Kumori and the Lucky Cat Named to Kirkus Review’s List of the 100 Best Indie Books of 2019!

I got great news last month that my novella Kumori and the Lucky Cat, volume 1 of my Lucky Cat Series, was put on Kirkus Review’s Best Indie Books of 2019. They only select 100 out of all of the books they review for the year in a few different categories, and I think this year that was a total of around 7,000 books. It’s a great honor, and it gives me a lot of incentive to finish the last book in the series; I’m nearly finished with the first draft of book 4 and should have it ready to go soon.

Kirkus Review also recently reviewed the second novel in my Lucky Cat Series, Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance, and the review can be found here:


This is one of those moments where I wish the review were longer and more detailed. Volume 2 takes a turn into traditional horror and begins to use my favorite Japanese horror writer Fuyumi Ono’s tactic of writing from an interfaith perspective, though I don’t get detailed with that aspect too much. I really just wanted to dig deeper into the cultural landscape of East Asia, to figure out how I wanted to represent the major faiths of the regions I was featuring in each subplot along the Shinto-Buddhist-Christian axis, and as a nod to the interfaith nature of the real-life resistance movements against the various totalitarian states I’ve been highlighting in my supplemental study guide.

Some of the tropes in the series starting with this volume will be familiar to anyone who read my gothic horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, since I felt I wasn’t done with some of those ideas. I wanted to explore a darker version of that basic story premise this time, moving from a sympathetic, romantic ghost to something more sinister and driven.

Along with the new cover and edition, which will be ready by the end of the year, I also released a new book trailer for Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance:

I should have some reading videos ready to go on this volume soon, too. People ask me sometimes if I have audio books, but I don’t, and although these videos are only excerpts, they are good resources for people who need to listen rather than read.

I’ll be finishing up the year’s reading schedule this week with a few posts on the final volume of the second story arc on Land, so stay tuned for that.

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The Sun Rose From the Sea Like Metal Tongs From a Fire – Ten Nights of Dreams, Natsume Soseki, Part 2

Today I’m going to finish going over the Japanese original of Natsume Soseki’s “Ten Nights of Dreams” (夏目漱石の”夢十夜”). We only have five more dreams to go. All of the dreams in this second half of the piece begin with more varied sentences, while four of the first five dreams begin with the sentence, “こんな夢を見た。” This just translates to I dreamt this dream.

Night 6 begins with the narrator thinking about someone named Unkei who was carving guardian statues at the gate of the Buddhist temple Gokokuji. The narrator takes a walk and joins a crowd of people watching Unkei. He notes a large pine tree in front of the gate, contrasting colorfully with the gate. Although the temple is old-fashioned, the onlookers are Meiji subjects, many of whom are rickshaw drivers. He talks with the other observers about the guardian statue.

Meanwhile Unkei continues to move his hammer and chisel and work without regard for the onlookers. The narrator is jarred with how old fashioned the scene is and wonders how Unkei can be alive. The men around his seem uneducated, but they are all impressed with Unkei’s marvelous skill. The text gets kind of detailed describing Unkei’s carving strokes. Suddenly, the narrator decides anyone can be a sculptor and goes home to try it himself.

Night 7 starts with a narrator announcing he is on a huge ship. Day and night the ship belches black smoke, and the narrator doesn’t know where it’s going. The dream has a long, vivid description of the sun at this point, including the title of this post comparing it to tongs taken from a fire. This imagery is a really interesting contrast to the reality: the sun is far away and intangible coming out of water, while the metal tongs are small and easy to manipulate coming out of fire with fire and water are opposing elements.

The narrator is afraid of where the ship is headed and grills a sailor about it without getting a straight answer, causing the narrator to feel despair to the point of suicide. The other foreign passengers seem to be just as distraught. As the narrator feels particularly suicidal one night on deck, and a foreigner who comes out to look at the stars with him asks him if he believes in God, but he is overcome with the meaninglessness of everything.

On night 8, the narrator goes to a barbershop where a few people in white kimonos are talking. He notices the place has six mirrors and sits down before it. After getting comfortable, he notices the window behind him in the mirror. Shotaro goes by with a woman, and the narrator hears a horn being blown at a tofu shop, then he sees the horn blower and a geisha without her makeup in the street.

The barber, dressed in a white kimono, comes over to the narrator with his scissors and comb and begins to cut his hair. The description here of the barber and the haircut is fairly long. The narrator hears more activity out in the street and sees a woman counting money in the next room as the barber finishes up. The narrator goes outside and observes a goldfish seller in another long slice of life description.

Night 9 suggests a war is about to break out as a mansion is attacked around its perimeter. A woman and three children are in the house, and the father leaves. It is nighttime. The mother keeps asking the children where their father is, but they don’t really know what’s going on. The father never returns.

The mother then takes one of the children on her back out the side door toward a large gingko tree.  She goes down the slope until she reaches a stone torii gate where one side is a rice paddy and the other is bamboo grass. Going through the torii gate, she enters a dark grove of cedar trees. She notices a bell hanging nearby and ornate calligraphy that resembles a bird. The text continues to describe the surroundings and her walk in detail. There are also a lot of bird references in this short section.

Ultimately, she rings the bell and claps in prayer for the safety of her husband along with some elaborate actions involving the baby, and she comes often to repeat the gesture, but it turns out her husband is already dead.

Night 10 returns to a character in the barber shop dream named Shotaro who gets entangled with a deceptive woman at a candy shop and ends up dead.

All in all, I’d say the dreams aren’t really meant to have a punchy ending, though some do. Mostly, they are just short mood pieces with nice, slice-of-life descriptions that are enjoyable reading in themselves even if the dream ending doesn’t really make sense.

Part two of a two part series.

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Petition to Get Moribito Series Translated Into English

I had a reader comment on an old post about a petition she started to get the rest of Moribito translated, so I thought it should be on the main page where everyone can see it. Here is the request for assistance from Iuka Sylvie:

I just started the petition “Tell Scholastic to publish the next volumes of the Moribito series! #Moribito_eng” and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.

My goal is to reach 1,000 signatures and I need more support. You can read more and sign the petition here:


“Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit” is a great anime, too.

Thanks to all who want to help with the petition.

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Digging Your Grave With A Pearl Oyster Shell – Ten Nights of Dreams, Part 1

The next Japanese language selection I have chosen for this year is Natsume Soseki’s “Ten Nights of Dreams” (夏目漱石の”夢十夜”), which is a short story rather than a novel. All of the dreams are written from the first person perspective and have a sinister feel. Widely available in English translation, it’s available online in Japanese at this link, complete with furigana:


While translations are nice, it’s always preferable to read these stories in their original languages where possible if you have the skills. There’s really no substitute for encountering the original text with no filters.

