The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak Earns Another Accolade

This week I was informed that my gothic ghost story, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, earned the seal of approval from the kid-oriented Story Monsters Approved program in the category of Tween Novels. This seal is really special since novels are judged by two panels, one adult and one of children in the selected age range category. My novel passed both panels of judges.

2018 Story Monsters Approved HIPP Certificate.Ribbon
So in addition to winning the 2016 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Young Adult Fiction E-book Bronze Level, now The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak has two accolades, and I’ll be featuring it in the dealer room at Confluence coming up next weekend.

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Sweeping Reforms Hit Korea at the End of Ninteenth Century – Land, Vol. 2, Part 4

As we start the second volume of Kyeongni Park’s Land (박경리의《토지》), the first story arc, I want to go back to the appendices again and take a look at appendix two where they have the family trees and try to untangle some of that now that we have some grounding in the actual story and have some idea of who everyone is. This will clarify their relationships. I made this translation of the family trees listed in the second appendix:

Kyeongni Park's Land - Story Arc 1 Family Trees Pg 1

Page 2 of the family trees

Kyeongni Park's Land - Story Arc 1 Family Trees Pg 2

I will also post these in pdf form on my study guide page for the Literati Corner. Note that the squares are for male characters, ovals/circles for female, and the hexagons for characters I don’t know the sex of.

From the last appendix, which covers historical points in the book at this stage, we have six main points to discuss:

동학 농민 운동 (Donghak nongmin undong) The Donghak Peasant Movement of 1894, which was an armed peasant rebellion led by the followers of the Donghak faith, which was a syncretistic belief system using elements of Christianity and Korean shamanism. I already covered this in the first post of this series.

공사노비제폐지 (Kongsa nobije pyeoji) The Universal Abolition of Slavery by the Kabo Reforms of 1894, issued in response to the Donghak Peasant Movement. It abolished both public and private slaves and abolished the social classes defined by lineage.

갑오개혁 (Kabo kaehyeok) The Kabo Reforms themselves, which included far more than just reform of the slavery system. This reform is considered the Korean equivalent of the Meiji Restoration in Japan, which is much better known in the West. It progressed in three phases under heavy Japanese influence, and other reforms included revamping the currency and taxation system, moving to the Western solar calendar, the creation of a postal system and a school system, the reorganization of geographical administrative districts, the reorganization of the military and courts, the abolition of the social classes, and a resolution to discard traditional dress including the topknot (cutting the hair and wearing Western clothes).  They also raised the age for marriage and finally allowed widows to remarry.

Part of the purpose of Land is to take the reader through these reforms along with the generations of families the author presents. This story arc focuses on the early days of these social reforms.

을미사변 (乙未事變Eulmi sabyeon) The Eulmi (Year of the Wooden Goat on the sexagenary cycle) Incident. This event occurred in 1895 (also knowns as Gojong 32, according to the reign year reckoning), and it refers to Japanese Minister Miura Goro’s murder of Empress Myeongseong, also known as Queen Min, which strengthened Japanese influence over Korea with a coup d’etat.

1902년의 콜레라유행 The 1902 Cholera Epidemic occurred in mid-July that year and was believed to be brought by boat, so the Joseon government imposed a quarantine on boats in 1899. Gojong employed doctors from other countries to enact this national program for epidemic prevention, which included help from Japan, England, the US, and Germany.

을사보호조약 (乙巳勒約Eulsa boho joyak) The Eulsa (Year of the Wooden Serpent on the sexagenary cycle) Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty. This treaty made Korea a protectorate of Japan so it was no longer independent, and it was the spoils of Japan winning the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Korea came under Japanese occupation once this treaty was implemented, though the actual annexation of Korea took place in 1910.

Since we have some sexagenary cycle year names here, which are common in Korean historical works and fiction, I prepared a handout for reference of some select tables I found on Wikipedia since they are good for understanding the characters/words that form these names to decipher what phase/animal year they represent. I’ll also post this on my Literati Corner Study Guide page in pdf form.

The first part of the year name is the phase:

Heavenly Stems Table - Four Languages

The second part of the year name is the animal:

Earthly Branches Table - Four Languages

One of the things I like about this table that I also want to do more of with my language teaching is synchronize this type of information across the three languages. Right now all of them are treated as separate fields, reinventing the wheel for each. Vietnamese is included here since it also fell under strong Chinese cultural influence in its history, so it’s great to see it all in one place, and with Wikipedia, you never know when it might disappear or be altered, so I froze it like this since it’s a good resource.

Next time we’ll start our look at this volume of the story.

Part four of a nine part series.

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Picking Up a Princess’ Bodyguard as an Ally, Soonshin is Captured – The Joseon Zombie Annals, Part 3

Continuing our look at the Joseon Zombie Annals webcomic by Gonma (조선좀비실록- 곤마), in chapter 20, Soonshin talks with Heo Jun about his dangerous situation.

He invites Heo Jun to join them on their journey to Tamra, while the Crown Prince says he, too, would appreciate having a doctor along with them. Heo Jun makes some comments about how Soonshin’s body is unstable, which aggravates Soonshin. Jin, meanwhile, is changing clothes, and Soonshin wonders why she’s taking so long. When she comes out, she is wearing male traveling clothes. When they ask why she’s dressed like a man, she explains skirts are inconvenient, and the Crown Prince agrees. Soonshin tells her she looks cute.

Joseon Zombie Annals 8

The scene changes to show three peasant men out on a rock in the forest where one is hammering something and the other two men are talking. One of the men talking wears an eye patch and a tunic and trousers that are half white and half black. This man, called khuntosang which is probably a title rather than a name, startles them when he stabs a squirrel. After khuntosang leaves, the man whom he was talking with, Kaneseki, calls him an “obnoxious upstart” before yelling to the workers on the rock above him.

In the last scene of this chapter, we see our four protagonists walking through the woods up a steep incline. Soonshin is concerned the walk is too strenuous for Jin, but she assures him it isn’t too hard. As they reach the top of the incline where the path levels out, they are surprised to find a peasant man carrying a second peasant who is a zombie over his shoulder. As the scene continues through the start of chapter 21, Soonshin wonders what the man is doing with a zombie, who seems too docile, but Heo Jun notes that the zombie is quiet because they’re in the sunlight. It’s then possible to capture and study them during the day. The man holding the zombie looks a bit surprised or alarmed at encountering them in response.

Soonshin starts to question the man carrying the zombie, asking why he captured it alive, but the man doesn’t answer, which makes Soonshin suspicious. While they’re talking, a third man bringing him mushrooms from the forest for them to eat calls the man holding the zombie “Matsumoto,” which leads the Crown Prince to conclude that they are Japanese. Soonshin asks him more questions, and the man carrying the zombie throws him to the ground as the third Japanese man joins him. They make some slurs against the Joseon people and pull out their swords. Soonshin quickly cuts the one across the face, and the other man flees into the forest, leaving their zombie comrade on the ground.

The scene shifts back to the mountain rocks where the peasants are hammering. Kanaseki speaks with some of the workers and slices and stabs them as they talk. In the middle of all of this, the Japanese man who ran from Soonshin appears and gives Kaneseki a report on the fight his men had with Soonshin and the fact his compatriot Matsumoto was murdered in the fight. The interesting thing here is that in this conversation about “madmen,” that term now seems to be referring to the zombie the man had been carrying. So they don’t really understand that the man was a zombie? But then Kaneseki sees Soonshin appear on the rock behind them. Kaneseki confirms with the messenger that this is Matsumoto’s killer while we see Soonshin kill the workers on the rock.

In chapters 22 and 23, the men talk a little then fight. Heo Jun and the others arrive, wondering what the men were hammering into the rock, but Kaneseki fights Soonshin and appears to be dead, but in the last block, he opens his eyes with a smile, apparently tricking them that he was dead, and runs off. Heo Jun finds one of the other workers who is still alive, alerts Soonshin, and they talk with him a little before he dies. They determine all of the dead are Japanese. When they notice some of the corpses are disappearing, the Crown Prince suggests they all have zombie abilities. Soonshin disagrees, noting none of them had blue eyes. The story then turns to Kaneseki running away through the forest, ranting about the horrible Korean who injured him, Soonshin.

The third scene in this chapter turns to a tent pitched on a high rock and a corner of a forest where peasants are chopping down trees. Here we meet the man we met earlier wearing the eyepatch and black and white clothing, khuntosang. A royal guard is speaking with him about disposing of some unnamed woman.

