mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Thoughts re: 100 Demons and the onmyouji figure

What I like about these latter volumes and 13 in particular is the deft way Ima handles Kai, Ritsu's uncle who vanished for a quarter century. There's the social comedy part of it, of course: in conventional Japan a man who disappears for 26 years into the Japanese equivalent of the fairy mounds and comes back as a preternaturally young-looking 46 year old with (shock horror) no job and no wife is a social anomaly, not to say embarrassment. What's his appalled family to do? Set up a string of o-miais and try to get him married off as soon as possible, of course. I mean, of course. Here it'd all be about adjusting to the new society and the new technology and the changes in world history since the 70's. The USSR? Vanished. Yugoslavia? Ripped apart. Czechoslovakia? Split. Germany? Back together: and part of a European union with a single currency yet. Computers, palm pilots, the net, cell phones that take pictures. Dizzying, and worth several books on their own. But there? Get him back to shakaijin status ASAP.

But even better is the way Kai plays off of both Ritsu and Ritsu's grandfather. In his first appearance Kai looked like a more active version of the rather passive Ritsu (and that's 'looked like' almost literally, because the physical resemblance is very close.) I had him mentally classed in with Ritsu and his cousin Akira, as someone shou ga nai gifted with an occasionally inconvenient talent but, being Kai, determined to use it rather than let it use him as it does Ritsu. Now I'm seeing just how much Kai is his father's son. I suppose that was inevitable: the two fought so much because they were in fact rather alike, and Kai's father wanted to keep him from the same dangerous courses of action that he himself pursued so avidly-- though to me it looked a lot like an older man's jealousy of a younger man's ability. As I suppose it did to Kai, and that may be partly what it's about. But it's also an actual case of someone realizing late in life that he's done some amazingly stupid and dangerous things earlier and not wanting his son to repeat the mistake.

There doesn't seem to be a good word to describe what Ritsu's grandfather is, and by and large Ima Ichiko doesn't apply any labels. Ritsu occasionally calls him an onmyouji, but that isn't quite it. Aside from the fact that onmyou itself is a pretty cerebral system and a rather artificial way of controlling umm supernatural phenomena (a sensible man doesn't try to control them at all, and a shaman uses more natural means) the word automatically references Seimei. Seimei in any Yumemakuran avatar (novel manga or film) is a genius and a pro. He knows exactly what he's doing and he rarely screws up. Ritsu's grandfather, one sees by parallel with Ritsu's uncle, was an amateur- a gifted amateur, but an amateur- going at it blind. Supremely self-confident, fascinated by this untapped world of power, and too clever for his own good. Me, I'd call him a magician, rather in the mold of Digory's uncle. Obviously he's more intelligent and able than Digory's uncle, and with time he grows a *little* wiser (a little: imprisoning Aoarashi that particular way is something he does near the end of his life, and he does it out of sentiment: one wonders if he knew what it would cost him?) but the lines are much the same.

He did have talent, yes; we do see him often enough taking the Seimei role as protector against demons and ghosts; we feel we ought to trust him the way Ritsu trusts him. And then we think again: maybe after all he's not that reliable...

And now we have Kai, a younger version of his father, and Ritsu, who's learned a thing or two by now in the course of his difficult life-- including not to trust people like Kai. It's unbalancing in a good way, to see Ritsu coming across as more mature than someone else, when we've been treated to pretty constant close-ups of his uhh well wagamama is really the only word for it: indifference to things outside himself because his own troubles occupy him so exclusively. The polite tension of Ritsu and Kai's interchanges and dealings with each other are a joy to read. (And some day I may consider how dealing with Aoarashi all his life may well have equipped Ritsu to deal with Kai.)

(Roll on vol 14, as well as the Chinese translation so I have someone to discuss this with.)
Tags: 100demons, ima_ichiko, onmyouji

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