Night 1 begins with the narrator describing a dream where he is sitting at the bedside of a beautiful woman who is dying.  Though she looks vividly alive with her ruddy coloring, he decides she really is dying. They speak briefly about her death, and she makes a few last requests for him to fulfill. The descriptions are lush, and the story has a morbid, romantic undertone to it that is quite attractive and Poe-like.

The impossibility of the dying woman’s request for the narrator to wait by her grave for 100 years gives it an air of fantasy, too, though one eccentric request the narrator can more easily comply with is to dig her grave with an oyster shell.  The imagery of the oyster shell glowing like the moon and the way the narrator uses star fragments fallen to earth to mark the woman’s grave is quite stunning and cosmic. The woman reappears as a white lily, which in both eastern and western art symbolizes innocence and purity.

Night 2 begins with a Buddhist priest retiring to his room. He had been kneeling on a cushion in a dim, lamplit room decorated with a hanging scroll and smelling of incense. It’s nighttime in a large temple with few signs of human activity. The narrator is a warrior seeking enlightenment under the Buddhist priest, and he needs to attain this tonight or else he will commit suicide. He has a short sword with a red-lacquered sheath under the futon, and he takes it out and makes a practice swipe with the bare blade in the darkened room. The text goes into a detailed description of the blade.

Feeling the intensity of the moment, the warrior thinks about the way the bald Buddhist priest berated him. He starts to feel physically uncomfortable as he waits for enlightenment to come, which leaves him angry and disappointed, but he persists and carefully notes his perceptual changes to determine if he has finally achieved enlightenment. In the end, when the clock sounds near his tatami mat, he reaches for his sword. 

Night 3 is another Poe-style, ghostly story like night 1. The narrator is carrying a 6-year-old child on his back through rice paddies. The child, who belongs to the narrator, has gone blind and has a shaved head. The child talks to the narrator as an equal, which the narrator points out. The level of Japanese in the child’s dialogue does seem somewhat low and of a type one would use with intimate, equal relationships and probably isn’t suitable for a young child addressing his father. I think he should be using the forms a style above the speech pattern he uses here. But generally the child seems very knowing and mature. After a beautiful if brief description of the rice paddies and a heron, the narrator admits he finds the child unsettling and asks the boy why he is laughing.

They talk a bit about the child’s blindness and how difficult it is for the father to help him, though the father denies it. The conversation takes a cold, dark turn as the boy seems to have some foreknowledge of what they are approaching even while the father contemplates abandoning the boy since he’s so creepy. The ending really socks it to the reader, its detailed description of the narrator’s emotions heightening the tension.

The mention of Jizo at the end of the story adds an interesting layer since in Japan, Jizo is the Buddhist protector of children, often depicted as bald and child-like. The children he protects are those who die young or before they are born. Stone statues of him, especially smaller ones, are very common across Japan. Here we have the creepy child whose weight and baldness echo Jizo’s own form so that the father, who is guilty of a crime, compares the child to a Jizo statue at the end.  It adds a really sinister touch to the piece.

Night 4 begins with a bench surrounded by stools out in a wide dirt area near a shining black table where an old man is drinking sake and eating vegetable snacks. He has a white beard, and his face is turning ruddy from the sake. Nearby a god pumps water. I’m not sure who this is, but the figure is referred to as kami-san, 神さん, which is pretty limited in meaning as far as I know. The fact that it’s in a dream makes it even more curious. There are lots of other words for a barmaid if that what she is that could be used here and aren’t.

While he’s drinking, she asks him where he lives and if he is leaving, but he drinks more bowls of sake.  The narrator is a spectator here, and he follows the the old man when he takes the woman’s suggestion and gets up to go. The old man has a gourd hanging from his waist, which is commonly seen in pre-modern East Asian stories, and has a square box on his back.

They arrive at a willow tree where there’s a crowd of a few dozen children waiting, and the old man laughs and pulls out a yellow hand towel from his packs. Putting it on the ground and drawing a circle around it, he takes out a pipe to play, telling the children the towel will turn into a snake. They watch intently as he dances around it, though the towel doesn’t change. Eventually, the old man stops and retrieves the towel, putting it away.

The narrator wants to see the snake, so he follows the old man past the willow tree. He watches the old man walk into the river, muttering drunkenly to himself about the towel turning into a snake. The narrator hopes to still see the transformation of the towel into a snake when the old man eventually comes out on the other side of the river, but the old man has disappeared beneath the water and never re-emerges.

What’s interesting about the imagery here is the Biblical nature of it, which Soseki probably was familiar with since he was well versed in Western literature and studied English at the university, even traveling to England at the turn of the 20th century. During this time period, knowledge of the story of Moses and the Egyptians in Exodus with the rod turning to a snake and the parting of the Red Sea should have been commonly known.

Night 5 is a dream that takes place during an ancient war where the narrator is a warrior captured by the enemy. It includes a detailed description of the enemy leader’s primitive appearance. After the enemy leader sits down outside on an overturned jar while the narrator sits on the ground, the enemy leader gives him the choice to live or die. When the narrator says he chooses death, the enemy leader stands up and pulls out his sword, but the narrator halts him with a request to see the woman he loves before he is executed. The enemy leader agrees, but only if she arrives before the cock crows in the morning, another possible Biblical reference in the string of dreams.

The perspective of the story shifts abruptly away from the narrator to the woman, who is frantically trying to get to the camp in time on her swift white horse. A plot twist ends the story with an explanation that a Shinto female demon is the narrator’s true enemy. I think this dream doesn’t flow as well as the other four so far, though the whole category of dreams generally implies a less than tidy narrative.

Five more nights to cover, and I’ll look at those in the next post.

Part one of a two part series.

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Resolving the Hard Feelings Over the Concubine Xiang Incident – Princess Returning Pearl: Companion in the World of Mortals, Volume 61, Part 2

In the last half of this series selection, the Princess Returning Pearl novel, 瓊瑤全集的《還珠格格:紅塵作伴》, we pick up the story at chapter 56. Most of the chapters have between three and five scenes. Chapter 56 starts off with Xiao Gezi asking Xiao Yanzi if they’re really leaving. I think they may be leaving her behind. Ziwei discovers that her handmaid Jinsuo has arrived. Jinsuo has been looking for them along with another character named Liuqing. A messenger comes to warn them of a crowd approaching the courtyard, and the group decides to flee. They all rush to the carriage, Erkang and Yongqi taking the reins, but Fulun intercepts them and asks the four main characters to come inside and talk with him.

