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  • Supernatural Beings from Japanese Noh Plays of the Fifth Group: Parallel Translations with Running Commentary by Chifumi Shimazaki and Stephen Comee
  • Titanilla Mátrai
SUPERNATURAL BEINGS FROM JAPANESE NOH PLAYS OF THE FIFTH GROUP: PARALLEL TRANSLATIONS WITH RUNNING COMMENTARY. By Chifumi Shimazaki and Stephen Comee. Ithaca, NY: Cornell East Asia Program, 2012. 389 pp. Hardcover, $69.00; Paperback, $49.00.

In 1972, Chifumi Shimazaki published her first book of translations, starting with a selection of plays from the first category of . From there she continued and published a series of translations of plays from all the categories. In 2012, forty years after her first book and fourteen years after her death, a collection of plays from the fifth category came out as the ninth book in the series, bringing the number of translations to forty-nine plays in total. Thanks to this new edition and to the cooperation and careful editing and supplementing by Stephen Comee, Shimazaki’s final work has been preserved and made available for us in a book of extremely high quality.

Supernatural Beings keeps the basic structure and idea of the previous books, and, by referring to previous translations, it remains integrated into the full series. The book starts with a lengthy and detailed explanation of the fifth group of plays, scrutinizing basic characteristics of this type as well as their role within a program. It refers to, but does not repeat, explanations that are found in the previous books. It also provides Shimazaki’s own classification of plays based on a previous work by Nishino Haruo. Unlike Nishino’s [End Page 628] subclassification of the fifth category into four specific subgroups that reflect the type of dance used in each play, Shimazaki differentiates among seven subgroups, which she characterizes generally with summaries of each play belonging to the fifth category. For Shimazaki, the type of dance is important; nevertheless, the dramatic action and main characters are the focus for her categorizations:

  1. 1. Haya-mai-mono (quick-dance pieces), in which the nochi-shite dances a haya-mai (e.g., Tōru [Lord Tōru], Suma Genji [Genji at Suma]).

  2. 2. Tōjō-mono (warring-ghost pieces), in which famous warriors tell their stories and describe their fight (e.g., Kumasaka, Kusanagi).

  3. 3. Oni-mono (demonic-apparition pieces), in which demons who were once human or true demons or, in other cases, deities from hell, appear. In some cases they attack humans (e.g., Shōkun [Lady Chao-chün], Funa-Benkei [Benkei on Board], Nomori [Game Keeper]).

  4. 4. Tengu-mono (goblin pieces), in which tengu approach men to do mischief, but are defeated by the end of the play (e.g., Kurama-zō [Priest on a Flying Couch], Zegai [Goblin Shih Chieh], Dai-e [A Geat Mass]).

  5. 5. Igyō-mono (strange-apparition pieces), which tell stories of strange creatures (e.g., Shakkyō [The Stone Bridge], Yamanba [The Old Woman of the Mountains], Sesshōseki [The Death Stone]).

  6. 6. Akki-mono (evil-fiend pieces), which tell stories of evil fiends defeated by deities or warriors, or through prayer (e.g., Adachi gahara [Adachi Moor], Rashōmon [The Rashō Gate], Tsuchigumo [The Monstrous Spider]).

  7. 7. Reiken-mono (miracle pieces), in which miracles are done by supernatural beings (e.g., Genjō, Kokaji, Matsuyama Kagami).

In the main part of the book are translations of eight plays, one play from each subgroup except the category of tengu-mono (goblin pieces), for which there are two translations. The plays are Matsuyama Tengu (Goblins of Matsuyama), Kumasaka, Shōkun, Kurama Tengu (The Goblin of Mount Kurama), Kuruma-zō (Priest on a Flying Couch), Nue (The Chimera), Adachigahara, and Kuzu. Each translation starts with an introduction that explains the historical and literary background of the play, provides dramatic guidelines, and points out characteristics that are peculiar to that specific piece. The translations include transliterations of the Japanese texts and detailed notes, such as sources of quotations, engo (associated words), and other devices used in Japanese or Chinese poetry, explanations of characters, customs, Buddhist terminologies, movements on stage, and in some cases variations between different schools. A glossary of technical terms helps readers...


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pp. 628-631
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