Friday, March 27, 2015

Shiori and Shimiko, vol. 3 review

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

Shiori and Shimiko (2008), vol. 2, by Daijiro Morohoshi, Grade: A-


Petto no Sanpo (Taking the pet for a walk)
Shiori encounters a nice, older woman that needs to run some errands and she asks her to take her pet for a walk. The pet's name is John, and it knows the route to follow. The only problem is that "John" is invisible, and tugs on its leash like it weighs 200 pounds. Shiori needs extra weight so she calls Shimiko for ballast. John drags them into another world, where the two girls have different adventures. In this other world, John becomes visible as a 6-foot tall monster made up largely of a mouth with teeth. In the end, John drags the two girls back to their world, where they meet the older woman. She gives them tiny keychains as thanks.

(Shiori's trinkets defend themselves from Shimiko's shellfish.)

Zakka no Senso (Sundries War)
Shiori and Shimiko find themselves in a strange shopping arcade and end up buying junk they don't need (Shiori gets some small trinkets and Shimiko buys a big seashell). They bring their finds to Shiori's house, where it turns out that Boris has stopped eating food. As the two girls puzzle out whether the cat has found a new master to mooch off of, the trinkets begin waging a war with the seashell. Things start getting out of hand, until Boris runs in and smashes everything. Picking up the broken pieces, they find a flier that they'd been given in the arcade, but had ignored until now. They check out the address and discover it's called Neko-ya (Cat Shop) and is being run by Boris in human form, with an assistant. The assistant buys a bento dinner, and the two eat it, thus answering the question of why Boris isn't hungry at home anymore.

(Betty plays with the Zeno household staff.)

Zeno-Okusan (Ms. Zeno)
The normal-looking older woman is back, and has asked her friend to take care of one of her other pets for her. Shiori and Shimiko meet Dan'itchi's big faced wife, and learn that Mrs. Dan'itchi is the woman's friend. They get suckered into taking the pet, Betty, on another walk. Betty drags them to the woman's house. She apparently is named "Zeno", and her two housekeepers are hairy objects that look like Thing from the Addams Family. They give up, and take a monster bus back home, arriving very, very late.

(Trying to exorcise the weird cat-face monster.)

Meiwakuna Shin'nyusha (The Inconvenient New Guy)
Shiori sees a weird-looking idiotic cat-like thing jumping into her family's garden, but it then quickly disappears. Soon, anything with a face (photos, dolls, other people) begin looking just like the cat-thing, and it seems that Shiori herself is going to turn into this new idiotic creature. The only defense is to slap the target in the face...

(Print out this picture and fold it Mad-magazine style to find Boris.)

Hon no Sakana (Book Fish)
Shimiko is working at her father's shop when a huge book gets delivered (it's taller than she is). The book swallows her and she finds herself in a place where all of the fish are really books. She encounters a fisherman who talks her into joining him in catching book fish. The problem is that you have to use bits of your own body for bait. Shiori arrives at the shop and is also eaten by the book. For her, the challenge is to locate Boris. If she gets the location wrong, she has to allow a puzzle master to bite off her head. Because Shiori and Shimiko are being targeted by different tricks, they keep having to save each other and they do finally figure out the way to escape the nightmare. Back in the real world, someone comes into the store and captures the huge book in a net, explaining that it is a highly-prized human-eating book fish.

(In old-book hell.)

Furuhonya Jugokuyashiki (Used Bookstore Hell Estate)
Shimiko's father has gone missing. There's a rumor that he had been contacted by someone that asked him to visit their house to look over a collection of old, used books that the owner wants to sell. Shimiko and Shiori track down the house, and find that it is bigger on the inside than the outside, and is filled with useless, dirty books. They get lost in a maze of stacks and shelves, and it seems that the house is a trap that swallows up people that like old books, and that Shimiko's father is one of its more recent victims. (Other victims include people that just like to stand in stores and read for free, and those that simply must have every volume of long sets of books.)

(At a party which serves muru muru, and soup that doesn't want to be eaten.)

Mishiranu Machi de (The Unknown City)
Shiori is walking in a strange part of the city. She gets to a crossover bridge that only has one side. At the base of the bridge, some kids are digging a hole. A car drives by with her brother, Shou, as a hostage of the masked thief Cat Man. Kitora also drives by in a wagon pulled by a horde of mice. In the back of the wagon is a giant egg that Kitora claims is the product of the love between her and Dan'itchi. Things get more and more out of control, ending up with a big banquet in a mansion where everyone Shiori knows is trying to eat food that keeps trying to escape from them. Cat Man arrives to steal the egg and is unmasked to reveal Shimiko. The egg turns into a monster that destroys the mansion, then Shiori finds herself back at the bridge. Shou finds her and directs her to climb down into the hole the other kids are digging. When she comes out the other side, she wakes up in a hospital bed, surrounded by her worried family and Shimiko. On the TV behind them, a news reporter talks about a train accident that resulted in 2 people dead and 17 severely injured. Shimiko comments that Shiori could have been one of those 17, while Shou adds that he'd come out of the accident with just a bump on his head.

