8.16.2007

Demon Child, Commentary

Demon Child, Commentary.
from Ono Fuyumi's Mashou no Ko.
by Kikuchi Hideyuki.

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In the realm of the Japanese horror novel, which has heretofore been unable to compete with those of the West, a powerful new weapon has finally been forged.

Perhaps it's going along with a worldwide trend, but what's interesting is that the activity of a woman writer is especially remarkable.

It can be said that the author of this book Demon Child, Ms. Ono Fuyumi, has arrived gallantly on the frontlines of horror and is a most active new addition.

Though it's being published as a volume in Shinchou's fantasy novel series, this book is thick with the smell of horror. And yet—and I'll touch on this later—it hasn't lost the dignity of fantasy. It's a wonderful mixed-genre novel.

Hirose, returning to his alma mater as a student teacher, in the midst of students not much younger than he is, finds a young person that gives people a mysterious impression.

Something about the young person named Takasato just doesn't fit in—no, it should be said that his existence in this world itself is inconceivable to others.

Hirose is intrigued by him, and immediately discovers some strange facts. All those who oppose Takasato or fight with him come to suffer from successive accidents that could be called "retribution." The cause could more or less be found in Takasato's "spiriting away" that lasted a year. Hirose keeps trying anxiously to find the truth, and deaths occur before his eyes time and time again.

Despite this, Hirose still doesn't give up on Takasato, nor does he attack him, because he himself holds a similar secret. As it were, this is a time when a mysterious woman and beast begin to run wild...


"Spiriting away." —What a fascinating topic!

A person who abruptly vanishes one day, suddenly reappears another day under similar circumstances. What did he (or she) do during that time?

All you need to do is add some enigmatic supporting characters and strange phenomena to it and you've got an unbeatable story. Merely writing a commentary like this about it gives me the chills. Just choosing this theme is proof enough of the author's great sense in the art of fantasy literature.

Incidents where his classmates are hurt or killed keep happening around the protagonist Takasato—as the story progresses, their severity slowly becomes tragically heavier. In most writing, showy action can happen at any time in a given plot, but the author isn't really interested in that.

Demon Child is a rare work that captures the dark side of the human soul.

The protagonist is being cut off from the world and sinks gradually into solitude. People start off abusing and hurting him, and when they find that not to work, they chase after him, and in the end they even seek his death. The author mercilessly reveals the pursuit of egotism between the two characters. By linking with a woman's touch the psychological portrayal to a reserved depiction of the scene, she carves out very well the isolation of the protagonist Takasato, who has mistakenly returned to this world.

All of us have probably had the experience of suddenly waking up in the middle of night and being bothered by an intense loneliness. The thought at that time, the voice of our hearts is likely...

Why am I in a place like this?

That is to say, we all exist in the wrong place. If that's due to the intentions of others, then humans are eternal exiles—a banished people. The Flying Dutchman could never find a place to land, but in our case, we find ways to endure it, and thus it can be said that the end is even harder to manage.

Rejected—by his friends, his neighbors, his father and his brother—and willfully neglected by his own mother who even wanted to kill him, Takasato's lonely frustration is the despair in our own hearts. Is there really no place where we can live in peace? In a world that is all wrong, does there exist in the dark corners of our memories even a shred of the Shangri-la to which we originally belonged?

If we come to the end without knowing that, it could still be considered a rescue. But what about those who know the truth? —Those who've seen with their own eyes the world, beautiful and vivid as a dream, like that described at the beginning of this work, and are stuck in the deepest layers of their memory, will never be able to release themselves from the shackles of this world.

An unusual young woman and a strange beast appeared by Takasato's side and unleashed a cruel massacre. I'm not going to introduce them all one by one for the reader, but the first one was a classmate who after falling down was trampled to death, the second a group that committed suicide by jumping from the top of a building. Each slaughter was more terrifying than the last, and while the author thoroughly depicted it all serenely (women are frightening), it never falls into the trap of splatter writing (even though the factors are all there for it). It so splendidly achieves a coexistence of the grace of fantasy and the shudder of the horror touch, because the author explores the insecurities at the very base of ourselves by means of the protagonist.

While we know that we're living in a world we shouldn't be living in and we're looking for the world in which we should, we also realize there is no way for us to return there.

I want to ask of the author.

Where are we supposed to go?




I would like to add something for the readers who have no interest in the occult or paranormal phenomena. "Spiriting away" happened all around Japan up until around the 30th year of the Shouwa era [1955].

There were many such cases of people who vanished completely one day without warning, some of whom returned after a period of time.

It probably corresponds to the unexplained disappearances of today's setting. Usually it's attributed to the stress of modern society and the rate of people being found is much higher than that of "spiriting away," but perhaps there are some cases that really are the work of supernatural forces.

In a famous example from the Kan'en period (1748-1751), a merchant in Oumi entered the bathroom of his home and didn't come out for a long time. A maid servant who had been waiting for him thought it strange and called for someone to open the door. Her master had unexpectedly disappeared.

There's a continuation to this. Twenty years later, the sound of a person calling out came from that same bathroom. Members of his family hastened to it, and found the man himself squatting in the same position as he had been when he went missing. They asked him where he had been and what he'd done for those twenty years, but he didn't know. His hair had turned completely white, and the kimono he'd been wearing while eating had crumbled virtually to dust. Later on, strange things kept happening around him—it sounds pretty interesting, but no one knows what happened afterwards.

An instance from overseas is the disappearance of David Lang, a farmer from Tennessee. This was a famous incident that happened right in front of several eyewitnesses, and a great many papers were written on the subject. Even in regards to reality, it's enough to pique people's curiosity, but it could also be considered the perfect theme to be handled by way of fiction.

I have no doubt that this book, Demon Child, as a herald for things to come, will fascinate many scores of readers.

While watching The Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost",
August, the 3rd year of Heisei [1991].


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