If it was true in the previous seven volumes, it’s almost doubly-true in this one – Tomoko Yamashita‘s The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is BL in name only. That’s no more an insult to the series in this review than it was the first few times I mentioned it; it’s rather to say that even the BL-shy should give this story a chance, because as far as paranormal horror fiction goes, it remains top-notch. Although this volume is a little lighter on story progression than its predecessors, it still gives us a lot to think about and plenty of additional bits and pieces about the characters and their world that stand to influence future plotlines.
The most important of these is undoubtedly the new way that Erika learns to use her power. Previously Erika could only use her cursing ability to harm people, something she didn’t enjoy doing but was paid to carry out, under duress, of course. But when Sasaki, her bodyguard and the sole adult in her life she can actually trust, dies, Erika’s desperation leads her to attempt something new with her innate ability. Just what that is precisely is a little vague, but it seems entirely possible that what she does is essentially curse Death itself as a means of returning Sasaki to life. This is not only interesting within this particular story, but also in the way that it links to the folklore of Death (as an anthropomorphic personification). Author and scholar Veronica Schanoes (Burning Girls and Other Stories) is quoted in author/editor Terri Windling’s excellent essay on death in folklore as saying, “Many fairy tales and myths concern the fantasy that if you love someone enough, you can bring them back from the dead.” Most typically we see this in tales with a dead or dead-appearing girl (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), and although there are some featuring a man or boy brought back, they aren’t as well-known. This makes Yamashita’s variant one that plays with the gendered tropes of the folktale; like Snow White, it appears that Sasaki truly is dead rather than in a Sleeping Beauty-style state of suspended animation. This is important for a few reasons, one of which is the relationship between Erika and Sasaki: in early Snow White tales, there’s no “true love’s kiss” or any of that Disney nonsense; instead the prince’s men drop Snow White’s coffin, dislodging the poison apple from her throat. That is essentially what Erika does here: whatever she does with the “death” infecting Sasaki’s body shakes it free from him, allowing him to come back to life.
The other potentially important element of this scene is that we could argue that Erika is using the trope of “Chess with Death.” In this also familiar story beat, one person makes a deal with Death that if they can defeat the Grim Reaper in a game (typically of chess, but it varies by region and author), Death will have to give up on the person they intended to kill. Since Erika demands Death’s attention before she pulls it from Sasaki’s body, we could see this as her challenging Death to a contest of strength – either of will or of spiritual prowess. We already know Erika to be very strong supernaturally, so this new application of that power only makes her a bigger threat to the forces ranging themselves against our protagonists. After all, if Erika can fight Death and win, then no one in her party needs to fear being killed in their fight.
Of course, that assumes that Erika is willing to bring you back. As of right now, Hiyakawa may not be able to count on that, because he’s well on his way to being persona non grata among the cast. Given what we learned about his past in recent volumes, this isn’t coming out of nowhere. Hiyakawa was raised by the cult, and he has very little sense of right, wrong, or anything in between. As far as he is able to process such matters, anything that gets the job done should be the method employed. For Mikado, who was raised in a much more socialized manner, this is unacceptable, but not a full-on deal breaker; he’s willing (perhaps even somewhat eager) to teach Hiyakawa what’s wrong about his approach. The problem arises from the fact that Hiyakawa doesn’t see a need to change. As far as he’s concerned, his method has been working just fine, and while Mikado does make his work easier, he’s not willing to just accept what the other man is trying to sell him because of that. Although he doesn’t say it, Hiyakawa’s actions seem to indicate that he’s angry at Mikado, or at least annoyed, that he can’t see Hiyakawa’s side of things. After all, these are unequivocally bad people they’re dealing with, so what’s wrong with using harsh methods?
Despite these thoughts, and his annoyance with Mikado, he never tries to actually hurt the other man. Instead, he uses his powers to send Mikado from the office to the garden with the pond they exorcised (more or less) several volumes ago. His hope and intent is to keep Mikado alive but out of his way for the time being, which seems significant since he’s advocating for violence against other people. What he doesn’t, or perhaps can’t, count on is the fact that Mikado possesses social skills and empathy, things which allow him to connect with the woman of the house. This key difference between Hiyakawa and Mikado may be the lynchpin for their relationship and where the story goes from here, because if they can’t reconcile and accept each other’s differences, they, and the story’s world, may not have much of a future.
Although this volume does feel a little thin, it may turn out to be one of the most important thus far. Things are coming to a head now, and between the rift in our main pair and Erika’s new skill, something big is going to have to happen soon. Whether that’s for good or ill remains to be seen.