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Page 9 of Hakoiri musume shares a double-page spread with page 8. We see Heiji on his boat in his first meeting with the mermaid, and the start of their strange romance. It’s not exactly love at first sight, and it seems like a very weird match, but they both of their reasons to make it work.
The mermaid looked up from the deck and implored Heiji: “I just am a mermaid, nothing fishy. Please, would you make me your wife? Please, won’t you hold me and sleep with me? Don’t you like me¹?”
Heiji replied, “I’d love to hold you and sleep with you, but as they say, ‘When you go in with a fish in your arms, you go out with a fish in your arms².’ So it would be bad luck.”
But then he thought about it for a moment and he said, “Trying to find a wife at my age would be absurd³, but the really absurd thing is that you, a fish, have managed to hook me, a human, with that pick-up line.”
These lines are written in a way that resembles Bungo-bushi, a style of song and dance accompanied by shamisen that was super popular at the time. She’s basically squirming around, doing a sexy fish dance, and acting excessively flirty as she says this. Bungo-bushi was eventually deemed too erotic by government censors, and was banned. Here’s an example of what Bungo-bushi sounded like.
Heiji is misquoting a line from The Book of Rites by Confucius. The real quote says that wealth gained through improper ways will be lost through improper ways as well. Heiji’s somewhat scrambled version is a pun of mispronunciation, as “wealth gained” (takara sakatte) sounds like “holding a fish” (sakana dakatte). The pun doesn’t translate well, but in Japanese it’s a real groaner.
The phrase Heiji uses to mean absurd is “tails and fins”—another fish pun, but it doesn’t translate into English well. The “hook” pun he uses a moment later translates quite nicely though.
STOP POSTING FISH. I missed this event last year and I don’t want to keep making these fish things.
Got something against mermaids?
Is bungo bushi still banned?
Nope, not at all.
I tend to subscribe to the theory the ban of Bungo-bushi was a form of harassment by the Edo “old school” Joruri society (most especially Kato-bushi).