In the next scene, they gather in the small room again to talk about the Emperor and debate returning to the palace. Fulun assures them the Emperor won’t blame them for their actions in the Concubine Xiang matter, that bygones will be bygones. This is the whole storyline in the original TV show’s season two when Qianlong takes a Tibetan princess who is very young and already romantically involved with a bodyguard as a concubine if I recall. It has been a lot of years since I saw the show. Xiao Yanzi and Ziwei were sympathetic to Concubine Xiang and kept her out of Qianlong’s way, and he was furious that he couldn’t be with her due to their meddling.

Fulun said Qianlong heard they were injured and sent a doctor to help them. He says the Fifth Prince is Qianglong’s favored son and Erkang is Qianlong’s favored minister, so Qianlong is eagerly awaiting their return home.  They mention identifying an enemy from another faction who is there to assassinate them while Fulun generally tries to allay the groups’ suspicion of Qianlong. Erkang asks Fulun if the young people can consult together without him present since they’re still quite unsure of Qianlong’s intentions.

In the next scene, Erkang and Ziwei are in a bedroom looking deeply into each other’s eyes while they discuss returning to the palace with Qianlong. Ziwei says she is afraid and doesn’t want to return, and Erkang says he won’t go back if she won’t. Ziwei thinks they should continue to travel south. Meanwhile, in the next scene, Xiao Yanzi and Yongqi are also in a bedroom talking about the situation with Qianlong when her theft of the persimmons also comes up. Finally, Erkang emerges and gives Fulun their answer. Since they don’t seem to want to return to the palace, Fulun returns to Beijing, upset.

The next day at the palace, Qianlong gets the news while visiting the Dowager Empress, his mother. He asks how they are doing, and Fulun says he found them well in Nanyang. Qianlong specifically wants to know about his children Yongqi and Ziwei.

Chapter 57 returns to Xiaojian and the group of young fugitives after Fulun leaves. Erkang thinks they are now free to do as they please, but Xiaojian wonders why Yongqi and Xiao Yanzi don’t want to return to the palace. Xiao Yanzi answers that she now has a brother, wants to travel in scenic areas and learn sword fighting, so she doesn’t want to return. Life in the palace for upper class women was very restrictive, and they were confined to specific parts of the palace only and couldn’t go out like this during that time period. Xiaojian mentions wandering princes in history, and he wonders what will happen if Yongqi becomes king.

Ziwei talks about going to Yunnan, but Jinsuo pledges she won’t leave her but will go anywhere with her, but I think Ziwei objects to this. Erkang and Liuhong consider where to go and ultimately ask Xiaojian if they can borrow Brother He’s house for a wedding. Three days later, everyone prepares for Liuqing and Jinsuo’s wedding at Brother He’s. Then, they all go to Yunnan city’s biggest drinking establishment where they run into Fulun and surprisingly Qianlong himself who has personally come to the city to talk with him. They quibble over how they are using too formal language with Qianlong now, and they all apologize.

This scene continues in chapter 58. The group leaves the drinking establishment and returns to the He household. They tell the rest of the group about their meeting with Qianlong, and the others are a bit shaken to hear about it, but they all eat dim sum and decide to return to Beijing. Xiaojian gets upset and leaves the party with Erkang. When they reach on a mountain, Erkang confronts Xiaojian about some secret he has. Erkang knows Xiaojian has been talking with Xiao Yanzi about avenging their father, so Erkang wants to know Xiaojian’s secret, which he thinks he can guess. It turns out that Xiaojian’s father was a government minister whom Qianlong had beheaded, and Erkang thinks Xiaojian is using Xiao Yanzi to get into the palace.

Later, Fulun and Qianlong visit the He household to meet the whole group, and Qianlong talks with the group and has a laugh with Xiao Yanzi.

In chapter 59 after Qianlong leaves, Xiaojian returns to his room and starts gathering his luggage while Xiao Yanzi watches. She says she won’t let him go, and Erkang asks if he’s sure he wants to. Xiaojian says he wants to go to Beijing with them but can’t. However, by the next section he is still traveling with them and Qianlong on the way to the palace. Qianlong has the four girls in his carriage with him and sits between Xiao Yanzi and Ziwei.

When they arrive back in Beijing and enter the palace, Concubine Ling gathers everyone in the palace to greet them. The four main characters go to the Dowager Empresses palace to greet her, and we have a few intervening scenes into the next chapter with the Empress, the Twelfth Prince and the Dowager Empress.

By chapter 61, the minor intrigue with the Empress and Dowager Empress continues. There’s some drama involving the Empress thinking her young son has left her, but Ziwei brings him back to her, and the Dowager Empress decides to go to visit Ziwei and Xiao Yanzi despite the cold weather. The chapters ends with a high-spirited celebration where Xiaojian has a drink with Qianlong.

The final chapter begins with Xiaojian teaching Xiao Yanzi swordfighting while the others look on and ends with the princesses’ double wedding.

As usual, the book ends with an afterword from the author.

Part two of a two part series.

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Kirkus Review and New Book Trailer for Kumori and the Lucky Cat

My novella Kumori and the Lucky Cat, which is volume 1 in the Lucky Cat Series, was recently reviewed by Kirkus Reviews. Their review can be read here:


Just a few words about the review’s commentary on my execution of the story. I’m not a romance writer, though I do usually have a romantic subplot to my stories. I don’t read or watch romances that often, so it’s not really my dominant interest here. Love in totalitarian societies wouldn’t run a normal course anyway, I suspect, and I had to make some serious artistic choices, especially on volume 2, as to what I wanted to emphasize, the romantic subplot or the main battle that forms the overarching story. I’m fine with the criticism here of the paucity of that portrayal since it fits my own evaluation of my work to some degree.

Complicating matters is the fact that I wrote this series with a certain aim in mind. My friend who recently graduated with a language degree wanted to compare notes between her degree now and my similar language degree way back when, and this story evolved from that discussion. I decided I wanted to write a fantastical story, much like the underground Russian writers I had admired as a student, exploring the general traits of totalitarian societies, the peculiar psychologies, and state violence against their citizens. I was starting with Andrei Bely and Mikhail Bulgakov rather than modern romance writers, and I’m certainly not just re-writing Yevgeny Zamyatin or George Orwell. The idea was to use fantasy and horror to soften the difficulty of the subject matter and make it more accessible; I also wanted to use a fictional world state instead of an actual historical state as a way of defamiliarizing the subject and removing all caveats readers might have if I stuck too close to reality.

I will also have a new book trailer series ready for the release of the last novel around the new year. The Kumori and the Lucky Cat YouTube Book Trailer can be found here:

I also did a virtual book reading a few years ago of sections of this novel that are available on my YouTube channel, too:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I also have a study guide for the Lucky Cat Series History Lessons I’ve been posting on Facebook, with many new links since some have expired. This is not comprehensive but only represents the articles I was coming across in the daily headlines during this summer that touch on themes in the books.

