Friday, September 30, 2011

Ryukyu pine

Recently, I had a little free time and I needed to get some walking exercise. I started out by going down to the aquarium near Dolphin Port (25 minutes) and visited the ferry terminal next door. Unfortunately, this one was just for Sakurajima, so I continued past the aquarium to the next terminal a block farther on. This one included the ferry to Amami island. As I was looking over the map outside, trying to figure out where Amami is, a guy came out of the building to smoke a cigarette. I asked him about travel times and was told that Amami is about 12 hours away by boat. He suggested Tanegashima, the island that has the rocket launch pads, as an alternative, but that's still something like 5 hours away. Since it was already 4 PM, I gave up on taking the ferry somewhere and just started walking up the coast in the direction of Sengan-en. My ultimate goal was just to check out the beach just short of Sengan-en. With the side trips I took and stopping for photos, it was 20 minutes from the ferry terminal to the beach. The beach looked like a typical strip of sand with a roped off swimming area. There were a few swimmers, some windsurfers, and a couple guys farther down along the coast snorkeling. Sengan-en was another 6 blocks past the beach. Because of the car traffic backed up at the lights, the narrow sidewalk, and the dirty air right beside the cars, I turned around and headed back at this point.

About 4 blocks back, I suddenly noticed this lantern across the street from me. Earlier, I'd walked right past it without realizing it. From the marker:

"Landmark for Ryukyu Ships
Ryukyu Pine
...Famous tree, 142 years old...
Here at Iso, there used to be a famous pine with magnificent branches that looked as if they held the nearby stone lantern in their arms. It was known as the "Ryukyu pine" because it formed a landmark for ships arriving from Ryukyu (Okinawa). The hill behind was also famous for its cherry blossom and was a favorite spot for sightseeing from ships. The pine, however, was attacked by insects after World War II and died.

On October 2nd, 1953, the then Mayor, Katsume Kiyoshi, cut down the pine and had several Himematsu planted in its stead. One of these can still be seen to the left of the stone lantern. The original ryukyu pine was said to have 142 growth rings.

On May 15th, 1973, to commemorate the first anniversary of Okinawa's reunification with Japan, Naha City presented Kagoshima with a new Ryukyu pine which now grows on the righthand side of the lantern."

(Photo of the original pine.)

I pretty much went nonstop back to the apartment. Total trip time was between 3 and 3.5 hours. Taking it in stages makes it easy, but going directly from the beach to the apartment left me really tired. Especially since the humidity was fairly high. No idea what the temps were, but they weren't that crippling. Maybe high 80's. At 2:30 AM the following morning, there was a heavy rainstorm, so maybe the air was heavy during the walk.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Muuryou no Hako, vol. 1

(All rights belong to their respective owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Muuryou no Hako started out as a novel by Natsuhiko Kyogoku in 1995, and has since been turned into a manga (2007, Kwai magazine), an anime and a live action drama. Kyogoku has quite a few mystery novels published, and two of them have been turned into movies. "Mouryou" translates to "all kinds of spirits and ghosts", and "hako" is "box". So, the simplest English version of the title is "Box of Ghosts" (although I have seen one site calling it "Box of Goblins"). This is actually the second in the 9-volume Kyogokudo series, featuring the spirit exorcist/bookstore owner/amateur detective Akihiko Chuuzenji. The first volume, The Summer of the Ubume has been translated into English by Vertical, but it's got a number of bad reviews for being too long, talky and convoluted. In essence, you can think of Akihiko Chuuzenji as kind of a stay-at-home Sherlock Holmes, battling against the Japanese tendency to cling to superstitions and folktales. Natsuhiko also wrote "Requiem for the Darkness", which is one of my favorite anime.

The manga was drawn by Aki Shimizu, who doesn't look anything like her self-portrait.
She may be best known in the U.S. for her manga Qwan, published by TokyoPop.

The artwork on Hako is surprisingly good, if you're looking for atmospheric effect. Each of the oddball characters look indeed oddball, from the jealous students to the rural hospital nurse, creepy entourage to the strange doctors. The backgrounds are all clean and highly detailed, and while a lot of the story takes place in the dark, it's not murky or hard to distinguish what's happening. The story starts out slow, and gradually unfolds. It's not action-driven, but it is compelling.

