January 2020


With gentle hands she runs the tap, and surging springs lull you to a nap
The water and steam her form to hide, and as you sleep her time she bides
Til the others bathers, one by one, depart for whence they once have come
She slides in then, all pearly white, her robe and skin by bathhouse light
Hair done up and held with sticks, moving fast and striking quick
You don’t feel a thing as the fangs slide in, skin by steam made so very thin
Blood spills in the pool, but just a drop, the rest sucked up, a harvested crop
She smiles with crimson upon her lips, and walks with a swagger in her hips
Drawing lifeless form upon the floor, dragging you out a hidden door
When they find you five days hence, they’ll say you died falling o’er a fence
So cleverly her trail she hides, in not one soul does she confide
Sapporo’s bane, its living blood, drawn out in form of living flood
But worry not if you’re afraid, for one small fact may give you aid
The vampiress in spotless white likes victims in a certain light
Only vile sorts, mean-tempered and rude, are suitable to be her food
So if you find yourself in need, while bathing do this warning heed
Be kind to all and pleasant too, and nothing foul or evil do
And you’ll find that you will never meet, the vampiress so swift and fleet

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Penanggalan Hero Girl Aori (ペナンガラン ヒーローガール あおり)

Manga Premiere: January 30, 2017, currently on Issue 3

Anime Premiere: April 1, 2018, currently on Season 2

OVAs:
Penanggalan Hero Girl Aori: Life Sucks!
The Great Penanggalan Hunt: Malaysia Special
Short Cuts: Penanggalan Hero Girl Aori

Video Games:
Penanggalan Hero Girl Aori: Bathhouse Blast! (Nintendo 3DS) released May 6, 2018
Penanggalan Popple! (iOS) released July 9, 2019
Sapporo Vampiress Diary (Nintendo Switch) released November 5, 2019

Plot:
Aori Takamoto is an attendant at an onsen (a bathhouse heated by natural hot springs) near Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido. The bathhouse, called The Lucky Leech after a local legend, is extremely popular due to its reported healing properties despite being rather ramshackle. Aori is always having to deal with a variety of colorful customers, both local regulars and travelers, as well as her two co-workers: the perverted male attendant Riki and the skinflint fifth-generation spa owner Tetsuya.

However, Aori also has a dark secret. During school trip to Kuala Lumpur while she was in college, Aori was attacked by a penanggalan a notorious female vampire from Malay mythology. Until and unless Aoki finds and slays the penanggalan that attacked her she is cursed to live as one herself—possibly the only one in all of Japan.

Each night, her head detaches from her body, which she leaves in her tiny apartment, and flies forth in search of blood. However, being a very kind and conscientious person, Aoki tries her best not to harm the innocent—instead using her position as a bathhouse attendant to identify bad people to feed from. While she is usually able to avoid killing her victims, the number of men who have been found drained of their blood has given rise to a legend of the “Sapporo Vampiress.”

So far, Aori has been able to avoid killing any female victims—which is important, because a slain woman will return to life the next day as another penanggalan!

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Laughter in the night
Car doors in the distance
The hum of karaoke
Voices merry in song
Bottles clink together
And next door
I press my
Pillow
Over
My
Head

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In winter deep we count the hours
Until first spring yields forth her flowers
So the traditional refrain goes
But it’s wrong, as everyone knows
Flowers now start to peek and bloom
Long before it’s May or June
It seems the rhymes should be revised
As February showers March blooms arise
Further south, as the seasons fall
Some places never have winter at all
Not just tropics, now, but temperates too
One wonders what the poets will do
In years soon hence, when blazing sun
Makes December loathed by everyone
Honestly though, when we’ve got to there
We won’t have poets anywhere

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Washing up after preparing Lord Matsumura’s fugu dinner was a simple matter, as the daimyo kept a very well-ordered and spotless kitchen. In fact, the other cooks had been dismissed and sent home to allow Takenaka Chihiro to work in silence—a fact he detested, as conversation and jokes were essential to a good kitchen in his view. He was counting out some money to send to the chefs—waged for the day they missed, when he straightened suddenly.

“Would you like me to make you something to eat?” he said. “I’m all out of fugu, but I’m happy to whip up something else.”

The shadow that had silently entered through the window behind him did not reply.

“If you have a pufferfish to bring me, and it’s good quality, I’ll happily prepare it for you as well.”

