The protagonist and narrator of the first story, “Kawazuri” [Fishing in a Stream], is a middle-school-age boy who goes to a cram school. He is invited by a popular classmate named Tsuji to go fishing in a mountain stream, but the trip turns sour when Tsuji starts gleefully torturing the fish. When the boy tells Tsuji to stop, Tsuji threatens to “eliminate” him, and approaches with a menacing look. Just then, a mist descends on the river as what sounds like an eerie voice wafts through the hazy air. Tsuji jumps into the river, terrified. When the boy manages to pull him out, Tsuji tells him that he panicked at the sight of an eerie monster.
The second story is “Aoi kingyo-bachi” [The Blue Fishbowl], about a sixth-grade girl who no longer goes to school. She traps the soul of a bully in an old fishbowl in her room—a vessel with a mysterious past. “Oni-ga-Mori Jinja” [Demon Forest Shrine] moves the setting to a shrine further down the Yashajingawa, recounting the tale of a girl who wants so badly to help her classmate pass a theater troupe audition that she places a curse on another girl vying for a spot. In “Snōdoroppu“ [Snowdrop], a cranky old man sits forlornly on a bench by the river and contemplates suicide, seeing little point in life without his recently deceased wife—until the boy from next door and his dog suddenly appear to talk him out of it. Closing out the collection is “Hate no hama” [The Beach at the Edge], about a young boy from a community near the Yashajingawa who comes to understand the inhuman brutality of war on a trip to Hateruma Island in Okinawa.
Deftly evoking the evil feelings and kindness in all of us, Andō Mikie’s prose blends chills and mystery in a most gratifying way. (NA)
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