Yoriko Kusumoto is a quiet, mousy 14-year-old girl in junior high. There are at least three ugly classmates that enjoy bullying her from the shadows and spreading rumors. The classmates are shocked one day to see the perfectly beautiful Kanoko Yuzuki approaching Kusumoto and inviting her to go home together. They quickly become friends, spending late hours out dancing in the train yards, but Kusumoto is concerned about why Kanoko wants to hang out with her. The pretty one declares that they are actually one and the same, when one dies, she reincarnates as the other and vice versa, in a kind of simultaneous fixed-in-time loop. As a symbol of their one-ness, Kanoko ties a thread around Kusumoto's wrist. At home, Kusumoto's ugly, twisted mother complains about her daughter's staying out late and demands that she stay away from the troublemaker. Kusumoto goes berserk and claims that Kanoko is the only friend she'll ever need. Soon after, Kusumoto meets up with Kanoko outside of a remote train station at the Tokyo outskirts (Musashi Koganei station), and notices that the other girl has been crying. Kanoko talks about ending it all, and Kusumoto notices what the reason for her distress may be - the perfect Kanoko has a pimple at the base of her neck. As the last train for the night approaches, Kanoko steps in front of it.

(Kusumoto's image of a reincarnated life with Kanoko (left).)

On the train, the big, stocky Detective Kiba is sleeping on a bench. He's jolted awake by the sudden braking, and then finds himself having to interrogate a small 14-year-old school girl in order to determine if it was an accident, or a suicide attempt. The girl, Kusumoto, just keeps repeating that the beautiful victim had been upset over having a pimple.

(Kusumoto and Kiba.)

The victim is pulled out from under the train, and only her head remains undamaged. Kiba objects to this disturbance of a potential crime scene, but the girl is still just barely alive and is taken to the closest hospital (Mori no Mitaka). Kusumoto learns that her friend is still alive and begs Kiba to take her to the hospital. The detective ropes a local patrol cop into driving them out several miles into the woods. It's a big, rundown, rusty building. Inside, the desk nurse is a grotesque ratty-looking woman that initially tries to turn them away for not being part of the victim's family.

The rural patrol cop tries to impress the big-city detective by starting up a conversation, but is brushed off. He tries again by talking about an actress that had performed a version of Natsume Soseki's "Sanshiro" in the area some years ago. Kiba used to carry a photo of the actress in his wallet, and is startled to realize that the victim and the actress look a lot a like. A few minutes later, a tall guy in a white suit comes up and tries to chase the police off, saying that only family is wanted here. He's followed by a wimpy little guy in a white shirt and tie, who identifies the suit as Masuoka, and himself as Noritada Amemiya. The two newcomers wait apart on the chairs in the waiting room. Eventually a tall, attractive woman arrives and apologizes to Kiba for the inconvenience. He blurts out that she's the actress, Minami Kinuko, and she replies that she no longer goes by that name. She's now just Youko Yuzuki (Youko is written with the kanji for Youshi, "proton"), Kanoko's older sister. She adds that Kanoko isn't going to die.

(Toriguchi, Atsuko and Tatsumi, on stumbling into the police cordon of the square building.)

The scene switches to an editor's office, where a meek-looking novelist, Sekiguchi Tatsumi, is sitting as his editor tries asking a strangely elegant slit-eyed man, Kubo Shunko, to fact-check Tatsumi's latest manuscript. Kubo agrees, saying that he's going on a trip but will be able to easily go through the 100 pages in 10 days. Kubo whispers something into Tatsumi's ear and then leaves. Despondently, the writer returns home, commenting that he supplements his income by writing for a true-crime magazine for Kasutori Publishing. Inside, his Kasutori editor is sitting at the dining table happily eating the dinner that Tatsumi's wife is setting out. Toriguchi Morihiku had been there, waiting, for 3 hours for the writer to come back. He says that the dismemberment murder that had been written up in the morning newspaper, with one arm being found, now has both legs turning up in an iron box. Toriguchi wants to scoop the newspapers, with a story written by "Itsumi Soki", Tatsumi's penname for work for Kasutori. Tatsumi remembers Kubo's whispered words - "Soki should be careful with what he writes for Kasutori", implying that his cover's been blown. The two go out to the lake in Mitaka where the legs were found, but the detective that Tatsumi knows there that he could talk to, Kiba, had been acting strangely recently and hasn't been seen for several days. Unable to pump the other officers for information, the two get ready to leave when they bump into Atsuko Chuuzenji, a writer and sister of one of Tatsumi's friends. The three of them get into Toriguchi's car to return to Tokyo and get to talking about a different dismemberment case that had occurred earlier in the year, (the current year being 1952) and get lost. Looking at the map they realize they're almost in Yokohama, and take a dirt road to turn around, when suddenly they're surrounded by police demanding to know why they're at a restricted area. Kiba comes marching up and interrogates Tatsumi, who notices a famous actress, Kinuko Minami, standing on the stairs of a big square building (maybe a hospital) in the distance. And thus ends Tatsumi's bad day, of Aug. 30.


