The Lovecraft Reread

Elder Gods Just Wanna Have Fun: Manta Aisora and Koin’s Haiyoru! Nyaruani

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Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today is our hundredth post! To celebrate just how weird Weird Fiction can get, we’re watching varying amounts of Haiyoru! Nyaruani, a TV series based on a Japanese light novel by Manta Aisora (writer) and Koin (illustrator). The light novel (manga series) was published by Soft Bank Creative between April 2009 and March 2014. The flash series aired October 2009–March 2010; the follow-up series aired December 2010–February 2011, and April 2012–June 2013. Spoilers ahead.

“The pagan gods’ hearts are all slimy. (You and I both like cowardly things)/If you can see a pagan being with a slimy form (Then we will have a date under the blazing sun)”

Summary [gleaned from peeks at the series as a whole, as well as the “assigned” episodes]:

One night high school student Mahiro Yasaka is pursued by an alien creature that looks like a night gaunt with the vertical maw of a Gug—talk about unholy hybrids. He’s rescued by a silver-haired girl who calls herself Nyarlathotep (Nyaruko for short), the Chaos that always creeps up on you with a smile. Either she’s an avatar of the Outer God or a native of the planet Nyarlathotep. Or both. In either case, the Space Defense Agency has assigned her to protect Mahiro from criminal aliens. See, aliens are strangely attracted to the resources and entertainments of Earth, particularly Mahiro himself. (He IS quite handsome, for a human.)

Other aliens join the protection squad. Kuku looks like a slim, red-haired girl but is from Cthugha. Though soft-spoken, she’s a fire elemental and prone to explosions. Hasuta looks like an androgynous blond boy but is from Hastur. He’s wields air magic. The alien trio settle into Mahiro’s apartment, where he keeps these dangerously powerful beings in line with a deftly wielded fork. You know, of the dining sort.

In “Remember My (Mr.) Love(craft),” two more alien agents appear: Nyarue, a Nyarlathotepian of the sporty persuasion, forever brandishing a baseball bat; and Otoko, a black-haired girl in a traditional kimono printed with stylized webs and spiders, a reference to her native planet of Atlach-Nacha.

All the aliens are obsessed with Earth pop culture. None seems to have an earthly job, unless you count playing video games and Web surfing. Eventually Nyaruko, Kuku and Hasuta enroll at Mahiro’s high school, the better to keep their eyes on the endangered human.

Okay, but see, Nyaruko is in love with Mahiro, who seems both attracted to her and annoyed by her antics. Kuko is in love with Nyaruko, who once saved Kuko from school bullies (even though Nyaruko beat up Kuko along with her tormenters.) Otoko, whom Nyaruko calls a lecherous tease, tries to seduce Kuku and Mahiro. Nyarue is instantly smitten with Mahiro but tries to deny her feelings, sometimes getting so flustered she reverts to a formless blob. Hasuto has feelings for Mahiro, too. Oh, and there’s a miniature Shantak bird, pet to Nyaruko, called Shanta-kun.

Comic and romantic complications ensue. In the mini-episodes we watched, there’s a lot of cooking (much of which produces either boiled shoggoth or aphrodisiac sausages.) Nyaruko flirts relentlessly with Mahiro, while Kuku comes on to Nyaruko and is jealous of Mahiro. Otoko is coy but very naughty, especially when the “girls” end up together in a hot spring. Meanwhile, an alien vessel like a cross between the 2001 monolith and a Borg ship, rumbles toward Earth, supposedly to annihilate humanity. It crash-lands in the city, and Nyaruko and Squad must confront it and fight the good fight. Mahiro gets all sentimental, hoping Nyaruko will return safely. They end up in a tight embraces, and she promises to come back—especially if Mahiro will hold her again.

After such high drama, Mahiro is angry to learn that the alien vessel was simply a charter bus come to ferry aliens and temporarily abducted humans to Space Comiket (Comic Market.) Nyaruko let him worry that she was going into battle when she was really just feeding her pop culture addiction? Oh, but it was a battle, Nyaruko contends. She fought to snag four limited edition action figures, which will protect Earth from a vague cosmic catastrophe. Mahiro doesn’t buy her story, and the fork comes into play one more time.

