Ayo, my favorite cooking manga's baaaack (they are simmering lesbians for centuries in a sauce of existential dread). I'm sorta spoiled since I read the next few chapters on MD on account of having zero restraint when it comes to this series, but it's still fun to revisit them with an alternate translation for additional perspective. As the wise Ayame once (probably) said, "You can never have too much tongue." Scattered thoughts (though not as scattered as Ayame was at the end of this chapter, lmaoooooo) below:
1) I fucking love Ayame's entire character. Truly a MILF (Mother, I'd Like to Find out more about how you ended up becoming what you are today and how you feel about your past, present and place in this warped and haunting pseudo-hierarchy of horrors in which you linger through a mixture of agony, remorse and guilt). Besides everything she represents in relation to Hinako's tortured psyche and perceptions of motherhood and family, she's also just so entertaining in action? The glib, polite, bemused 'oh dear' approach to bloody murder, just a bumbling old mom out to dice a teenager for dinner, the casual acceptance of her relative irrelevance and vestigiality in the grotesque scheme of things even as she's being torn about, and above all, the fact that her reaction to Shiori rending her asunder is to eagerly try and gather some tea, some steaming hot goss about this legendary mermaid lady's relationship to Hinako with all the zest of a middle-aged suburban mom hunting for that spicy celeb drama. Iconic, honestly. I hope she (un)lives forever.
2) For the millionth time (here's to a million more), I adore how Naekawa Sai really looked at the boundary between mortal and monster and took a chainsaw-blender to it, because we are in the soup, the veritable cryptid chowder of hybridity here. I mean, look at The. The fucking inversion of traditional tropes and themes relating to fairytales and mystery and wonder when it comes to Hinako and Shiori. The mermaid blood in Hinako representing this twisted version of a childhood fantasy, of a connection to this supernatural and strange realm forged in childhood persisting into her adolescence and dragging her ever deeper back toward that otherworldly liminality, a resurgence of the absurd that is seemingly a return of the repressed and a bursting forth of the horrific, but also in a bizarre way a reacquaintance with the wonders and potential of childhood, with that fairyland that dogs the dreams of a girl who never quite grew up, and perhaps the key if this series doesn't spiral tits-up into tragedy to restoration of some measure of the person she used to be. It's exquisite. This series feels like it comes from a mind that read the original, gory versions of a ton of fairytales, the macabre, weird, cautionary and terrifying folktales they were originally supposed to serve as for trembling village children who'd otherwise venture into the darkness of the woods, and at the end of them all adored these horrific yarns as ardently as most kids love their Disney princesses. This makes me feel so very spoken to. Hail Naekawa.
3) The monster designs. Good heavens (into which none of these girls are ever getting), the monster designs. I feel like a ton of media that features 'feminine' monsters tends to go one of two ways- you either have an incredibly basic, almost 'cute', borderline humanoid, almost moe portrayal of the monster that's not really foreign or intimidating or striking at all, a 'monster girl' and nothing more; or alternately, just a general, animalistic or inorganic monster design that might normally take or emerge from a femme body, but has no especially femme traits whilst in monster-mode. Of the two, I largely prefer the latter, given that monsters could probably not give less of a shit about silly human conceptions of gender or attractiveness, but at the same time, I do also love to see approaches that integrate the two, that take traits, motifs and signifiers generally considered feminine and work them into a truly terrifying and awe-inspiring monster design, especially if the object is not some misogynistic exaggeration of feminine traits to promote a wack-ass message like 'hey, look what happens when le women lose control of their Emotions and try to be independent" (a theme unfortunately all too common in horror films), but in a nuanced, complex queer sense that very much aims to convey a sense of longing, adulation and wonder at this entity that makes gender profoundly, daringly, transcendently its own (lesbian and trans monsterfucker romance is actually an established and thriving subgenre in queer lit). Shiori's design nails this better than Shiori nails your average abomination (which happens so often I honestly think the local beasties are into it and rush to be dissected by the dommy mermaid lady every time she surfaces). The limpid muscles spotted by coral constellations, the fins cleaving air and water as effortlessly as they slice past all that is holy and just, the kelp forests of hair drinking mercilessly of moonlight, the horns that crown a queen-beast apex predator and are also bizarrely reminiscent of the princesses Hinako distinguishes her from, the maelstrom of teeth crunching life back down to the unicellular, cradle-grave of existence- she's poetry in motion, an eldritch melody.
3.5- You Can (Not) Shut Up about Monster Designs: Speaking very broadly of the major monster designs we've seen so far, I'd say Miko's vibe kinda reminds me of Resident Evil- a terrifyingly souped-up version of an already intimidating, but still recognizable human or animal template, in this case the fox (they really went and infected my girl with the Organized Religion Virus); Ayame's vibe brings to mind Silent Hill (a uniquely psychosexual type of WTF that uses deeply personal and symbolic aspects to imbue a uniquely unsettling edge to even generally humanoid and relatively physically unimposing monsters); and Shiori's a fucking Soulsborne boss (striking mixture of transcendent beauty and abject decay that reflects a long and esoteric history, suggesting at once an age of myths and glory and mystery while presenting you with undeniable proof of the brutality, madness and corruption that lead the brightest ages to their fall). I wish with all my heart that this series goes on to give us some more monsters with equally unique designs, or at least that Naekawa occasionally puts out some monster art regardless of what their future projects might be, because they've got a legitimate gift here.
last edited at Dec 17, 2022 4:43PM