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It seems that Heiji and the mermaid have become rich and successful, but surely you knew the story wouldn’t end there. There’s still a few days left until Halloween, and every good story has a third act twist! Kyōden’s illustration on this page is one of my favorites in the whole book. I love the pose of the mermaid and the way she stands next to the lantern, with the same facial expression that she always has–one of cool, calm amusement. She doesn’t seem fazed by anything and seems quite happy to just roll with whatever life throws at her. And it throws a doozy at her today!
Heiji had become wealthy, and even though he was no Doi Jirō¹, he thought that if he were only twenty years younger, he would have nothing to worry about. So he took advantage of the fact that his wife was a mermaid by licking her whenever he had a spare moment. The more he licked her, the younger he became. But Heiji lost control of himself and licked her too much, so that in the end he had turned into a child.
A mermaid for a wife and child for a husband makes for a pretty boring story. But this is the origin of the term “nameta yatsu²,” meaning someone who takes something too far.
Mermaid: “See? You licked me too much and look what happened.”
Heiji: “Mommy! What have I done? Ah, I want to suck boobies!”
- Doi Jirō (or Doi Sanehira) was a vassal of Minamoto no Yoritomo during the Genpei War. In theater, he is always portrayed as an elderly man and it is said that if he had only been younger, he would have performed many great deeds during the war.
- Nameta yatsu is slang for someone who takes a thing too far, but it is also a homophone for “someone who licked.” Heiji took mermaid licking too far, and is quite literally a person who licked. Kyōden is a master of bad puns.