psychological manga recs!
DISCLAIMER !! i'll try to list all of the content warnings, but a lot of these deal with a lot of mature and triggering themes such as: sa/rape, suicide, self harm, abuse, etc. read these with caution.
ones marked with a star have unhappy/unclear endings if you want to avoid (or go straight towards) depressing media. 💫
goodnight punun, inio asano: the first psychological manga i've read. follows a punpun, who is drawn as bird, as he navigates childhood and adulthood in an incredibly unfair world, desperately in love with the same girl since elementary school. like dazai's no longer human in manga format, very well written with incredible art. CWs: sa, rape, abuse (main element in the story), suicide, domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual content, moderate gore, cults, and there may be self harm! (i forget-- but this manga has many many many triggering aspects.) 💫
a lollipop or a bullet, sakuraba kazuki/sugimoto iqura: hidden gem that i cannot recommend enough! nagisa is a lonely studious girl living in a small town. when mokuzu, the daughter of a washed-up singer, transfers to nagisa's school, an unforgettable summer ensues. mokuzu tells outlandish tales, such that she is a mermaid, and bugs nagisa to be her friend. as nagisa reluctantly spends time with her, she discovers there may be some startling truths behind mokuzu's lies. CWs: abuse (main concept), animal abuse, animal death, bruises/physical signs of abuse, some gore. 💫
the flowers of evil, shuzo oshimi: middle schooler kasuga is an incredibly average boy living in a small town in the mountains. he has no interest besides literature, especially baudelaire's the flowers of evil. but when kasuga takes home his crush's gym clothes on an impulse and is witnessed by the enigmatic nakamura, his life turns upside down. nakamura forces him into a contract: she won't tell anyone that he stole the gym clothes, and kasuga must humor her strange wishes. one of my favorite manga of all time, i cried for days after finishing it. will always have a place in my heart. CWs: suicide, sa/rape.
homunculus, yamamoto hideo: scarce on money, nakoshi agrees to get a hole drilled into his head by a strange young doctor. once the hole is drilled, nakoshi has the ability to see homunculi: manifestations of peoples' worst qualities, guilts, fears, traumas, and 'true selves.' addicting!! it's 166 chapters but i finished it in less than a week. while none of the characters are particularly good people, it's an amazing story. CWs: rape (!! rape scene), self harm, gore, body horror, body dysmorphia, transphobia/misgendering & f slur and t slur used against a characer 💫
bokurano, kitou mohiro: 15 kids on summer break take part in a video game piloting a giant robot against a swarm of alien invaders. but they soon realize that there may be a dark truth to their mission. SO GOOD!! i highly recommend, the story is absolutely amazing, very quick paced, will make you cry. CWs: rape, abuse, many forms of (sometimes brutal) deaths, terminal disease in minor character, suicide (i think but i forget), self harm. 💫
blood on the tracks, shuzo oshimi: seiichi and his mother are very close. oddly so. there is definitely something wrong with his mother. (that is the whole plot.) beautifully drawn, excruciating, and fills you with psychological dread! CWs: HEAVY psychological abuse/manipulation, mental breakdowns are depicted, self harm. (i am not completely caught up with this, it's very good but not for the light of heart. i could be missing some content warnings.)
goodbye eri, tatsuki fujimoto: a one shot about a boy named yuta who makes a movie using footage he shot when his mother was dying, and shows it a school fair. after bad reception, he attempts to kill himself but is interrupted by a strange girl who claims she loved his movie. beautiful art, amazing story, stunning and wonderful!!! CWs: suicide, terminal illness.
my broken mariko, hirako waka: after her best friend mariko's suicide, tomyo steals her ashes and sets off on one final journey. CWs: suicide, self harm, child abuse.
pietà, haruno naenae: sohoko is the one bright spot in her girlfriend rio's life. tied together by a tragic past, can the two of them find the will to live in one another? heartbreaking, hopeful, and a really nice beautiful story. CWs: suicide, self harm, neglect.
nijigahara holograph, inio asano: told in achronological order between many points of views, in both the present and the past, is the story of a girl pushed into a well by her classmates and abandoned by her teacher. very hard to understand, this manga will take at least one reread and a video essay. but once you understand it, it's great!! so beautifully written and drawn. CWs: rape/sa, suicide, bullying 💫
helter skelter fashion unfriendly, okazaki kyouko: an examination of east asia's extremely high beauty standards, and the expiration date placed on women told through the desperate supermodel liliko. CWs: body dysmorphia, eating disorder (don't remember if it's explicitly stated but lots of themes/implications) 💫
suicide circle, furuya usamaru: kyoko watches in fear as her best friend saya joins a 'suicide club' that's planning on doing a group suicide after watching another 'club.' kyoko starts on an investigation concerning the tragic history of these suicide clubs. CWs: suicide, self harm, sa, HEAVY gore. 💫 (<- ish)
a school frozen in time, arawaka naoshi: 8 students find themselves trapped inside a school where time has seemed to stop. they are then forced to relive the day their classmate committed suicide by jumping off the school's roof... but the problem is they can't seem to remember who it was, or if it was one of them. depicts the incredible amount of stress placed on the students and the guilt that comes from being helpless. CWs: suicide, self harm.
let me know if you need links to read any of these!
Animation Night 72 - Studio Colorido
Good Thursday my friends! Apologies for the lack of Toku Tuesday this week, for various reasons I had to clean most of the carpets in my house with a carpet shampoo machine and that took basically all of my time. But no more on that.
