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Today we officially crack open part 2 of Hakoiri musume. Kibyōshi are often split into 3 or more volumes in order to increase sales. In the case of this book, each part is 10 pages long.
Each cover illustration gives a minor preview of one of the scenes from the story. I find them quite beautiful. Interestingly, the characters on the cover look different from the characters in the pages, which makes me wonder if the cover art of these editions was done by a different illustrator, perhaps during a later reprint.
Incidentally, here is one version of how the covers looked (courtesy The Gerhard Pulverer Collection):
The illustration below gives us an idea of just how poor Heiji is, and sets the state for the troubles that are to follow. The walls of his home are crumbling, and some of the holes are patched up with old letters and wastepaper. He uses a footstool as a makeshift table. He is trying to feed the mermaid with chopsticks, but she doesn’t seem too excited.
As the Buddhist saying goes, “If one dog barks, ten thousand dogs will bark.” And so, the number of people coming to Heiji to ask for charms continued to increase. Heiji was embarrassed at first, but in the end it was easier just to play along than it was to try to explain the truth—that he had actually brought home a mermaid to be his wife.
Lying in bed together, the mermaid told Heiji about her life, and how her parents had thrown her away. Heiji felt bad for her. Various freak show owners and their ilk came to Heiji to inquire about buying the mermaid, but he refused to listen to them. He was determined to take good care of his new wife.
Heiji struggled to think of what he could feed her, until it finally dawned on him: mosquito larvae! But this was a mistake on Heiji’s part; he had confused mermaids with goldfish¹. She told him, “I don’t like that kind of food. I want to have rakugan or okoshi².” After all, she was the daughter of a carp³, so naturally she would be a gourmand.
- Another little play on words: ningyo vs kingyo. Heiji tried to feed her fish food.
- Rakugan are colorful sweets (and one of her mother’s favorite foods if you remember). Okoshi are rice or millet cakes roasted and hardened with sugar.
- Because carp are the most beautiful fish, she wants to eat like a princess.