("Where is it? Where has it gone? Have you seen my face?")

Kao - Hoka (Face and Other Stories)
This chapter is a collection of short horror stories that mostly revolve around things reported to have happened to other members of Shiori's family, including a school girl looking for her missing face, a pair of bodiless faces floating down a rain-swollen river, and a rumor of stray animals in an alley that have human faces growing from their bodies. Another story has Shimiko's store being haunted by a ghost that likes reading books for free (she exorcises it by giving away the endings of the mystery stories it's reading), and a family of ghosts that haven't quite noticed that all of them have died already.

(Part book store, part aquarium, specializing in book fish.)

Hon no Sakana 2 (Book Fish, part 2)
Shimiko's book store gets infested by little air-borne fish that eat all the words from the pages of some of the books. A larger fish shows up to eat the smaller ones, and then steals a book before disappearing into a different volume. Shimiko gets Shiori to help her, and they end up visiting another book store where the owner specializes in book fish. He even has the huge human-eating book from the previous story. Shimiko discovers that the fish that took her book is a kind of long eel that resides across multiple volumes of encyclopedias. She has to find the used bookstore that has volume 1 of the set to locate the eel's head in order to get her book back. Unwilling to wait, she grabs the eel's body and it pulls her into the encyclopedia. A few minutes later, she calls Shiori on her cell phone. She did manage to get her book back, but the volume 1 that the eel's head had been in was in a store in Hokkaido, and it's the middle of deep winter in Hokkaido now. She has to take a bus back to Tokyo, and she catches a cold along the way.

(Shiori sees the night fish.)

Yoru no Sakana (Night Fish)
Inoatama City is in the middle of a small inconvenience right now. People and buildings have been disappearing. The rumor going around the school is that a few of the other students had reported seeing a big fish swimming in the night sky. Then, whoever saw the fish, and their home, disappears the following day only to be replaced by replicas made up of seaweed. Shiori sees the night fish, and calls Shimiko for help. More and more people disappear, including Dan'itchi's wife and child, Kitora, and Shiori's little brother and her parents. Kitora pops back up, but now has the body of a crab. She and one classmate had been abducted only to find themselves in a weird ocean-like place that was so wonderful that they escaped just to invite their friends to join them.

(The war between the fish people, and some of their captives.)

Dan'itchi and the two girls follow Kitora and their classmate to the "Ocean of Night". The path takes them past Ms. Zeno's house, and she has her housekeeper things act as guides to the Ocean (which she is very familiar with). In the Ocean, all of the missing people have been turned into fish, and are very happy with their new lives. Until they discover that they're being kept as prey for a race of fish people. The fish people prepare to eat their food, but they keep getting attacked by a very attractive young fish woman, and her big rolling coral monster. In the middle of the Ocean town square is the Fish Queen - a strange spiral-like fish that spins in a circle while reading a book. Shimiko recognizes the book as one she'd left on the monster bus when she'd returned home from Ms. Zeno's house in a previous chapter. Before the fish people can eat the humans, the young fish woman and the coral monster arrive to cause havoc, killing fish people and injuring the queen. The two are revealed to be Dan'itchi's wife and Kutoru. Everyone escapes but are pursued by the night fish. It eats the escapees, which turns them back human. All of them are restored, with the exception of Dan'itchi's wife. She is resigned to live out the rest of her life with a small face and humanoid body, but her husband still loves her in spite of he deformities.

Comments: Again, the stories are a mix of macabre and silly. The artwork is getting better, but Moroshi still has trouble drawing profiles. Highly recommended. All of the stories ran in Nemuki magazine from 1998 to 2001.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Riverwalk, 150323

I've been wanting to go down to Kotsuki river early some morning to see if I could catch some birds when they were out eating. The problem is that my getting up early and the weather being good didn't always match up. I finally got the chance at 7:30 Monday morning. Not a lot of the colorful birds like over at Reimeikan; mostly ducks, sparrows, pigeons and crows. And the ducks didn't get out of bed until closer to 9 AM. I took 80 shots; these are the ones that turned out.

There were about 20 ducks, consisting of about 4-5 families scattered a few blocks apart along the river.

The "river" is a big drainage ditch that sits about 20 feet below street level, with paved walkways on both sides. There's a lot of slit that gets washed down from the hills, and when the city puts off dredging it, the runoff builds up along the sides and gets covered in grass, which attracts the birds and various feral cats. As I was walking along at river level, I looked up and saw this little guy sitting on a metal fence post near the top of the wall. I got one photo in before he saw me and flew off.

This guy was brave. Usually, the herons and cranes in this area hate cameras, but this one let me get about 6 feet away.

6 feet, with a x50 zoom means that I could finally get a close-up that shows some of the details of the feathers.

The volcano was visible between a break in the buildings, and it wasn't erupting this time. Air was very misty, though.

A lot of these little flowers growing in the shade on the walls along the river.