This week, I want to shine a spotlight on a studio whose work we’ve seen a couple of times on Animation Night, most notably when we watched their miniseries Pokémon: Twilight Wings, but they’re also the animators of Takashi Nakamura’s short Bubu & Bubulina in the Japan Animator Expo. More recently, they’ve become known for summer films like Penguin Highway...
Of course, as the saying goes, a studio is just a building: many of the animators who made Twilight Wings shine like Weilin Zhang and Bahi JD are freelancers who do not regularly work at Colorido. Nevertheless, there are a consistent set of people who give them their distinctive style - and since they made one of the better received shorts in the recent anthology Star Wars: Visions, let’s take a look in while we wait for someone to replace the dubtitles on that with a proper fansub!
My major source for this is - guess who? - kVin of Sakuga Blog, who wrote a detailed retrospective on the studio back in 2018. Founded in 2011 by Hideo Uda, a businessman with relatively little experience in anime, the motivation behind the studio was not so much artistic as practical:
(...) creating that initial blank slate was by all means a deliberate move; though he had no ideas to uphold on a creative level, Uda did have a goal: to establish a studio where artists could work comfortably, shielded from the abysmal working conditions and complicated financial situations that plague anime as a whole. He’d be the pragmatic core of the company, lessening the burden of the creatives and allowing them to become the studio’s leading voices as much as possible. By doing that, the studio would ideally develop a creative ethos along the way. And that it did!
As portrayed in the video above (ty again kVin), this is an all-digital studio; not a rarity these days by they were ahead of the curve. In the early years, they brought in Takashi Nakamura, an animation director on Akira and the director of the wonderful Chicken Man and Red Neck short on Robot Carnival.
kVin praises Nakamura as an inspiration to some of our favourite animators like Koji Morimoto (who you may remember as one of the most creative directors in all the 4°C anthologies, and also in 80s works like the Franken’s Gears segment of Robot Carnival) and Hiroyuki Okiura (long list of credits as a key animator, including Akira and the Magnetic Rose segment of Memories; as a director, he’s probably best known for taking on Oshii’s live-action Kerberos franchise in Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade about scary cops in a fascist future Japan, which we haven’t shown on Animation Night but tends to get a lot of praise.)
By 2011, Nakamura had also moved to directing, and Colorido offered him a chance to realise some unfinished ambitions...
And while as a director he didn’t make quite as much of a splash as he did as an animator, hence his relative obscurity among the fandom, Nakamura’s works are still rightfully held in high regard by those who’ve gotten a chance to experience them (especially A Tree of Palme, an official selection at the Berlinale back in 2002). As a storyteller he proved to have a ludicrous range, seemingly capable of tackling all sorts of genres and tones. But some things remained consistent: the rock-solid fundamentals he gained as an animator, a dignified air that was maintained even during the sillier or most tragic moments… and profound unmarketability, which is why the project he had in mind at the time got scrapped by the studio that was supposed to produce it. Promising him an opportunity to actually bring it to life, Nakamura hopped onto studio Colorido to share their very first adventure.
This resulted in two short films with Colorido: the sweeping historical cross-section Shashinkan, and of course Bubu & Bubulina featuring a pair of sisters dancing through a colouful collage realm reminiscent of Inu Curry, before he amicably parted ways to let younger animators more familiar with digital tools have their turn. (He would go on to direct Harmony (2015) at 4°C with Michael Arias of Tekkonkinkreet fame.)
So, the identity of the studio would end up following most from their other major figure, Hiroyasu Ishida aka Tete. We can trace him back to 2009 when, as a student, he’d delighted everyone with an impeccably timed short film about a girl careening down a hill, Fumiko’s Confession:
and his melancholy graduation film rain town showing a girl meeting a decaying robot in a waterlogged city:
Both films show an exceptional talent for both storyboarding (check out those shot angles and compositions I mean come on wow) and character animation. At Colorido, he invited his friend Yojiro Arai, a young designer and background artist who had managed to achieve his dream of working at Ghibli; yet he was rather overwhelmed by the workload and when Ishida contacted him on Pixiv, he decided to take the risk of going to a new studio.
Their first work together at Colorido was another short film, titled Hinata no Aoshigure, released in 2013 alongside Shashinkan...
It combines Ishida’s proclivity for elaborate flying shots, child POV and wild camera angles with Arai’s Ghibliesque settings and colours, and the studio’s facility with 3D compositing and non-photorealistic backgrounds; the result is something that sounds really delightful.
2003 - a busy year! - also marked Colorido’s first foray into advertising. Which falls under ‘using their powers for evil’ in my book, but all the same it was Arai’s own debut as a director, and the result was so popular that Colorido was soon fully booked for ad work, including things like... zips. Apparently in Japan it’s worth funding a full anime short film series to advertise zips. I guess people would use them to modify clothes for fashion or something? This is after all the country of Tetsuya Nomura’s design sensibility...
Anyway, if you’ve seen a charming animated ad in recent years, like a certain viral McDonald’s job ad (subbed), it’s probably someone Colorido wot did it. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this, turning the rather miserable reality of food service into a short story arc about a clumsy anime girl finding fulfilment. Charming, colourful animation certainly doesn’t have to come with a false, sanitised world, with Boy and the World as the perfect counterexample, but under the supervision of ad men? That’s what it’s going to be.
