug,” which goes into a long discussion of this medicine. Skimming it and the next section about Rena specifically, the story explores the Ryugu family tragedy. Similar to Satoko’s difficult home life, Rena’s parents get divorced because her mother takes up with another man. I think Rena ends up on this red drug while thinking a lot about Oyashiro-sama, the shrine deity of Hinamizawa to whom she both apologizes and thanks by the end of this chapter. This same expression starts the chapter about Rena in the first line, too, linking the chapters together.

The chapter titled “Rena Ryugu”continues with more talk about her mother and the boyfriend, moving back to Hinamizawa, this drug and the curse. She feels she is unclean and thinks about her blood oozing out of her veins and dying. However, when she talks with her father about moving back with him to Hinamizawa, which she doesn’t remember from her childhood years, she has some hope that she can rid herself of her impurities with the special Cotton-Drifting Festival that the village holds in June. He mentions the festival to her to convince her to come with him.

She also talks about a name change at the end of this section, referring to herself as Rina (礼奈), though mostly her name is written レナ and pronounced Rena. It’s interesting how significant name changes are in this story, particularly this volume, though Satoko’s and Takano’s name changes were more prominently featured in the novels than the anime. Rena’s name change was mentioned in the anime version.  There’s a preoccupation on some level with identity expressed through these names, though in Rena’s case, like Takano’s, this is a personally chosen change. Rena ponders who she is at the end of this section and what it means to be a Ryugu.

“The Fourth Year’s Footsteps” switches perspective to Rika using “boku” (僕) for I instead of the usual“watashi” (私). She talks about her and Satoko, the way they both were now orphaned, though the emphasis here is on how Rika has no blood relatives anymore, though the fact that Satoko’s relationship with her aunt and uncle is only by marriage doesn’t seem to come up. She does note that Satoko’s aunt gets angry at Satoko over trivial things. Rena scares Rika as she comes up behind her, and there is a strong emphasis on Rika hearing strange footsteps behind her right before she realizes it is Rena.

“Club Suspension Notification” appears to be from Irie’s perspective as he discusses how his weekly monitoring of Satoko’s levels shows gradual deterioration toward a Level 5, and he worries that Satoko’s aunt’s cruel behavior will cause the Level 5 symptoms to emerge. He is concerned that, since she pushed her parents to their deaths two years ago, she could now kill her aunt. Though the Yamainu served as a “fixer” in the matter of the Houjous’ deaths so it continued to be classified as an accident, Irie knows Detective Ooishi continues to doubt it was actually an accident. So Irie’s concerned about the evil situation developing around Satoko. Meanwhile, he talks with Satoshi, who wants to get a part time job to buy a present. Irie is a little unsettled when Satoshi asks if he can borrow a bat from the baseball team, which Irie knows can be used as a weapon.  

The next section, “The Houjou Aunt’s Beating Murder Case ,” switches to the perspective of Detective Ooishi, and it talks about the fourth year curse of Oyashiro-sama and the death of Satoko and Satoshi’s aunt. Ooishi is clearly suspicious of Satoshi since the boy is naïve and has a motive to kill her, and this section mostly elaborates on that idea. This storyline continues from Irie’s perspective in the chapter “The Fourth Sacrifice,” where Irie realizes that Satoshi, who is begging him for help, is manifesting Level 5 symptoms now in the wake of his aunt’s murder. He moves in to deal with the situation.

The next section has a word in its title that I can’t figure out at all. Katakana words can be pretty difficult to decipher generally, but the standard ways of translating this word サイコロ doesn’t fit in this story. It’s everywhere in this story arc, particularly in Takano’s segments, so I can’t continue to skip it. Is it cycle perhaps? Somebody named Mr. Koizumi, who is one of Takano’s foster father’s friends, dies here. So this section is from Takano’s perspective again. His death impacts her research at the Irie Clinic, but I’m going to skip Takano for now since I spent a lot of time on her storyline in volume 1of this story arc, I don’t want to focus on that so much this time.

