Notes for Discommunication Seireihen chapter 5

v1.0.2, 2010-09-06
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Page 115

The title page features images from Toriyama Sekien's famous Gazu Hyakki Yakō series. Published in the late 1700s, these artworks have had a lasting influence on how yōkai (Japanese demons, spirits, and monsters) are visually portrayed. The hyakki yakō, or "night procession of a hundred demons," has been a popular theme for Japanese artists through the centuries. Often the subjects portrayed are tsukumogami, something we will come to later in the chapter.

Illustrations from left to right, top to bottom: These can all be found in the works listed on Toriyama Sekien at Wikipedia, but not all of them have the images put in yet. Japanese Wikipedia has them all, though.

The white-on-black sign at the bottom is Ueshiba telling you to buy Discommunication.

Page 116

The dog logo is "Vita-one-kun," mascot for the Vita-one brand of dog food. Owned by the creatively-named Nihon Pet Food Co., this brand has only been around since 1960. I couldn't find any commercials.

The trumpet logo is for Taiko Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.'s gastrointestinal medicine Seirogan. Its first major use was during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, and the trumpet logo dates from 1972, though it seems the trumpet was always on the box somewhere. They've got commercials.

The pentagram on Matsubue's lantern is the Doman Seiman, the Seal of Abe no Seimei. (This is another reference to Natsuhiko Kyogoku's "Kyogokudo" series of novels.) He has a sort of mitsudomoe on his shirt.

Page 117

I couldn't find anything on the web for this logo (tsukimiyagan?). The others were all really easy to find, so this is either some dead brand that didn't make it to the digital age, or a clever pun on an existing one.

Tengu are another kind of yōkai, often known as "crow goblins." As the Wikipedia article notes, the tengu myth somehow made its way from China (where it was originally a "heavenly dog") to Japan, where it is mentioned first as a "heavenly fox" and then later as a man-bird sort of creature.

Page 124-125

Though I've used the word "guards" here, the toy soldier uses the term sakimori. The sakimori were border guards conscripted from all over Japan after Japanese forces were defeated in the Battle of Baekgang in 663. Worried about retaliation from Tang China and the Silla Koreans, the Yamato Court ordered the conscription of guards to defend areas of Japan susceptible to attack from the continent, a system that lasted until 826.

"Mikogami" literally means "Shrine Maiden Goddess." It's the sort of unwieldy construction kids would come up with, and adding the honorific prefix o- and the honorific suffix -sama, as we'll see sometimes, makes it even more childish.

Page 127

The eight characters written on the castle are what the Buddha said upon his birth: "I alone am honored on Heaven and Earth."

Page 128

Edogawa Rampo, penname of Tarō Hirai (1894-1965), was a famous writer of mysteries. His penname is a romanization of "Edgar Allan Poe," whom he admired.

Page 130

The poster to the left says Amaterasu, who is one of the principal Shinto gods. I haven't yet figured out what the poster on the other side says, and what the wooden planks are.

Page 136

Tsukumogami are objects that gain a soul after being around for 100 years. Drawings of hyakki yakō often have tsukumogami as their subject, and their existence dates back to the 14th century or earlier. You can see some historic drawings here and in this paper:
Lillehoj, Elizabeth. Transfiguration: Man-Made Objects as Demons in Japanese Scrolls. Asian Folklore Studies 54(1):7-34, 1995. (JSTOR or #1042 here)

Page 140

Machida's Octopus Cupping Balm (tako no suidashi) is a patent medicine for skin problems, first sold in 1913. The octopus logo that Tsugumi wears on her head is for this product. In a paper titled "Illness Experience and Therapeutic Choice," Akihito Suzuki notes that OCB was used for "tumors, boils, abscesses, acne, and similar skin problems." He further writes that the active ingredient in OCB, copper sulphate, would break the skin over a swelling and let the pus drain; "the medicine is conceived as a chemical octopus, so to speak, which sucks the pus out of the eruption and heals it."
Suzuki, Akihito. Illness Experience and Therapeutic Choice: Evidence from Modern Japan. Social Science History 32(4):515-534, 2008. (DOI)

Page 141

Toys in the panel with Touko:

Page 142

More random references on this page: The War of the Worlds, Licca-chan, Robby the Robot. "Kyogokudo" refers to a series of novels written by Natsuhiko Kyogoku. As for who Kyusaku Shimada played, it was in this movie.

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