Well, luckily they did a lot of other stuff. In 2015, they joined forces with niotaminA (‘Animation’ written backwards...), another small studio with a very similar ‘good work conditions’ ethos, becoming ‘Twin Engine’. This allowed them to step up production to much larger projects such as Typhoon Noruda, almost half an hour long. Apparently (by kVin’s account) the result was great-as-ever art direction let down by dodgy writing, but it demonstrated the studio’s potential to start working on longer projects...
...which they did a few years later with the feature-length Penguin Highway, naturally directed by Ishida, adapting a novel by Tomihiko Morimi who also wrote the original book of Night is Short, Walk on Girl (whose adaptation is one of my fave Yuasa films) and The Tatami Galaxy (also done by Yuasa but I haven’t seen it yet). So definitely someone popular with some really great directors! kVin describes the decision to make an adaptation rather than an original work a careful one to keep scope in check; the story is a coming-of-age romance story framed by a lady who can summon transforming penguins. kVin writes of it...
The whimsical nature of Morimi’s coming of age story, equal parts straightforward romance and morphing penguins, turned out to be as compatible with Ishida’s own qualities as he’d imagined, even actively encouraging his own quirks. As the director he was able to provide a thoroughly joyful experience, but also to isolate themes like the pathways and make them into a motif, the visual core of a deceivingly smart film. Penguin Highway is a cute movie you’re bound to have fun with on your first watch, and the kind of work that will refuse to leave your mind afterward, no matter its rougher spots.
That’s about where kVin’s article ends, speculating on the new directions the studio might take with the arrival of Ishida’s university friend Tatsurō Kawano, whose own graduation film Loud House is definitely worth a watch. He spent some years following his own path on action shows like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.
We can join them again with a second article written a couple years later, in which we learn that Arai left to found a new story called FILMONY (though returning for episode 2 of Twilight Wings), and the studio split into three subteams, among them Team Yamahitsuji consisting of Kawano and some very creative young webgen animators...
It included Natsuki Yamada, a Tatsunoko-trained animator who captures the simple joy of movement so well that she’s already become a leader of sorts for their animation duties. Taiki Konno – I think I can spare you that introduction – was also a member of that initial lineup, alongside wild fledgling director Yuji Shimizu and digital artist Takashi Nakamichi, who bridged the gaps between disciplines as is often the case in modern environments.
One of their first works together was an opening to Boruto, the Naruto sequel and thus one of the highest profile shōnen shows, and indeed they pulled out some impressive background animation and effects shots.
That brings us to their most recent works! They’ve really expanded production (though as ever in anime, in part through outsourcing to other studios like WIT and Toho) to the point of multiple feature films per year, now often released for Netflix. Burn the Witch adapts a standalone Bleach spinoff set in - guess what - the city where I live, London! A Whisker Away has the look of a post-Makoto Shinkai summer movie; it seems to have reviewed well but not received as much attention as their other movies. They’re definitely very much in the idiom (particular drawing style etc.) of modern digital era anime, but I think we can say at their best, they’re at the more inventive and expressive end.
Tonight, then, I’m going to give a cross-section of Colorido’s works (and I guess some of their major figures’ short films made before they joined the studio, such as Hinata no Aoshigure); the main feature will of course be Penguin Highway, and we’ll see if this Burn the Witch business is at all comprehensible if you’ve not watched Bleach. We’ll also check out their latest Pokémon outings. If that sounds like your jam, see you at 7pm UK time (about 90 minutes) at twitch.tv/canmom!
Scalpels and Paintbrushes || Shuntaro Chishiya x reader
- read ‘til the end for notes -
When a freelance artist travels to Japan to rekindle her passion for art and her life, she finds herself in a whole other predicament. Dangerous games, dangerous people, a dangerous world with dangerous rules. She’s alone, fending for herself, until she meets a disoriented medical student that will bring her comfort but might bring more difficulties and heartbreak aswell.
Warning: extremely strong language and suicide mentions
Chapter 4: The Intern and the Sad Bitch
“Hey, thank God I found someone...Are you okay?”
I raise my head quickly towards the source of the noise, there stood an average hight, black haired male in scrubs and a white coat. He looked confused and a little lost, so I guess that he’s new. I wipe my face and nod as I try to get up to my feet. The male rushes to me and helps.
“Yeah, sorry you had to see me like this. I’m (y/n) by the way. And you’re new around here, aren’t you?” I say with a rough voice from the previous crying.
He nods. “Yes, my name is Shuntarô Chishiya.”
“Well Chishiya-san, how’d you get here? From what I can see you’re probably a nurse, or an intern, were you working?”
“Yes, I’m an inern. I was at the hospital doing my rounds and all of a sudden when I was in a storage room everyhing stopped and I found myself alone.”
“That’s how it normally goes. Listen, do you speak any english? Because my japanese is limited and I don’t think I can hold a long conversation.”
He immediately nods and I sigh in relief.
“Ok so, right now I think we should get to my place, but I’ll explain to you what I know is going on. Because believe me, everybody that is in the Borderlands knows as much as I do, and it isn’t much.”
As we walk I explain to him what are the Borderlands, what we do here, and how we survive. But at the same time I also observe him, trying to figure him out. He is on the shorter side but still not too small, he seems tired and pretty slim which is kinda normal for a med university student, he also seems pretty emotionally distant and logical in his way of acting and thinking. Chishiya sounds like someone who is in his head a lot, and as good as it might be he’ll have to learn to be spotaneous and to find a way to fend for himself, because from what I can see he is not someone athletic. But other than that he sounds like he could be good company. After spending two months with people and suddenly finding yourself alone, the company is appreciated. Plus he gives me a reason to ge off my ass and get to work.