Joseon Zombie Annals 9

The fourth scene in this chapter has our group of protagonists traveling along the side of a mountain when the Crown Prince comes across a closed gate barring their way. While he confers with Soonshin about the gate, someone shoots an arrow down on them, and woman dressed like a man appears above them.

The scene continues in chapter 24 as the Crown Prince steps forward to speak to the woman. She tells him to shut up and shoots another arrow at him specifically this time. When Jin starts to speak, the woman yells again and shoots at her, which sends the rest of their party into action against the archer, especially Soonshin.

Joseon Zombie Annals 10

This woman is dismayed that she can’t scare them off and refers to someone named Sato, which is a name that also came up with the man wearing the eyepatch in the previous scene. Most of these names are all Japanese, and Sato is as well. I guess this Sato figure will become more important to the storyline later, but I can’t figure out who he is at this point. The woman is even more startled to suddenly recognize the Crown Prince in the group. In chapter 25, she thinks back to when she met him before at the palace in his formal court attire, and he tries to convince her he isn’t who she thinks he is, but she gets hysterical and tells him she deserves to die for her disrespect toward him.  He tells her to stop it.

Joseon Zombie Annals 11

Heo Jun is also nonplussed to discover his true identity and follows suit in his protestations and begins crying at the Crown Prince’s feet for his disrespect. The Crown Prince remembers the archer as Princess Taeyeon’s secret bodyguard where she dressed like a man, and the woman admits it was her. She freaks out when Soonshin jumps back down and addresses the Crown Prince by his personal name Yoon, and there is some confusion over whether to call the woman Gildong or Muhyeok and what her gender is, but khuntosang appears silently behind them by the end of the chapter. The scene continues into chapter 26, where he immediately goes after Jin, who is apparently the woman he was talking about disposing earlier. Soonshin steps between them, and Jin runs off as Soonshin faces khuntosang.

They fight, and Soonshin is annoyed when the archer tries to help him since he wants to fight khuntosang alone. Khuntosang runs past Soonshin toward the woman, whom the Crown Prince calls Gildong at this point to warn her, but in her distraction with having the Crown Prince’s attention, khuntosang stabs her in the stomach. In chapter 27, Soonshin tries to fight him again, but khuntosang pushes Gildong down to the ground. Upset to see Gildong roughed up, the Crown Prince pulls out his sword and joins Soonshin in the fight.

Soonshin yells for Jin to get out of there, which generates a lot of conversation in spite of the fact their enemy is waiting to strike and can hear everything. Soonshin also mentions something about zombie powers to the Crown Prince, and I’m not sure, but it looks like in one fleeting block that Gildong’s body disappears. Khuntosang tries to strike Jin with his sword again, but the Crown Prince kicks open the gate, allowing Heo Jun and Jin to run through it, leaving Soonshin alone to fight khuntosang. The two men regard one another before the fight begins anew, and khuntosang asks Soonshin about his choice of weapons, his two holstered butcher knives.

Soonshin cockily twirls one of his butcher knives, but khuntosang removes his eyepatch, revealing one blue eye, the mark of zombie powers. As he attacks and the fight continues, Soonshin’s eyes both turn blue, too, showing his zombie power is also activated, but he drops his butcher knives without warning and seems lethargic about defending himself or fighting.

Meanwhile, chapter 28 shifts to the Crown Prince and the rest of the protagonists who have entered the gate. The path before them is narrow and bounded on both sides by stone walls, but a smaller path with one side open branches off to the left. When the Crown Prince pulls out a map to try to figure out which way they should go, Jin anxiously asks him if it’s better if they wait for Soonshin a bit before continuing. They decide to take the fork in the road, then the scene shifts back to Soonshin facing his enemy.

Soonshin’s coat comes off as khuntosang realizes Soonshin has two blue eyes now. The man picks up one of the butcher knives off the ground and notices it smells of garlic. He raises the butcher knife to strike Soonshin, who is still in his distracted daze.

The scene shifts back to the Crown Prince, Heo Jun and Jin walking through a forest. When the Crown Prince stops them abruptly, they see they are surrounded by three zombies fanned out across their path, and the Crown Prince instructs Jin to douse his sword in garlic.

Joseon Zombie Annals 12

After the Crown Prince dispatches all three zombies, he turns to the other two ready to suggest they wait there for Soonshin since it’s already very late at night and is startled to see khuntosang has caught up with them.

In chapter 29, Jin yells at khuntosang, asking what happened to Soonshin, to which khuntosang responds with more abuse against her since she is his true target. As he lunges for Jin, the Crown Prince and Heo Jun defend her, and they begin to fight. Someone starts to shoot arrows at khuntosang, forcing him to back off. Noticing how oddly the arrows move, he jumps up into the trees and finds the archer Gildong, but he wonders how she survived their fight.

Chapter 30 has some interesting revelations as khuntosang yells to the protagonists that Soonshin is still alive and that he will fight them again sometime before he suddenly disappears. Gildong drops down before them, and the Crown Prince is also amazed she survived, but when he pulls back the bangs that had been hanging over her one eye, concealing it, it turns out she too has one hidden blue eye and one brown eye. He asks how that happened to her.

The scene shifts back to a group of peasants in a clearing near some houses in a village where one of the peasants is addressing the audience. The name Sato comes up again, but I’m still not sure who that person is. A royal guardsman comes to speak with them, but khuntosang, now with his eyepatch on again, slices up the man addressing the crowd. The people are nervous about his return and try to explain what they are doing there. The man asks about the whereabouts of Kaneseki as well as Sato.

The scene shifts back to Gildong with the protagonists in the forest. The Crown Prince insists she explain what happened to her eye, and she haltingly tries to with the help of Heo Jun. She tells them how monsters that she is now told are zombies came to her village where people were turning into them, and the monsters wounded her. Unlike other villagers who were turned into zombies when they were attacked, she merely enhanced her physical abilities with the zombie scratch. However, the Crown Prince connects these zombie powers to the arrival of Japanese in Joseon, and he suggests this character Sato at the village is from Japan, too, which catches Gildong’s attention.

The final scene of the chapter takes place in a cottage in the woods at night where we see Kaneseki beating up a tied up, unconscious Soonshin. Khuntosang arrives and tells him that Soonshin is an important person to them, which surprises Kaneseki.

We’ll pick up the story there in the next installment.

Part three of a six part series.




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2018 Summer Schedule – July and August

My list of speaking engagements and sales events continues with the Furries coming to Pittsburgh. Anthrocon runs from July 5th-8th, 2018. This year’s theme is “Movie Monsters,” and I’ll be speaking on Godzilla as well as participating on a panel giving tips on how to create effective animal characters in the horror genre. I’ll also be in Artist Alley all three days selling my artwork on fans and at least one special paper parasol this year, as well as selling my books featuring magical animals. Details on the event can be found here:


Detail of the parasol I’ll be selling at Anthrocon 2018

Then Confluence returns to Pittsburgh July 27th through the 29th. I’ll be in the dealer’s room for the weekend with a few presentations on Saturday. One of those will be my joint book launch with Larry Ivkovich on Saturday at 5PM.

Confluence 2018 Book Launch Announcement

I will also be on a panel discussing modern technology’s affect on drama as well as a solo backlist book reading earlier on Saturday. The event has lots of other things going on:

In August, I will return to Artist Alley at Steel City Con, August 10-12, 2018.

I’m still working on my late summer-early fall schedule, so more details will be forthcoming about that in a few months.

Hope to see you there!

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The Irie Clinic Quietly Prepares to Continue Biological Research in Hinamizawa – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.1, Part 3

This time I’m finishing up Ryukishi Zeronana’s light novel version of When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 1 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”), which makes a huge shift from Miyo Takano’s storyline and perspective to Rika Furude and Hinamizawa. There’s still a little more to talk about regarding Miyo’s situation before the story moves to Hinamizawa and the action starts in earnest.

In Part 3, which I don’t exactly know how to translate the title of (maybe “Six on the Dice”?), has a drawing of Hifumi Takano to kick it off. The six chapters or so mostly rehash in their titles the themes and characters we’ve already seen, Takano Miyo, Colonel Koizimi, the ryotei , and Hifumi Takano’s study, before it shifts to a chapter titled “Hinamizawa.”

