燕石博物誌 ～ Dr. Latency’s Freak Report // Enseki Hakubutsushi // Journal of Fool’s Curiosities
So we have another Hifuu CD on our hands. It’s been four years since the last time I got to translate one of these. As usual with these stories, there are a lot of translation notes, but I’ve strove to make this translation an accessible and enjoyable one, so you can ignore the notes if you want to. I doubt that this is your first time reading one of these if you are here, but in the impossible case that that is true, please read all of the Hifuu stories, starting with Dolls in Psuedo Paradise (which isn’t really Hifuu, but should always be included as such). [link]
燕石 “Enseki” (literally “Sparrow Stones) is a really rare word, but is a perfect fit for this CD. The word refers to the false jewels that can be found at 燕山 “Mt. Sparrow”. They look like precious stones but they are worthless, sort of like fool’s gold. So the word refers both to the fakes, and also the act of treasuring something as if it were rare, when it is really commonplace and worthless. In addition to this there was a series of rare books/journals written in the Edo period named 燕石十種 or “Ten Types of Enseki”, filled with strange tales and curiosities and customs. There were six series with ten parts each. I would say there’s a direct connection.
博物誌 “Hakubutsushi” is literally translated as “Document(/Magazine) of Broad Knowledge” (what it means is clearer if you understand that 博物館 Hakubutsukan is “museum”, and not limited to a museum that deals with history) but it is also the Japanese translated title of Pliny the Elder’s “Naturalis Historiæ” (Natural History), which was the first sort of encyclopedia ever compiled. A good modern corollary is a scientific journal, and I have translated it as such, but this is why the subtitle is called “Our Supernatural History”. Incidentally this “Natural History” included descriptions of things that were pretty much Western Youkai.
(I think) 他愛も無い “Tawai mo Nai” is a phrase that is best understood as “of no concern to others”. Like you can get all excited about this silly thing, but those who aren’t involved could care less. So there’s a little more meaning than just “silly” in the title of the first track.
Maribel Hearn (マエリベリー・ハーン) is an approximation, where Merry’s first name has been posited as being closer in pronunciation to “my reverie” or a corruption of “mulberry”. Either way, it’s a play on words off of Yukari Yakumo. (紫八雲)
While most cases of “seeing the other world” are done only by Merry, Renko has shared in this experience on occasion, which is why in the translation of track 2 we have phrases like “they had seen”.
“Itako” are (usually blind) fortune tellers native to Tohoku (North Eastern Japan). There’s one in my town. “Necromancer” and “shaman” have been used as translations, but I thought it best to leave it.
In track 4, the “world where common sense does not apply” is reality on the quantum scale, where physics begins to unravel, the behavior of gravity becomes unclear, and interactions have to be explained with a different set of rules. Renko’s university major is (super) unified physics, which concerns the reconciliation of physics across the boundary where quantum effects overrule physics on a larger scale. So when Merry is poking fun at physicists, she’s also poking fun at Renko. Incidentally, Merry’s field of study is relative psychiatry.
As for “An Instant Transcends a Planck”, the word for “instant” used carries the meaning of 10^-15, equivalent to a “femto” in SI Metric Units. The word used is also associated with time, and so if we take one “instant” to be 10^-15 seconds, or a femto second, it is longer, or in otherwords transcends the Planck unit, a Planck second, which is 5.3 * 10^-44 seconds.
“Youkai” in track 5 remains untranslated because there is no all encompassing word in English that properly expresses it.
“Unstained See”[sic] is not a typo, even if it is probably supposed to be “Unstained Sea”.
永遠の三日天下 “King for a Day, Forever” can also be easily translated as “Eternal Short-Lived Reign”, literally, it is “Eternal Reign of Three Days”
I see track 1 as a reference to WWII, where both Germany and Japan produced better quality weaponry, (esp. in the beginning) but were both ultimately crushed by the powers that outstripped them in volume and speed of production.
I’m glad to see that e-books don’t make it into the future.
In the afterword, ZUN is criticizing the loud minority. In the past if people rose up with a voice of opposition, it meant there had to be a lot of people behind it. Now, because it’s so easy to be loud, people mistake a loud voice today as having the same amount of people behind it when that may not be true. In Merry and Renko’s world, things have progressed to the point where that has all balanced out, and “quality” is important above all else.
燕石博物誌 ～ Dr. Latency’s Freak Report
Journal of Fool’s Curiosities
１．他愛も無い二人の博物誌 (The Two’s Silly Journal of the (Super)Natural)
[Tawai mo Nai Futari no Hakubutsushi]
Our Supernatural History
“Alright! The journal is really coming along isn’t it?”
“All that’s left are the essays and narrative sections… Come to think of it, the only parts that aren’t making any progress are the parts that you’re in charge of, Merry.”
“So you found me out, huh?”
“Don’t look at me, you’re the one who brought it up.”
In the same way that prices fall when supply of a product outpaces demand, when all of humanity is prosperous, the upper class ceases to exist.
Ever since it became common for information to be recorded electronically, it has become possible to access enormous amounts of information instantly. At the same time, the value of both speed and volume, properties which had from the beginning of time had been symbols of absolute authority, fell drastically.
What instead obtained an enormous increase in value, was the property of quality.
Especially affected by this change was unique information available only to particular individuals. It was this sort of information that was the subject of intense enthusiasm among the world’s connoisseurs of quality.
２．凍り付いた永遠の都 (The Frozen Eternal Capital)
[Kooritsuita Eien no Miyako]
“Merry, aren’t you the one who said you wanted to publish a book together?”