Half a month goes by and Yoriko is trying to decide what happened to Kanoko, if she went to heaven or something else. She decides that the only good option is if she's still alive. She remembers what the actress woman had said, but right after that her mother had burst into the hospital and tried to attack her, demanding to know what she'd done wrong this time. Kiba steps in to protect the girl, reprimands the mother and sends them both home. The next morning, a beat cop drops by to take a statement, but Yoriko has nothing to add, and is disgusted by how her mother fawns in front of authority. She says it would be best if her mother were dead, and the woman accuses her of being possessed by Mouryou. Three days later, a Shinto priest arrives and attempts to exorcise the building, claiming that he can sense the spirit of the woman's husband, a yakuza who'd disappeared a while ago. The priest announces that he's captured the spirit in the cabinet he carries on his back, but the woman wants him to remove Yoriko instead.

This fails and her mother becomes a complete wreck, just sitting in the middle of the floor. Yoriko notices that it's now Aug. 31 and she uses this as an excuse to demand money for school supplies. Her mother woodenly complies, and recoils when the girl grabs the bills from her. Outside, Yoriko attempts to have a civilized moment at a tea shop, but it's just not the same without Kanoko. Suddenly, she decides that Kanoko must have been pushed from the platform, and goes to a police box to say so to the beat cop that had driven her to the Mori no Mitaka hospital. He questions her memory now, since 2 weeks have gone by, but he takes her statement anyway, about a guy in black, his face hidden. She suddenly asks if Kanoko is still alive, and the cop remembers what had happened after the girl's mother had dragged her from the hospital. Kanoko was brought out on a stretcher and loaded into a car. The actress, Youko, had asked the cop and Detective Kiba to drive her in the second car. They get to the main road, and take a little dirt path turnoff into the woods. A few minutes later they came out in a clearing in front of a giant square building. The little cop is so surprised he drives into the first car. But, Kanoko has already been taken inside.

(The hunchback and the actress.)

As he was looking at the damaged truck, a hunchback followed the stretcher through the doors, and a dour-looking older man closed the steel doors and locked them, leaving the cop outside. Suddenly, the chimney stacks belched out smoke and the cop suspected that the girl was being cremated. Back in the present, Yoriko asks if Kanoko is still alive, and he prevaricates, saying that he hadn't heard that the surgery had failed. Yoriko goes crazy, crying and demanding to see her friend. The cop tries calling headquarters but is rebuffed. He then tells the girl to track down Kiba and ask him for help. The cop states that Kanoko apparently is in danger from someone and is now under police protection, and Kiba is part of the detail. Out at the square building, Kiba is sleeping on a bench. He gets harassed by Ishii, a senior officer from the Kanagawa HQ, who then tells him he has a visitor. Kiba meets the patrol cop who has Yoriko in tow. The three of them go inside the building, where all the doors are made of iron, and barred shut. They go to the third floor where Youko is standing in a room in front of a table covered with papers. She's looking at a note that demands money in exchange for Kanoko's safety. Yoriko repeats her story of Kanoko being pushed. Kiba notices the hunchback, Suzaki, in a corner and asks him to leave. The hunchback grins evilly at the actress on his way out.

(Kusumoto doesn't handle reality well.)