What’s Cyclopean: Not even gonna try to judge the vocabulary level in something with subtitles.

The Degenerate Dutch: Apparently everyone hates Pisces. [AMP: Pisces and Cancers, which I as a Pisces highly resent. No wonder I empathize with Kuku.]

Mythos Making: In Nyaruko-san, the “elder gods” are representatives of alien races who find humanity all too intriguing.

Libronomicon: No books appear, but elder gods apparently have strange taste in video games.

Madness Takes Its Toll: Nyaruko is fond of a dating sim where the women chase the men and lose sanity points.

 

Anne’s Commentary

Happy 100th blog post! I brought a keg of dubious lunar wine. Anybody get some nice plump Zoogs to grill?

I watched the two “prescribed” series and some longer episodes as well. I will now have the bouncy theme song of “Remember My (Mr.) Love(craft)” orbiting my cerebral cortex, looking for some neurons to permanently colonize. Oh well, better that than the noxious “Muskrat Love,” my long-time nemesis.

Very interesting. When Yith take over human bodies, they seem be bring their lack of sexual libido with them. When other aliens assume human form, at least in the Nyaruko saga, they become raging sex maniacs. I’m assuming they’re not raging sex maniacs in their native forms, but that’s based on the impression Lovecraft and his coterie give of the Outer Gods and Great Old Ones. Maybe with the exceptions of Shub-Niggurath and Cthulhu in Ravening Mode. And Yog-Sothoth courting Lavinia Whateley on Sentinel Hill. And Deep Ones with their appetite for human consorts….

All right, so maybe Lovecraft just wasn’t so blatant. So coyly pornographic. He definitely dabbled not in cutely transgressive romantic comedy, which is what Nyaruko and friends bring us. Look, people, girl aliens just want to have fun. Mostly with Mahiro. Poor Mahiro! His superpower (apart from close quarters fork combat) is inciting alien lust. Except in Kuko, who only wants to have fun with Nyaruko. Lucky Mahiro! All his admirers are quite attractive. In human form. Smart Mahiro! He doesn’t forget that they have other forms or avatars not quite so chibi-cuddly. Nyarlathotep’s the Crawling Chaos, the Howler in the Dark, the Three-Lobed Burning Eye! Cthugha’s a great freaking ball of living flame! Atlach-Nacha’s a giant spider god spinning a web the completion of which will signal the end of days! Hastur is the Unspeakable, the mind-wrenching King in Yellow!

But gracious, they’re so CUTE, especially in their school uniforms. Full disclosure: I had to wear a little plaid skirt and little bow-tie and little white blouse every day of my grammar school life, so I can relate. The nuns never let us wear thigh-high stockings. They knew that a glimpse of creamy skin between plaid hem and stocking top was the true Mark of the Beast. Outer Gods and Great Old Ones can get away with it, though.

I’m not well-versed in anime or manga, but I’ve always enjoyed the candy-hued pop of its colors and the stylization of the human form and face, minimalist in feature (huge eyes, little to no nose, broad of brow and pointed of chin) but at its best oddly compelling and expressive. Detail’s all in the costumes and styling. Here alien species (in human guise) translate some native feature into quirky hair idioms: Nyarlathoteps have silver hair with one long arching strand bobbing up from the crown. Hasturians have yellow hair (in honor of the King?) with two antenna-like locks upright at the temples. Kuku, the Cthughan, often sprouts flames from the bases of her long ponytails, but when she’s discreet, the flames are represented by ribbons charred black. Speaking of Kuku, she’s my favorite. So deceptively flat of affect and deadpan of delivery! So crazy-ass passionate within, as befits a fire elemental. Plus her battle mode or power form “outfit” of skin-tight red cat suit with flame-shaped cut-outs and black mid-thigh boots rocks the super-entity fashion world.

