Ryukishi Zeronana’s The Time Wasting Chapter continues as Akasaka goes sightseeing in Hinamizawa with Rika tagging along. His elderly tour guide Makino escorts him around the village, and Akasaka enjoys the fresh air and green scenery, though he thinks his cover story of sightseeing doesn’t make sense for a man whose wife is in the hospital having their baby. Rika suggests Akasaka come to her home, which has a good view of the countryside, and Makino explains her home is the Furude Shrine. Akasaka recalls what Ooishi told him about the shrine’s role in the Demon’s Abyss Defense Union. They take the car, and Akasaka gets another glimpse of the anti-dam banners around the shrine, some referring to Oyashiro-sama’s wrath.
Rika listens to their discussion of government policy, but when she is alone with Akasaka, Rika says all kinds of curious things as her demeanor drastically changes, such as “it has been decided that the dam will not be built.” She concludes their visit with an ominous warning for him to return to Tokyo. He doesn’t understand what has come over her and asks who she is now since she doesn’t seem to be Rika anymore. She remarks about how afraid he seems of her now and laughs at him; he asks if she is joking, but she doesn’t clarify. When she comes back to herself, they go in for tea, and she doesn’t remember telling Akasaka to return to Tokyo.
A couple of brief sections come next, one with some unnamed characters who seem to be the kidnappers watching a car stop by their hideout, but they are relieved to see it is a colleague rather than the police. The colleague brought a bag of personal necessities, including pastry bread and ramen, but the boy has been sleeping. The suggestion is that the boy is the minister’s kidnapped grandson, but it is still very vague about the characters. They discuss letting the little boy go now that the minister has indefinitely frozen the dam building project in Hinamizawa.
The next section talks about the rainy weather forecast, then a third short section “Barley Tea, Black Tea, a Millstone and So On,” introduces Mion Sonozaki and Doctor Irie. Dr. Irie is examining the blood pressure of an elderly patient and joking around with her. The old woman is Oryo Sonozaki, matriarch of the Sonozaki house. She has her granddaughter Mion offer Irie some barley tea. Mion offers him black tea with sugar and milk instead, and after more wrangling about what sort of tea he wants, they talk about the weather and the dam project. Two other characters are also brought up here, Shimiko and Taeko, possibly children in the Sonozaki family, though I’m fuzzy on who exactly they are.
Moving on to the next major section, “June 17th Evening,” the story resumes with Akasaka receiving a phone call at his hotel. It is someone named Kanou, and he calls to find out what Akasaka has come up with in the investigation. Akasaka explains how he went sightseeing and describes his impressions of Hinamizawa. Next, he gets a call from Ooishi, who suggests they go out for dinner and drinking. They meet up with a couple of other guys to play a game of mahjong, which requires four players. They joke around a lot, talk about women and getting drunk. When Akasaka cautions him about drinking, Ooishi protests it’s on his off hours. One of the guys who joins them talks about how he hasn’t played mahjong since he was in school, and another is nearly 60 years old (though maybe it’s the same guy). There’s a lot of discussion here about safe tiles and fishing tiles, which are mahjong terms, so we get a blow by blow description of the game. Akasaka silently apologizes to his wife for spending his time this way while they are apart. The tail end of this scene has them discussing Minister Inugai’s kidnapped son and the family meeting held the night before at the Sonozaki house. Here is a scan of the painting in the novel at this point showing the mahjong game.
The mahjong game is not in the anime, and I want to point out that the author of the series has come out saying he really likes to swing from the extreme of showing his characters having fun and playing games with a lot of camaraderie to the really gruesome murders that characterize the main plot of the story. I have to admit it’s an effective technique, since it makes the characters very likeable and fun even as their dark side comes out or they are thrown into really evil situations. But this chapter is still Saturday night, and they can’t spend every minute investigating the case.
The second part of this chapter alternates between the men and the flashback of Sonozaki yakuza family matriarch Oryo and her granddaughter Mion, who are much more prominent in the book than they are in the anime version of the story arc. It’s interesting that it doesn’t have a subheading but just blends into the mahjong party as if it were a continuation of it, and it is a very long sequence.