The Yuzuki's are rich, and Masuoka, the rude guy from the Mori no Mitaka hospital is probably their lawyer. Yoriko elaborates on the supposed "guy in black", giving him slanted eyes, like Kubo Shunko's. Amemiya, in trying to calm the girl down, tells her that Kanoko often talked about her as a dear friend. He adds that she was shunned as a child, and only seems to have been attracted to Yoriko. All along in this story up to this point, Yoriko has been subject to great waves of anger or hatred, and right now, she goes bugged eyed and whispers "it's a lie". but only Kiba notices, and he looks away fast out of shock. The group goes to a makeshift oxygen tent in a store room in the basement and there's Kanoko hooked up to lots of machines. Yuzuki seems to look up and mouth the letter "yo", and Yoriko has to be restrained from grabbing the patient.

The head of the hospital, Koushiro Mimasaka, arrives and has the hunchback prepare for the surgery, but there's a clattering noise and then silence. Mimasaka yells for the hunchback, then tears the tent wall away - the bed is empty, the tubes and wires are scattered around and Kanoko is missing. Yoriko takes this as a sign of good things to come.

The scene changes again to a shady figure digging up a corpse in a graveyard and putting the scraps in a box. The figure wakes up, and wonders if the dream is warning him that his treasures are about to be found. The scene switches once more, to a rundown set of buildings on a hill, where one rustic place has "Kyougoku Residence" on the front. Inside, manuscripts are piled along the walls up to the ceiling, and a very serious man sits at a table and drinks tea while reading a book.

Summary: In 1952, a series of body parts start showing up around Tokyo. Meanwhile, two strange girls form a pact that is tested when one of them either jumps or is pushed in front of a train. Detective Kiba has to determine if there is a crime, and is strangely disturbed by a buried memory regarding a former actress. Fun stuff and interesting character designs. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mineral Rot

Along the road out to Sengan-en, just past Gion-no-su Park, there's a resort hotel. I'm not sure if it's just a love hotel, or perhaps a short-stay onsen (hot spring spa). It's pretty rundown in any case. Being in front of a saltwater bay may not have helped it much. There's a pipe running from one wall, letting hot water spill into the little dish here before running under the sidewalk into the drainage culvert. There's a symbol of the back of the shrine for "onsen" and the water is probably piped up from underground for the spa. I make this assumption based on heat coming off the water, and the damage the minerals in the water has done to the steel grating.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gion-no-Su Park

(Construction plans for Tamaebashi.)

When the 5 stone bridges sitting over the Kotsuki river, the ones commissioned at the end of the 1800's, were being pounded by floods in the latter 1900's, there was a decision to dismantle them and move them rock by rock to a park a few miles north, near the bay. Actually, the park is less than a mile from Sengan-en. In a way, the park does triple duty. First, it houses 3 of the 5 bridges plus a nice little museum for them. Second, it's the site of two of the three cannon batteries that were used against the British during the Anglo-Satsuma War (the others are in Tempozan and at the aquarium). And third, it has several memorials to local leaders and the cenotaph for the war dead. The park itself is 2-3 square blocks and has a small playground for children, plus it is right next to a golf practice center. Half of the bridges there are over stagnant water, since the little river running from the bay into the park turns into a sludge patch during low tide. Two other bridges have artificial wading pools under them and are a lot nicer to look at and get close to. (Note that while only three of the old Kotsuki bridges are here, there are 2-3 other bridges added as well to span over the culverts and streams.)


The museum building is next to the golf practice center and is 2 stories. The top floor has displays of Kagoshima City circa 1890 when the bridges were built. The lower floor has exhibits on the construction of the bridges and displays of how the rocks were cut and finished before being hand carried into place. Entry is free. And, the building is right next to a clean pool of water running under the principal bridge, where you can soak your feet if you like. I would have taken more photos but my camera battery died at this point.


(Old park photos.)

(Gate that used to stand at the foot of one of the bridges at the Kotsuki.)

(And the bridge just past the gate. The museum building is just to the right on the other side of the clear stream.)


"13,240 total war dead
The Cenotaph of the Imperial Army in the Seinan Civil War
...The grave of the imperial soldiers. A reminder to people of the tragic Civil War...
The Seinan Civil War has been described as birth pains of a modern nation. In this tragic conflict, the Satsuma Army, headed by a hero of the Meiji Restoration, Saigo Takamori, battled the Imperial Army repeatedly for seven months. On the Imperial Army side deaths numbered approximately 6,840 and on the Satsuma Army side about 6,400 lives were lost. The total number was more than 13,240. A great many people lost their whole families as well as their homes.