The next couple of chapters start to focus more on outsiders. “A New Breeze” turns to the Sonozaki family and matriarch Oryou and gets into their wealth and land holdings. It also mentions Mion and the disappearance of Satoshi Houjou. The section titled “Despair” returns to Takano’s difficulties with her research.

In an intriguing change of pace, the chapter  “An Inspection of Lots for Sale” introduces a new character, again from the first person perspective, by the name of Ichirou Maebara. He is having a hard time and is in Hinamizawa looking at plots of land. He thinks it’s a beautiful place, and he’s aware of children running around playing, particularly two girls. This character is one that isn’t very prominent in the anime, and he probably isn’t here either. He is clearly the father of major character Keiichi Maebara, one of the only boys in Hinamizawa’s school who transfers in the fifth year of the Cotton-Drifting Festival murders. This arc, like the Time Wasting arc we looked at in 2017, doesn’t feature him, though most of the other story arcs do. Ichirou does mention Keiichi briefly, but not to say anything good about his son, which is not the impression Keiichi mostly makes in the entirety of the series. He’s usually one of the really good characters in most story arcs.    

After “Déjà vu” returns to Takano, we finally get to meet Keiichi this round in a chapter named after him. He’s at school with his classmates, and this section is notable for using ore (俺) for I. Japanese has lots of words to refer to oneself, more than most languages in the region, so this adds an interesting texture to the novels and helps distinguish him from the pervasive watashi voices. Only Rika is as distinct with her use of boku. Certainly, this is not possible in English writing either since we have very little variety in our personal pronouns. Right away, Keiichi gets into a conversation with Rika and learns she is the local shrine maiden. I should note her dialogue is also characterized by her special “cute” noise nipa (にぱ) and has stars in the middle of her statements in some places.

The final section I want to review today is “Luring to an End,” which begins with a statement “Grandfather’s thesis is disgraced.” Obviously, we’re in Takano’s head again, and she’s not doing too well with getting her research back on track. This section is very long at 25 pages.

There is a shorter segment in a different font right before the story makes a huge shift with a new heading and painting, and it’s just titled “June Showa 58,” and it appears to be a discussion from a third person perspective on the spiritual significance of Rika constantly reliving the fifth year of the Cotton-Drifting Festival murders and Keiichi Maebara’s importance to that experience at this stage of the story. The next page is that beautiful painting I posted last time of Hanyuu, so that’s a hint as to who becomes a prominent figure in the last two hundred pages of this volume. We’ll finish up this volume next time.

Part two of a three part series.

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Central Asian-Style Metal Band To Appear in Pittsburgh

My friend, Mimi Jong, will be opening with her band Appalasia for the Mongolian-heavy metal bang Tengger Cavalry on Tuesday, November 27th at 7PM at the Spirit Lodge, 242 51st St, Lawrenceville. Tengger Cavalry is a nomadic folk-metal band featuring Mongolian throat-singing. The event is 21+, and you can get more details and tickets here as well as in person at select locations downtown:


You can listen to some of their music, get merch and more here at their website:


Info on Mimi’s band can be found here:


Hope to see you there!

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The Houjou Family Drama and the First Mysterious Cotton Drifting Festival Deaths – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.2, Part 1

For my final Japanese selection for the year, we return to the horror-noir series popularly known from it’s anime version, Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”). Of course, it is known more popularly by its anime title, Higurashi When They Cry for the question cycle and Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai for its answer cycle.

The bunko version can be purchased here (in Japanese only):


This is the Kodansha boxed version that I am actually reading:


Higurashi Vol.2 Cover Festival Accompanying0001

This is the box cover, which I’m guessing portrays Takano when she’s young, though she does look strikingly similar to Satoko, too. The book does have a bookmark it came with that has the same picture from the box but with blood around her mouth and eyes, which also strengthens the idea this is Takano since she bit that guard’s finger in the flashback of book 1 of this story cycle. The actual book inside the box just has a plain green cover with a few interior drawings.

This volume is 453 pages and was published in 2008. It starts with a couple of sections of introduction from the author that situate this 3 volume chapter into the rest of the series and explain the arrival of Hanyu, the female spirit aiding Rika who also is the spirit acting as the Furude shrine deity Oyashiro-sama. It notes that this time Rika is hoping with everyone’s strength acting together that they can possibly win against Takano and see a miracle.