Some of this family meeting is portrayed in the anime, which is one of the creepiest, most ominous scenes in the series, and that is the part where Oryo talks about the kidnapping and the rumors of the undercover Tokyo rookie cop sent to Hinamizawa to investigate it. But there are other important secondary characters present, such as village head Kimiyoshi and Mion’s father, but Rika is also there, too young to really understand what is going on but picking up enough of what is being said. Rika’s parents are also present. Mion is also much more prominent in the scene, and she is of course much younger than in the rest of the series. She’s about 12 here, but she seems to always be at Oryo’s side and is introduced as the next generation’s head of the family, Oryo’s successor. Oryo of course is an old woman, and she is resting on her futon while the others are gathered around for a discussion.
Part of the meeting is about paying for mass communication methods and the defense union newsletter. They are considering their tactical needs in this war over the dam, and mass communication is an important part of that. Their newsletter had a price hike the year before, and they go into a deep discussion of the newsletter, which appears to be a subject particularly important to the Furudes and Kimiyoshis, so they have a larger role here than anywhere else I’ve seen in the franchise. Finally, the conversation turns political, getting to the subject of the Minister’s grandson’s kidnapping. This part explains how Mion’s father is actually a member of the yakuza straight up, and it explains that he is Oryo’s son-in-law rather than a Sonozaki by blood. The question of whether the Demon’s Abyss Defense Union was involved in the little boy’s abduction comes up and is debated, and some sinister jokes are made about the undercover policeman.
The day’s events wind down with three more brief sections, each with a different font. One is a conversation with Minister Inugai regarding Akasaka’s investigation, the second is focused on another game, and the third section , “Something in a Demon’s Eyes,” returns to Oryo and Mion. Among other things, they talk about how the minister’s grandson and related to their enemy.
I’m going to skip the next major chapter division, “June 18th Sunday,” which starts off with Akasaka sleeping and getting a call from Ooishi. They drive around Hinamizawa, and Akasaka has another encounter with Rika before the story goes back to the kidnapped grandson. It describes the little boy’s relationship to his grandfather, shows more of the criminals who captured him, and ends with a a confrontation between the kidnappers and Akasaka and Ooishi. This confrontation lands Akasaka in the local clinic with an injury.
The final major section, “June 18th Sunday Night,” begins with Akasaka losing consciousness. He wakes up in bed at the clinic and talks with Dr. Irie, who explains he was hit on the head and needs to rest for 24 hours, but Dr. Irie lets Ooishi visit with Akasaka. Akasaka asks if the kidnappers were arrested, and Ooishi explains what happened after he was wounded. The kidnappers fled the area, probably with the help of the villagers. Akasaka then asks about the minister’s son. Ooishi says the boy is now free but under police protection.
When they discuss Akasaka returning to Tokyo, Akasaka thinks about Yuki delivering their baby. Ooishi wonders whether it’s safe for Akasaka to recuperate at Hinamizawa’s clinic since the kidnappers weren’t apprehended and he is in enemy territory. Akasaka asks about calling Yuki and wants to use the lobby phone. Ooishi leaves as Akasaka makes his way to the phone. When he reaches the phone and dials his wife’s hospital in Tokyo, there’s no dial tone.
He starts looking for another phone in the office, but someone tells him there’s a public phone in the shopping district, so he leaves the hospital looking for it. When he reaches it, he finds the cord is cut. When he goes into the store to ask the attendant about the phone, the old woman directs him to another phone booth. He goes down the road to find it but discovers it too has its cord cut.
Leaving the phone booth, he sees a small shadow, a figure whose long hair is blowing in the cold wind. The little girl starts to talk to him, and he realizes it is Rika. When he does, he asks if she cut the cord and gets a little angry, asking her why she did that. She in turn talks to him about his fear, then asks if he knows the way back to the hospital. But instead, he goes with her back to the shrine, asking her if her parents would be angry to discover she was out late like this. She says they wouldn’t because they are too busy and forgot about her.