Even in Kagoshima, the last battlefield of the Seinan Civil War, a large number of soldiers died. Among those, 1,270 Imperial soldiers were buried here in Gion-no-su. Their tombstones were set in rows, but gradually went to ruin. Therefore, the bones of the soldiers were gathered and moved to a crypt in 1955. In front of the crypt a monument remains, built by people from Aomori Prefecture who participated in the Seinan Civil War in 1878. This cenotaph was constructed at this site in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Seinan Civil War.

In the tower, the statue of "Unity" lies on the top of the three statues which express "Sorrow", "Pain" and "Agony", symbolizing the relief of the people from pain and the attainment of people. The halos of the statue "Unity" symbolize the sprouting buds of the new tree of a new era."


"The one and only battle
Gion-no-su and the Site of the Cannon used against the British
...Japan learns her first lesson and the hands of a foreign power...
The name "gion-no-su" comes from the Gion Shrine (Yasaka Jinja) on the mouth of the Inari river. Popular with successive Satsuma lords, it became one of the five great shrines. The Gion Festival, which imitates the festival of the Gion Shrine in Kyoto, still provides Kagoshima with a magnificant Shinto parade.

This area used to be Gion Beach, but Zusho Sirosato who reformed the clan under the 27th lord, Narioki, reclaimed this land for use as a military garrison.

Later, the 28th lord, Nariakira, set up a battery here, which was used in combat against the British. Satsuma opened fire in British ships at noon, July 2, and within three hours both sides had suffered great losses. It was then that the British ship, Race Horse, which had been attacking the battery in Gion-no-su, went ashore right in front of the Satsuma soldiers' eyes. However, the battery had already been destroyed by the superior British cannon, and the soldiers could do nothing but let the ship be rescued.

It is said that British casualties numbered 63, and those on the Satsuma side, 13, but the city was in ruins. Having experienced first hand the disparity between Britain's power and their own, Satsuma led the way in opening Japan to Western countries."

(The wall in the background is part of the last remains of the cannon battery walls.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Xavier's landing in Kagoshima

Francisco Xavier made his actual landing in Kagoshima about half a mile north of where Dolphin Port is now. The location is part of a community center that has a soccer field right next to the monument. When I arrived at 4:40 PM, there were several cars and minivans pulling up to let troops of school kids out in bright orange and black uniforms to play against each other. The sky was overcast for most of the afternoon, making for non-ideal photography conditions.

From the marker:

"A life devoted to God
Monument to the arrival of Francisco Xavier
...His faith survived hunger and persecution...
The Pope's Jesuit envoy to East Asia, Francisco Xavier, became in 1549 the first Christian missionary to Japan. Setting sail from Lisbon for India, Malacca and the Moluccas, Xavier eventually arrived in Kagoshima with six other Jesuit missionaries having survived hunger and epidemic on the way. Their guide to Japan was a Kagoshima man, Paulo Yajiro, who had joined them at Malacca, and on reaching Kagoshima they were welcomed by Lord Shimadzu Takahisa, who allowed them to continue their missionary activities unhindered.

In a letter back to Malacca, Xavier praised the Japanese as "extremely courteous and good-willed; not ashamed to value honor above riches", but he later met with opposition from Buddhists, and after only ten months in Kagoshima moved on to Hirado. Xavier is especially remembered for his love of children, through whom he sought to spread the Christian faith.

This monument by Louis Francen of Belgium was placed here in 1978."

(Illustration from the historical marker.)

There is a sign from the main street pointing down to where the monument is located, but it is off the beaten path for tourists, so I doubt that most people in Kagoshima are aware it exists anymore.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September edition of the "related articles in the media"


For those of you who like Ishikawa's (Moyashimon) Chaste Maria, volume 2 is coming out on Oct. 7. The regular manga will be 570 yen, and the special collector's picture volume will be 1500 yen.

Personally, I like Akihiro Itoh (Geobreeders). I'v been adding to the Itoh database, putting in pages for Lawman, Take the B Studio Complete, and Wilderness. You can get to them from the About Itoh page.