Since I haven’t covered the entire 16 volume series, I should mention that Rika is referring to the alternate realities she has been experiencing with Hanyu’s waning supernatural power, returning to a point shortly before her murder at the hands of sinister forces in the community over and over again to solve the mystery of who is behind it and find a way to finally stop the murder so she can live out her life in a normal lifespan. She has limited tries because Hanyu loses power each time they go back, and neither of them can remember what happened the last time they experienced Rika’s murder.

Just a reminder that this series will contain massive spoilers since it’s the last chapter of the series and features the true murderer’s story arc.

After this intro, we have another poem by Rika Furude’s strange alter ego, Frederica Bernkastel. We also have a beautiful black and white ink drawing of Rika Furude.

Higurashi Vol.2 Fesitval Accompany Rika0001

As usual, Ryukishi Zeronana’s chapters are really unpredictable, but first we begin with a section titled “Satoshi Houjou.” This part is told from his perspective in the first person, and he is the brother of Satoko Houjou, who is Rika’s best friend. He goes out to a hill behind their house looking for Satoko since this is a place she particularly likes. It’s very lush and has become Satoko’s secret base, though because it’s in the mountains, it can also be a dangerous place to get lost. Satoshi feels uneasy looking for her.

It gets dark early in the forest as night falls, and he can’t see very far, so he calls for Satoko. There’s a mention in passing of her love for traps and the sound of breaking of twigs, but eventually he finds her. He tells her everyone is at home for dinner and that she should return home. She refuses and asks about their stepfather being angry. She doesn’t like his addition to their family with their mother’s remarriage, and he apparently threw an ashtray at her when he was angry. Their stepfather has had no experience raising children, but Satoshi acknowledges he’s getting kinder and urges Satoko to reconcile with him. She refuses but returns home with Satoshi.

The next section is told from Satoko Houjou’s perspective and is set up more like an interview. From the very first sentence, the text is very aware of itself as a monologue as she introduces herself by name: 私は北条沙都子と言います. Some surprising details come out here that don’t show up in the anime, and they give a lot of insight into the character who has the worst case of Hinamizawa Syndrome in the village. Satoko notes here that her current father’s name is Houjou and lists three other variations of her name based on her mother’s four marriages!

今のお父さん – 北条 – her current father’s name is Houjou, so her name is now Satoko Houjou

違うお父さん – 畠 – the man before him was Hata, so her name was at one time Satoko Hata

吉澤 – the man before him was Yoshizawa, so her name was at one time Satoko Yoshizawa

松浦 – the man before him, perhaps her birth father though she doesn’t mention that detail, was Matsura, so at one time her name was Satoko Matsura.

She says she doesn’t know why her mother keeps divorcing, but that she is angry with each marriage and sad with each divorce. Satoko herself doesn’t want to get married, and since her mother isn’t warm to her, she feels very lucky to have her brother. This sets up the tight bond between brother and sister that makes sense of why she has such a hard time after he disappears later in the story.

This section has a total of three segments, and the next one gets into the reason for the divorce, but the final segment is really interesting. This subsection turns from black text gradually to red text on the last page. In this part, she talks about how she thinks she’s a burden, and how her parents want to murder her. Every few lines of this segment has a string of “I’m sorrys” before continuing. She declares she’s an ungrateful child and decides by the end that she must kill them before they kill her.

The next section, “Brother and Sister Houjou” appears to be narrated by Clinic Director Irie and is only one section. It begins by talking about the Houjous and their position supporting the dam project in the dam war that has caused the villagers to be cold to the kids as well. Irie talks at length about the stress Satoshi and Satoko are under; even though they aren’t really related to their father by blood, they are blamed for his political position. Irie laments that he can cure Satoshi’s illness when he comes to the clinic but he can’t cure him of his living environment. He also talks about studying Hinamizawa Syndrome and the youth baseball team’s role in keeping Satoshi healthy.