Once arrived at the mall I show him around, explain that we’d have to spread chores evenly but that other than that he can live here for as long as he’d like. After I am done explaining I show him to the couch and ask him to sit.
“Automatically after you first come here, the first night in the Borderlands you have to play a game. And my visa ends tonight, so you’re in luck, you won’t be alone on your first day. Although I know you’re fully independant, it still feels safer when someone you know is around.”
“Do you have any idea what games we’re going to play then?”
“That’s the thing Chishiya-san, you can only know what game you get it after you stepped in the game arena and that the registrations are closed. So no, I don’t, sorry.”
I nod and go to make us coffee, I hate it but we definitely need it, both of us. I also prepare a snack just in case he wants one and get back to him with everything. He thanks me and helps himself on the food and drink.
“What about you, you were crying your eyes out when I arrived, you also look tired, malnourished and dehydrated. This place also looks more lived in than if only one person stayed.”
I sigh, of course he had to be observant. “I had a group, we were three. They had a game over.”
“And from what I can see it was not long ago.”
“Almost eight days.”
I nod and look at the wall in front of me. I had to get rid of hat haze in my mind before I went to the next game, as shitty as I feel I need to get off my ass now, I promised I would. And so with a sigh I get up and announce I am going to change, these clothes are 8 days old and start to smell like death...did I just think this? Of course it does, it’s human blood and burnt human that’s on my clothes.
I warm up a bit of collected rain water to mix with the cold water and go to another room to clean myself, my clothes and get a new, cleaner outfi. After rinsing myself with a shower glove, shampoo and soap, and washing my clothes to the best of my ability with washing powder, I put on fresh clothes. I then brush my mess of hair and my teeth. Wallowing in self pity for eight days did not do me any good and I had to get rid of those smells both coming from what I wore and my fucking mouth.
After I’m done I hang my clothes to dry I look at Hide’s. Chishiya was in scrubs and he’d need a more comfortable outfit as well as more comfortable shoes. So I decide, despite the immense pain felt throughout my body at the thought, to take some clothes. A pair of sweat pants, running shoes, a white short sleeved shirt and a white hoodie from the pile of neatly folded items. They smell like him, and it takes all I have for me not to break down and sob again.
I quickly walk back to the main area and tap Chishiya’s shoulder, he flinches a little and it’s only now I realize that he has an mp3 player. Of course. Since digital things like phones and computers don’t work, analog items do. I have that radio in the corner of the eating area that we used to put on to play music as we cooked, so I know how much I cherished analog and how much it could keep you from going crazy over silence.
“I got you clothes, I don’t know if they’ll fit but they’re better than scrubs, a coat and crocs.”
“Oh. Thanks, I was going to ask you if I could borrow clothes anyways. But...yeah.”
“It had to be done anyways. One day I’ll have to clean up their spaces, so at least start it now.”
“Still, thanks. Where can I change?”
“See that curtain over there? There’s a whole bathroom zone behind it so take your time, wash yourself ‘cause I made extra hot water just in case, and go change.”
He nods and goes change as I set myself on the couch, I felt like the closer we got to the game the more I felt like ripping my hair off. After all, last time had been nothing less than absolutely traumatizing.
“I’m done. I left my badge and clothes on what seems to be your male friend’s bed, does it bother you?”
“No don’t worry, I’m gonna but his things in boxes now because if I don’t I think I never will.”
“What was his name?”
“Takeru Hideo, we called him Hide though. The third mattress was for Nakamura Yumeko.”
He nods and goes to help me put Hide’s things in cardboard boxes, all in silence, which I appreciate. And as we finish filling the second box which was the last one for him, I nodded towards Yumeko’s bed and Chishiya nodded back. We went and packed all of Yumeko’s things too. The only memories of us outside of those boxes being the matching friendship bracelet I had with them and our photo album, which I placed next to my mattress.
After we were done I cooked us something for dinner and we stayed comfortably silent, except for a few bits and bobs of conversations we initiated here and there. It seemed like we both liked our silence.
Soon enough it was time. The streets were illuminated and we went to the nearest arena, and found a mahjong parlor, this was it. When they entered Chishiya immediately took note of the laser barrier welcoming us and I explain to him that once you entered it was impossible to go back, he nodded and we went to take a phone each and one collar each, shit this was bad if a collar was involved.
As a few more people came in the tension started to settle in. And then finally the registration closed.
“Registration closed. Game: Six of Diamonds.”
I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding, now onto understanding what the rules are, I curse myself for not being as strict as I should’ve during my japanese lessons. And with difficulty I understand something about a Mahjong battle royale where 3 out of the current 6 teams of two would win but not much else. After the explanations were done I look over at Chishiya who was already looking at me.
“Chishiya, can you help me out? What were the modalities of the game? I only understood the big lines.”
“You should really learn japanese in your free time. I won’t always be here for you.” He smirks hauntingly and I flick him the bird.
“I am! I just can’t understand everything! Gosh.”
“You need to play the opponent for a certain amount of time until you switch opponents. At the end they don’t do a big number with all that you’ve won, they look at each time you’ve lost against someone in each battle.”
“So basically if the both of us are against someone and we play, say, 10 times and lose 6, that’ll be in their advantage.”