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from September, regarding anime, manga and related stuff. Again, the Japan Times seems to have discarded their manga reporter, and the Daily Yomiuri has only a fraction of the stories they used to carry. All of the slack is being taken up by the Asahi, which is averaging close to a story a day. The Metropolis has become a complete waste of ink, and even in the rare case where they carry something anime-related, it's not worth noticing (bleh).

Generic New News

Japan Times

Izumi Matsumoto interview (Kimagure Orange Road)

Museum celebrates life of Doraemon creator

Daily Yomiuri

Distinctive anime genre has something for everyone

Otaku love: An alternative route to improved Japan-China relations?

Remote hobby museum offers visitors close encounters with fabled figures

Manga museums preserve precious cultural tradition

Doraemon Museum Review


Puffy to guest star on "Usagi Drop" anime on Sept. 1

Digital Content Expo to be held in October

Big names sign on for 'Un-Go' anime series

Okiura's 'A Letter to Momo' to premiere at Toronto film fest

Amusement park to host Evangelion escape game

May'n to sing 'Phi Brain' theme tune

Live concerts featuring Hatsune Miku to be released in November

Nadeshiko Japan captain stars in new manga novel

XEBEC to produce 'Flower Declaration of Your Heart'

Japan Expo sets up website to honor late anime master Satoshi Kon

Bandai opens website for anime character-themed confectionery

Kadokawa's new 'Primero' manga label targets female readers

Fukushima plant was scary 32 years ago, says manga author

Upstart Anime Bunko label to release initial 3 titles

Second of two-volume "Evangelion" illustration collection due out in October

3rd 'Evangelion' reboot to hit cinemas in fall 2012

All episodes of 'Madoka Magica' now available on conventional and Android phones

DeAgostini to release weekly 'Gundam Perfect File' pictorial magazine

Help is at hand for those who are new to Akihabara

Live adaptation of Ouran High School Host Club to hit cinemas next spring

Idols, anime to promote Japanese manufacturers in Asia

Kyoto tram features K-ON images

'Future Boy Conan' to be released on Blu-ray in November

Kyoto manga museum features German comics

Three main voice cast members of 2012 'Berserk' feature film revealed

Exhibition highlights Oscar-winning creator Kunio Kato

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sakura-jima Ash Cloud

For two weeks, during the middle of September, the wind shifted and blew the ash from Sakura-jima over into Kagoshima. This is what it looked like from the outside, from 20 kilometers to the south.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kagoshima Rubber Stamps

It's been a while since I last wrote about collecting rubber stamps. I may have mentioned the one above, but I'm too lazy to go back and check, and doing a file search on mediafire didn't turn it up as a previous upload. Anyway, the above stamps came from the Kareigawa train station, just north of the Kirishima airport, when I was there in April.

The Kagoshima Natural Science Museum, just to the north of Central Park. Most of the stamps here came from places described in the Galleries and Museums post.

More from the Natural Science Museum, plus the prefectural library a bit father east, and the Meiji Restoration History Museum along the Kotsuki river south of the Kagoshima-chuo train station.

The Kagoshima Art Museum, between the natural science museum and the library.

Houzan Hall, at the east end of Central Park.

And the Olmec exhibit stamps at the Reimeikan. Actually, the Olmec exhibit was pretty impressive, although I haven't written anything on it so far. Running from July 29 to Sept. 3, it cost 1500 yen ($18 USD) for adults and you can't use any of the standard discounts for it. For the most part, it's an interconnected series of rooms with lots of explanatory text and a variety of examples of the Olmec civilization, from pottery, jewelry and weapons to building construction and culture. The centerpieces of the exhibit are a big stone head carving, and charcoal rubbings of stone pillar engravings. There's some silliness as well, such as being able to have your photo taken with a foam rubber Olmec head on, and getting an Olmec astrology reading off a computer. I think the best part for me was the Mexican goods stall set up in front of the exhibit entrance. I bought a large jar of pickled jalapeno peppers for 500 yen, and now I can have actually spicy food when I want it. Very nice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Taimashin, Vol. 3

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Taimashin, Vol. 3, story by Hideyuki Kikuchi, art by Misaki Saitoh, Grade: B+

Taima and Jingo attack simultaneously, with Taima taking a needle to the chest and Jingo getting stabbed in the eye that is covered by a patch. However, Jingo is the one that goes down. Taima claims that he knew where he was going to get hit and had protected himself in advance. He praises the other guy for doing so well, but Jingo is starting to leak blood. Then his skin explodes to reveal that he's been a demon all along, and had gone to school disguised as a human in order to learn how to seal other demons. Jingo is prepared to keep fighting, but the woman - Shinobu - recovers and begs them to both stop. Jingo disappears and the three remaining humans go into the basement chamber, which is packed with books and computers.

