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Pages 14 and 15 share a double page illustration. The whole spread is posted below.
Notice the byōbu in Heiji’s home which depicts the famous Ōtsue, oni no kannebutsu. Although it’s not part of the story, it seems like it could be a subtle hint from Kyōden. One of the ways to interpret this painting is that even a monster like an oni has the capability to achieve salvation. Maybe it’s a hint that even an orphaned mermaid can make something good out of her life if she tries hard enough. Or maybe it’s just a popular image that Kyōden liked and put in the illustration…
Also note the palanquin used by Denzō to visit the mermaid. While Heiji lives in poverty, with crumbling walls and not even a proper dining table, Denzō has his own door-to-door taxi service. The difference in wealth is apparent.
When the coins fell from the sky, the mermaid was overcome with joy and cried, “Oh thank you! Thank you!” Of course, as she had no arms, she could not pick up the coins.
Anyway, the man who actually dropped the coins was none other than Denzō, the owner of a nearby brothel. He had spied the mermaid’s beautiful face from a distance and thought he could make good money if she would work for him as a courtesan. Since her body was a fish, her fee would only be the head price¹.
And so, Denzō welcomed the mermaid into his brothel for the market price of seven and a half ryō.
- When a woman was caught cheating on her husband, her lover would have to pay the husband a compensation fee called a kubidai (“head price”). The standard head price was seven and a half ryō (the amount Denzō scattered on the floor in yesterday’s episode). Denzō’s offer for the mermaid’s head only is a pun based on this term.