The next chapter, “Presentation,” is written from the first person perspective. Miyo talks about her adoptive father’s mental strain due to ridicule as a black car comes and stops outside. A number of elegant gentlemen have stopped by to chat with them. Professor Takano introduces Miyo as his granddaughter, and they talk about his years during the war when he was working at Manchukuo’s Epidemic Prevention Research Institute. They get into a lot of medical topics here, like bone marrow, schistosomes, a formaldehyde compound called formalin, roundworms/nematodes, and how various symptoms like headaches, fainting, confusion, and self-harm relate to these. These particular symptoms are end-stage symptoms of the Hinamizawa Syndrome he has been are studying.

This section explains how the patient’s blood is full of parasite eggs and baby parasites, so when the soldiers leave Hinamizawa, the parasites start to take control of the soldiers’ thoughts. Professor Takano gives some of his specific ideas on the illness here, too. Comparisons with parasites found on mice and cats, horsehair worms and other parasites also are examined. It is pointed out that Hinamizawa’s isolated culture formed a singular set of beliefs, but I guess the people giving this presentation are floating the idea that all of Japan’s cultural ideas originate with parasites. The disease progression is affected by stress and the patient’s psychological equilibrium.

Unsurprisingly, the audience reacts badly to this theory. Professor Takano goes pale in response, yet he forges on, explaining how all of the world’s religious beliefs, particularly belief in the local deity of Hinamizawa, Oyashiro, originates with the parasites. Miyo observes the presentation and audience reaction.

Then Miyo appears briefly in another random ryotei to talk further about Hifumi Takano’s “unique” research. That word “unique” keeps coming up in the text in relation to his theory. In particular Miyo discusses lobotomy surgery with Mr. Koizimi.

The next section “Return to Takano’s Study” flashes back to when Miyo was a girl and men come to ridicule her adoptive father’s research, stepping all over the pages of his manuscript. This part is shown in the anime, but it goes a little further here since they talk about god and she thinks back to her angry conversation with god in the rainstorm at the orphanage. She collects the papers off of the floor and gets a cup of black tea for him but hears him sobbing in the next room as she does. This spurs her to want to help him however she can, and this moment is when Miyo Takano (still using his name last name orthography) was reborn, the moment she awakened. It continues along this vein, talking about her going to college and how people thoought that a woman shouldn’t show interest in research on parasites, the section punctuated by boldface poems a few lines each in a more philosophical vein on things like fate.

(p. 177)

At this point, Miyo thinks this research is the reason she was born, and she sees her parents’ death as a sad time, but fate was leading her here. She will not cry the day her adoptive father dies because he will be resurrected and become a god through her actions. This part sounds odd since she refers to earth burial when the Japanese rate of cremation is almost at 100% and has been for some time.

Finally, we are introduced to the main setting of the story in a segment titled “Hinamizawa.” The Irie Clinic is about to open in the next month, and the research on Hinamizawa Syndrome will be supported by a secret counterintelligence unit called the yamainu (or mountain dogs), which is already lurking around the nearby city of Okinomiya, concealed by a dummy front company. Here’s the passage on that. Sounds pretty shady.

(p. 181-2)

This chapter also shows her going to visit the shrine of the local god of Hinamizawa, Oyashiro.  This is the god who protects the town and its boundaries, but the dam project the residents are fighting over could flood the area and endanger the god’s shrine. Miyo considers the village’s strange beliefs and thinks the villagers knew about Hinamizawa Syndrome much earlier than her adoptive father, but she feels this religion was an attempt to cover up the parasitic origins of the illness.


She feels this secret is something she should reveal to the world and muses again about the ten yen note she found and the phone booth that day she fled the orphanage. That was apparently her most significant life event since she never seems to stop thinking about it years later. She zeroes in at this point on the shrine maiden, Rika Furude, as a person of influence at the shrine, so some of her obsession with the girl and her opposition to her seems to be connected to Miyo’s destiny as the revealer of the shrine’s secrets.

This whole idea goes on for a number of pages as Miyo gets more maniacal and considers herself a strong force against the local god.  The section closes with her laughing and ranting on these subjects, with this incredible line:


She’s “dragging someone down from the seat of god!” This dramatic statement closes part 4 and marks an abrupt shift in the novel.

Part 4 starts the novel over as if it were one of the usual novels in the series. The next two sections remind me of the author comments at the end of most novels but serve as an introduction to Hinamizawa and explicitly reference this Festival Accompanying Chapter from a perspective outside of the novel, though the author doesn’t identify himself or sign off here. It sets up the situation we return to in June of Showa 58 (1983) and the goals of the protagonists at this point, mainly Rika and her spiritual ally Hanyu, who is the real power behind the local deity Oyashiro.

Now we see the usual poem from Frederica Bernkastel, and the chapters immediately launch into the tensions and controversies of Hinamizawa in the 1970s.
First up is “A Local Information Session” that shows the residents of Hinamizawa gathered at an angry meeting over the dam project. The discussion turns into a free for all with an emphasis on the conflict between the Sonozakis and the Houjos. Lots of exclamation points in this section with colorful condemnations like “Die, Houjo” and “damn Sonozaki hag.” This meeting decides the fate of the Houjo children, Satoko and Satoshi.

Next we have a chapter titled “Rike Furude” where we see Satoko immediately at home discussing what they’re having for dinner before she ends up going out shopping with Rika. This scene shows how cold the local women are toward Satoko because of her parents’ position on the dam. Rika tries to act like a good friend should but wonders if she does enough to show her loyalty. The rest of the chapter gets more deeply into the conflict between the three main village families and the Houjos due to the village’s political factions on this issue.

The chapter “The Dam Project Disbursement Strategy” turns to the situation at the Irie Clinic where they are now seeing patients. We find out that Irie has been given the military rank of lieutenant colonel, but he doesn’t want anyone to call him by his new rank since he really considers himself a doctor. Jiro Tomitake is also present along with Miyo Takano in this scene. They get into discussion of the dam project and the contentious meeting, including the threat the dam poses to the village since it will put it entirely under water, which will force the evacuation of the villagers permanently from their ancestral land.

Interestingly, this type of situation did happen around the world, for example in two villages in Europe near the Italian-Swiss border, Graun and Reschen, in the 1950s, which is interesting as a point of comparison to this part of the novel’s plot:

There was also one in Venezuela in Potosi in the 1980s:

There are many others that are less famous and dramatic, but notably nothing prominent that occurred in Japan, though maybe we just don’t pay attention to these things in the West when they happen in Asia:

Next, we see a string of chapters focusing on particular characters in Miyo Takano’s orbit, first Jiro Tomitake, then Kyosuke Irie and a second section on Irie that delves into his personal history.

In “Jiro Tomitake,” Jiro apologizing to Miyo. He plans on returning to Tokyo, but she doesn’t intend to go back. There is some investigation going on in Tokyo that has come up in these chapters, but mostly Jiro and Miyo talk about bird watching together and what camera she needs to get. Recall that the village Hinamizawa’s name actually is a reference to this pastime.

The chapters that turn to Irie’s background, written in the first person from Irie’s perspective, include information about how the research on Hinamizawa Syndrome is progressing, the Tokyo investigation’s results and some Tokyo “client” of Miyo’s. They also get into more about autopsies in their parasite research, more on how fleas on mice act, and the need to check on the patient’s brains using psychiatric surgery. However, this autopsy will be conducted on live patients who have been portrayed as dead publicly apparently.

Irie’s background at school and his parents come next. He had dreamed of being a doctor, even going as far as borrowing medical books from the library, and his parents were happy though they are rather stoic about the whole thing. But his father becomes violent with Irie’s mother very often, especially after Kyosuke goes to Tokyo and his parents return to their hometown. Irie can’t do anything about the situation. The police arrest his father with a wooden sword after an incident in the neighborhood, but he was immediately acquitted. Someone died in the neighborhood, however, but they weren’t beaten with a stick and there was some gang hanging around, so his father wasn’t assumed to be responsible for this death.

His mother doesn’t understand the sudden change in his father, but his father had been in an accident that caused a severe head injury. His father had been a civil engineer and had suffered a head injury on the job, after which he started having headaches. His handicap got worse as he reached old age. However, when he died and an autopsy was done, they didn’t find anything to support the idea of a brain injury.  Irie struggled to explain it since he thinks he’s too much like his father, and he knows how difficult it is to cure mental illness and mental handicaps like this. Irie then started studying the brain.