I’ll be releasing the earlier books in the series with new covers once I get book 4 ready, which should be in a few months, so be on the lookout for more announcements about the series coming soon.

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Orphan Acrobats and Fugitive Princesses Performing in Luoyang – Princess Returning Pearl: Companion in the World of Mortals, Volume 61, Part 1

This month’s series features a novel based on an old 1998-99 TV series “Princess Returning Pearl” that was one of the earliest roles Zhao Wei (I think known as Vicki Zhao in US productions) starred in. Fan Bingbing also appears in the series in a minor role. The series appears to have been remade about a decade later, but I haven’t seen that version. The original run of the first version was two seasons, and it was a mainland Chinese-Taiwanese production based on a quirky historical fact about the Qianlong Emperor. The Qianlong Emperor who ruled in the late 18th century under the Qing Dynasty is a very important emperor on the dynastic list, but it turns out he had a kind of odd relationship with an adoptive daughter, and that fact forms the core for this series. I did hear later about some controversy over the series where the descendants of the historical figures in the story didn’t like the series, but I don’t know what the ultimate result ever was on that.

The basic premise of the series is that precocious, orphaned street urchin Xiao Yanzi (which translates to Little Swallow) befriends a well-bred young girl her same age named Ziwei who was raised by a single mother, and they decide to become blood sisters. The blood sister ritual means Xiao Yanzi takes on Ziwei’s last name if I recall, and it comes out that Ziwei’s mother told her her father was the Qianlong Emperor from a brief affair she had with him. The mother has tokens from him to prove this, and Xiao Yanzi and Ziwei hatch a plot to get her before the Emperor to have him acknowledge her as his daughter.

Because Xiao Yanzi is the more physically capable of the girls and the Beijing Palace has some patches in their security that they can breach if Xiao Yanzi climbs up the side of a mountain to his leisure park, she promises to take the tokens up to the Emperor via that route and then have him send for Ziwei. However, things don’t quite go as planned since the Emperor and his sons are deer hunting in the leisure park at the time Xiao Yanzi decides to climb up. She is shot in the chest by the arrow of the Fifth Prince, Yongqi, her ultimate love interest in the series. Because of this, the Emperor discovers the interloper unconscious and near death, sees the tokens she carries and assumes this is his long lost daughter! Xiao Yanzi is horrified when she awakens and realizes she is trapped in this lie, and the Emperor presents her to the people as Princess Returning Pearl. Meanwhile, the true princess Ziwei has to be brought in to serve her as her maid since deceiving the Emperor could mean execution if they are discovered, and they don’t know how to tell him the truth with death potentially being the consequence of the mistaken identity. Both girls find their love interest among the princes of the palace, though I forget Erkang’s exact title; he becomes Ziwei’s partner.

The four main characters Xiao Yanzi, Ziwei, Yongqi and Erkang from this series were the models for my four main characters Bingsong, Weimudan, Azuma and Zhijian in my gothic ghost story The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak. I just played them a little straighter for the darker horror genre, though here the story is a romance/comedy. It has been a long time since I saw it, but it is one of my favorite Chinese TV series.

The series of telenovels based on the TV show was written by Qiong Yao and runs to at least 62 volumes, and this post’s selection is volume 61, Princess Returning Pearl: Companion in the World of Mortals (瓊瑤全集的《還珠格格:紅塵作伴》), which was published in 1999 and covers pages 1171 through 1447. Some of the popular series novels have continuous page numbers from volume to volume, which is why we don’t start with page 1. Here is the cover showing Yongqi and Xiao Yanzi.

I found this page that has the author’s complete collection for this series reproduced in Chinese as an online novel (traditional characters):


You can read along with me starting on this page:


It’s probably available like this because it’s out of print, which would be typical for East Asian books.

Starting with the opening chapter, the untitled chapter 51, it is split into two scenes. The first scene is set in Luoyang, one of the older capitals from an earlier Chinese dynasty, and the characters we meet include Xiao Yanzi, Ziwei, Yongqi, Erkang, Liuhong and Xiaojian. They return to the courtyard of an inn, happy that their street performance was a success. Xiao Yanzi is particularly proud of herself and gushes about their performance and the money they made.

This provokes a fight between Xiao Yanzi and Yongqi over his princely status, particularly because the performance was before the Chinese public. Erkang and Ziwei try to calm them down, but Yongqi also pulls Xiaojian into the situation. Erkang tries to intervene in that argument, too. Xiao Yanzi finally admits she made a mistake, and everyone leaves Erkang and Yonqi alone in the room. Erkang tries to advise Yongqi on the way he handles Xiao Yanzi, warning Yongqi that since he is an important person, his anger can hurt her since he can have her executed.

Meanwhile, Xiao Yanzi is talking in the bedroom with Ziwei about how angry Yongqi makes her. Technically, Yongqi is Ziwei’s half-brother brother, and Xiao Yanzi asks why Ziwei pities him. Ziwei says it’s because he left his gold and silver nest to sleep with Xiao Yanzi in a grass nest and notes how mean Xiao Yanzi is. This refers to the class status difference between Yongqi and Xiao Yanzi.

For some reason, Xiao Yanzi goes to the kitchen to get an axe, and she takes it outside. Ziwei follows in alarm. Xiao Yanzi brushes Ziwei off, but Erkang also sees her and asks what she’s doing. Xiao Yanzi says she’s going to the mountain to chop wood, but he tells her there are tigers on the mountain and that it’s not safe to go there. He tries to persuade her to go shopping instead. Yongqi is sitting nearby, and Ziwei asks him to go with Xiao Yanzi to chop wood, but Xiao Yanzi doesn’t want him to go with her, and she and Yongqi argue again, mostly about her low status. Erkang tries to intervene and talk some sense again into Yongqi. Xiao Yanzi finally apologizes, and Yongqi tells her he loves her, but she says something inappropriate that makes him go red with either embarrassment or anger, I’m not entirely sure which.  

The second scene in this chapter continues later that day. After some more quarrelling among the group, Ziwei and Liuhong go to the kitchen to make and serve food, and they talk about all of the dishes the three girls like to make. Then they go back out into Luoyang to perform. Xiao Yanzi performs specifically with Xiaojian, but the performance is disrupted by Noble Li from Beijing who has recognized them and wonders if the Emperor knows where they are and what they are doing. The group of young people evades Noble Li and takes off in a carriage over the plains, driven by Yongqii and Xiaojian. Erkang looks out the window of the carriage, thinking about how far away the imperial palace in Beijing seems.