Satoko, however, has become Irie’s patient due to their parents’ accident on a trip to a park on the day of the Cotton-Drifting Festival. They fell to their deaths, which have been attributed to the curse of the shrine deity honored at the Cotton-Drifting Festival, Oyashiro-sama. Before that time, Satoko was just an afterthought for Irie. While he was coaching Satoshi and helping the boy cope, Satoko was left to deal with her stressful situation alone.  Satoko was with her parents on vacation when they died, but Satoshi had stayed behind to work with Irie on the baseball team. This fact brings her to the attention of Detective Ooishi’s police investigation.

The section after that is “Mion Sonozaki,” and it’s in the first person talking about Mion and Rika. The second subsection turns its attention to the Sonozaki family and Satoko. The last of the subsections here talks about Satoko and Satoshi at school.

The story turns much more provocative as it delves into the murders at the time of the Cotton-Drifting Festival with the next section titled “Sacrifice Number Two,” which is also in the first person. I’m guessing that it’s being told from the perspective of Director Irie again. It starts off talking about how Satoshi is a good brother to Satoko, but before long, it gets into Ooishi’s investigation, which brings Irie and Takano into the picture. It mentions in passing that Sotoko made a false tip of abuse because of her strong opposition to her stepfather, so Ooishi wants to interview her about her parents’ accident. Irie expresses concern that Satoko will suffer more trauma because of Ooishi’s insistence.

He talks with Takano about the situation with Satoshi for a bit since they determined through an examination that Satoshi has level 3 of Hinamizawa Syndrome and potentially could go to level 4. Irie thinks about the autopsy of the dismemberment murder killer from the year before, which helped further their research on Hinamizawa Syndrome, particularly its level five symptoms.

In “A Brother’s Anguish,” Satoshi is at baseball, but he ends up in the car with Irie, where Irie has a chance to talk with him about his home life. Irie realizes that their mother’s remarriage has hurt both children deeply and that they are in shock over their parents’ recent deaths. They discuss Satoko’s problems since Satoko has been hospitalized for about two weeks by then. However, Satoshi doesn’t know about her having Hinamizawa Syndrome or that she’s at level five. In fact, in Irie’s opinion her condition is quite poor.

In “The C103 Medical Experiment,” Irie talks with Rika about her friendship with Satoko and Satoko’s medical condition, though he wonders how she knows about Satoko’s medical details and asks where she heard about Hinamizawa Syndrome. Because she already knows so much, he has to admit to Rika that Satoko has level five symptoms. The code of C103 in this chapter title refers to a specific drug trial that Satoko is involved in. Rika offers to come and help with the drug trial, though he doesn’t seem optimistic about her help.

The next chapter, “Shirakawa Park Plunge to Death” is particularly significant in the narrative up to this point. As far as I have been able to research, Shirakawa Park (白川公園) doesn’t seem to be a real place in Japan, at least not as the way it is portrayed in the anime as having some sort of observation deck above a waterfall. Here it is given as the name of the place where the Houjous fell to their death from the park’s observation deck while on vacation with Satoko. The real Shirakawa Park seems to be in an urban environment in central Nagoya that I don’t think has any feature like that, but there’s no reason why it has to refer to a real place in the novel since the village where the action takes place, Hinamizawa, isn’t real either.

This part of the story gets deeper into Hinamizawa Syndrome with a description at the beginning of the drug trial C103’s details, including Satoko’s autopsy plan, which comes up right off the bat. They will use the autopsy primarily to determine the safety of the drug, and the drug seems to have some connection to hormone secretions.

The part that really interested me here, however, wasn’t the mechanism of the disease that the beginning of the chapter discusses. Ooishi appears and wants to talk with Satoko about her parents’ death. He seems to be involved because of the Houjous’ connection to the dam war and the so-called curse, which seemed to begin the year before with the dismemberment murder killer. When Ooishi first talks with I guess Irie about seeing her – the dialogue here isn’t tagged to know who is speaking – the word “lie” gets thrown around a lot, but the official word so far is that Satoko was in backseat of their car at the particular moment her parents fell from the observation platform. Iries asks Oosihi if he thinks Satoko was with her parents on the observation deck instead. Ooishi admits that’s what he thinks. Irie now wonders if it’s possible that their accident wasn’t an accident at all and that Satoko might be implicated in their deaths. Most of this section shows Irie ruminating about Ooishi’s suspicions and never gets to Ooishi talking with Satoko directly.