Arriving at the shrine, they look around and see the older villagers there drinking. Rika tells him it is the night of the Watanagashi festival. As they talk, Akasaka remembers what Ooishi said about being in enemy territory and fleetingly thinks of returning to the hospital. In the middle of the scene, they actually directly discuss the minister’s grandson, and Rika asks if Akasaka helped him. Then they talk about the news that the dam project has been stopped. But instead of being optimistic that their troubles have been averted, Rika talks about the murders that will take place each year, including her own murder. She says it has been decided, and he asks who has decided it? She doesn’t answer him.
Instead, Rika starts to describe the murders in detail. She predicts the dam project site foreman will die in Showa 54, and he turns out to be the 60 year old man Akasaka played Mahjong with the other night! In Showa 55, she says, it will be Satoko’s parents, though Akasaka doesn’t know who Satoko is. In Showa 56, Rika’s own parents will die. In Showa 57, Satoko’s aunt will die. Finally, in Showa 58, Rika herself will die. Akasaka doesn’t know what to say and doesn’t know how to comfort her. He ends up going back to the hospital.
The next few sections before the final scene are three more short pieces, all titled the same thing, “A Mother’s Diary.” They appear to be written by Rika Furude’s mother, though Rika is rarely named directly in any of the sections. Her mother usually refers to her as “that child,” あの子, and doesn’t mention her name until almost the end of the first passage. In the first of the diary entries, her mother declares she doesn’t like the child. She talks about parenting manuals and parents’ qualifications, wondering if she’s a bad mother.
She notes that Rika was different from the other kids in her kindergarten class. When they went on a field trip, everyone else was excited, but Rika was bored. At a sporting event, other kids were eager to participate, but Rika was bored. When the teacher read a fun picture book, Rika didn’t laugh, and she doesn’t like her mother’s delicious lunches. She has more complaints about Rika, though she does mention that the little girl is cute, but in the final line of the segment, she just says over and over how she doesn’t understand the girl.
The second diary entry begins with a statement about the child crawling into the futon with Oryo at the Sonozaki family meeting, explaining that Rika is the apple of Oryo’s eye and that Oryo thinks Rika is as cute as a cat. Rika’s mother, however, scolds her. She mentions not liking how crafty Oryo is and describes an incident that day that left her apprehensive. After coming home from shopping, she sees her daughter is alone in front of the local candy shop, and she gets into a controversy with the elderly owner over Rika eating candy without paying for it, which leaves Rika’s mother with a bad feeling. She knows her daughter is not a normal child and has heard the Furude family’s story that Rika could be the reincarnation of the shrine deity Oyashiro-sama.
The last of the diary entries gets into some events that happen at Rika’s school with her classmates on a school inspection day. The children are taught to handle knives, and Rika is very good with one cutting a fish, which surprises everyone. Her mother wonders how Rika learned to cook curry rice. She talks about the superstition that Rika is the reincarnation of Oyashiro-sama, noting that Rika was aware of even international news developments at her young age, and her mother isn’t sure why. She declares quite pointedly at the end of the passage that Rika isn’t the reincarnation of the shrine deity but is just her ordinary daughter!
The final scene of the book takes us back to Showa 60 (1985) in Hokkaido, which is the section title. This part goes back to the reunion between Ooishi and Akasaka seven years after the kidnapping case, and Ooishi tells him what ultimately happened in Hinamizawa. It is a very long segment that is much more detailed and juicy than in the anime.
Ooishi drives Akasaka to an onsen-ryokan, or a hot spring inn, and Akasaka talks about the night they played mahjong in Hinamizawa. He finally asks whether the kidnappers in the case were ever arrested. Ooishi says they didn’t find them when they searched the mountain but thinks maybe someone hid them until things cooled down, and then the kidnappers fled overseas.
Then they discuss how Akasaka went to Okinomiya the night he was looking for a phone and found them all with cut cords in Hinamizawa. When he called his wife at the hospital, he was told that she died in an accident. Akasaka thinks about the little girl who warned him that night to go back to Tokyo or he would regret it and how she cut the phone cords so he couldn’t call the hospital and hear the bad news. He tells Ooishi this and mentions hearing that Rika was believed to be the reincarnation of Oyahsiro-sama. She seemed to know about Yukie’s death and didn’t always seem to be herself.
