A-Yokai-A-Day: Hakoiri musume (page 15)

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Today our little mermaid does the unthinkable! She signs a contract and joins a brothel. Hopefully her new owner will be as kind to her as Heiji was…

I really like Kyōden’s illustration because of the way the mermaid holds the pen in her mouth to write on the wall. The “mermaids have no hands” joke is being played pretty heavily by Kyōden, but I feel like the fact that he keeps hammering it makes the stupidity of it that much more amusing.

The mermaid signed a contract with Denzō while Heiji was away. She wanted to leave a note with the money she had received, but she had no arms so she couldn’t write.

However, while she couldn’t move as gracefully as Namakura Tomijūrō¹ in Musume dōjōji, she held a brush in her mouth and did her best to write, dripping and splattering ink everywhere.

Mermaid’s note: “I’m leaving this note to let you know that I²…”

Denzō: “Why, you write so skillfully! You’re just like an Arima doll brush³!”

  1. Nakamura Tomijūrō was an actor famous for his beautiful onnagata style and renowned for his theatrical elocution and light, graceful dancing. His greatest performance was Kyōga no ko musume dōjōji, a kabuki rendition of the noh play Dōjōji. This seems like another gratuitous name drop by Kyōden, but it does show us how important the day’s pop culture was in selling copies of these books.
  2. The mermaid’s note is reminiscent of the note that Kuzunoha writes when she left her home. Both of them are supernatural creatures who loved their husbands and wrote a goodbye note on the shoji before leaving.
  3. Arima doll brushes are a tradition toy/craft from Hyōgo Prefecture. They are decorative brush pens with a mechanical trick inside that causes a little doll’s head to pop out of the end when you write and disappear back into the pen when you lay the brush down. The mermaid sort of looks like one, with her human head on her colorful scaled body. There’s also a pun here that doesn’t translate into English, conflating ningyō (doll) with ningyo (mermaid).