“Basically, and we have to do 5 times.”
“Damn, okay, do you play Mahjong?”
“Not really, you?”
“I know the basics but there ain’t much.”
“We’re not royally fucked are we?” He lifts an eyebrow and crosses his arms.
I roll my eyes and chuckle.“I don’t think so, I think that we could observe and learn from the opponent.”
“Exactly what I was thinking, playing them with their own cards. We could also use their characters-”
“-against them? Yeah. If they are cocky and get pissed off easily, piss them off, make them act recklessly. If they’re shy, make them think you overpower them.”
“But always keep a poker face...sounds pretty good to me.”
“Then let’s go.”
We go towards the only table left unoccupied, here was a couple of well dressed men, probably rich and pompous by how they looked and looked at us. I bow as an hello and Chishiya waves, both men look at us with eyebrows lifted and smirks. I hated them already.
“Have the two lovers finished eating each other’s faces?”
I furrow my eyebrows and scowl, and Chishiya rolls his eyes and sighs.
“Do you even know how to play Mahjong?” The one on the right, in a navy suit, says.
“Not really, no.” Chishiya and I answer at the same time.
He laughs. “Well how funny is that gonna be?”
His partner cackles, he is on the left in a maroon suit. “Yeah, but we should give them a chance don’t you think?”
And navy suit shrugs and puts his elbows on the table. “Sure, I don’t wanna get bored. Just take one tile from the pile and let your opponents take one too until you all have 14. Discard one from your wall with caution. Take one from the pile, the order of passage being counterclockwise. And repeat again and again.” Chishiya, whispers the traduction to me in case I didn’t understand everything, which I am thankful for.
“Then how do we win?” I say, to which the two men scoff.
“As if you’re gonna win anyways kid, but you win by having four sets and one pair. A pair is when two identical tiles are put together. A set can either be a pung, when 3 identical tiles are together. A chow, when you have three consecutive numbers in a suit. And a kong, when you have four identical tiles. And there are three suits, bamboos, circles and characters, which are cut in sets from 1 to 9 tiles. There are also wind and dragon tiles. When you’re done, just scream Mahjong.” And once again, after getting the traduction I nod and whisper a thank you, which is answered by a scoff from the man in the maroon suit. Muttering things like ‘yeah we only did this so we wouldn’t get too bored, don’t get too comfy kid’. To which I roll my eyes and so does Chishiya, who gives them a cold stare.
“All players get ready, your dealers are coming to your tables, once they do, the timer will start. Good luck.”
The dealer, someone in a traditional chinese attire, comes and gives us refreshments before dealing the tiles.
“Since it’s by duo, I’ll explain that the rules are the same. But it’s 14 tiles per duo and not per person. The duo has to play two times, one time per person before the opponent has to play. Now start”
And we do. We lose the first three times, getting surprised by the coodination both opponents have with each other and on how they deflected our pairs and sets. But after it we got the hang of it and won three times, which pissed off our aversaries. I look at Chishiya and tap his hand under the table. He fliches and puts his hand away but turns his head towards me anyways.
I nod my head towards the two older business men and tongue my cheek from the interior of my mouth. He rolls his eyes, nods and smirks, and I smirk back. We were going to annoy and anger them until it was a breeze to get to the next game.
So we started to throw insulting comments here and there, making snarky comments on how they played, their posture, their expressions, and talking to each other ‘without paying attention to them’. They couldn’t be more wrong, we were observing their every movement, each looks, creases on their faces, movements of their hands, legs, everything. And by the end of the time we had won seven times out of eleven.
The older men scowled and went to attack us but the dealer pointed a remote control at them and they instantly calmed down. We then went for the next team, two middle school students, oh no.
They looked terrified as they looked at the table, and up to us when we sat. They introduced themselves and so did we, after shaking hands the dealer told us to start and so we did. And this time we won all of our rounds, we did sixteen of them. And I felt really bad about it, those kids were done for sure and I couldn’t do anything about it. So after the time stopped I went to hug them and appologize and they hugged me back, trying to suppress tears.
“You get too attached. You’re gonna get hurt.”
“Already happened. Next.” I walk to the next table as I give him a big sigh.
“You know I’m right.”
“I never told you you weren’t, did I?”
“No. But you need to be reminded.”
“I think that every day that has passed since a week ago has been enough of a reminder Chishiya-san.”
He nods thoughtfully and mumbles an appology, I accept it reluctantly and we sit down on the next table. Our opponents seemed to be a young couple, maybe college students, who looked nervous. Suddenly the boyfriend talks.
“Please, let us win, we have something important to get back to. We have a wedding-”
“Guys, we can’t do that. As much as I want to. I maybe don’t have much to go back to but I sill have something I want, and my partner probably does too.”
“We have a wedding you bitch, we’re fiancés. You’re tryna stop that?”
“Clearly you’ve been here for only a little. I’ve been here for almost three months, and clearly I’m not out yet, so I think you should calm your tits down sweetie because clearly if I can’t go back then you’ll die here.” When I finish snapping at her Chishiya looks at me smirking and I flip him off.
The dealer comes in and the game begins. I look a Chishiya and let him know to put pressure on the boyfriend when I work the girlfriend down to the ground. And apparently it works because the man completely panics and starts saying his plans outloud and the woman would rather screech and threaten me than think about what she does next. And in no time we win the full round again and go towards the next table, our opponents have not arrived yet and so we have time to breathe.
“You have a pretty big mouth when you want to.”