The next chapter shows the three families gathered for a meeting about the village ancestors and this idea that there’s an illness affecting the people who live in Hinamizawa. Rika and her parents are present, but when she refers to herself as the rebirth of Oyashiro, her mother gets angry. The illness they appear to be talking about is Hinamizawa Syndrome, which affects citizens who leave the village, though consider it Oyashiro’s curse. They do know this curse brings a localized illness for people who leave.

Eventually, they do call this disease by the name the Irie Clinic knows it by, Hinamizawa Syndrome, and it comes out that the Irie Clinic is doing research on it  – it’s hard to tell who is talking here since the dialogue is rarely tagged. They mention that the Tokyo National Research Center is involved in this research somehow, too, as well as the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The curious detail that Oyashiro will be reincarnated in the eighth generation of the Furude family, which means Rika, is somehow connected to the illness, which they admit here is caused by parasites. So at this point, all of the Irie Clinic’s research is being brought before the leaders of Hinamizawa to ponder. Someone objects to this theory. However, Rika is connected to finding a cure for this illness given her family bloodline. Rika is interested in helping, but someone objects strongly to her being used for such research.

Then the story gets into the weird theory that Rika is the contagion queen whose death can cause everyone to go crazy, which I’m going to skip since for this volume I wanted to focus more on the research backstory than the murders, which are covered numerous times from different angles throughout the series. It’s enough to say that this is being discussed at the Irie Clinic. The remaining chapters shift to the Furude Shrine and Rika’s role as shrine maiden, then it gets to the first of the string of gruesome murders which form the core story of the series, the dam worker’s dismemberment in Showa 54 (1979). It shows what really happened to the murder victim, and there is a marked change in how they talk about the village. Here it calls it by its old, more sinister name, Onigafuchi, or the Ogre’s or Demon’s Abyss. We also see Takano excited about finding a new patient exhibiting symptoms of the disease.

One of the last chapters includes the visit from Rika’s father at the Irie Clinic as her examination there concludes. When he leaves, Takano bursts out into laughter, which is always a bad sign. The volume ends with her talking with Mr. Koizimi about her research. We’ll continue to look at the sinister developments in volume 2 once we cycle back through the books.

Part three of a three part series.

Next time: We return to Korea with volume 2 of Land!




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Biological Research and the Second Sino-Japanese War Provide an Ominous Backdrop to Murder-The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.1, Part 2

Continuing with our reading of Ryukishi Zeronana’s light novel version of When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 1 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”), the next section beginning on page 55 shows Miyo Takano meeting with a wheelchair bound old man named Mr. Koizimi, who knew her adoptive father, Hifumi Takano. Clearly from these last few sections of the story there has been a huge jump across time into the future, far from the trauma of the orphanage. This section runs about 20 pages and takes place at a golf course and in a guest room at a high-class bar. He affectionately calls her Miyo-chan and says she has grown into a beautiful woman.

The conversation turns to American nuclear power, Japan’s three anti-nuclear principles and its position as a non-nuclear power in the world, the Cold War, and the United Nations.  Then they discuss Professor Takano’s research on the Hinamizawa Syndrome in Manchuria (known as Manchukuo in Japanese at that time) where he discovered that Hinamizawa’s native soldiers stationed there with the Japanese army (known as the Kwantung) in 1940 had parasites. He had not made this discovery in Japan.


He became aware of the last stage symptoms of the disease in Manchukuo. Mr. Koizimi says her adoptive father was unlucky but that she can continue his research into this disease. He gives her an attaché full of money for her research, and she thanks him profusely over and over again.

On page 63, it gets into the damaged psychology of the war zone soldiers and the strengthening of the Hinamizawa Syndrome in native Himanizawa soliders which Professor Takano, then a military doctor/ major, had begun studying and understood as being connected to the unique Hinamizawa faith in a local deity called Oyashiro. However, he thought that no one would believe in the illness-inducing parasites in such an ideological context. It says on the next page that at that time in the early part of the 20th century, state of the art German medicine had determined a number of odd diseases were due to parasites. Now, all of this brings to mind the medical experimentation that Manchukuo during that time was infamous for, and of course, German medicine of the time included notorious German medical experiments at concentration camps:

Mr. Koizimi also brings up the Second Sino-Japanese War which began on July 7, 1937 and resulted in some events in China that even today are political hot potatoes. The next few pages go into rather great detail about the war.

I should note that the numbers throughout this section are given in Old Japanese style of “Showa” with the reign year. There are actually reign year conversion tables that I found to get a more accurate understanding of the year since subtraction just gets you in the ballpark and is usually off a year.

These topics continue into the next chapter, which is titled, “A High Class Ryotei,” finishing out part 1 of the book,  A ryotei is a traditional Japanese restaurant that had a special function in old Japan:

Ryotei are used by wealthy VIPs and high level government officials for meetings. Takano is here mingling with five other people in this section. One of the men starts talking to her about Hifumi Takano’s research and military weaponry generally, particularly atomic, chemical and biological weapons used for deterrence. I’m not going to get into the details here too much other than to note that this meeting is likely to be connected to her “shadow government” activity.

Miyo Takano is named a major in the Japanese Self Defense Force, which interestingly enough looks very much like her given name Miyo in Japanese though the pronunciation is different (三佐 for major and pronounced misa, 三四 for her first name Miyo). It seems this is an updated version of the rank Hifumi Takano held in the old Japanese military when he served during World War II.

Part 2 of the novel is called “The Rainstorm” and has a drawing of Takano Miyo when she is young, crying in the rain.

Festival Accompanying 30001

Interior Sketch From Vol. 1

The first section of this part is titled “Director Irie’s Installation,” and Major Takano is introduced to Dr. Kyosuke Irie. This chapter continues in the third person as it details their first meeting, which quickly turns to the subject of the Hinamizawa Syndrome. Most of this chapter isn’t dialogue, though, it’s exposition connecting Hinamizawa Syndrome to a lengthy discussion of brain surgery, the Japanese Psychoneurology Society’s decision to forbid psychosurgery, psychiatric patients in general and related topics going back as far as Showa 40 (the late 1960s to early 1970s – note that the main story of the series here takes place in Showa 58, or 1983 with the one volume flashback to 1977, and I think the one story arc flashes forward to 30 years later, but I haven’t read that group of books yet). Once Irie becomes director of the institute, they can begin their research on Hinamizawa Syndrome.

Part 2 is rather short, only running a few chapters about Irie, a dinner party and going on the run. The chapter titled “The Dinner Party” is another first person meeting between Takano and a high level official who is laughing at her adoptive father’s research and what she’s attempting to do. They are celebrating the founding of the Irie Organization and their sponsor, but by the end of the chapter, Takano walks out into the traditional garden in the rain, which brings back memories of the orphanage.

The next section, “On the Run,” returns to when Miyo bit the orphanage staff member’s finger after running away with Eriko during a rainstorm. This section is also in the first person and runs really long at 30 pages. Among the things that she ruminates on here is how her fate turned out with her mother and father dying in the accident that day upon returning from a department store and what she wished would have happened instead. She reflects on her sadness over their death and her situation as a small girl now alone in the world. She wants to scream out to God and ask why she no longer has a normal life.

At one point, she seems to be having a conversation with the thunder, yelling back and forth with it as if it is God. This goes on for an extended period of time, even to the point where she challenges God to kill her. He took everyone else from her, she says, so why doesn’t he take her, too? This sequence is shown in the anime. During her tirade, she refers to herself by her original birth name, Miyoko Tanashi. (This name change is constant throughout the first volume, and it becomes difficult not to pay attention to it.) She talks about winning her bet with God.

The setting expands during her flight to the forest and then a pavement road where she sees a phone booth where she can get out of the rain as she avoids being seen by the orphanage staff. She finds a ten yen coin and decides that God has given it to her. Now she sees her chance as the rain starts again, though she wonders who to call now that her parents are dead. Then she flashes back to the scene with her father as he was dying in the hospital where he tells her about his teacher, Hifumi Takano. She decides she should call him and picks up the phone.

When she hears his voice, she mentions she is the daughter of his student Takemitsu Tanashi, and he takes a minute to recall who the student is. Finally she explains her father told her to call him and that her parents died in a train accident. She begs him to rescue her, and her time runs out. She thinks about how she wants an affectionate home and how he’ll give that to her. I should note here that I’ve read that traditionally adoption was not something encouraged in Japan given the emphasis on family bloodlines, so this whole storyline is rather special and poignant from that perspective.