(Jingo and Taima.)

On a table is a demon mummy, and nearby is the burned remains of the top half of a demon, plus a demon statue. Ayakashi speculates that Jingo has been using the statue for controlling the other demon that's rampaging upstairs. As they stand there, Shinobu starts talking about her family's heritage, how many, many generations ago they had learned to master the demons. At that time, demon masters would call the demons to do work, but those brought to this world could never return to their own, and a battle resulted with demons eating practitioners and practitioners killing demons. Which brings them to her mother, demon fighter Taki Touka.

(Jingo lost.)

Taima wants to know about the spell the Touka family is using to control demons, and Ayakashi asks whether Taki is really dead. Shinobu acknowledges that the two are well-informed and agrees to keep talking. Meanwhile, back in the house, Mizuki enters Mayu's room and tells the girl that Taki wants to talk to her. Mayu realizes that her older sister has changed, and the woman answers that yes, the old Mizuki no longer exists and that she's joined their grandmother's side. And it's now Mayu's turn. The old woman is sitting in the middle of a huge room, and says that a danger has arisen. Mayu's mother, living in the tower, has learned of Taki's true form. Mayu is unsurprised, saying that she's known her grandmother is dead.

(Jingo really losing it.)

Taki wants to know when her secret was blown, and Mayu answers that when she was 5, she'd woken up in the middle of the night and seen demon shadows hovering around Taki's body in bed. She was still half-asleep and didn't know enough to be scared at the time. And in the tower, Shinobu says that they've now become protectors of the demons, since about the Heian era 800 years ago. Back in Taki's room, Mayu is being taught the demon sealing chant, which includes begging the demon to switch hearts with her, which is what she'd seen happen to Taki when she was 5. She asks if her grandmother and sister can be returned to her, and Taki replies that she'll soon join them.

In the tower, Ayakashi gets worried for Mayu and prepares to return to the house, but Shinobu also turns into a demon, traps their shadows so they can't move, and prepares to attack them. In the house, Taki suddenly screams in pain, holding her leg. Mayu tries to run, but Mizuki grabs her by the back of the neck, only to find a needle piercing her own hand. In the tower, Shinobu is also rolling around with a needle in her ankle. Jingo steps out of the shadows, and sticks Shinobu in the back with another needle. Ayakashi starts to go for the stairs up again, and Jingo says that Mayu is ok - he'd put a protecting needle in her neck for just such an emergency.

(Remembering when Taki had died.)

So, the girl should be safe, although she's still outnumbered. Mayu is now running through the halls of the house and she finds her path blocked by the frog priest, Garama, who is dripping wet. However, the priest is on her side (he'd just been taking his bath, fully clothed), and they get into a limo and drive out from the house. They get attacked by Mizuki the flying demon, but Maki Togetsu, Taima's assistant, comes roaring up on her bike to escort them. Maki disperses Mizuki with her own needle. In the tower, Jingo uses 2000 needles to seal Shinobu's body, and urges the other two to leave them in the tower and return to the house.

(Shinobu attacks.)

(And then she doesn't.)

Taima reaches the point where Mizuki was defeated and the trees have all been leveled. Shinobu wakes up enough to be controlled by Taki to use her shadow attack again, but Taima had left one of his own needles in her and she falls fully unconscious again. Taki arrives in person to fight full out, but Taima and Ayakashi both stick her with needles and she warps away to safety after spraying them both with black blood. Ayakashi wants to know what the next plan is, and Taima laughs at how dirty the guy's face has become. Maki uses her cell phone to tell her boss that they're returning to the hotel, but their path is going to take them to the ruined village. Taima says he's worried about the runaways and heads for the Jaguar.

(Taki loses her cool.)

Summary: Scary demons seem to the norm in these parts of Japan. But Taima and Ayakashi are unfazed by it all. Recommended.

(Taki blows up.)