Gotta admit, when I scrolled through images relating to the series, I was rather taken aback by certain images of Kuku chaining Nyaruko to a bed with pink satin sheets. Roses float over the scene, obscuring certain naughty bits, but we can see that Nyaruko wears black lace thongs. Can you imagine Howard’s astonishment, to learn that among Nyarlathotep’s countless avatars, there’s one who sports risqué undies beneath her demure schoolgirl skirt?

Unspeakable! Unnameable! Ahem, but not unimaginable and undrawable, obviously.

 

Ruthanna’s Commentary

OMG what is this even. You guys, I am so sorry. I was led to expect more surreal neo-Lovecraftian plot and less stabbing with forks.

At the very least, I expected amusingly discordant. Instead, there are some particularly unpleasant magical anime girls with the names of elder gods, and dialogue that I can occasionally recognize as intended to be funny. It occasionally saunters in the direction of being interesting—and then saunters back.

I finished the initial flash series, and then watched the first two episodes of Remember My Mister Lovecraft in the hopes of reaching the theoretical plot and interest described in the above summary. Still nope. One screen promises “70 days until the destruction of humanity.” This would be intriguing if my main concern weren’t whether I’d have to spend the whole 70 days watching people stab each other with forks and beat up tiny demon dogs. [ETA: Anne’s research, more thorough than mine, identifies the pet as a tiny shantak bird. It’s the only character I like, in any case.]

The most Lovecraftian thing about this mess is that my wife is now curled on the bed whimpering, and I’m trying to frame my experiences within the bounds of ordinary human language in a desperate and doomed attempt to warn others.

There’s a certain level of cosmic horror that I expect in even humorous neo-Lovecraftian stuff. Neil Gaiman’s “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” (which we really will cover one of these days) is mostly a joke about two Deep Ones walking into a bar, but still ends with the witness terrified by unearthly visions beneath the waves.

The closest Nyaruko comes to that shiver of Not Meant To Know is the pixelated blob of don’t-wanna-think-about-it that Nyaruko cooks in the kitchen episode. But Nyarlathotep as playground bully is just petty. Cthugha as a pyrokinetic with a self-destructive crush on Nyarlathotep is just WTF.

(Someone who’s more of an anime fan is doubtless going to come along to point out that I just don’t get it. I will freely admit to that, and am glad if some people get inexplicable pleasure out of the thing. I’m glad that my housemate—who got a lot of credit for introducing me to Revolutionary Girl Utena and now has some ‘splaining to do—enjoys it.)

There’s so much potential here. Nyarlathotep has a thousand forms; it’s not unreasonable that one of them might be an anime girl with a fondness for lolita dresses. If It can’t make lace and parasols look intimidating, who can? Set It down at Ohtori Academy and let it loose on the student council, and I will watch the hell out of that show. Is there anyone here who doesn’t want to see Akio-I’m-Not-Lucifer-No-Really try to seduce Cthulhu? Genderqueer elder gods dueling cross-dressed high school students for the Rose Bride’s hand? I didn’t think so.

After all, there’s not really that much difference between revolutionizing the world and immanentizing the eschaton.

 

Next week, we get back to our roots with Lovecraft and Heald’s “The Horror in the Burying Ground.”

[Image from the credits for Haiyoru Nyaruani: Remember My Mister Lovecraft. The demure-looking redhead is Cthugha.]

Ruthanna Emrys’s neo-Lovecraftian stories “The Litany of Earth” and “Those Who Watch” are available on Tor.com, along with the distinctly non-Lovecraftian “Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land” and “The Deepest Rift.” Winter Tide, a novel continuing Aphra Marsh’s story from “Litany,” will be available from the Tor.com imprint on April 4, 2017. Ruthanna can frequently be found online on Twitter and Livejournal, and offline in a mysterious manor house with her large, chaotic household—mostly mammalian—outside Washington DC.

Anne M. Pillsworth’s short story.The Madonna of the Abattoir” appears on Tor.com. Her first novel, Summoned, is available from Tor Teen along with the recently released sequel Fathomless. She lives in Edgewood, a Victorian trolley car suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, uncomfortably near Joseph Curwen’s underground laboratory.

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