Miyoko sees a car on the road coming closer and stopping. This leads to the confrontation with the orphanage employee we read about earlier. She is frozen with fear and worried about the multiple types of punishments Eriko and the others had mentioned, but she repeatedly thinks that now that she has called Takano, he will come rescue her. She’ll leave hell and is already slipping out of the spider’s web.

The scene then turns to a shower room where it seems the orphanage staff use shinai kendo swords to beat the children. I’m not drilling down into the details here, but Miyoko must face the staff member with the bandaged finger that she bit in this scene. It’s like she’s in a conflict with a wild beast again. So the scene mixes images of the showers, lockers, cold water, and the two staff members with shinai. There’s a lot of Miyoko screaming “I’m sorry” and “I don’t want to die” before her thoughts return to the idea that Takano will come to save her. About half of a paragraph on this page is asterisks with lots of exclamation points interrupted here and there by Japanese. Part 2 wraps up with her complaining about the pain and the employees calling her a bad child.

One thing I will say about this author since I’ve seen three of his stories that have been made into anime is that he is very good on the subject of abused children, which is also another more taboo subject in Japanese society as maybe it is just about everywhere. It’s a theme that does come up in a lot of his work, and he seems to have a good handle on the difficulties children in such situations have. What’s sad is that here it ends up really ruining Miyo Takano.

Part 3 kicks off with “Miyo Takano,” and it continues with the flashback to when Hifumi Takano saved her and remains in the first person. It seems her name first became Miyoko Takano when he took her in using his last name’s orthography, with a variant that drops the “ko” part and turns it into Miyo, which is Hifumi’s nickname for her. Since she likes the Miyo name better than the longer version, she decides here to change how it’s written to her later choice, continuing his number name (Hifumi means one-two-three, and she chooses to spell Miyo as three-four), but she hasn’t changed the orthography of her last name yet at this point. I like this paragraph, so let me slap that in here for good measure where she goes through the mental gymnastics to come up with her new name:

。。。高野美代子というより、高野美代かもしれない。。。。祖父は、私の名を呼ぶ時、よく「みよ」と呼ぶから。一二三の魂を継ぐ者でありたい。祖父の名が、三までを数えるなら、。。。私は祖父と共にその三を数え、そして綾く四を数える人間でありたい。 私はその日から。名乗る名を変えることにした。濡れた指先で、それを镜になぞる。

高野、 三四。

At that point, we turn back to Colonel Kozimi, whom we’ve already been introduced to in an earlier chapter. He meets with Professor Takano and laughs together with him. They talk about the war and the soldiers from Hinamizawa. I’m mostly going to skip this section, though, since we’ve already gotten the basics down on the war and its significance to the story.

I’ll stop here at about the halfway point in the book and finish it up in the next post.

Part two of a three part series.




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A Killer’s Childhood Tragedy and Her Beloved Rescuer – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.1, Part 1

As promised, we’re going to revisit one of the story arcs from the “Answers” part of Ryukishi Zeronana’s light novel version of When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 1 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”). This title is typically left in Japanese when referring to the “Answers” arc since the anime has not been dubbed, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, but even when it is translated, it often keeps it partially in Japanese, Higurashi When They Cry.

Looking at the translation of the title a little more carefully, I think I would go with When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Cheering Chapter, perhaps even The Festival Jeering Chapter, depending on which character’s perspective you want to take. Given the fact that this story arc features the villain’s backstory, jeering might be more appropriate anyway. Accompaniment here seems to be referring to music, but it sounds decent anyway. None of the Japanese dictionaries I consulted gives the connotation of people going somewhere together, not that it has to be translated literally though. It’s just a point of curiosity. If anyone can shed some light on that translation choice, feel free to explain it in the comments.

Unlike the last book I read in the series in December, this one is from the Kodansha boxed novels rather than the newer, tiny pocket bunko release, which means each volume is a plain book with a light cardboard slipcover. It is available only in Japanese and can be purchased here in the newer bunko pocket edition:

This is the edition that I’m actually physically reading, which is apparently out of print:

I assume that they’re all the same text, but I can’t guarantee it. I know from reading a little of the manga edition, which is available in English, that there are differences, which is why I don’t wholeheartedly recommend the manga version here. (The East Asian publishing scene can be so confusing and frustrating at times with all of these issues!)

Here is the boxed set’s cover art:

Festival Accompanying 10001

Box Cover Art Volume 1

It also has a few interior drawings, as does the bunko version.

I mentioned when I covered the story arc from the “Questions” portion of the series that I felt was most noirish that I wanted to emphasize that aspect of the story with the “Answer” selection, and so I picked the story arc written from the perspective of the murderer. This series is going to have major spoilers, so readers, beware. The novel begins by revealing the most shocking part of the murderer’s psyche right off the bat instead of exposing it slowly as the anime version does. But before I get into that, let me explain why I am saying this story fits the noir genre.

I did a lot of reading on noir film and it story characteristics, as opposed to its film technique, since it has really focused on certain types of tropes and characters from the start. I was actually surprised to discover that in general the serial killer story was typical of noir from its earliest days, not horror. It’s a theme that is very popular in the history of noir. Another really big noir theme that applies here is the focus on illicit medical experiments and corruption in the medical field, which goes along with its twin, government corruption. These themes have been common noir tropes from its inception, and we certainly see them here as the Higurashi series reaches its climax with the reveal of the murderer. While most of Higurashi suggests a supernatural source for the murders, it is the murderer’s story arc that moves it fully into the category of noir, since it turns out a human is behind the string of bizarre deaths and disappearances.

Unlike most of the books in this series, this volume doesn’t begin with a poem by Frederica Bernkastel, who is a strange alter ego for Rika Furude, the little girl I introduced last December with the volume from the “Question” arc. (Fredericka really just sounds like her name in the Japanese order, Furude Rika, said really quickly. Ryukishi Zeronana is usually very playful with language and experimental in his writing, which is what makes him much more than just the average video game writer.)

Instead, the first volume starts out in the first person with a little girl talking with an old man who is her adoptive father about his research on parasites in his cluttered study. They talk about how these parasites are distributed across religions, nations and races throughout the whole world, and her adoptive father’s theory is that parasites living in their human hosts are the true cause of cultural conflicts driven by such differences. Their conversation expresses an extreme materialistic, mechanistic view of the world where human emotions come from the brain, not the heart, from secretions of these parasites in the body.

The girl and the old man also talk about psychiatric surgery, the similar symptoms of illness people exhibit, and abnormality in general. The conversation also turns explicitly to Christianity and Jesus’ death and resurrection, including a discussion of how he is no longer physically on earth but in people’s hearts. At this point, the girl worries that her adoptive father won’t live forever. Therefore, at the end of this section, she declares to the reader that she wants to study parasites and make the old man and herself gods so they can be together forever. The last few sentences expressing this come off kind of creepy, I think.







However, this whole idea of becoming gods together is more in line with Shinto beliefs than Christian ones. This kind of goal shows the character is merely unstable with a God Complex rather than someone who is conventionally religious, which is an interesting shift in the Higurashi plot since in earlier “Question” arcs it toyed with the idea that the murders were religiously inspired.

The second, much briefer scene then turns to Showa 32, which comes out to be around 1958 or 1959 before the little girl lives with the old man. The narrator is talking to someone named Eriko. Four of them are planning on getting a key to the “chicken room” and escape, but someone keeps telling them to be quiet because one of the staff is coming.

The book then begins with its first major chapter titled “The Institution,” and here is a scan of the title page:

Festival Accompanying 20001

Interior Picture for Chapter 1

The first section here titled “My Parents’ Deaths” shows her talking with her father as he is dying, and he tells her to contact Hifumi Takano, his teacher, after he dies, since he knows she has no next of kin. He makes sure she gets the name right before she has to leave the room. The mother isn’t really mentioned here, and I assume she is already dead, though she did die at the same time as the father.

The next section is titled “I Prepare for the Institution.” In this scene, she mentions this Mr. Takano whom her father told her about to the government agency staff, but they can’t get in touch with him, so she is sent to a private orphanage. This chapter runs for 20 pages and goes into the difficulty of bringing up children without parents, how they become “problem children” due to sadness and the lack of a loving home. She wishes an angel would come and wake her from this dream, which is referred to a number of times throughout the section.