Ooishi asks if his wife’s accident was investigated, and Akasaka says he was suspicious that it might be premeditated murder and really thought it was at the time. They get into a deep discussion of her accident and the kidnapping case for a few pages until Ooishi asks about Rika’s comments to him, asking if she knew why the great disaster happened in 1983. Volcanic gases from the “demon’s abyss” seeped out, killing the entire village of 2,000 people, an event which was known as the “Great Hinamizawa Disaster.” Ooishi mentions the murder of Oyashiro-sama’s reincarnation, Rika Furude, and Oyashiro-sama’s anger resulting from it. Akasaka didn’t hear about the murder, which surprises Ooishi. While Akasaka did hear about the disaster on the news and saw her name on the list of victims, he also acknowledged there was a five year gap between Rika talking about her own death with Akasaka and the great disaster or curse of Oyashiro-sama with the string of serial murders. So Rika was murdered and didn’t die in the disaster!
Next, Ooishi mentions the sealing of Hinamizawa and the discovery of two dead bodies from the village on the night of the Watanagashi festival, the body of a female burned in the mountains and of Tomitake, the traveling photographer. Then Ooishi discusses the strange suicide of Dr. Irie at the clinic, who took sleeping pills shortly before the disaster, and they talk about the possibility that he was murdered as well. Finally, Ooishi tells Akasaka the details of Rika’s murder: a group of elderly villagers found her body at the shrine at noon, and she had been gutted while drugged.
Ooishi explains the method of the murder was connected to the old meaning of the Watanagashi festival; when man-eating demons were said to live in the village, they would gut their human sacrifice victims. The word wata means “cotton” in the new festival incarnation but is a homonym for “intestines.” They also get deeper into Oyashiro-sama’s role – let me mention here since we’re getting into etymologies that the deity’s name is always written in katakana as オヤシロさま and doesn’t seem to have much in the way of double meanings that I can tell anyway – and the village’s sinister old name with its connection to hell. They consider whether that was some sort of divine curse.
Anime Screencap of Rika and Akasaka
When the conversation returns to the subject of Hinamizawa being permanently sealed, Akasaka reveals that Rika told him all of this when he was in Hinamizawa, which surprises Ooishi. After Akasaka reels off each of her predictions for each year’s death, Ooishi asks why she didn’t flee, though I’m not sure that’s a reasonable expectation of a five-year-old child.
The section ends with a statement that the Hinamizawa area remains sealed and the disaster unsolved with the two policemen’s names the line before that, as if this was some statement they had made for someone.
Anime Screencap of Hinamizawa After the “Great Disaster”
As with many East Asian novels, the book ends with an afterword by the author – incidentally, I got the Japanese 07 pronunciation of his name as zeronana based on the furigana in the back of the book over the numbers.
The Time Wasting Chapter is a good introduction to the series for adults outside of the anime fandom because it’s just one volume and manages to touch on the broader plot than is evident in the actual first story arc of the series, The Demoned-Away Chapter or subsequent chapters. Although it’s the fourth story arc of the question arcs, it brings out the gritty adult noir plot and connects it effectively with the supernatural horror plot centered on the village children. The earlier chapters are so focused on the kids that it takes a long time to get into the meaty adult backstory. I think the series deserves a much wider readership since it has a lot of psychological and sociological depth to it, plus I think the author has a real understanding of abused children and the family dynamic they are situated in.
I think the spookiest thing about a few of the story arcs that end like this one does is that, although the adults won the dam war and saved their village from being destroyed by flooding from the proposed dam, they somehow ended up in the same if not worse situation even though the dam wasn’t built: the village was sealed off and they were all dead. Even if you just look at this story arc, that ending suggests something more sinister rather than supernatural afoot. I’ll pick out a solution story arc to cover in 2018, so we can discuss this further. That 2018 series, of course, will have lots of spoilers, so be sure to watch the show or read the books (I’m not sure how the manga stacks up against the show, but it is available in English while the books are only in Japanese) before I run that series, or don’t read my series until you’re ready.
With that I’ll close out 2018. Next week I’ll have details on my reading plans and other activities for the new year.
Part two of a two part series.