It was a nice day to be out in the sun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I went to Sengan-en, the former residence of the local Shimadzu feudal lord family, over the weekend. It's been turned into a park, with several upscale restaurants, a few souvenir shops, and a display room for kiriko cut glass (which is still produced on the premises) (1,000 entrance fee). The gardens are maintained, and have been used for location shots for a few NHK samurai drama TV shows. Occasionally, Sengan-en hosts events such as flower shows, and streamers flown for Boy's Day. On Mar. 22, there wasn't anything special, it was just a nice day. At the entrance is a display of a full set of armor from the Shimadzu family collection.

In the mid-1800's, Nariakira Shimadzu ordered the creation of a foundry, based on Dutch plans, for the construction of cannons and other iron works in preparation for fending off the impending waves of western traders. In the background is a 150-pounder cannon, and the stone foundation of the old foundry.

The foundry was removed a long time ago, but the main base remains. The site marker shows what the original building looked like.

Mountain and Water Deities
The two shrines here were built in the 1700's and are dedicated to the mountain and water deities. There's a water basin nearby that has an inscription saying that "The sea in front of the Sengan-en residence was reclaimed in 1848".

Cat Shrine
In the late 1500's Yoshihiro Shimadzu was ordered to send an expeditionary army to Korea. He brought 7 cats with him, but only 2 survived the trip. Those two were then enshrined on the Sendan-en grounds. The "ema" votive tablets here are dedicated by visitors to those two cats.

There are a few cherry trees on the grounds, and some of them were in bloom.

Lots of tourists from China or Chinese-speaking countries.

The air was pretty hazy that day. Sakurajima is just barely visible at the other side of the bay in the background.

There's a story tied to the little stream running through this photo. Sengan-en hosts an annual poetry event that dates back a couple hundred years. Poets sit in the park next to the stream, and little cups of sake are floated down the stream from higher up the hill. The poets have until the cups reach them to finish composing original poems that are then read to the waiting audience.

Following the main river upstream, the path ends next to a small opening in the hill where a shrine has been erected. The path continues for at least another block in the direction of a waterfall, but it's been blocked off to the public at this point.

(The rest of the closed-off trail.)

There was a 10-mile walk up at Hayato on the same day, which I had to forgo this year (the Ryoma Sakamoto Honeymoon Walk). I was a bit disappointed about that, so when I noticed that there was a hill climb indicated on the tourist map, I decided on the spot to check it out. The map just had a little stub of a trail at the end of the paper with an arrow marked "hill", and I only had 30 minutes before the return bus arrived at the main entrance to the grounds. I figured I'd climb as far as I could in 15 minutes, then turn back. I got to the trail head, which had this map.

Roku Jizo, Six Ksitigarbhas, near the trail head
From the marker sign: "In Buddhism, there are six worlds. This hexagonal stone pagoda, called Roku Jizo, has carvings of six Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, which guide and save people in each respective world. After having fought in wars, the Shimadzu lords made these pagodas hoping that both enemies and allies would be saved and go to heaven."

Old trail, no longer used.

It's a pretty easy climb, with a mix of wooden walkways, packed dirt and paving stones. About halfway up (8 minutes), there's a large carved rock and the site of an old pavilion.

Stone Inscriptions
From the marker sign: "Inscriptions on the stone monument at the waterfall viewing pavilion. This pavilion was constructed in 1799 (Kansei 11) to provide a view of the waterfall located in the back of the Sengan-en (Iso Garden). These inscriptions were written by the retainer, Hashiguchi.

Pavilion (no longer here)
From the marker sign: "Site of the waterfall viewing pavilion. A pavilion was constructed in the area in 1799 (Kansei 11) to enjoy the view of the waterfall located in the back of the Sengan-en (Iso Garden). It is said that the 25th lord, Shimadzu Shigehide had it built. The building was in the elegant Azumaya style and was also called "shita no ochaya" (a pavilion in the lower part of the garden).

The volcano in the background had been quiet all day; no eruptions this time. Part of the Sengan-en residence buildings can be seen down at the base of the hill, along with a stretch of train track.

Facing north, the waterfall the pavilion was constructed to view can been seen towards the center-left of the photo.

From the marker sign: "Fude-duka (Mound for writing brushes). A mound was made by the 27th lord Narioki to bury all the non-usable writing brushes that had been used by families and other members of the Iso Residence. He held a special service to show his thanks. On top of the tortoise shaped plinth, there was a one-meter tall stone monument in the shape of a writing brush. It is also said that an inscription on the stone was located next to the mound. The history of the mound was inscribed by the retainer Koba in 1818 (Bunka 15).

I actually reached the top of the trail, which was maybe half a kilometer long and about as far up as Shiroyama (near the apartment) in 15 minutes. Whatever buildings that had been up there are long gone, but there is a bit of old wall left over.

Observatory point.

Not sure what the inscriptions on the rock are for, but they don't look all that old.

It was a nice day. A bit cool and misty, but sunny.

Looking down to the south at the swimming beach. Dolphin Port is hidden by the hills at the top right of the photo. The original port area, at the mouth of the Inari river, is also just on the other side of the hill. So, the Shimadzu family lived in this area in the 1800's, and the bulk of Satsuma (Kagoshima city) would have been around the Inari river from about the 1700's.