The orphanage is very unpleasant with lots of angry staff and crying children, and a number of special punishments are discussed here: the “Casket Punishment,” a “Crushed Catepillar Punishment,” “A Duck That Can’t Drink Water Punishment,” and a “Swollen Pig Punishment.” I’m not going to try to figure out what all of those are, but the kids are very scared of being murdered in this place and consider it hell. They plan an escape, which picks up with the storyline we saw earlier with Eriko trying to get a key.

Four of them are plotting to escape, including the so far unnamed narrator, Eriko, Kikuko, and Tomomi, and the narrator describes running out into the rain and hearing the voices of the staff members in the distance. The scene seems to change abruptly to her getting caught  and a staff member’s finger in her mouth, which she bites. It goes into a very detailed description of how the finger feels and how the blood fills her mouth after she bites it. She is afraid she is going to die there, and the staff member is referred to as a beast.

The next section is much shorter and continues the scene with another quite creepy ending. She is screaming and trying to run as the staff member forces her into the car. This is one of the first places we see the name Takano used, this time with a new spelling, which I’ll explain in a moment.  The section ends with a fairly surreal comment about a coffee maker and how coffee would wake her up from this evil dream. She asks for milk and sugar with her coffee to get rid of the evil in her mouth after biting the finger, where the blood has mixed with the saliva and rain. Sweet coffee will clean her mouth and wake her up:







This passage is disturbing on so many levels, but it’s one of the reasons I think Higurashi is such effective horror. He’s very psychological and subtle.

By the time the story gets to page 45, we see the little girl change her name from Hifumi Takano’s spelling of his last name (高野) to a new spelling of Takano (鷹野). The last name with the new kanji means falconry, while the old professor’s kanji spelling refers to a high plain. This is more word play by the author, and it’s significant because of how the villain handles herself later to some degree with bird references to her secret military unit. It also is notable that the change goes from a rather benign image evoked by Hifumi’s version of Takano to the more rapacious, predatory image of the same name with the single character substitution.

Here the chapter jumps even further ahead in time and switches to the third person. We have someone giving a toast at a banquet in this ten page chapter titled “Takano and Tokyo.” The banquet is held in some kind of hotel where the guests are drinking beer. A few hundred people are in attendance, with eight people to a table. An elderly man gives the speech, and its themes include respecting the national flag and anthem, loving Japan, living under Japanese principles, and concern over anti-Japanese teachers. This starts off sounding like a normal patriotic speech, but as most fans of the show would expect, it starts to show some extreme nationalist distortions, veering into talk about how the militaristic brainwashing during the wars years wasn’t foolishness.  Note that the word “brainwashing” in Japanese is used here specifically throughout the passage.

His speech elicits thunderous applause, then he calls up an old man to the podium who is a popular drama BGM player, which I guess is someone who scores TV shows.  This man is introduced in the novel as ○○○○君 or ○○君. The character there means kun or mister, which is used for a younger man. I don’t know how common this is in Japanese books in general, but this author does seem to like to use a lot of “anonymous” or blanked out information such as dates, place names and personal names. Right before this guy is introduced, there is a reference to “XX province,” so maybe its supposed to give you a feeling of reading something classified.

This new speaker discusses the anti-Japanese teaching in his own province and how it is affecting the children and the need for “correct” history. He then launches into a racist commentary on the occupation of Japan by white people and how Japan was restored to self-rule. Both speeches contain lots of exclamation or double exclamation points after nearly every sentence. There’s a lot more here, particularly about the Japanese school system, but that gives you a taste of what it’s about.

What comes next, though is explosive. The section turns to the topic of an alumni association that has existed for decades and sent out invitations to this banquet apparently. It talks about this association for a few pages, then brings up the former imperial university alumni gathering; Takano is a member of this group. There is some sort of secret society or “shadow government,” both Japanese terms are used in this passage quite explicitly, and again, the last sentence of the section just socks it to the reader, identifying narrator Takano Miyo as a member of this shadow government.

(p. 55)

The anime doesn’t get into the political underpinings too much other than to make it clear there’s something nefarious going on at the upper levels of the government that Takano has been involved with and shows many of the minor male characters in those scenes with Hitler-like mustaches. Of course, this references the actual historical situation of Japan’s alliance with the Nazis during World War II, which adds a layer of depth to the series. While the dramatic deaths all ultimately take place in this sleepy little fictional village of Hinamizawa, those historical issues loom large over the whole story in the “answer” arcs as they get closer to revealing the identity of the murderer.

Also of interest here is that we only get the narrator’s name in this section, 55 pages into the story. I’m going to continue to refer to her as Takano Miyo using the original Japanese name order, which a lot of the fan base for the show seems to prefer, as do I.

I’m going to stop here because this post is getting a little long as I try to set the tone and dig into the background material a little more. As a bonus, I’m going to post one of the best pictures I’ve found on the web of Takano Miyo. I’m not sure if it’s officially from Ryukishi Zeronana’s crossover series When the Dolphins Cry (Umineko), which I personally don’t care for (I prefer his Ookamikakushi much better), or if it’s fan art, but it’s by Rouge and can be found over at Zero Chan.


Takano Miyo By Rouge Courtesy of Zero Chan

It just really captures the character better than many of the other renditions I’ve seen.

Takano Miyo is, of course, Rika Furude’s chief adversary in the series, which really goes to show how warped Takano is, too, since she’s a grown woman who has zeroed in on some little girl in middle school as her chief rival. It’s a good story construction, and Ryukishi Zeronana comes up with some very situationally creepy details like that which really make a statement about the characters’ psyche without having to explain everything to the audience.

We’ll dig deeper into the villain’s storyline next time.

Part one of a three part series.

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A String of Human Villains Brings Out the Zombie Berserker Rage – The Joseon Zombie Annals, Part 2

Continuing our look at the Joseon Zombie Annals webcomic by Gonma (조선좀비실록- 곤마), we pick it up in chapter 10.

Our heroes have been arrested and taken to jail where Heo Jun uses some of the medicine he has in a vial to control the infection raging in Soonshin’s body. Heo Jun requires some of Jin’s blood to make the antidote, however, and she pricks her thumb to give him some to mix with the liquid in the vial. This somehow goes back to what the Buddhist woman at the palace said about Jin, and it’s the reason they are taking their dangerous journey with the Crown Prince as her warrior escort. Heo Jun mixes their blood to test their compatibility, then injects the mixture into Soonshin. Soonshin wakens, then the scene shifts back to the kyojunim who had them arrested.

An old man begs him for help, wanting more food, but when the kyojunim embraces the old man, the old man turns into a zombie! After a few panels, the scene shifts back to Yoonshin in jail. When he sees Jin’s wounded and bandaged thumb, he is angry to be the cause of her wound. He blushes at the thought. When the kyojunim arrives at the jail where our heroes are being held, he sees the beautiful girl through the bars but addresses Heo Jun and says he knows Heo Jun has a method for killing the zombies. Threatening Heo Jun with death, tiny asps slither out of the kyojunim’s tunic toward the floor and make their way up each of the prisoners’ bodies, finally coiling near their faces around their necks. He tells them not to move and says the girl won’t die tonight.

Zombies Post 2 A

In chapter 11 when the kyojunim orders the guard to open the cell door and lead Jin out for his pleasure, Soonshin bites the asp around his neck, killing it and freeing himself. He charges the guard, wanting to save Jin from being dishonored, and the guard slashes Soonshin across his torso. However, Soonshin moves oddly, confusing the guard, who is so shocked the blow didn’t kill Soonshin, he falls to his knees, wracking his brain trying to figure out what just happened.

Zombies Post 2 B

The asps bite the rest of the prisoners, knocking them unconscious. Kyojunim knocks out Soonshin with a blow and takes Jin to a private location where he can taunt her. He strings her up stripped to her underwear and tries to seduce her in chapter 12, but she bites him on the lip as he moves to kiss her. His response is to punch her in the face.

Zombie Post 2 C

The scene shifts back to Heo Jun and the Crown Prince in jail. They find Soonshin has blasted a hole through the jail to the outside and escape through it. The scene shifts back to Jin and kyojunim, who has a whip in his hand. She is a little bloodied, and at the end of the scene, she yells out for Soonshin. Soonshin, however, is caught up in some sort of dream full of skulls, but he knows that Jin is in danger. A scary, bloody man he calls Yoon appears, probably the Crown Prince though all of the characters look more modern here, and Soonshin angrily demands to know where Jin is. In a sideways panel, we see Jin standing before them in black with her hair down and a sword through her stomach. He wakes from the dream screaming her name.

