Oshira Asobi – review

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“Was ignorance my sin? Is this my punishment?
Everything goes according to the heart of gods
It’s a childlike play”

After a whole month of waiting, I finally have my copy of Oshira Asobi, BUTAOTOME’s C102 release!

This time we have a book with a song. Ane mentioned that they wanted to do something like that at least once… and it was about time! A lot of “story+related song” Touhou fanworks heavily rely on Diao ye zong music, and it’s nice to see a different name. Even though the music artist here also wrote the story!

(speaking of Diao ye zong… it’s a funny coincidence that their C102 release was Hifuu + horror story!)

The Story

Well… it’s a short story about Renko and Merry finding a seemingly abandoned house (with some great Ane art with creepy vibes), so it’s hard to talk about it without spoiling it. So this part will be about the Oshira-sama deity, who plays an important role in the setting.

Oshira-sama is the tutelary deity of the home in Japanese folklore. It is believed that when oshirasama is in a person’s home, one cannot eat meat and only women are allowed to touch it.

from Wikipedia

Oshira-sama is often represented as a pair of dolls made of mulberry tree. The original myth is about a girl who was in love with her horse, and they even got married. Her father didn’t like that, and so he hung the horse to a mulberry tree. The girl cried and embraced the horse’s head, the father chopped it off, and so the horse and the girl ascended to the heavens and became Oshira-sama.

Oshira-sama is also heavily associated with silkworms, and there is some silkworm and silkmoth imagery in this book. Silkworms are a symbol of good fortune, and usually dreaming of them is a good thing… Yeah, usually.

For further reading on Oshira-sama, I’d recommend this, this article (more focused on the tourism side), and of course Folk Legends from Tono (family, kinship, and household deities chapter). There is also a more obscure Shin Megami Tensei demon named after this deity. (reminder that I really should dive into that series, Persona has pointless remakes)

Also, fun fact: the mulberry fruit is often associated with Merry due to the assonance with her full name and being a fruit that becomes purple when it ripens (Maribel is Yukari OoOoOoOoOoO).

[The following part was added on October 22, 2023]

The previous part was mainly focused on Oshira-sama, but now I want to talk about the “kaidan” part. Because that’s what Oshira Asobi is first and foremost.

In its broadest sense, kaidan refers to any ghost story or horror story, but it has an old-fashioned ring to it that carries the connotation of Edo period Japanese folktales. […] Kaidan is only used if the author/director wishes to specifically bring an old-fashioned air into the story.

from Wikipedia

The book Kaidan Zensho by Hayashi Razan is apparently the earliest usage of this word in Japanese language. It is a collection of short stories translated from Chinese, and there is a specific story that caught my attention – The Horse-Headed Girl. You can read an English translation here (along with other stories and a general analysis of Kaidan Zensho), and you can see that it has a lot of elements in common with the Oshira-sama tale: the marriage between a girl and a horse, people opposing it, silkworms, and mulberry trees. According to the Japanese Wikipedia page for Canshen (the Chinese deity of silkworm), the legend of Oshira-sama might be modeled after the Horse-Headed Girl story.

By the way, here is a pdf with the original text for Kaidan Zensho (as well as art), but… keep in mind that this was written in 1600.

Oh, and I also want to share why I decided to return to this review and do more searches. My friend sent me a video about an old videogame called Kuon. It’s a survival horror game developed by FromSoftware (yes, that FromSoftware), and some of its elements reminded me of Oshira Asobi: its narrative is influenced by kaidan, and we also have mulberries and silkworms. And one specific thing reminded me of one of the art in the book…

The Song

At the end of the book, we find a URL to access its accompanying song. While I’m so glad that they provided a wav file, I wish the URL wasn’t still that easy to guess… (heeey, remember the Nekokenban Best DL Card?)

Anyway, Dontohare. Finally a Fairy of Flower arrangement! And the first song of the year! And… Holy CompSheep, this is so dark and unique. I love it. I understand why they didn’t want to play it live (frankly, this is a very non-live song). The lyrics are entirely written in hiragana, so translating was particularly fun and challenging!

End notes

I loved this release, and it reminded me of why I love BUTAOTOME so much. I really hope we’ll get more works like this in the future and no more best ofs!
I know this review has been short, but it’s because this is something that I highly recommend experiencing by yourself, better if it’s in the dark! Oshira Asobi is still available on BOOTH and Melonbooks (use AneVPN if you can’t access the latter, discount code is #MuseDeservesHerButaSong)