Issue 6: J-Book Review
Q: What do you answer when Kuchisakeonna asks you if she’s キレイ or not?
rong answer! You just got your mouth slit from ear to ear! Kuchisakeonna ain’t no ordinary ‘onna’, rumor has it that she goes around wearing a surgical mask to cover her mutilated mouth asking people if she’s キレイ (pretty) or not and will slit your mouth from side to side with a lovely pair of scissors. Kuchisakeonna is in fact one of many『妖怪 (ようかい、monster/ghost/demon)』that haunt Japan and can be found in Shigeru Mizuki‘s book『日本妖怪大全 (にほんようかいたいぜん)』.
As a fan of horror movies (ギニーピッグ anyone?) I always loved stories about monsters, ghosts and demons and how they came about. There’s something intriguing about the mysterious and unexplained and we all have this primal instict rooted inside of us needing to know the unknown in order not to fear it. We try to find explanations for everything even if it means that the explanation itself cannot be explained. Monsters and ghosts come forth from this tradition and while every country and culture has its own terrifying collection of monsters, none maybe so strange and bizar as Japan’s…
If you’re a real otaku and the name『Shigeru Mizuki (水木しげる)』doesn’t ring a bell, you might just need to check yourself back into otaku-school again. Shigeru Mizuki is the creator of the famous『ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (GeGeGe no Kitarō)』manga series which was published back in 1959. It featured a whole variety of yōkai and proved very popular among its readers that it quickly adapted into several anime, live action movies as well as a variety of video games. Shigeru Mizuki’s passion for yōkai and the popularity of GeGeGe no Kitarō laid the foundation for『日本妖怪大全』, a complete works of Japanese yōkai.
Stranger than strange
We all know that Dracula sucks you dry and only a silver bullet blows a Werewolf’s brain out, but what do you do when you come face-to-face with a『口裂け女 (Kuchisakeonna)』? Or what does『あかなめ (Akaname)』do in your bathroom? From the more well-known『雪女 (Yukionna)』and『灯無蕎麦 (Akarinashisoba)』to the non familiar『機尋 (Hatahiro)』and the downright bizar『疱瘡婆 (Hōsōbabā)』, everything is covered in this almost 500-pages counting encyclopedia about Japanese monsters, ghosts and demons, although hand novel seems more appropriate since it’s about a quarter size of an A4. A very impressive 425(!) yōkai are covered and each page features a richly detailed illustration hand drawn by mr. Shigeru Mizuki himself.
Unlike the previous book review, this book is written for Japanese people and weighs heavy on Japanese culture and folklore. For me it’s definitely not an easy read I admit, as the book is littered with specific words and phrases not to mention a lot of kanji with special readings, but then again, I like a good challenge. My only slight ‘complain’ is that I wished the book were a little bit larger, it is a bit on the small novel-ish side. So this book is recommended for all you advanced readers out there with an interest in Japan’s many strange and often unique yōkai and Shigeru Mizuki’s many signature drawings inside the book are a real pleasure to look at.
And in case you’re still wondering what you should answer when Kuchisakeonna asks you if she’s キレイ or not…
It’s: “I don’t know”
It confuses her and before she can think what to say next and kill you with a pair of scissors, you have time to escape!
• title: 日本妖怪大全・水木しげる
• pages: 498
• dimensions: 15 x 10.5 cm
• extra: n/a
• language: Japanese
• publisher: 講談社 (Kōdansha)
• order: http://www.amazon.co.jp
• ISBN: 4-06-256049-6
• special Chokochoko rating: 75%
used image source: 日本妖怪大全・水木しげる