A Blood-Sucking Male Beauty – The Demon Cat Sword, Part 4


This week we finish reading Japanese historical novel The Demon Cat Sword by Kouichi Matsuoka (松岡弘一の“妖猫剣”). Part 3 is only 7 chapters long and has the provocative title “A Blood-Sucking Male Beauty.” The word here for male beauty is obana (男花), or man flower. Here is some good similarly erotic flower imagery to go with our general feeling of the chapter title, “Ribbons” by the Sisters of Mercy, song clip and lyrics courtesy of the band website:

http://www.the-sisters-of-mercy.com/showcase/mp3/albumsandsingles/sisters_ribbons_websample_mono64.mp3

http://www.the-sisters-of-mercy.com/lyrics/ribbons.htm

Here is an excerpt of the lyrics that the story reminded me of:

I’m lying on my back now
the stars look all too near
flowers on the razor wire
I know you’re here
we are few
and far between
I was thinking about her skin
love is a many splintered thing
don’t be afraid now
just walk on in
(flowers on the razor wire)
(walk on in)

her eyes were cobalt red
her voice was cobalt blue
I see no purple light
crashing out of you
so just walk on in

It’s a great song. One of the common descriptions in the novel are of glowing eyes, usually gold referring to the cats, among other strange demonic manifestations, so it is a good match.

So back to our reading, Okoma is consulting with doctor Seinen at the Phantom Flower, a kabuki teahouse, about the monster consultation bureau she wants to set up, and Seinen introduces her to one of the men in training there, Kikunosuke. Kikunosuke is a bit of a mystery to Okoma since she can’t tell if he is a man or a woman. He looks very feminine, and she thinks his sexual ambiguity might allow them to lure the blood-sucking beast Seinen told her killed a girl the night before in Sengakuji. She isn’t sure if the beast might catch Kikunosuke’s scent and know he’s a male, however. Seinen also introduces him to another man in training, Yuriwaka, who looks more masculine than Kikunosuke and has an aura of danger around him that makes Okoma wonder if he might have demon blood. She gets all of the details about the murder before going out to meet Kyoushirou.

Okoma is in cat form as she searches for Kyoushirou, but her rendezvous is interrupted by a disturbing event. She hears footsteps following her, then a shriek. She has stumbled across the blood-sucking beast as it strikes another maiden. Near a darkened shrine, she catches a glimpse of a young man wearing a black kimono and a face covering with blood dripping down the side of his forehead. She gets closer and hears the sound of someone drinking, and she realizes she heard him sucking the woman’s blood. Thinking more about her discussion with Seinen about how much blood is in the human body, she decides a sumo wrestler would be most accustomed to drinking the same volume of wine. Soon after she discovers the beast, he flees. This scene is very creepy and atmospheric.

The next scene is quite the opposite with Kyoushirou and Okoma meeting to drink sake. They bicker as she tells him what she witnessed. When he accuses her of lying, she hits him with the sake bottle and calls him a fool. But after their spat, they go out to investigate the scene where the beast appeared with the idea Okoma will lure the beast out. When they reach the Phantom Flower after wandering around a bit, it starts to rain. Kikunosuke appears to ask if they are okay. They go in and start drinking and eating with Kikunosuke and Yuriwaka. At one point, Okoma notices that Yuriwaka is bleeding by his eye, a wound which makes her nervous that he might be the killer. As they drink, however, Yuriwaka’s pretty face is revealed to be full of maggots and other bugs. Okoma is horrified. He is a zombie!

Later, Kyoushirou and Okoma set their plan in motion to lure the blood-sucking beast. Okoma dresses as a townswoman, and Kyoushirou hides a dagger, regretting he doesn’t have his famous demon sword. They take palanquins to a samurai’s house, then an Inari shrine with an earthenware fox statue and offerings. Kyoushirou goes off into the bushes and hears something he thinks is a cat. But it isn’t. The blood-sucking beast appears – it’s Kikunosuke! Kyoushirou realizes he is a demon and is trying to feast on 1,000 people according to some superstition that doing so will make him human. Before Kyoushirou’s eyes, the beautiful androgynous man transforms into a weasel demon, covered in brown fur with yellow fangs! Kyoushirou turns into a cat to fight him instead of continuing to use his dagger. Okoma somehow ends up fighting with the demon sword later in the battle. She slices up the weasel demon. After she cuts off its head, the head turns back into that of a beautiful young man. It transforms a few more times, aging into that of an old person before the body stops moving altogether and withers.

Part 3 ends with Shiro returning to Orin’s cozy bed as a big white cat while black cat Okoma wails outside.

Part 4 is seven chapters long and has the title “The Poison of Hell.” Since each section is turning out to be more like a short story with very little overlap in characters between them and no overarching plot, I’m not going to review this part that much beyond the basics so I can catch up with my 2014 reading schedule. Here we have Kyoushirou and Okoma preparing for an April 3rd cherry blossom viewing banquet. They have some dealings with a moneychanger, and the character Ichibee is very prominent in this section. A lot of the narrative focuses on cooking for this event and a few new minor characters – there is one called Okiku, but I think it is not the same as Kikunosuke from part 3 since he is dead. Only Seinen called him Okiku once anyway; he was always called Kikunosuke after that in part 3. They also discuss the situation with the demonic world a bit more. The slice of life picture it paints gets more intense when they find a piece of paper reading 『毒を盛った。一刻後に全員死ぬ。毒消しがほしければ市兵衛を殺せ』. This means “We were poisoned. Everyone soon died. If you want the antidote, kill Ichibee.” So this seems to be another mystery with much more low-key plotline.

Generally speaking, I think this novel was really more focused on character development and Edo period living than any whizbang plotting. Each part seems fairly self-contained. Matsuoka could have framed each part a little more neatly in that case by cutting the beginning of part 2 with Orin and leaving all of that at the end of part 1, then cutting Orin at the end of part 3. The characters don’t cross over into each part other than Kyoushirou and Okoma and a brief appearance by Orin at times. It’s possible that this book is going to have a continuing overarching plot in the rest of the series, so it is hard to judge what the author’s intention was here. It was an enjoyable read even without a big, flashy plot nonetheless. The sections with the most dramatic, interesting plots were parts 3 and 1.

As is typical with Japanese light novels, the volume ends with an afterward by the author describing some aspect of what we read and why he wrote it the way he did, and this book is no different. Matsuoka spends a few pages here talking about the Edo period and their universal belief in demons.

A few vocabulary notes to point out: Kikunosuke and Yuriwaka both have flower names, which is fitting since they are in training at the kabuki teahouse, the Phantom Flower. Kikunosuke includes the word for chrysanthemum, and Yuriwaka includes the word for lily.

Part four of a four part series

Next time: a Christmas mini-series on traditional Chinese poetry and painting!

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About Lady Xiansa

Lady Xiansa is a writer, linguist, artist, and dancer. She has been a core volunteer for the Silk Screen Asian Arts Organization since 2007 and has provided content for Pitt JCS anime events since 2011. She has taught both ESL and Beginning Korean. Her novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, won the Bronze Award for Young Adult Fiction E-book in the 2016 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards.
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