Chapter 52 has four scenes, and the first scene shows the palace back in Beijing. A messenger named Balang goes to the Empress’ pavilion, and he’s whisked in to give her a report. He has been investigating in Luoyang and the whereabouts of Princess Ziwei – by this time in the series, the identity of the true princess has been revealed to the Emperor – but he describes the scuffle.

The Twelfth Prince is also there at the meeting of Balang and the Empress, and I recall that he’s pretty young and the Empress’ own son. The Fifth Prince, Yongqi, is around late teens to 20 years old, so there are seven sons between him and the twelfth prince, though all through different concubines. The Twelfth Prince is therefore around 10 or 12 years old.

The boy thinks his mother wants to murder the Fifth Prince, Xiao Yanzi and the others, and he threatens to tell on her to another member of the royal family, Huangama. He asks why she would want to kill Ziwei and Xiao Yanzi since they are good to him when no one else in the palace wants to play with him. The Empress is nonplussed at this and protests that he misunderstands. She claims it was Huangama who actually wants to kill them.

In scene 2, Ziwei and Xiao Yanzi are going down the street to an inn, and there are a few 11 or 12 year old girls in the street performing acrobatics. A crowd has gathered and is watching them as they perform more and more challenging moves. Xiao Yanzi and her group clap and get the crowd’s attention. They talk about collecting money then leave with the girls.

In scene 3, the story continues with the group in Luoyang. A little time has passed, and the group has less and less money and more and more children gathered around them. They are buying the children clothes, bathing them, and feeding them. Asking how long it has been since the children have eaten, the children respond it has been 2 days. The girls don’t really have personal names, but Xiao Yanzi and Ziwei give at least one of them the name Xiao Gezi, or little dove or pigeon. Scene four just shows them all getting up early the next morning and heading off to Nanyang in the carriage with Xiao Gezi.

Chapter 53 has 6 scenes. In the first scene, everyone is quiet in the carriage for awhile, but when the conversation begins again, they ask how long Liuhong knew Xiao Yanzi. She says they met seven years ago. It comes out that Xiao Gezi is 12 and one of them, maybe Xiaojian, is 15. They talk about their earlier experiences with Xiao Yanzi.

In scene 2, Erkang is sitting on the mountain in a pavilion. He has been looking for Xiaojian, whom he finds sitting there playing the flute. They talk about the carriage and the girls. Erkang argues with Xiaojian since he doesn’t seem to want to return to the carriage. Xiaojian says he can’t bear being around Yongqi. Erkang explains that Yongqi has a prickly personality that particularly comes out when it comes to Xiao Yanzi. Xiaojian says that he and Yongqi are enemies and could never be friends. Erkang asks Xiaojian if he likes Xiao Yanzi, but Xiaojian says he loves her a lot just the same way he loves Ziwei! It isn’t romantic. After that statement, Erkang convinces Xiaojian to return to the carriage with him, but they find it’s gone.

In the next few scenes, the carriage enters a forest of fruit-laden persimmons trees. When Xiao Yanzi sees them out of the carriage window, she calls to stop the carriage and has the girls get out with her so they can pick some of the fruit. However, a farmer’s wife catches them and scolds them, and Ziwei protests that they really didn’t intend to steal the persimmons and would pay for them. Meanwhile, Xiaojian and Erkang catch up to the carriage.

Scenes 5 and 6 shift back to Beijing. Noble Li returns to give a report on the kids’ whereabouts to the Emperor Qianlong and Concubine Ling. Qianlong is shocked to hear of the Fifth Prince and Princess Returning Pearl’s antics in public, and Concubine Ling asks if Noble Li saw this with his own eyes. When he says yes, Qianlong sends him back to Luoyang. He is particularly concerned to hear that Erkang was injured. Then Qianlong goes to the Empress’ pavilion to chat with her about the matter.

Chapter 54 has only 2 scenes, and it returns to Erkang, Yongqi and the rest of the group finally arriving in the city of Nanyang, a city not that far from Luoyang. Xiaojian has a friend here, and he goes to the He household to meet with him. He introduces the group to Elder Brother He, and they chat awhile. After they settle in at the house, Erkang asks Yongqi if the war between him and Xiaojian can end. Xiaojan comes in a few minutes later and joins the conversation, and things get a bit rowdy.   

In scene 2, everyone is sitting in the small room listening to Xiaojian talk about his secret. He asks Xiao Yanzi if she remembers Baiyunguan, but she doesn’t. He says this was the name of the Buddhist nun who brought her up when she was a child in the convent. Xiao Yanzi says she remembers the convent but not the nun’s name. She remembers another woman named Jingzhi Shitai, which he recognizes, and this solidifies their bond as brother and sister. They decide they are truly related.

Xiaojian tells her about their father and mother, who are part of the jianghu life and were killed by the family’s enemies. Jianghu refers here to the martial arts community, and the reference shows up a lot in the Chinese martial arts genre. I should do some Jin Yong here at some point since he is the predominant martial arts author, and maybe I’ll think about adding him next year, but his writing is really dense and uses a lot of specialized written characters that sends me to obscure places to decode. But this jianghu connection is why Xiao Yanzi flies in this series. She’s involved in the martial arts where this is a normal experience.

Xiaojian and Xiao Yanzi talk about their family’s enemies and vengeance, which is another hugely important topic in East Asian culture generally, but Xiaojian says he has already gotten revenge upon them.

In chapter 55, the 4 scenes continue with this new revelation of kinship. In the first section, Xiao Yanzi can’t sleep since she is still marveling about having a real brother, and in the second section, Xiaojian also can’t sleep. The next morning, he talks more with Xiao Yanzi on the mountain about their parents. Their father’s name was Fang Tan, and he was a talented scholar-warrior, but the details he gives about their mother are scanter. Both parents are dead. Xiao Yanzi wants to know the names of their enemies. They both are really excited at discovering they are related, and she wants to study playing the xiao flute like Xiaojian does.

Everyone goes to Nanyang later that day. Xiao Yanzi gushes on and on to everyone about her brother and the fact she now has a real name, but the other girls in the group laugh and tell her they already heard this 300 times. Later they eat and drink together in a pavilion while Xiaojian plays the flute. The chapter closes with them going to the street in Nanyang to sell artwork or maybe it’s sell their performance services, I’m not sure which since the term is a little ambiguous, but it’s more of the same.

We’ll finish up the book next time.

Part one of a two part series.

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Insulting a Monk and Searching for a Gisaeng – Land, Vol.5, Part 4

I’m going to quickly finish up this volume of the second story arc of Kyeongni Park’s Land series (박경리의《토지》) this post so I can stay on schedule. Generally, I really like this second story arc better than the first since the second generation of characters has some nice moments and intriguing twists to their situations.