Zombie Post 2 D

The guard appears before him, and Soonshin asks where Jin has been taken. The scene carries over to the next chapter, where the guard gives Soonshin back his pair of butcher knives, and they fight, his knives against the guard’s sword. After defeating the guard, Soonshin flees.

The scene shifts back to the kyojunim preparing to whip Jin, but he is interrupted by the arrival of the Crown Prince, who has drawn his sword. The Crown Prince cuts Jin down as he chats with kyojunim, who wants to know where Heo Jun is. Jin anxiously asks about Soonshin, but the Crown Prince tells her not to worry about him just now. Kyojunim fights with the Crown Prince, his whip and fists against the Crown Prince’s sword. Like the previous scenes with Soonshin and the guard, this section has some stunning fight panels. Weirdly, this time when the Crown Prince stabs kyojunim in the gut with his sword, there’s a black box over the wound. The final panel shows kyojunim finally opening his right eye, which is blue, in contrast to the eye he normally has open, which is brown!

The epic battle continues in the first half of chapter 14, while the second half shows Soonshin running into a crowd of zombies he must fight and flee from.  In chapter 15, Soonshin finally sees the tower where Jin is being held, but we quickly switch back to the fight between the Crown Prince and kyojunim. Around this time, an asp bites Jin’s foot, and she falls unconscious.

Heo Jun meanwhile is wandering around the village and talks with an official, pulling a few vials out of his tunic. When Soonshin rushes by, they are reunited, and a little further down in the chapter, Soonshin joins the battle against kyojunim. He is able to really do some damage, but we have already seen that kyojunim has some strange form of regeneration that reattaches severed limbs back onto his body using a red energy force. Then he takes on zombie powers, but that creepy appearance lasts only for a few panels before the fight resumes as normal in chapter 16. Kyojunim appears to have the same infection-immunity that we saw Soonshin diagnosed with last post, which made his eyes turn blue temporarily.

Zombie Post 2 E

In chapter 16, he fights with Soonshin, and Soonshin’s eyes turn blue again, too, surprising kyojunim with his own zombie abilities. About halfway through, the scene shifts back to the wounded guard Soonshin fought in the forest, who awakens in his wounded state. He recognizes Soonshin’s fighting ability matches kyojunim’s and thinks that if kyojunim dies, he will be free. He is suddenly stabbed in the middle of his reverie by the Japanese samurai we met earlier in the story.

The samurai is joined by his girlfriend and a bandaged man who beheads the guard. The scene then shifts back to Soonshin and kyojunim. They fight, then when the Crown Prince rebukes Soonshin for beating kyojunim, the two opponents discuss their respective zombie abilities. They fight some more when kyojunim decides that Soonshin no longer has the zombie berserker ability because his eyes turned back to brown. But then Soonshin pulls out one of Heo Jun’s vials and throws the garlic liquid at him. This time, his butcher knife severs kyojunim’s arm, and it doesn’t reattach!

This continues through chapter 17. Kyojunim jumps out the window of the tower to escape Soonshin. Soonshin jumps out after him, and he lands in the middle of a crowd standing with kyojunim before a zombie tied up to a frame by a noose. Kyojunim’s men notice he lost an arm, and kyojunim directs them to surround Soonshin, which they do with their swords drawn. He gives the order for them to kill Soonshin, but Soonshin grabs their weapons and starts fighting them. Heo Jun interrupts the fight, destroys the bound zombie who disappears when his sword touches him. Meanwhile, kyojunim has made a run for it through the town, but Soonshin catches up with him. He scalps kyojunim, but the samurai arrives, hitting kyojunim with his sword, which makes him disintegrate!

In Chapter 18, the two men fight. About halfway through this chapter, we return briefly to Jin and the Crown Prince. Jin wakes from a dream where she saw Soonshin beheaded and is very anxious. The story shifts back immediately to Soonshin and the samurai. Soonshin’s eyes suddenly turn blue, which makes the samurai wary. Suddenly the samurai’s girlfriend and the bandaged man arrive, and the three of them disappear, leaving Soonshin to think back to certain moments of the night’s many battles.

Before the end of the chapter, Heo Jun arrives with Jin and the Crown Prince, so the heroes are reunited in chapter 19 and find a safe place to discuss how the zombie plague is being transmitted. It seems the kyojunim became a religious figure because of these minor zombie manifestations after he was scratched by one, and he was considered a messenger of heaven as a result.

We’ll pick it up with chapter 20 next time.

Part two of a six part series.

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The Secret Search for Extraterrestrials and A Gamer Meetup – Three Body Problem, Remembrance of Earth Series, Book 1, Part 3

Today we’re going to finish up our look at the first book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, Three Body Problem (刘慈欣的”地球往事:三体”).

In chapter 10, the story continues with Wang Miao’s visit with Sha Duanshan where Duanshan tells him that 20 years later the time of the Red Shore Base had passed. The researchers from the base emigrated to Europe, where they wrote some books. The men’s attention returns to the COBE satellite’s data, which Duanshan thinks is wrong, but Wang Miao disagrees. He checks the other satellite readings then calls the Urumqi base to compare notes, which reveals some sort of cosmic glimmer has taken place.

An hour later, Wang Miao goes to town to visit some astronomy group where workers are waiting for him with 3K glasses. Someone suggests Sha is mentally ill, but Wang Miao puts on the glasses, which remind him of video game goggles. He sees flashes of red, perhaps this cosmic glimmer, and he wonders aloud to Shen Yufei on his cell phone what the clock he discovered measures. She doesn’t have any idea, but he suggests it could be counting down to his death or to some big catastrophe approaching. Afterward, he returns to his car and pauses near a Catholic Church where he runs into a man smoking a cigarette, Da Shi.

Next, Wang Miao and Da Shi decide to go out for dinner, then they sleep in the car overnight. In the morning they talk about concerns regarding a sinister plan someone has to destroy the research facilities out of fear of the scientists. Later, when Wang Miao returns home, he goes back into the “Three Bodies” video game.

Inside the game, it’s daybreak, and Wang Miao is standing before the king’s tower. He sees an entrance and looks for stone steps to reach the observation platform at the top where he can see the stars. On the way, he meets Zhou Wenwang’s follower, who is introduced this time as Mozi. He leads Wang Miao to the observation area, and they discuss the cosmos, shooting stars and the sun. After he finishes the game, he returns to see Ye Wenjie, who confirms old legends about the Red Shore Base.

The next three chapters covers her recollections, and I’m wondering if Yang Weining is Yang Dong’s father. Perhaps it said that, and I missed it, but the two soldiers who brought her to the base, Yang Weining and Commissar Lei, loom large over her life at this point in time. The Red Shore project includes launching satellites and surveillance of enemies in case of war. Wenjie is transferred to the surveillance department under Yang.

This section has excerpts of a few documents from the Red Shore base which Wenjie shows Wang Miao. The documents explain different types of technology and research in various scientific fields, then moves on to discuss the search for intelligent life in the universe, mentioning OZMA conducted in the 1960s and 1970s through the American SETI program. They also received some sort of letters on extraterrestrial civilizations. All of this is interrelated with the government’s plans and its war strategy. The documents all have their 1960 dates blacked out using empty squares.

In chapter 15, Wang Miao briefly discusses with Wenjie the research conducted back then at Red Shore that related to alien civilizations. It seems to have been part of a terraforming project, but Wang Miao wonders why the Red Shore Base was then kept secret.

Next, Wang Miao leaves her, and two days later he re-enters the “Three Bodies” video game, this time under a new character name, Ge Baini, and when he is done, he’s congratulated for successfully determining the cosmos’ composition. Otherwise, that sequence continues with the towers, three suns and three shooting stars.
When Wang Miao gets out of the game, Da Shi calls him over to listen to Shen Yufei’s husband, Wei Cheng, who is present and ready to make a statement. This chapter is very long, and Wei Cheng goes back to his days studying mathematics. This is the chapter actually titled “Three Body Problem.”

