Mokke – 08
Mizuki’s class is having their school trip to a well-known tourist spot, Hakone, for two days. The rest of the class is excited, although Mizuki is downright scared for her life – she suspects that she may unknowingly attract youkai, and she does not have her sister or grandfather to help her. Hisako and Yu, two of Mizuki’s friends, notice a distinct lack of energy in Mizuki and suggest opening the windows on the tour bus to allow some fresh air in.
Mizuki is in charge of taking photos of the students and the various sightseeing locations of the areas they are visiting. She performs this assignment with zest, although she shows some uneasiness in taking photos of the more self-absorbed students in the class, which includes a trio of girls lead by the pigtails-adorned Asami.
Mizuki’s weariness drags on as the students visit Shinto shrines and similar structures at Hakone. Her fears reach a peak when she feels a hand upon her shoulder. She tries to shrug it off, but she is saved when two boys from her class and an elderly woman dressed in pink abruptly bumps into her. Mizuki apologizes to the “hag,” although the oddly dressed adult touches her face and other suggestive areas. With a final, rather inappropriate message (“I almost want to eat you”), she leaves.
Mizuki returns to her normal self by the time the class makes its way to the hotel. After a hearty dinner, a soak in the onsen, and a pillow fight, she and her friends make way into the bathroom (some Japanese-styled inns do not have bathrooms inside the guestrooms) on the dimly-lit hotel corridor. The nighttime bathroom creeps Mizuki out, but she has no choice and enters – she collapses to the floor, unconscious, when she finally unlocks and emerges from her stall.
Mizuki wakes up to find herself lying down on a futon with a thick blanket covering her body – her friends had brought her back into their hotel room. Yu offers water as Mizuki gingerly gets up. Deciding that now will be an appropriate time to tell her friends about her unusual bond with spirits, Mizuki starts to talk; Yu and Hisako, however, misinterprets Mizuki’s confession. (mewmew’s note: Mizuki tries to tell that she has a tendency to attract or possess spirits - 憑かれやすい - although her friends confused what she said for being easily tired, or 疲れやすい. Both are expressed with the same phrase, tsukareyasui.)
The second and last day of the school trip starts off on a terrible note for Mizuki, who felt her body being tied down (金縛り/kanashibari) and unable to sleep the night before. The class stops by the Oowakudani (大涌谷) now, and Mizuki unknowingly finds herself next to the same old woman again. The senior seems to recognize Mizuki’s connection with the youkai, so Mizuki leaves her camera at the hands of the clearly untrustworthy Asami. Mizuki runs off to catch up with the granny.
The old woman and Mizuki have a leisurely chat about their ability, and Mizuki decides to ask if there is any way to lose the “gift” of attracting spirits. The elderly woman answers jokingly that this is possible by eating humans, and then laughs it off to say that she personally deals with the issue by avoiding unnecessary contact and lowering her awareness for her surroundings. She advises Mizuki to find her own way of tackling her issue and walks away.
By the time Mizuki returns to her classmates, she finds out that Asami has dropped the camera and ruined the film that captured all the photographs. Mizuki uncharacteristically breaks down at this revelation, and yells at her classmate.
We now find Mizuki by herself on one of the boats ferrying the students as she reflects on how important the school trip and the photos were to her. The hag appropriately shows up at this opportunity, and sits next to Mizuki. She first consoles the young girl but she shifts the conversation into convincing Mizuki to exacting revenge on Asami. Still feeling down, Mizuki cannot bring herself to disagree with the hag’s words – she asks if Mizuki has interest in eating Asami. The background grows dark and cold, and the hag once again questions Mizuki in a hypnotic voice if she can consume Asami; all she needs is Mizuki’s permission. Mizuki almost gives her consent, but is brought back to her senses as she feels a sharp pang in her stomach – her grandfather’s protective charm in the form of water she drank before the trip has reacted. Still shaking, she is able to deny the hag’s request. The hag sounds a bit disappointed, but disappears from Mizuki’s side.
After the boat ride, Asami approaches Mizuki in the souvenir store and hands her a brand new disposable camera. She apologizes and tells Mizuki that it isn’t too late for photos just yet, and Mizuki has her classmates gather as she starts taking photos again. By the time she is back in the bus, Mizuki is exhausted and falls asleep – not without thinking about the ヤマウバ (yamauba) she encountered, though.
Not a bad episode at all. The episode itself had a nice nostalgic feel, at least for me, because I too went to Hakone for my school trip back when I was in sixth grade. Just like Mizuki, I remembered the Japanese inn the school booked lacked a proper bathroom in each guestroom – you had to actually leave the room for the bathroom, which was located in the hallways. I slightly envy those who were able to experience Oowakudani on foot too, because my class just passed through the valley on a ropeway (which honestly freaked me out a bit because the distance between the actual lift and the ground was more than a hundred meters, and you kept seeing smoke from below, instead of the actual valley). Oh, and thanks to all the sulfur vents that are active in the area, Oowakudani smelt like eggs. Whopee-doo.
Personal stories aside, I felt a bit sorry for Mizuki this episode. This isn’t the first time she mentioned being excessively weary and aware of her surroundings. This alertness has a strong connection with how much spirits follow her, and Mizuki just can’t bring herself to just ignore all this and remain carefree (and youkai free). She consistently shows signs of guilt over what happen to her as well – she even thinks that the yamauba/hag was something she made up. It’s not very difficult to see that her ability is harder to get used to than Shiruzu’s, since Mizuki is unable to actually see the spirits that get lured to her. I have to give props to their grandfather, though, for coming up with a protective charm in the form of water. Interesting, indeed…
Next time: Shizuru is absorbed in a book given to her by a pale and enigmatic older lady, who is surrounded by smoke or some kind of haze. Why does this scenario seem familiar?