The chapter ends on a spooky if slightly confusing note as the final subsection that takes place after Ooishi’s departure explains how Irie wants to protect Satoko and their secret research on Hinamizawa Syndrome, then he talks with someone about the Yamainu, the paramilitary force they have at their disposal doing this government-backed research into the disease. He’s probably taking with Takano, but again the dialogue isn’t tagged. Irie sees this whole situation as a tragedy for Satoko, and they discuss how they can suppress the idea that Satoko is the culprit using the Yamainu’s underhanded tactics.

The final section I’m going to look at today is titled “H170,” which refers to a different drug trial. Satoko Houjou is referenced at the beginning as a patient in their drug trial experiment C103, but a new drug trial starts to come into the conversation here. Interestingly, this section calls Hinamizawa Syndrome the “murder virus” (殺人ウィルス), and explains the contrast between drug trial C103 with the H170 “series.” The discussion seems kind of technical.

The narrator says that Irie is not involved with H170, which is characterized as a “dangerous drug trial.” One statement comes right out and says, “I am the lead researcher” (私が主導で研究した。), which leads me to believe with the change in chapter we may be hearing the story from the first person perspective of Miyo Takano, the murderer.  Here Irie is talked about in the third person in the narrative parts, so there’s been a switch in perspective that you have to mostly get from the context. This drug trial deals more directly with the brain pathogens of the disease “host” – I’m surprised it doesn’t refer more explicitly to Takano’s parasite theory here – and this section repeatedly mentions the unexpected onset of the disease as a key factor. It ends with her pondering her grandfather’s fascination with this disease.

Higurashi Vol.2 Fesitval Accompany Hanyu0001

Later in the book, we have another ink drawing to match the one of Rika at the beginning. This one is of Hanyu, though, and I like seeing the two of them together, so I will post it here even though it still doesn’t pop up for awhile in the novel.

Part one of a three part series.





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Years 205 Through 208 in the Crisis Era: The Dark Forest – The Dark Forest, Remembrance of Earth, Book 2, Part 3

I’m going to quickly wrap up my summary of the second book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, which was translated into English as The Dark Forest (刘慈欣的”地球往事:黑暗森林”). The first few sections of this part are very long, each running 30 pages or so.

The first section begins with a description of darkness and Luoji awakening from hibernation. A supervising doctor welcomes him to this new era and tells him his illness was cured during his hibernation phase. Luoji has been in hibernation for 185 years. He is now in a special room where people are brought to wake up from hibernation, and there’s an extended description of the doctors and nurses as well as a big discussion about old and new Chinese and English languages, which is ongoing at intervals throughout the next few segments.

One of the other young men in the room with Luoji asks to speak with the Three Bodies world. Apparently, there has been a war where both sides suffered a great number of casualties, and Three Bodies has or will have a probe coming for earth. They discuss the Wall Facers’ plan, though Luoji doesn’t appear to be recognized as part of the Wall Facers here.

The nurse brings him food, and someone mentions his star cursing 200 years before. Luoji goes back to sleep for a little bit and dreams of Zhuangyan and their daughter in the snow. After he wakes again, he talks with the nurse about the world in this time. The cities are mostly all underground, and he gets an update on the space fleet. They’re still trying to bridge the language barrier since Luoji is from so far in the past.

Next, he finds himself in a meeting hall, and the text goes into a big explanation about the political changes in the world over the past 200 years. Europe has become one country, while Canada has split into two countries, for example. The space fleets are not governed by any of the remaining countries but are politically and economically independent. However, there are three fleets: an Asian, European and a North American fleet. The current meeting is being held to discuss the Three Bodies’ and humanity’s space fleets as well as the Wall Facers.