“Shut the fuck up Chishiya.”
“Listen, I’m sorry for bringing up the guys like that. Really.”
“I forgot it hasn’t been long.”
“Even if it did what changes would it make?”
“I’m not good with feelings.” I roll my eyes and mumble a sarcastic ‘Oh really, I didn’t notice’ to which he snickered.
“Just, don’t mention them like that anymore.”
“I won’t, I promise. By the way, you destroyed that bitch back there. Did I anger you that bad?”
“Oh, well it’s just the pile of stress I’ve been experiencing for three months that talked, but yeah you added to it.”
“Well, remind me to only anger you so that you don’t lash out at me. You looked ready to kill someone and I actually am having fun here so.”
“I’m not making any promises. You pretty much did the same to the dude. You have a pretty mean glare.”
“Thanks. After seeing this so many times I’ve learned how to replicate it.” He says somberly but keeping his face stoic as always. I decided that we all have skeletons in our closets and that I shouldn’t ask what this was.
Our next opponents then came in, they were....old classmates of mine? Two out of the twenty or so assholes that I grew up with, and mind you, that made my life a living hell throughout kindergarten, elementary and middle school. Twelve years of bullying in your face certainly doesn’t do you any good and makes you curse at the people that wronged you. And now they were here? How fucking amazing.
“(y/n)? Oh my goodness, you’re here? That’s...weird. Even more so that you’re still alive. You didn’t kill yourself yet? That’s sad.” Said in english a curly light brown haired guy named Dorian and Tyler, a redhead with freckles, snickered from besides him.
“Wow, and I never thought I’d find you disgusting wastes of space ever again in my vicinity but here we are. You still smell like the dried off cum socks covered in dog shit you always were.” I say to them as calmly and coldly as I could as they choke on air and Chishiya chuckles from besides me. I smirk as they glare at me.
“Well well, you have a boyfriend? Nah, too fat for that, you’d take up his oxygen, food and even eat him. Although you did glow up so I guess that if he closed his eyes he could fuck you good, use you as a cum dump.” Tyler smirks and and Dorian continues.
“Although I believe that anybody that involves themselves with you are just as retarded as you. I mean, you were a whore back then, and a good punching ball too. I’d love to talk about it over a game of Mahjong, wouldn’t you Tyler.”
“Of course I would, we have a lot to catch up on, and a lot to teach liang liang over there.” They high five as the dealer begins the round.
As we play our first three round they say nothing, but I feel like they want too so after winning the third round I look at them.
“Spit it out you fucktards. Or did you lose so many braincells growing up like the pieces of shit you are that your brain melted out of your bullshit flesh envelope of a body.” I mutter to them with an ice cold glare and they flinch.
“Back then you wouldn’t have said that.” Tyler says.
“Back then I was weak, naive, and positive. Too gentle for any of you.” I sighed and softened my glare into a sad look.
“Yeah that’s for sure. But we made you tough didn’t we. We broke you until nothing was left.”
“And I built myself again.” I take a tile and discard one and Chishiya does the same.
“But we’re gonna break you again sweetheart.” And Dorian smirks as he takes over.
“Hey ching chong ass.”
“My name is Chishiya you ignorant piece of shit.” My partner answer returning a glare of his own.
“Whatever asshair. Did you know that back then she was the best punching ball?. Twenty three of us befriended her and after kindergarten we all suddenly turned our backs at her. She was so sad it was absolutely amazing to watch. Also, an amazing punching ball. She used to be a fat kid, so it was pretty fun to punch, kick, push and pull, you should try.” I close my eyes and try to get rid of the awful memories but to no avail, they come back even though I tried to suppress them to get better.
“In middle school one of us dated her, he fucked her, once, twice, I don’t remember how many times even, filmed it and fucked her over. Poof, all over the internet. It was pretty great to see. Although he was reluctant and felt guilty for it, but we never gave him the chance of telling you. It would’ve been too nice for you. He really liked you, how sad.” Dorian says with a shit eating grin and places a tile from the pile in his wall as I start to tremble, tears filling my eyes.
Tyler chuckles and continues to play, taking and discarding tiles.“We almost got her to commit suicide in public...ten times? Or was it twenty? I don’t remember. And at home she tried too, so we went to see her at the hospital, it’s crazy how her mother believed us more than her. Oh would you look at that, Mahjong! We won, you’re still a loser too, after all.”
As I was about to go and choke one of them I felt a hand on my thigh. And as the dealer mixed the tiles back I saw Chishiya nod at me to tell me he had this.
“Well sounds to me like she was stronger than you assholes.” He smirks as he starts.
“What?” Both of our opponents look confused and amused.
“Well yes, she put up with your bullshit without becoming like you. Honestly that sounds like such a pain to put up with. I only spent fifteen minutes with you guys and I already feel like an unavoidable brain death is coming at me full force. With all the bullshit you’re spewing no wonder she tried to kill herself.” Chishiya continues, discarding and taking tiles and I do the same, listening to what he has to say in shock.
The two boys stayed silent and played their part, leaving us to play.
“I mean wow, are you twenty three so insecure that you have to put down a decent human being to feel better? And you feel pleasure in doing so? You’re just a bunch of sociopathic, psychotic incels that jack off to the feel of having power over someone physically weaker than you, so don’t feel so proud of yourselves. Honestly you could just get rid of yourself and I’m sure we’d all be doing better. It’d be a favor for every living being on this Earth so by no matter let me keep you from doing so.
