Hey all, it’s Deadborder here. In the wake of the new Hermit Youkai, I thought it would be a good idea to try and explain some of the background info and mythology that they seem to be based on.
Almost all of the Hermit Youkai are based on different legends surrounding the same youkai: the kamaitachi, or sickle weasel.
Wanna learn about some windy weasels? yeah I bet you do
First off, a quick look at the archetype name. Hermit Youkai comes from Yousenjuu (妖仙獣), meaning something like “Youkai Hermit-Sage Beast”. (Look up the word “sennin” for more info on the hermit-sage thing.) From this, we can extrapolate that the Hermit Youkai could be some sort of half-magic man, half-magic beast group of dudes. But more importantly, they’re youkai. Specifically beast(ish)youkai.
And probably the most well-known wind-based animal youkai is the kamaitachi, or “sickle weasel”, who rides on the winds and cuts up travelers with a scythe, leaving painless wounds. (Fun fact: the Japanese name for the Pokémon move “Razor Wind” is literally “Kamaitachi”.) This nature of quick strikes and coming and going with the wind may be reflected in the Hermit Youkai’s tendency to bounce back to the hand at the end of the turn they’re summoned.
However, it’s not necessarily that simple. The legend of the kamaitachi exists in many regions of Japan, and is told in many different ways – which, so far, are reflected in all of the Hermit Youkai monsters we know so far.
For example, there’s one legend that says there are three kamaitachi brothers: the first knocks you down, the second cuts you, and the third puts medicine on your wounds. That’s right, this is the story that Kamaitachi, Kamanitachi and Kamamitachi are based off.
Incidentally, there’s word play in the names of these brothers. Instead of 鎌鼬 (kama-itachi, sickle-weasel), Kamaitachi’s name is written using 鎌壱太刀(sickle-one-longsword), Kamanitachi is(鎌弐太刀, sickle-two-longsword) ,and Kamamitachi is 鎌参太刀(sickle-three-longsword). Furthermore, their effects are similar to those of the three brothers in the legend: Kamaitachi “knocks down” cards like the first brother by bouncing them, Kamanitachi can deliver a swift direct attack to “cut down” the opponent themselves, and Kamamitachi brings benefit when another Hermit Youkai damages the opponent, much like the third brother rushes in to heal the wounds inflicted by the second brother.
The Level 6 Hermit Youkai, Yamamisaki, is based on a slightly different telling. The kanji used in the name of the youkai are unclear, but could be 山岬(yama-misaki, mountain-cliff). Supposedly it takes on the shape of a severed head, flying around in the wind, with humans caught in the wind developing a severe fever. Its origins are varied, with some calling it a ghost that has yet to pass on, and others saying it is the ghost of a person who has died in an accident, such as falling from a cliff.
As far as wordplay, the kanji used for Hermit Youkai Yamamisaki’s name are閻魔巳裂(ya-ma-mi-saki, enma-snake-split). Enma here refers to “lord of the dead”, though “snake-split” isn’t quite clear in meaning. Maybe it’s a poetic reference to swirling winds, or maybe it’s just random kanji, I’m not quite sure. Meanwhile, it’s possible that Yamamisaki’s destructive effects are meant to hearken to the illness-causing winds the yamamisaki rides upon, though this is something of a stretch.
The *other* Level 6 Hermit Youkai, Magatsusenran, is a bit more tricky in that it’s easier to explain the wordplay first and then to actually describe the youkai it’s based on. The kanji used in its name are 凶旋嵐(magatsu-sen-ran, “evil whirling storm”), though “magatsu” is a very irregular reading for the first kanji, usually read as “kyou”. “Magatsu” (禍津) usually refers to “magatsuhi no kami”, a group of evil gods in Shinto mythology. The wordplay is that Magatsusenran is most likely based on another name for the kamaitachi, “akuzenkaze”. Again, the kanji are unclear, but a possible writing could be 悪旋風(aku-zen-kaze, evil whirlwind). Though aku (悪) and kyou (凶) are different kanji, their meanings are similar; both names use the same sen (旋), while kaze (風) and ran (嵐) only differ by the use of a single radical.
As for the two gate Pendulums, Sarenjinchuu and Urenjinchuu, they don’t really seem to be based on any specific wind youkai, but rather on the torii, a traditional Japanese gate that in Shintoism denotes the threshold between the “pure” and “impure”. There may be subtle wordplay in their names – while Sarenjinchuu (左鎌神柱) and Urenjinchuu (右鎌神柱) mean “left sickle god pillar” and “right sickle god pillar” respectively, replacing the jin (神) meaning “god” with jin (人) meaning “person” would end up giving you hitobashira (人柱), meaning “human sacrifice”. Whether or not this is intentional has yet to be seen, but perhaps there’s something more sinister to the sacred gate than one may notice at first glance.
Finally, there’s the big kahuna, Daibakaze. This whirly weasel monster is based on the taibakaze (堤馬風, horse-carrying wind). It refers to a phenomenon in which a sandstorm would suddenly begin to swirl around a horse walking on a road, causing its mane to stand on end and glow with a faint red light. Afterwards, the horse would stand on its hind legs, then fall over and die. Basically, a sort of cursed wind. Original, I know.
While the Hermit Youkai Daibakaze’s effect’s aren’t quite that specific, there is a clever bit of punnery in its name. Daibakaze is written as 大刃禍是 (dai-ba-ka-ze). The “daiba” part means “large blade”, in a nod to the swords wielded by the other Hermit Youkai. “Kaze”, normally meaning “wind”, is written with kanji meaning “calamity” and a kanji meaning either “justice” or “this”. Put it together and it’s something like “the giant blade-wielding, disastrous one.” There may also be a pun in that it’s the Malevolent Hermit Youkai, or “Mayousenjuu”; written with a different character, “mayou” (迷う) becomes a verb meaning “to be lost”, both locationwise and in the sense of “losing it” or “losing one’s way” metaphorically. In other words, there’s a possible implication that Daibakaze is or was an ordinary Hermit Youkai that is now running amok.
For now, that’s pretty much all of the youkai references we can see in the current lineup of Hermit Youkai – but there’s plenty more variations on the legends of the kamaitachi and other windy youkai. Seeing as Sarenjinchuu and Urenjinchuu show pictures of seven Hermit Youkai, this means there’s at least one more monster waiting in the wings. See what stories you can dig up, and perhaps one of them will make an appearance once we see the rest of The Secret of Evolution released! Or you could just look things up to LEARN
pfft yeah right