Wall Facer Haynes and his wife Keiko are there to talk with Luoji. They review some past plans and issues with the other Wall Facers before they decide to move on briefly to Haynes’ special plan. Luoji asks about his wife and child at one point and is told they are doing well in hibernation. He also wonders about his safety since there was a plan that the ETO would kill him.

At this point, Shi Qiang appears, and they turn their attention to how 200 years of hibernation compares with their 5 year hibernation period as well as how they are now wearing 200 year old clothes. Weirdly, someone brings up that Keiko isn’t a Wall Facer like her husband, but she declares that she is her husband Bill Haynes’ Wall Breaker!  The various regional fleet representatives are in attendance at the meeting and speak about her declaration, which Haynes confirms is true.

In the next really long segment, Luoji goes with Shi Qiang into one of the underground cities, and there is an extended description of the new society they have woken up to. At one point, Luoji is aware that a beautiful woman is calling him, and he notices she’s wearing a uniform. She’s some sort of bank consultant, and he asks Shi Qiang how she knew he was coming. Shi Qiang explains that he has had a chip implanted in him that is somehow traced through ads. The woman from the bank says that this chip helps her provide a banking system financial service. Shi Qiang jokes that Luoji is rich now after getting 200 years of interest on his bank deposits.

This section also delves into the ways in which technology has changed in the last 200 years. Another encounter with a modern citizen has them off on a tangent again about how policeman Shi Qiang is a cop who speaks in an old Chinese dialect. After leaving the police box, Da Shi decides they need to get to their new homes, but they stop off at a restaurant first.  Shi Qiang reveals to Luoji he has a son who is still alive that he intends to go see the next day. The son was in jail a long time before going into hibernation, and he sought out Shi Qiang.

While the men talk, their restaurant server, a beautiful woman who is a robot, attempts to assassinate them with a dinner knife. Someone objects to their accusation, but an engineer tells them the robot’s actions might be due to faulty software. Someone else brings them their meal. They get caught up in a conversation about leaves from a garden as they move into another room and sit on a sofa. In this room, they check out a box of drugs called “dream river,” which Shi Qiang is interested in.  A doctor in a white coat is there to explain that the drug is prescription only and is used by the hibernation center. The men are quite interested in this, but the drug is typically only used for short-term hibernation lasting ten days to a year. The doctor warns them that it’s suicide to use it even if they would die comfortably.

Among the other things that happen in this long scene is a discussion about internet virus killer 5.2 which spread from Three Bodies in the first century of the crisis era. Somehow this killer virus is able to control hardware and cause a lot of murders, including the murder of the nation’s head of state. Some call it a modern curse. This also is related to the Earth Three Bodies Organization’s software, too. However, the situation is difficult anyway for the men who just woke from hibernation since it’s difficult for them to adapt to the big changes that have taken place in the world while they were asleep.

The story then jumps to Zhang Beihai, who also has recently awoken from hibernation and is now staying with the Asian space fleet orbiting Jupiter. He has only been awake six days and was woken up for some specific purpose. As in nearly every part of the story now, everyone struggles to communicate between the modern and old versions of Chinese and English, and no one can understand that well. Zhang Beihai is looking out the window at a starfield, and he’s aware of how dangerous the situation is getting since the Three Bodies’ Probe is already closing in on the solar system. This section also goes into great detail about how the fleet is divided.

The next scene continues with Zhang Beihai’s storyline, which pops up less frequently between Luoji’s storyline, but it develops along parallel lines, showing him talking with another fleet member, a young woman named Dong Fangyan, about his family who died in the first crisis era century. Clearly, Luoji had reason to be concerned for his wife and daughter, because it wasn’t typical for whole families to go into hibernation but were typically split by the time gap between those hibernating and those living out their natural lifespans. Much of the discussion in this storyline refers to “natural selection (自然选择),” which is mentioned continually.

The scene with Luoji and Shi Qiang that comes between the scenes with Zhang Beihai also gets into this lost family history as Shi Qiang meets his forty-something son who also went into hibernation for some reason when the rest of the family died much earlier. His son, Shi Qiaoming, lives with his wife who also went into hibernation and was cured of a serious illness while sleeping, and his 4-year-old son with her.