The next chapter of part 3, “Seokinyeo,” follows some new characters that I’m not interested in, so I’m going to skip that part. The following chapter, “Men,” returns to cover Hwan’s plotline, and he goes with Kansui to Yoon Tojip’s house where Yoon’s wife is having her 60th birthday party. The garden is peaceful and deserted, but they are drinking in the house. In reality, the special milestone birthday party is just a pretext for the Tonghak Party leadership to gather.

The room is wide, and ten or so people are sitting around it. Hwan and Kangsu sit down with them as Yang Jaegun opens the meeting with a speech. Yoon Tojip then speaks, and Kwansu rebuts his comments.

In the chapter “The Butcher’s Family,” this scene continues in the first segment with Hwan at Yoon Tojip’s house listening to an explanation of the Tonghak faith as well as details about the Tonghak party. However, the Tonghaks don’t attract as many people to their services as the Buddhist services do.

The second segment of the chapter features Yoon Tojip and Hyegwang requesting Kwansu help them find Bongsun. They ask if he knows where she is, and he says he knows her address. The house they are visiting has a garden with cows and cowhides, and Hyegwan repeats the Buddhist invocation to the bodhisattva Guanyin in response since he is most likely a vegetarian.  A young woman and child are in the kitchen. After discussing Bongsun, Kwansu asks the monk where he’d like to spend the night and if the butcher’s house would be okay. Hyegwang gets so angry, his face turns scarlet, and he calls Kwansu a fool over and over again. He rants about getting a knife and killing Kwansu, and one of them actually does grab a knife. Kwansu admits he made a mistake, and the scene ends with Hyegwan invoking Guanyin again.

In the final chapter of part 3, “Accompaniment,” the first of three scenes features Kihwa, which is Bongsun’s adult name as a gisaeng. She is going to Seoul searching for the city’s notable gisaeng house. Hyegwan sees her, and they chat. Sanghyeon also comes along and greets her, mentioning a letter he got requesting a meeting. In the next scene, it shifts to the previous night when Sanghyeon was looking for Kihwa with the help of Seo Widon. The two men argue and talk about Seohui and Gilsang’s marriage back at the Choi Champan household.

In segment 3, Kihwa and Hyegwan walk together on the road the next day. He has been in Seoul for five days and reflects upon her transformation into a gisaeng. She talks to her dead mother in a soliloquy, stating she wouldn’t have become a gisaeng had her mother still been alive but Bongsun had no one else to rely on. A whistle sounds, and there are farmers in the field. The characters plan on visiting Mount Myohyang when they return to Pyeongyang, though Hyegwan doesn’t explain to Kihwa why they will go there.

As an aside, let me note that Mount Myohyang is of course in modern day North Korea, and here is a tourist page with photos to get a feel for the location:


Part 4 starts off with the chapter, “Tomb on Mount Myohyang,” and the scene continues with Sanghyeon searching for Choi Seohui’s house. Hyegwan talks with him then escorts Kihwa to the Choi Champan house where Seohui is reading the paper. Seohui sees them approach, and they chat. When she invites them in and they sit down, she asks if they encountered any trouble on the road, and they explain that they want to go north to Mount Myohyang. Seohui asks why, and it turns out they are looking for her mother Byeoldangasshi’s grave there. Seohui turns a bit cold at this news and wants to know why they are looking for that. She also reminisces a bit about seeing Hyegwan running errands when her grandmother Wife Yoon took the palanquin to visit Monk Wugwan at the temple.

Hyegwan makes a comment about drawing a picture of the thousand handed Guanyin at the temple for Monk Wugwan, and he asks where Gilsang is, but Seohui says Gilsang isn’t there at the moment. My readers may recall that Gilsang grew up in the temple and painted their icons, so the connection between his thought and Gilsang is rather natural. However, her guests are shocked since they expected Gilsang to be home after news of their marriage.

Seohui asks the monk if he’d like to go to the detached house and rest then surmises correctly that Bongsun is now a gisaeng, which they cry a little over. Kihwa says someone, maybe Gilsang, went to Seoul because he was going to Japan to study. None of the dialogue is tagged here as usual, and it’s hard to figure out who is talking and who is being referred to. The word 그분은 is used here to make matters worse, and it translates to maybe “him” but definitely “that person.” Vague, but interesting. They talk about Seoul and their memories for a bit, and soon dinner is served.  During the lively conversation at dinner, one of the women refuses to continue on with the group to Mount Myohyang.

In the next chapter, “Meeting,” the story shifts to Gilsang for two scenes. In the first scene, he returns to an inn in Hanyang, or Seoul, after having dinner. I don’t know why they switched to the city’s old name suddenly or if it’s a proper name of the inn itself rather than the city. A servant tells him not to come to Huiryeong.  Gilsang is lonely even though he is now married and part of a couple. Although a loving person, Choi Seohui is now a lonely wife. Okineo comes to talk with him a little about her child Oki. They are interrupted by a visit from Monk Kohyang, who brings news of Bongsun.

In the second scene, Gilsang talks with Wolseon over drinks, and she mentions that Bongsun has arrived in town with Monk Hyegwan.  Gilsang goes to Monk Hyegwan’s rooms and meets with Bongsun and surprise guest Seohui, who has traveled with them to see him and arrived unannounced.  Gilsang is dumbfounded to see her there and approaches the room where the women are waiting to see him in a cold sweat. Before the end of the chapter, he gets to talk with Bongsun about her new life in Jinju even as he and Seohui look at one another.

Gilsang Visiting With Seohui and Kihwa

In “Tenacity and Solitude,” Kihwa and Seohui are outside together, discussing whether they should visit the temple and mentioning something going on with Kim Hunjang.  Nothing really happens, and Gilsang is not present. The women just spend time together.

In the chapter’s second scene, Kihwa meets up with Wolseon, Yong Lee and Imineo. I’m skipping that scene and the last three chapters since they follow different characters whose storyline I’m not as interested in. Then in “Father and Son,” it shifts to a nameless father and son talking about the king among other minor characters.

The last chapter returns to the strange love triangle between Yoon Yibyeong, Geumnyeo, and Kim Dusu. It goes into how Yoon Yibyeong was excited about finding Geumnyeo but felt disillusioned with her since he’s a timid sort of man. She was sympathetic to him since she escaped Kim Dusu’s pursuit, and the chapter here mainly focuses on their relationship with the school. Geumnyeo ends up teaching hangul at a Korean school in Yeonchu. Yoon Yibyeong goes to the school, though it may not be the same one, and he writes a letter. Geumnyeo enters the classroom later, and they talk about how they are a couple now and whether their relationship is secret since it’s illicit. At the end of the book, the last few sentences describe how Geumnyeo picks up her shawl and leaves, while Yoon Yibyeong goes to Yeonchu the next day.   

