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Tenpo Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi


The hero, Ryudo Yukiatsu, and his friends ((C)SHO AIKAWA•

It is 1843, the fourteenth year of the Tenpo era. The shogunate is in a financial crisis, and in the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo), which is plagued by famine, riots, and other alarming events, ayashi fighters battle horrific beasts from the otherworld known as yoi. This is the plot of Tenpo Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi, a mystical anime series that has been on the air since October 2006.

Japan at the time of the story is suffering a widespread famine. Hungry peasants who have left their villages are flowing into the capital, and uprisings and raids on the homes of exploiters are occurring everywhere. The shogunate, being short of money, strictly regulates people's lives under policies known as the Tenpo reforms, but this only serves to make people even more frustrated. On top of all this, yoi lurking in various corners of the country invade Edo's ailing society.

The ayashi who fight the beasts are members of a secret organization called Bansha Aratamesho. Among them are a samurai, a scholar of Western studies, a Shinto priest, a mountaineer, and a girl dressed as a boy, each of whom has a special power or weapon. After slaying a yoi, which is not a phantom but is made of flesh and bone, they eat its meat.


An ayashi fights a yoi. ((C)SHO AIKAWA•

The hero of this magical tale is a 39-year-old masterless samurai named Ryudo Yukiatsu. He battles the beasts using ayagami, the special art of revealing a yoi's name and drawing out the true meaning hidden in the kanji characters making up that name. Kanji have been around for more than 3,000 years. By unveiling the ancient meaning of the characters, Yukiatsu materializes various weapons that are contained in them - such as an axe or a sword - and kills the beasts using these weapons.

The origins of kanji can be traced to the bone inscriptions of the ancient Yin Dynasty in China, dating to around the fourteenth century BC. The inscriptions had shamanistic meanings: They were engraved on bones and tortoise shells to record the results of political divination that priests performed for the king. Kanji evolved from the characters used in these inscriptions. The original form of the kanji character for "father" depicted a person gripping a special axe, a mark of rank or status, while the character for "cloud" originally showed a dragon twisting its tail beneath trailing clouds.

The meanings of the kanji used in the anime are based on the theories of the late Shirakawa Shizuka, professor emeritus of Ritsumeikan University, who is the best-known figure in the study of bone inscriptions. Viewers of Ayakashi Ayashi can learn about the origins of kanji characters while enjoying this unique period anime.

(Updated in February 2007)