Dorian and Tyler started glaring at us, stuttering insults Chishiya had broken their walls. Speaking of which, he gives me a side glance and I nodded at him as a thank you, he gives me a smirk and I give him a small smile back.
“He’s right. In the end you were just a bunch of jealous brainless pigeons who just because I was academically better than them in every way decided to gang up on me to bring me down. It’s a proof of weakness and cowardice really, you can’t do shit alone, not even wipe your ass, so you decide to get with other people as uncapable of you at decency and basic tasks to get the job done. Just go back to eating your boogers, eating shit, making crap, spewing bullshit, fapping to power play porn and sucking up to every accomplished adults you meet, you pathetic attention whores. You couldn’t find your place in our world, so this world ain’t for you kids.”
As I finish I discard one last piece and tell the dealer ‘Mahjong’, and we get our fourth point. After this, no words are uttered from our opponents to us, only mumbled comments between themselves as Chishiya and I stare them down with our coldest glares and win rounds after rounds until the time limit rang. I shook their hands big an agonizing amout of strength and both males looked pained, almost ready to cry as I let them go and spat on their shoes. They scrambled to their last battle as we walked to ours.
There was a couple of older ladies; maybe in their fifties or so, who looked sad but determined.to win. We sit down, they bow at us, we bow back. After last battle I needed this silence very much and Chishiya understood it too which I appreciated. But the look in his eyes told me that we’d talk about it later. And after the dealer arrived, we started our first round. After our fifth round and only one victory we understood that it wouldn’t be as easy, these ladies obviously didn’t seem to have that many weaknesses and practiced more than us, but we had to lessen the number of points we lost to the best of our abilities. And after an excruciating time the dealer signs the end of the battle. We won by three points, but those extra three points were won them through our blood and sweat. After the dealer is done cleaning, we all bow at each other and at the dealer and wait for the results.
“Oh Sejun and Min Gyeongin: lost 7 times for 11 rounds, 4 times for 10, 10 times for 11, 0 times for 16, 4 times for 10. Status: winner.” The two men in suits sigh in relief and relax in their chairs.
“Niwamura Temi and Akamichi Yuuji: lost 16 times for 16 rounds, 14 times for 14, 5 times for 12, 16 times for 16, 6 times for 13. Status: eliminated.” The two middle schoolers start to panic as the collar around their necks started to blink and make noise, and soon enough their heads exploded. I turn my eyes away from the disgusting sight as I feel bile rising in my oesophagus. But as I look to Chishiya he is still watching, a thoughtful look in his eyes as he keeps his face stoic as always.
“Mirakami Asuka and Haro Minari lost 0 times for 16 rounds, 1 time for 11, 0 times for 12, 0 times for 14, 1 time for 10, 9 times for 15. Status: winner.” The two ladies in front of us start to cry from relief, they were really good so there was no doubt they’d win by almost a landslide. But it was good that they were scared too, no matter their level, at least they weren’t conceited.
“Kumogata Shonjuro Kamakibo Hinata lost 9 times for 15 rounds, 7 times for 12, 12 times for 12, 14 times for 14, 6 for 10. Status: eliminated.” I turn around to not see the disturbing event about to happen and flinch as I hear the noise of flesh splattering on the ground.
“(y/l/n) (y/n) and Shuntarö Chishiya lost 3 times for 10 rounds, 0 times for 14, 0 times for 12, 1 time for 11, 6 times for 15. Status: winner.” I shakily run my hands through my hair, we made it. I look at Chishiya who was cockily smirking at Dorian and Tyler...that meant that they lost. And I scoff as I see them panic and flail around.
“Hathaway Dorian and Grimes Tyler: lost 6 times for 15 rounds, 12 times for 12, 7 times for 9, 10 times for 11, 9 times for 13. Status: eliminated.” Their collars beeped in synch and I flip them off one last time before I turn around and hear the significant sound of the collar exploding. After that it was the usual, getting our visas and returning home, completely tired.
Once at home I throw myself on the comfort of my mattress. But before I can drift off to sleep I hear Chishiya coming and feel him sitting on my bed.
“Those assholes didn’t do too much of a number on you did they?”
I shrug and hide my face in my pillow.
“Well, karma got to them so let them go. You give them too much attention, they don’t deserve it. How you talked to them back there was your revenge, you told em everything you had to say how you had to say it and shut em up. Now it’s done. Let it go.”
“Believe me I know. But you spit on them for god’s sake, plus there are more important matters on the table right now.”
I grumble an agreement and he sighs. “At least know that we’re kinda the same. So even if I’m not the best, I’m here. You helped my ass get used to this place, it’s all I can do.”
And as I hear him go I call to him.
“G’night, and welcome to hell.”
“Doesn’t seem that hellish to me, it actually seems kinda fun. Sleep well.”
“Psycho.” He chuckles.
“Sad bitch.” I giggle back and curl in my comforter.
Maybe having him around wouldn’t be the most comforting, but it’d be enough.
<Prev / Next>
I just revised a few mistakes, my brain warped a few infos lmao. That’ll teach me to write past midnight, unfortunately I only get inspired at that time so that’s going to be a pain. Anyways right now Chishiya’s hair isn’t as long as it is in the series, and it’s not dyed yet so that’ll happen over time. May I remind you that we now are about, 3 months away from the events in AiB. So that mean stuff will happen in the mean while. I’ll concentrate my next chapter into more “domestic” stuff, like a “How to live decently in the Borderlands 101″ if you will. I sorta know where I want this to be headed, but any ideas from you guys are welcome! After all it’s for all of s that I’m writing. Anyways, don’t forget to share, comment and enjoy!
poster for the 1935 film Tange Sazen Returns, starring Denjiro Okochi. For some unknown reason, his right arm seems to have grown back!
