The creatures Non Non Ba describes in her stories are real. Shigeru feels their presences, at times he can see them, and in at least one instance he befriends a yokai, a disheveled monster who scatters adukii beans in the attic. In later life Mizuki would become famous as an creator of yokai manga, but despite the creatures pervasive presence in Non Non Ba, this novel is as much about pre WW II life in s small town as it is about folklore. The pretend wars Shigeu's friends "play" are vicious and the rules are as draconian and unreasonable as those he would later expose among the Japanese Imperial Army in his anti-war masterpiece, Onward to our Glorious Deaths,His father is a gentle but tragic character, and his mother is both comic and pathetic in her inability to let go of what she sees as her glorious past. The child's life is surrounded by tragedy. A young girl from Tokyo who is cared for by Non Non Ba dies of tuberculosis. The seemingly respectable family who moves to town in fact deals in selling young girls to distant geisha houses.
Mizuki's interweaving of the fantastic and the everyday is seamless and convincing, and his story is gentle and moving. A twelve-mile hike to taste the first doughnuts brought to this remote area of Japan is as entertaining as a trip to an undersea cave to witness a yokai floor show.
|In Mizuki's hometown Sakaiminato, sculptures of Yokai|
line the road to the railway station. This is the
Wall Yokai, admittedly not one of the more
|This Yokai is so frightening it has cause Shigura and|
Non Non Ba to speak Spanish