In chapter 18, he returns to the “Three Bodies” video game, this time playing on the second level. The towers are Eastern style, but the two men standing there in the freezing morning air are Europeans wearing 16th century clothes. They talk a bit about mathematicians and mathematics, and John Von Neumann is one of the figures Wang Miao meets in the game:

Game time covers many months in the virtual world, since time seems to go by very fast in it as a general rule. After Wang Miao gets out of the game, he receives a phone call from the game administrator who was notified by email that Wang Miao made it to the second level of the game. He invites Wang Miao to a meetup of the online community of “Three Bodies” gamers taking place the next evening. That meetup takes place at a coffee shop, and seven players show up, ranging in age from young adult to 60 years old, and at least one is a woman. Wang Miao already knows two of the gamers. One of the meetup group members suggests that the Three Bodies world is a real place, and they debate this issue for awhile and talk more about mathematics.

In chapters 20 and 21, Wang Miao enters the “Three Bodies” game for the fifth time and meets Einstein, and they talk about the moon and the sun among other things. Then in chapter 22, titled “Earth’s Rebel Army,” the meetup group meets again at a factory worker’s cafeteria, and this time more than three hundred people show up, including government officials. They have some kind of silver globes at the meeting, but Ye Wenjie is also there this time and starts reminiscing again about the Red Shore Base, which continues into the next two chapters.

This is the drawing of the scene, which looks much more high-tech and militaristic than I was picturing, since in modern America most people think of gamers as civilian kids dressed in normal, casual clothes, not as armed military men.

Three Bodies V.1-3

That definitely was  not my mental picture I was getting as I read the text, but this is far more provocative than what I imagined.

Ye Wenjie’s relationship with Yang Weining and Commissar Lei has really deepened over the years at the base, and by the end of chapter 24, perhaps in around 1979, Wenjie wakes up in a hospital bed with Yang Weining at her side, much like the way she did on the plane taking her to the Red Shore Base that first time. This time, however, the doctor says she needs to rest because she’s pregnant! The text mentions here that they married four years after she came to the Red Shore Base. Otherwise, their time at the base is spent studying the sun. She receives a letter from an American astronomer and gets deeply into her sun surveillance.

In chapter 25, titled “Insurrection,” Ye Wenjie talks about the Red Shore Base’s space elevator, but someone interrupts and asks about Ye’s daughter’s death, but she doesn’t really explain anything about that. The group of gamers form the Three Bodies Resistance Army, and a nameless young girl becomes the focal point of the meeting. Da Shi also laughs about aliens. I assume this young girl is the girl in the drawing.

Things take a darker turn in Chapter 26, which starts off as a transcript of Ye Wenjie’s interrogation. She is at this point a professor at Qinghua University. The chapter title seems kind of neutral, “Lei Zhicheng and Yang Weining’s Deaths,” but the interrogator asks about two murders she committed in October of 1979. Her answer is “我杀死过两个人…基地政委雷志成和基地工程师,我的丈夫杨卫宁.” This is her admission of guilt, and that’s a pretty interesting plot twist. I didn’t see that coming.

The Red Shore Base received a signal from an alien civilization near the sun back then which was somehow tied to Three Bodies. Ye Wenjie wasn’t the only one who got this message, however.  Commissar Lei also did and talked with her about it not long after she found out she was pregnant. She kills Lei and Yang, thinking no one would suspect her since she and Yang Weining were known to have a good relationship.

Eight months after the alien contact, Wenjie gives birth to her baby, Yang Dong, and she goes back to stay with her mother. During that time, Three Bodies doesn’t contact her again. She returns to the university and meets an American named Mike Evans. Then when she goes to Europe, she finds there is a second Red Shore Base connected to London’s Heathrow Airport, and she meets Mike Evans again there. He mentions receiving a transmission from Three Bodies. They talk about the idea that Three Bodies’ civilization will change human civilization and will annihilate humankind, which is seen as crazy and evil. Earth will end up under Three Bodies’ rule. The last line is “that day was the birth of the Earth Three Bodies Movement.”

In Chapter 30 it comes out that the Three Bodies video game was the way the alien Three Bodies civilization was spreading its culture and teachings through society, and the followers from the Earth Three Bodies Rebellion also became the Spiritual Nobility Organization. Its growing membership draws from the intellectual class and from the government and economic elites.

Later, Wang Miao is back at the war center with Ding Yi discussing whether they trust Ye Wenjie’s recollections. The ending of the book gets deeper into the message from Three Bodies, and it appears that, like a reversal of Silent Spring, the aliens are going to try to do to humanity what humanity did to the insects. The last few chapters pivot to this insect/locust motif with Da Shi even driving Wang Miao and Ding Yi somewhere to look at insects.

Chapter 36, the last chapter, is very short, but it feels a bit eerie. Ye Wenjie is back on Radar Peak to see the ruins of the original Red Shore Base. She sees a stone tablet commemorating the Red Shore Base, noting it was founded in 1968 and its last date of operation was in 1987. The story ends with Wenjie pondering how the locust survived mankind.

We’ll look at book two of the series later this year and see where this alien invasion goes.

Part 3 of 3.

Next time: we return to Japan with Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicadas Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 1!

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The Sohyeon After Midnight Graded Korean Reader Project – Introduction

As my regular readers know, I recently published a new horror novel in English called Sohyeon After Midnight, and now I’m ready to start phase two of the project. The idea for a new novel came last year as I was preparing some of my class modules I’m offering at my affiliate channel,, and compiled my Beginner’s Guide to Korean; I decided I wanted to come up with something exciting to create a graded reader out of to potentially use for my classes, plus it gave me the opportunity to test out the usefulness of the Korean-language textbook I published last summer.

I myself bailed on using graded readers as I reached the intermediate-advanced level for various reasons, but some of it was that the choice of topic or works used to create graded readers out of was rather dull, mainly using either too prosaic of topics or high literary texts, which are extremely limiting and difficult in a second language. My theory is that you have to go on the same arc of interests that you did learning your native language when you were a child or teenager, which most of the time is genre fiction, and the language has to be vivid, even lurid, rather than subtle and philosophical.

Materials for Korean language study for native English-speakers aren’t that plentiful or too easy to come by, so I hit upon an idea based on a technique we used with our ESL students – I have almost a Master’s degree in TESOL in a program that focused more on the mechanics of second language acquisition as opposed to all teaching techniques – something called Student Generated Texts. Most of the research on second language acquisition uses data from speakers of foreign languages learning English because of the dearth of students going the other way, therefore it’s appropriate to align the fields of ESL and US foreign language instruction, and I use a lot of ESL resources when considering how to study my second languages.

The broad outlines of second language acquisition are the same regardless of the particular native and target languages at the end of the day. So in addition to studying techniques for reading in a second language at the extremely difficult transition point between intermediate and advanced levels for years, I’ve also been reading studies on writing in a second language and concluded I also wanted to do some experimentation with that on myself. Many accomplished writers overseas write works in a non-native language, so they also offer so inspiration for making the attempt. Hence Sohyeon was born.

Here are some articles discussing the use of Student Generated Texts and bilingual books for language students to get you in the right mindset:


I’ve also learned from years of studying dance that you can’t just drill forever but need to put it all together into a finished piece for performance before you can really advance in your skill level. That’s also the only way you can assess what you’ve learned.

If you want to look cool and be right all of the time, studying a foreign language isn’t for you, because the only way to really advance in your skills is to make a lot of mistakes. I don’t know if you ever get to the point where it’s perfect; even writing in your native language can be contentious, as my fellow indie writers know. A lot of it is subjective at some point. As I begin this project, I think my biggest areas of difficulty that will emerge will be the unconscious effect of English grammar on the way I write Korean sentences and word choice. The more complicated very tenses will probably trip me up, too, but it is what it is.

The part of my novel I will be working on first will be part 1 out of 6, which is about 30,000 words in English; that went through three revisions before reaching its final form, and I’ll be posting the second revision of the Korean version since I already have around 15,000 words written in the first draft. It will be in fairly simple Korean, probably closer to beginner level than intermediate level.

So like some crazy comic book scientist, I’m going to experiment on myself, and I invite readers who are native speakers of Korean language or have reached the intermediate level to make suggestions for better rendering in Korean in the comments of each segment. If you want to be part of the experiment, this is where I will be posting my short segments of the story in Korean with a select vocabulary list:

You can subscribe to that blog and get updates as I prepare them. I should have the first part posted there in the next month or so.

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