Tange Saßen, the irascible, one-eyed, one-armed ronin with a strong sense of justice, is a popular character in Japanese film, television, and novels,
DVD cover for the 1935 version of Tange Sazan and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo, starring Denjiro Okochi
Tange Sazen was originally just a minor character in a serialized story published in 1927 about a Ooka Echizen, an historical figure who was a magistrate in Edo during the Tokugawa Shogunate. However, Sazen’s dramatic appearance, especially as rendered in drawings accompanying the serialized story, really caught the public’s attention.
DVD cover for the 1982 television movie version of Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo, starring Nakadai Tatsuya
Film studios picked up on Tange Sazen’s popularity and, a few months after his initial appearance, three different studios released Tange Sazen films. The most popular of the three starred Denjiro Okochi, who is the actor most associated with the role. Okochi-san eventually made 13 Tange Sazen films.
DVD cover for The Secret of the Urn, the 1966 version of Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo, staring Kinnosuke Nakamura and directed by the great Hideo Gosha
Tange Sazen’s creator, Fubo Hayashi, was so impressed by the success of the films that he wrote a new serial, this time with Tange Sazen as the main character. This serial evolved Sazan’s personality from the nihilist he was originally, to the cranky, argumentative, righter of wrongs that the public loved so well.
DVD cover for Tange Sazen, the 1958 version of Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo, starring Ryutaro Otomo
The serial, Tange Sazen, was made into the 1935 film Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo, again starring Denchiro Okochi. This time Okochi-san gave Sazen a more comic side, which again was very popular with theatergoers.
DVD cover for Tange Sazen and the Princess, a 1961 film with Ryutaro Otomo again playing Sazen
I don’t know if Fubo Hayashi wrote any other Tange Sazen novels, and I would appreciate any information any one might have. However, Tange Sazen has been filmed (as Tange Sazan and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo, or similar titles) numerous times, with each actor who portrays Sazen getting a crack at the story.
DVD cover for 1960′s Tange Sazen: The Mysterious Sword, again with Ryutaro Otomo as Sazen
Besides Denjro Okochi and his 13 films as Tange Sazen, the next film actor most associated with the role is Ryutaro Otomo. Otomo-san was a popular star of jidaigeki (samurai) films in the 1950s and 60s. He first played Sazen in 1958, and then returned to the role at least 4 more times (I have found conflicting data on the Interwebs, but I know he made at least 5 films as Tange Sazen).
DVD cover for The 1959 film Tange Sazen: The Mystery of the Twin Dragons (no, not the Jackie Chan film!); Rytaro Otomo returns again as Tange Sazen
In addition to the numerous Tange Sazen films (of which there are supposedly 34, but I have not yet been able to find a comprehensive list), there were at least 3 television series about our hero. The first ran from 1958 to 1959, and starred Tetsuro Tamba, aka the hardest working man in Japanese cinema (it is said that he never turned down a role, no matter how outrageous).
DVD cover for the 1963 version of Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo, The One-Eyed Swordsman, starring Tetsuro Tamba as Tange Sazen
Tamba-san returned to the role in 1963 for The One-Eyed Swordsman: Tange Sazen, which another adaptation of Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo. What’s unusual about Tamba-san’s performance is that his Sazen is missing his left arm and is blind in the left eye, while the character has always been described/depicted as missing the right arm and blind in the right eye. I don’t know if Tamba-san played the character that way in the television series, as I have not been able to track down an episode, nor do I know if the film is in any way related to the series other than having the same main character.
DVD cover for Tange Sazen, the 2004 film version of Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryu, starring Etsushi Toyokawa
Other famous actors (at least here in the West) who’ve portrayed Tange Sazen in film and TV are Akira Kurosawa favorite Tatsuya Nakadai (Sanjuro, Ran), and samurai film veteran Kinnosuke Nakamura (also known for playing Ogami Itto in the Lone Wolf and Cub television series).
poster for Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword, a 1969 film starring Michiyo Yasuda
There were also at least two female versions of Tange Sazen!
Actress Komako Hara played a female Tange Sazen in a pair of films from the late 1930s. I have not seen these, and don’t know if they’re considered lost like so many pre-World War Two Japanese films are.
Then there’s 1969′s Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword. This one stars the pretty Michiyo Yasuda as O-Kin, a female swordswoman who is not Tange Sazen, but disfigured exactly like him, and has the same cantankerous demeanor, but is ready right any wrong no matter the cost. As you can see from the poster above, she has mastered Sazen’s signature move of drawing her katana one-handed by holding the scabbard in her teeth.
cover to Osamu Tezuka’s 1954 Tange Sazen manga
Then we have the 1954 manga Tange Sazen, by the king of manga himself, Osamu Tezuka. This is an adaptation of the original Tange Sazen serial, so it’s really just the manga form of Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth One Million Ryo. I’ve not read it yet, although I did find a Japanese copy for sale on Amazon. I’ll have to check the Internet Archive to see if anyone uploaded a translated version.
So there you have it: my crash course introduction to Tange Sazen. I hoped this piqued your interest, and you seek out the films to discover this wonderful character for yourself.