Hozuki’s Coolheadedness (Hoozuki no Reitetsu) is a manga about Hozuki, an oni (demon or ogre) and his daily life in Hell. Its anime adaptation aired in 2014, and the second season will air from October 2017 in Japan.
The story takes place in the Japanese version of Hell, therefore its characters are figures from Japanese folklore and ghost stories, as well as from various overseas mythologies. In this article, I’m going to talk about the characters from Hozuki’s Coolheadedness and Japanese culture!
The Setting: Hell
The concept of Hell for the Japanese is heavily influenced by Buddhism.
Buddhist believes that after death, the fate of humans are determined by the king of Hell, Enma, and those who committed a crime in life, whether it was murder or theft, are sent to Hell to atone for their crimes. They experience torment which may differ in degrees of severity and the places where they receive said torment depends on the seriousness of their crimes.
The lyrics in the opening song of the first season of the anime series include the names of the 8 Hells. Each character of Hozuki’s Coolheadedness is working at one of them. They are called ‘the Eight Greater Hells’ and each hell is further divided into smaller sections.
Although the King of Hell, Enma, is commonly depicted with a scary facial expression, he has a gentle personality and a cute look in the anime.
The deceased in the Buddhist hell won’t suffer eternally. They will be reborn after they have completed their atonement, according to the Buddhism believe of reincarnation. Buddhism thought divides the world into six realms including the human realm where we live, the hell realm, and a heaven-like place, the god realm. Each realm is part of the bigger ‘wheel of life’ and every being is in this circle of transmigration, therefore there is no concept of life after death in Buddhism.
The Workplaces Where the Characters are Employed
In the Buddhist Hell, a role to punish humans, gokusotsu in Japanese, is handled by demons. The protagonist, Hozuki, and other Hell employees are mostly demons. However, there are some animals and characters from Japanese folklore working in Hell, such as Momotaro, a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant.
Momotaro is one of the best known folk tales in Japan, in which a hero named Momotaro exterminates ogres. However, in Hozuki no Reitetsu, Momotaro fails to exterminate ogres in hell due to Hozuki’s intervention. He then cleans up his act and finds a job in heaven. His attendants (a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant) are assigned to Fukisho Hell, a hell for people who bullied animals, within Toukatsu Jigoku, which is a hell for people who killed living creatures.
A rabbit from another folktale, Kachi-Kachi Mountain, also works in Hell. In the tale, a rabbit takes revenge on a villainous racoon dog which killed an old lady who took care of the rabbit. Despite its cute looks, the rabbit still has a grudge against the racoon dog and works in Nyohichuda-sho in Daikyokan Jigoku, which is a hell for liars.
There are more characters from Japanese folklore tales and ghost stories, including Kintaro who works as a bodyguard and Issun-boushi who works as a caretaker.
Karauri, Nasubi, and Obon
Among the employees in Hell, there are two recruits called Karauri and Nasubi.
Karauri is an old Japanese word for a cucumber and nasubi means eggplant. The names of the two are deeply related to a traditional summer event in Japan called Obon. This event is a religious custom to pray for one’s ancestors. It is believed that ancestors come back to our world for 4 days in the middle of August (although the dates vary greatly depending on the region in Japan), and people visit the graves of their ancestors with lanterns to guide their spirits back home on the first day, and on the last day they light fires at the entrance of their houses to send them back.
During this period, the doors of household altars are closed and Shoryo-dana, which literally means an altar for spirits, is placed to welcome ancestors. People make little horses and cows with cucumbers and eggplants, and place them among other offerings on the altar. The horse means ‘we’d like our ancestors to ride a horse to visit us fast’ and the cow means ‘we’d like our ancestors ride a cow to go back slowly.’
In the anime, Obon is called by its formal name, Urabon, and is depicted as a period when the deceased in Hell are relieved of their punishments. For the employees, it’s a period for a summer holiday and a night festival. The holiday ends at midnight and they have to bring back the deceased who haven’t come back to Hell.
I still remember that I was so scared and even cried when I read a book about Hell in my childhood. Hell is commonly depicted as a terrifying and cruel place. However, in this anime Hell is a workplace as any other and the daily lives in Hell are depicted with a lot of humor.
Hell is not as Scary Here…
Many characters from Japanese folklore stories and legends, as well as characters from overseas mythologies appear in Hozuki’s Coolheadedness. Watch this anime or read the manga if you are interested in Japanese culture!