In the previous post, we tackled the real myths and stories behind some of the main characters and as I mentioned I will be posting the second part tackling more.
ZASHIKI WARASHI (座敷童)
The adorable creepy pair of zashiki warashi in the anime was adopted by Hōzuki when he met them on a haunted house tour in the mundane world. The twins had played a prank on him by appearing in a photo and he immediately took interest in them. After testing out in Hakutaku’s household if the legend about the zashiki warashi is true, Hōzuki took them back to Yomi and gave them the names Ichiko and Niko (いちこ & にこ). Although everyone in hell still calls them the zashiki warashi simply because it is already stuck in their minds. Aside from the name zashiki warashi, the entity is also called Zashiki Bokko (座敷ぼっこ, Guestroom Basker) and their folklore mainly originated from the Iwate Prefecture (岩手県, Iwate Ken). They are believed to be gods living in zashiki (座敷, storage rooms) but it is debatable whether if they are yōkai or gods of fortune. The zashiki warashi loves to play pranks on the living but may give a great fortune to any family living in the household that they chose to reside in. Although they bring good fortune to the hardworking families, they may take it back and leave the house once they see that the person or family had grown lazy or too consumed by their wealth. In general, it is said that they take on the appearance of children that are about the age of 5 or 6 and that may still vary depending on the household that they live in. The zashiki warashi sometimes have red faces and hair that curtains down their face. The females wear a crimson kosode (小袖) or a furisode (振袖) and have a bob-cut hairstyle, while the males wear a dark kasuri (絣) robe and have short cropped hair. One household may host multiple of them, and there is a belief that you can summon one in a newly built house if you bury a golden ball underneath the floor. It is also a superstition that if you see a red-faced zashiki warashi it is a sign that it will soon leave the home or bring death and illness to the family.
Hō-ō / Houou (鳳凰) & Kirin (麒麟)
In one of the episodes of season two (I think it’s the 3rd or 4th episode) we see two of Hakutaku’s divine beast friends named Hō-ō and Kirin. The two mystical beings visited the philanderer in Shangri-la to get medicines for their ailments. In mythologies, Hō-ō and Kirin’s characters are based on the Chinese mythological beings Fènghuáng (鳳凰, Phoenix) and Qílín (麒麟, Chimera).
Hō-ō: In the anime, we see that Hō-ō has taken the form of a child and despite his appearance, the Phoenix was already filled with illnesses that comes with old age. His situation made his character ironic and comical especially with the cane that he carries around. In the myths, Fènghuáng is not a single entity and the word Fèng (鳳) is used to describe male phoenix birds while Huáng (凰) is used to call the females. As time passed specifically in the Yuan Dynasty (元朝) the gender distinction was disregarded and the Phoenix was turned into a single deity and was called Fènghuáng. Sometimes Hō-ō is called the August Rooster because he takes the place of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac. It is believed that he resides on top of the Kunlun Mountains (崑崙山) in Tibet. Hō-ō’s body is said to symbolize the celestial bodies and that he had originated from the sun. His depictions always show that his body has five colors: black, white, red, green and yellow. The Phoenix is known to only appear in areas that have the utmost peace, happiness, and prosperity.
Kirin: Although he is considered a mystical being, Qílín is said to be only a stylized representation of a giraffe back in the Ming Dynasty (明朝). The emperor proclaimed that they are magical beings that symbolize the greatness of his power after being presented a giraffe that was purchased from Somalia. Kirin can be considered a chimera because of his dragonish features that are merged into the features of a giraffe. The depictions of a qílín’s body differ, some are drawn where he has fire on his body and in some where he only has a fluffy mane. It is believed that if a qílín appears it is either because a great ruler will arrive or will pass on.
Ox Head & Horse Face (牛頭 & 馬面)
In the series this pair is depicted as females who has a penchant for good-looking men like Hōzuki and Hakutaku. They guard the gates of hell same as in their original mythology which originated from China. Commonly their bodies are of men rather than women but I like how the anime placed a twist on them. It is said that they are the ones that the deceased first meet when they arrive in Yomi and they escort the dead to the first palace of King Shinko. In Japanese, their names are Gozu and Mezu. Not much is written about them in scriptures aside from the story of how they were sent to capture Sun Wukong or the Monkey King but were overpowered and driven away.
It is revealed in the second season that Hakutaku actually has (had?) a pretty girlfriend by the name of Chun who serves the 10th king Godotenrin. Chun is the basis for the anime series within the anime (I forgot the title but also, whoa talk about aniception) so she is quite well-known. It is also a known fact within Yomi that she is a jiangshi (殭屍, hopping vampire) or kyonshi in Japanese who has inhuman strength. I find her so adorable and comical because of how she is portrayed; beautiful but deadly. In mythology, kyonshis are corpses that have been revived by monks. Usually, it is said that they look horrifying (of course they’re dead duh) and so, they are popular to use in classic Chinese horror films. Since a kyonshi is a corpse when they get re-animated their bodies are stiff hence why they hop when they terrorize. The way that they remain “alive” is through sucking the life force out of anything that moves. In the anime, we see that Chun is a special case since she seems like she can freely move and throw anyone down the ground. She also has a cameo in season 1 when Hakutaku was first introduced. She was the girl who threw him out the door when Momotaro arrived in Shangri-la.
I think that’s about it! I know there are some more such as Jizo and that adorable mountain snow guardian and also Sakuya-hime but I think it’s best to end it with Chun. I hope you all learned something from this two-part post~ Until next time!