Part four of a six part series.

Next time: We return to China with the telenovel Princess Returning Pearl!

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The Mendicant Priest With the Gong and the False Heir – Land, Vol.5, Part 3

Next, we turn to the second story arc of Kyeongni Park’s Land series (박경리의《토지》), and volume 5 consists of three parts. The first part is the final chapter of Part 2 “Love and Hate” from volume 4, which covers “Seohui’s Hospitalization.” Part three has nine chapters and is titled “Jirisan Men,” and part 4, “Yongjingcun, China & Seoul”, has only six chapters. Like all of the books in this abridged version for teens, the volume is only around 200 pages.

In “Seohui’s Hospitalization,” the volume starts off with a short scene with Gilsang and Seohui at the hospital in Huiryeong. An attendant is putting sterilized gauze on a wound, and Gilsang is talking with Seohui, though she doesn’t remember fainting and being injured. Gilsang tells her not to move and prepares to sit by her overnight.

As she sleeps, he listens to her breathe. The attendant comes in at dawn and greets him, asking Gilsang if Seohui will become his wife. When Gilsang leaves the hospital, he meets Wolseon outside, and she tells him she met someone odd on the road who reminded her of Kim Pyeongsan who had already been dead 10 years. She said the man’s name was Mr. Yoon.

In the next segment of the chapter, the story turns to Yoon Yibyeong and Kim Dusu as the men head toward a traditional inn together, talking about Wolseon and the shaman’s household. They mention Iminyeo having Wolseon’s former love Lee Hong’s son and how ugly and fated that was. When they arrive at the inn, they get a drinking table and talk about an assortment of women, including Choi Seohui who they note lives in Pyeongsari and doesn’t typically come to Yongjing, then their paramour Geumnyeo whom they are fighting over.

The next part begins with the chapter “The Mendicant Priest With The Gong” as Chang Deokkung and Kyeong Bokkung gather in the morning in Gahoe-dong in Seoul. It’s still breakfast, and a guest has come looking for one of the monks. A monk is sitting near a paulownia tree, but Lee Sanghyeon goes in and sits down at a desk to read a book. He does meet with the monk Hyegwan, and they discuss Seohui as well as others in the Choi Champan household, mentioning Bongsun’s stay at the temple and noting that Seohui is already twenty and is still unmarried. They discuss her marriage to Gilsang. By the end of the chapter, Sanghyeon goes with the monk to the Namdaemun district to drink with him.

The next chapter, “Ferryboat,” shows Hyegwan boarding the ferry and sitting down in it. Someone asks the monk if he’s comfortable, and Hyegwan tells him not to be late. Three farmers are also on board the ferry when it sets sail. They talk with a character named Bonggi, while Hanbok from earlier volumes, now twenty, is also on the boat, thinking about his dead mother. The ferry docks in Pyeongsari, and Bonggi and Hanbok get off. Hyegwan watches them walk along the bank toward the village road in the distance. The farmers sit and smoke, continuing their conversation, while Hyegwan looks out over the valley where Hwan lives and picks up his pace.

In “Sangcheongjang’s Murder,” Hyegwan sees Hwan at midnight on a windy night. This first segment of the chapter is short and expresses regret. The second section shows Monk Wugwan talking with Hyegwan in a low voice about Wife Yoon and the Choi Champan household. I guess Wife Yoon left the Choi Champan estate to her son Hwan, which they are explaining to him now. He just listens to them without commenting. They do acknowledge that Seohui has the status as the sole blood heir of the Chois, while Hwan is the son of Wife Yoon’s rapist, Monk Wugwan’s brother. Then the conversation turns to the slaughter of the Tonghak Army and the skill of the legendary Hong Gildong.

In the chapter’s final segment, Hyegwan and Hwan leave for Kangsui’s straw-thatched house where they have breakfast and meet Cheon Sebang. Kangsui and Gwan go into the mountains and stop at a peddler’s inn late at night.  They drink and talk about the troubles with the Tonghak army. A strange rumor spreads about a Japanese robbing a store and tying up a couple, and there is a stabbing as a result.

The next chapter, “The Colony’s Young Men,” starts off with a group who just ended a Japanese lesson in the main or men’s quarters of the household of Hwang Chunbae. The house’s owner, Hwang T’aesu, is dressed in a traditional Korean overcoat and trousers, which at this point in time isn’t automatically done as more modern, Western fashions have also taken hold. Three men are in Hwang T’aesu’s room, and Im Myeongbin is the Japanese language teacher. This section gets into Im Myeongbin’s father working as an official government interpreter at the time Cho Junggu was around. The story then connects the characters Hwang Chunbae, T’aesu’s father, with Cho Junggu, who borrowed money from him using his land title as security. By the end of the chapter, the men talk about seeing a beautiful woman.

In “Kihwa,” the story develops in three more segments where Sanghyeon returns to Seoul and hears about finding Bongsun at a gisaeng house in Jinju. Kim Sebang joins him in checking out the theory. Hyegwan had heard the news and hoped to meet Bongsun at the temple, but she doesn’t come.

When Sanghyeon and Eoksui reach an inn on the road, they only stay the night and push on to Jinju, staying at Yeonhong’s house. They go to the old gisaeng house to find Bongsun but are told at first she isn’t there, but she calls out to them herself from the garden. The door suddenly opens, and she cries when she sees him. They go into a room and sit down opposite one another to talk. The third segment, now with stormy weather moving in, continues with Bongsun, who is now known as Kihwa and lives in Seoul with the character Seo Widon.  

Next time, we’ll finish up this volume.

Part three of a six part series.

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Battle in the Underground Well and Storming the Irie Clinic – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.3, Part 2

This week, I’m wrapping up the rest of Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 3 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編 (下)”).  Most of this just follows the anime, though I think it has much more detail where the Yamainu is concerned. The Yamainu is made up of Ogonoki and many others who have the code names of Phoenix, Skylark, White Heron, and 鶑 paired with a number. I can’t find that latter character in any dictionary, so it must be pretty obscure unless it’s too small to see where the lines really are attached.

The place where we left off last time picks up with Rika and Shion discussing a popular song on the radio and observing a car accident. Kasai, their driver, slows down and exclaims that it’s Dr. Irie. They debate whether they should go to the clinic or to the Sonozaki house to hide out. Later, the Yamainu turn their attention to the Sonozoki house.

It comes out in the next scene that both the Sonozoki house and the clinic have underground rooms, but the kids go to the secure underground shrine at the Sonozokis’. The scenes rapidly switch between the perspectives of the kids and the Yamainu at this point.  The Yamainu prepare a plastic bomb to break into their hiding place and discuss Rika and her friends. The blast, which would be heard throughout the village, was set for 10 o’clock.