Another major storyline in this section involves the Ringer-Fei Ziluo Telescope Control Center, which is monitoring the Three Bodies’ Probe as it enters the solar system’s airspace. However, the probe is put out of commission. Sections relating to this storyline get into the telescope’s astronomical observations.

Luoji wakes out of a dream at one point, realizing he hasn’t paid much attention to the news on TV but has been spending a lot of time thinking about his wife and daughter, who were being prepared according to government procedure to come out of hibernation in two months’ time. Luoji watches a report on the news about the Ringer-Fei Ziluo telescope on the Three Bodies Fleet’s progress though space. It’s brush formation does not indicate it’s the probe but is the fleet’s warship, which has already been observed for two centuries. Shi Qiaoming is watching the broadcast with him and comments on it. They consider the UN plan was for humanity to live in the defeated Three Bodies civilization after the war. A new news item comes on announcing that the combined fleet has set off from the Jupiter base. The scene ends with Bill Haynes finding him and telling him his wife Keiko has committed suicide!

The story continues along in this vein, and I’m going to skip most of those details and get to the ending. By the end of this volume, Luoji is reunited with his wife and child. A very short section of this part of the book shifts to Crisis Year 208, and the basicically two brief segments cover Luoji as he speaks with the Three Bodies about humanity, and by the ending scene five years later, we see Luoji and his wife and child still interacting with Three Bodies. It seems to be a much more philosophical ending with a lot of focus on Luoji’s nameless daughter who is just called the child and the sun, unlike volume 1 which I thought had a very dramatic, troubling ending.

Next year, we’ll finish the third book in the trilogy, Death’s End.

Part 3 of 3.

 Next time: we return to Japan with Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicadas Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2!

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2018 Holiday Schedule and Lucky Cat Volume 2 Release

The second volume in the four volume Lucky Cat Series, Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance, is out in paperback on Amazon for purchase!


SMV Cover Me B Typeface 512 x 724

Print Cover of Volume 2

I won’t get to the e-book until this weekend, but that will be out soon, too, with a fun, different cover:

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E-Book Cover for Volume 2

Here is the cover blurb:

Three technocratic superstates have arisen after World War III in the year 2090, but a strange supernatural power has also arisen in unexpected places to oppose them.  Now, the superstate leaders face a quiet resistance of creepy kitties and killer kitsune even as they subjugate the globe and move whole populations in their grand Reorganization plan for humanity.

In a swirl of events covering the first dozen years after the Reorganization, many citizens encounter the superstate’s power and must fight for their lives. Yuki Hagiwara and the remnant of citizens in the now abandoned islands of Japan must face the truth about the workers’ camps and their future, while Suna Hagiwara and her orphaned niece Chika make a new life among the privileged elite in the capital of Eurasia, the most powerful of the three superstates, where they discover the surprising true face of its leader.

Eventually, an intrepid investigator is sent by the superstate to probe the mysterious origins of the opposition force in a global forbidden zone.  When the demonic figure of a woman called the Empress arises in the consciousness of many people across the world, Suna’s Lucky Cat statue awakens for the first time, too, embracing her role as the special guardian of the Hagiwara clan.

I hope to get volume 3 out in mid to late 2019, titled Lucky Cat and the Gods of War: Thoughtcrimes. I need a bit of a break on that to let my ideas for the next installment percolate a bit and catch up on other projects first. I am also considering doing some excerpts in easy Japanese on my class blog like I have been doing with my other novel Sohyeon After Midnight in Korean, but I need some time of preparation for that as well. The earliest I’ll be willing to start that will be next fall once book three is done. I think I’d really like to do that, though.

I did also hear back on Sangawa 2018, which will take place the weekend of November 30th, and I will be presenting “Wolves and Werewolves in Anime” this time.  Here is the link for event details:


Then, I will round out the year with the December show at Steel City Con, December 7th through 9th, 2018. Here are the details, and it looks like we’ve got some “Game of Thrones” and “Star Trek the Next Generation” people coming to that.  Sounds like a fun show.


I’ll be back to our regularly scheduled reading this weekend.

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