Takenaka heard the blade being withdrawn from its sheath, and by the time the air was whistling with a furious blow aimed at his neck, he had taken up his knife. The Unmei no Fuguhiki, made for Takenaka by the hand of Sengo Muramasa himself after a particularly fine meal, caught and deflected the blow easily.

With an agility that belied his rotund frame, Takenaka spun around to view his attacker. They wore the mon of the Tamaribuchi clan, and were girded for assassination. The man’s eyes were wide at the chef’s maneuver, and his katana had been buried in a wooden table.

“I am very sorry, my friend,” Takenaka said. “They say the best chefs put something of themselves into every dish, but if anyone is to carve up Takenaka Chihiro to taste, it will be Takenaka Chihiro.”

“My name is Tamaribuchi Yoshimi, and I bear a message from my lord,” the man said.

“Speak it then,” said Takenaka. “Otherwise, I have not yet eaten for myself tonight.”

The assassin visibly strained to remove his sword from the wood. “I will deliver it once my blade is free.”

“Surely you have other blades,” said Takenaka.

“My lord was quite specific that it was to be this blade,” said Yoshimi.

“Well, while you work to free it perhaps you would care to tell me why?” Takenaka said. “If the recipe is death, I am at least curious to see its ingredients.”

“You have been asking questions about Ishikawa Akira—too many questions. My lord will not tolerate interference in his affairs.”

“And what if I told you that Ishikawa Akira was born Takenaka Akira, and that he is my own lost and very much beloved brother? What recipe to those ingredients make?”

“Death, still,” Yoshimi said. “But for different reasons.”

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With a final, deft, twist of his knife, Takenaka Chihiro completed the carving of daimyo Matsumura’s fugu. The delicious but deadly pufferfish lay artfully presented, with its most poisonous innards scooped out and discarded—all but the liver, which Lord Matsumura had specifically requested.

Takenaka handed the dish off to a Matsumura retainer. “Here is the daimyo’s dish,” he said. “Tell him to stop eating the liver if he begins to feel a tingling sensation, unless he has an urgent question for the gods, in which case he should eat faster.”

The retainer did not share Takenaka’s full belly laugh at the joke. “I do not think my lord’s death, and my dishonor at failing to prevent it, are matters for comedy,” he said.

“If you wish, I can set you aside a choice cut to taste ahead of time,” Takenaka said with a smile. “If you live, he will. I won’t tell a soul, and the fugu won’t either. After all, he is no longer full of hot air eh?”

Takenaka scooped a piece of sashimi onto a cloth and offered it to the retainer. The man’s lips visibly trembled at the sight of such an expensive delicacy, one he would never be able to afford himself. A moment later, he popped it into his mouth without another sound, and his eyelids fluttered in pleasure at the magnificent taste.

“Lord Matsumura is lucky to have such faithful and diligent men in his employ,” Takenaka said. “Tell your men that I will be happy to prepare them fugu as well, once the lord has had his repast, provided that they bring me a good fish!”

“We cannot afford to pay for such an offer.”

“Well, that’s why I wouldn’t charge you!” Takenaka said.

The retainer cocked his head. “Yet you charge the daimyo,” he said.

“He can afford it!” Takenaka smiled. “Besides, I only ask for what I need to continue my journey.”

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“You’re missing the point,” Ethel said to Topsy.

“Oh, am I?” Topsy squawked. “Well, perhaps you’d care to enlighten me.” Beyond the bird’s usual squawky register, Ethel definitely detected a note of anger and sarcasm.

“If we steal the jewels from Agnes Oxtoby, we’re doing her a favor, and Colonel Oxtoby as well,” said Ethel. “We owe it to them–to ourselves–to try.”

Topsy cocked his head. “That’s the worst excuse for petty larceny I’ve ever heard. We owe it to them to steal from them? And I suppose we owed it to Lord Chatham to clean out his account, as well?”

“No, he deserved that. But think about it. That jewel is insured, so Agnes Oxtoby won’t be put out by it. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll stop wearing it out for her little trysts. Or the Colonel will catch her. Either way it will strengthen their marriage.”

“Or ruin it,” drawled Topsy.

“Like I said, we owe it to them,” said Ethel. “Now, are you going to help me steal and fence this jewel, or am I going to sell you to the circus for an equivalent amount?”

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