Meanwhile, in the underground room, each of the kids goes down a ladder deeper into a cave while Mion shines a light down for them. Irie and Tomitake don’t go down with them. The Yamainu also has some access to the cave apparently through a small hole that they flash a beam into. I think they can hear the kids talking, too.

Rika begs Akasaka to help them, and he eventually engages in a karate fight with Ogonoki that Rika witnesses somehow for a few scenes. It’s very detailed. Rika applauds Akasaka’s attempts. Eventually, Shion is told that Satoshi, Satoko’s older brother whom she was in love with before his disappearance, is still alive in the underground facility at the clinic. Irie admits that the boy is still alive, however, while they could cure Satoko’s Hinamizawa Syndrome with medication, Satoshi’s case proved more difficult to deal with.

One of the many nice interior sketches

There are more sections with Takano’s side of the plot dealing with the Yamainu and Nomura in Tokyo. The next one shows the Yamainu talking about her, referring to her as “the princess” and referencing another call from Nomura to her. Takano goes into a meeting with Tomitake where she tells him she planned to kill him that night, but rather than alarming him, they talk about a lot of different things like if she’s satisfied and the money she received. He also brings up her former life under another name, Miyoko Tanashi, the little girl she was before her parents died. Takano ponders if that girl will ever return.

The rest of this chapter then goes back and forth between scenes of the Yamainu on the mountain starting their hunt for the children, who are now their primary enemies, and the kids setting traps and getting help from a number of adult men who are either policemen or bodyguards. The movements of individual Yamainu agents are also tracked in this sequence.

The chapter “Storming the Irie Clinic” starts with Mion talking about surveillance with Tomitake on the mountain, but ultimately Irie, Kasai, Shion and Akasaka go to the clinic to try to get in. They think the Yamainu should be there since it would normally be examination day, and the group plots how they can get into the underground facility at the clinic where Satoshi is supposedly staying.  The four of them do eventually reach the entrance to the underground facility and go in, but it sets off a siren, forcing them to fight their way to Satoshi through a spray of bullets. Shion is very grateful when they reach him. At the end of the chapter, they try to figure out how to keep him safe for the duration of the conflict.    

The next couple of short chapters returns to Takano at the foot of the mountain and gives a blow by blow narration of the kids fighting with the Yamainu. The group from the Irie Clinic also returns to join the fight there.  The story concludes with a two page black and white drawing of the back of the group of kids clearly emerging as the winners against the authorities in their battle with Takano.

Sketch depicting the children’s win

Following this climax, there is a long section titled “The Cotton-Drifting Festival” that details the outcome of each of the protagonists once the festival is held without further disruption after the battle. Brief mention is also made of the Self-Defense Forces who intervened in the situation from their base camp on Mt. Fuji; I seem to recall when I was reading one of the novels from an early story arc that Hinamizawa is actually situated in the region near Nagoya, so that’s not outrageously far for troops to come from Mt. Fuji to deal with the crisis. The summer ends, and Mion and Keiichi are back in school studying. Satoshi never recovers from Hinamizawa Syndrome, though Shion stays at his side. There was talk of shutting down the Irie Clinic even though Dr. Irie was still respected by the villagers. It reviews the fate of all three policemen, Tomitake and even Hanyuu before it finishes with a reflection on the events of Showa 58.

Then we have two poems by Frederica Bernkastel on opposing pages, one black and one white. The first one with the black background starts off with “Everyone has the right to be happy,” while the second one with the white background starts off with “But from now on there are things that will make you increasingly happy.” So they are concerned with finally reaching the resolution of Rika’s repeating struggles against Takano through multiple timelines and defeating her fate of dying as a murder victim while in middle school.

The end of the novel has a lot of short, interesting sections, starting with “The Irie Facility Coup d’Etat Incident Report (Draft),” which is a disciplinary committee report signed off on by the mysterious Nomura from Tokyo. It has a lot of short sections detailing the background issues of Manual 34 and the money Major Takano and First Lieutenant Ogonoki were getting, among other details about the clinic and its major players, including Irie himself though he turned on them in the end.

Takano is turned over to a disciplinary committee to determine her punishment while she is recovering from a serious illness after her capture. Ogonoki’s unspecified punishment is mitigated by the fact he cooperated with the committee and explained what happened. Irie is merely dismissed as clinic director with no further details provided. I personally think all of that sounds pretty tepid in response to their crazy plot, but then this timeline didn’t result in them actually implementing Manual 34 and killing the whole village like the other story arcs show. Therefore, it’s a little difficult to process that ending since the readers should have had the gruesome murders and high body count burned into their brains by now.  This story’s presentation really plays with the reader’s emotions in an effective way, but now it’s a letdown to some degree with the single storyline where the deaths don’t happen. That’s what good horror is supposed to do, but can you imagine if the last story arc was the only one telling the whole story? It’s the multiple false narratives that give it the necessary weight and drama by the final resolution.

Next, we have the author’s brief commentary on the epilogue about Rika’s family called “The Dice Killing Chapter” as well as a word about how strong faith led to a happy world for Showa 58, concluding after 100 years for Rika and 1,000 for Hanyu.

There’s a bonus section after the author’s afterword that has a couple of provocative segments. The first segment is titled “A Forbidden Treasure ‘The Demon Hunting Willow Cherry,’” and it features a special item from the age of the gods stored in the Furude shrine’s ritual tool shed. This item was a special sword handed down from a time when humans and demons mixed on earth, and it had demon-destroying power.  This section goes deeper into the treasure’s relationship to banned books and the Furude clan.

The second and final section of the novel is “Children’s Lunch Flag” where a young Miyoko, Miyo Takano when she was a child before her family tragedy, is at home and is considering going with her parents to the department store on the train instead of playing with her friends. She is only called “Miyoko” in the dialogue once, but everywhere else in the long series of passages, she is referred to as “the girl.” She is playing a game with flags and a secret fortress, but in the end she decides to go on the outing with her parents and departs with them to the train station. The story cuts off there, though in the anime, we see Miyoko with Frederica Bernkastel (say Furude Rika really fast to get Frederica, because this is some spiritual, future version of Rika in her adult form) as she makes this same decision to go along with her parents in the accident that killed them instead of staying behind like she did in all of the other timelines and surviving them. It’s a dramatic if more enigmatic ending to the novel.

Now that we’ve finished this series, I’m going to amend my 2019 schedule since I’m falling behind and will skip the next volume of Queen Seondok until 2020 to try to catch up. Next, I will return to the Literati Corner.

Part two of a two part series.

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