“You’re right. But you know, writing is just really tiring.”
“There’s nothing fun about work that doesn’t require any effort, Merry. I can’t think of a dystopia more boring than a convenient world where everything goes your way.”
In this world, where the digitization of information has reached its peak, e-books do not exist. After all, the e-book was a product that was developed on the basis of, and at its core depends on its paper counterpart. Therefore, the book they are referring to is in fact a paper book.
At Maribel Hearn (Merry)’s suggestion, the two had decided to compile a record of the strange worlds they had seen into a book. This was because they both had realized that the worlds they had been witnessing were more than the product of dreams.
３．Dr.レイテンシーの眠れなくなる瞳 (Dr. Latency’s Sleepless Eyes)
[Dr. Latency no Nemurenakunaru Me]
Dr. Latency’s Freak Report
Shrine maidens, itako, mediums, espers, economists….
Since times long past, there have been those who claim to be gifted with eyes that see what normally should be impossible to see. All of them have eventually come to be treated as frauds. The visions that Merry has seen have been even diagnosed as a delirium brought on by a viral infection.
However, after taking a moment to drink some alcohol and calm down, it makes you think.
If you were to deny the existence of things unseen, then what of the physics that deal with unobservable phenomenon? What of the astronomy that concerns objects out of our reach? Would not those too enter into the realm of delusion?
If you accept that those things listed above do in fact have an enormous influence on the workings of this world, then could you not suppose that what Merry sees is a truth that transcends fact?
In Usami Renko’s eyes, Merry was a steward of truth who would wake up the physicists who had resigned themselves to making wild and unfounded conclusions.
“If you can’t be bothered to write it yourself, why don’t you just dictate it to me? I’ll write everything down for you later.”
“You really are talented, aren’t you Renko?. That would be such a big help. Let’s get started then. So, the other day…”
４．９月のパンプキン (September Pumpkin)
[Kugatsu no Pumpkin]
Is it possible for two people in the same place and time to have completely different observations?
Lately, Merry says she has been able to see several different worlds concurrently. According to her, everyone observes a slightly different world. and what is most interesting about this is that despite everyone observing a different world, communication between seperate people is still possible.
Merry began a strange tale.
It was about a strange world that was only observed by a select few.
It was about the strange happenings of a world of the infintesimally small, where the common sense of this world did not hold water. It was a strange world where particles flew across both space and spacetime.
“…When you say ‘a select few’, are you talking about physicists?”
“Correct! That’s the answer! I knew you could figure it out. However, I bet you didn’t know that within that world where common sense does not apply, there are strange life forms lurking about.”
５．須臾はプランクを越えて (An Instant Transcends a Planck)
[Syuyu wa Planck wo Koete]
Very Very Short Time
According to Merry, if you define “this world” that we humans see as one that is delivered by and subject to the actions of photons, then there exists a countless amount of “other worlds”, which are in the same way controlled by the actions of other particles. Apparently, there are lifeforms that live in those “other worlds” as well.
“So these lifeforms, which cannot be seen but otherwise exist close by, which due to certain ‘disturbances’ can sometimes appear, well I think that they are youkai.”
“Youkai…. Well when you put it that way, this whole story starts to sound a bit funny.”
“Well, you could call them angels or demons or ghosts or unidentified mysterious animals or anything else really, but I think the word ‘youkai’ which describes things that cannot be seen, things that also have certainly existing phenomena associated with them, is the best fit for this sort of thing.”
It is a fact that the existence of youkai has been acknowledged by various sources since times long past.
However, as this world has come under the reign of science and philosophy which demand any theory posited leave open the possibility that it may be disproven, the subject of youkai eventually faded away.
６．シュレディンガーの化猫 (Schrödinger’s Phantom Cat)
[Schrödinger no Bakeneko]
Schrödinger’s Black Cat
“Just when I was thinking to myself, ‘I wonder where all the youkai have disappeared to…’ I saw it, the world where youkai still reside.”
“Is what you’re referring to possibly a parallel brane-world…?”
“What the heck is that?”
“It’s one of the worlds that only physicists can see.”
There are several places in the world that whether for geographical reasons, geological reasons or pure coincidence – I don’t really know, but for whatever reason there are places that since times long past have been called holy sites, where it is supposedly easier to see other worlds. For example, shrines and the like certainly fall under that category of holy site.
Merry said she saw a cat at a shrine.
However, apparently this cat went unnoticed by all others present, and it seemed to move freely through any barrier that stood in its way.
Merry immediately realized that this was not a normal cat but a phantom cat, one that lurked in the gaps between quantum particles.
“That’s interesting. A cat that is impossible to observe through the actions of quantum particles…. Until it is observed you could say that it is both living and dead, just like Schrödinger’s cat.”
“Well you could say that, but I observed it, confirming that it was alive.”
７．空中に沈む輝針城 (The Shining Needle Castle Sinking in Midair)
[Kuuchuu ni Shizumu Kishinjou]
The “other world” that Merry referred to, was a strange world that not only contained lifeforms but also contained things that overthrew the preconceptions of this world.
“I also saw a castle floating in midair, and to top it all off, it was upside down.”
“If the structure of gravitons are different then their properties should be different as well. It is possible that what you saw lay on a parallel brane.”
“I got this strange sense of nostalgia when I saw it, you know? There’s just something wonderful about wooden castle keeps.”
“What? You mean that kind of castle? I imagined something more along the lines of Cinderella’s castle.”
“If I had to compare it to something, it was much more like the castle at Matsumoto.”
Merry seemed to be enjoying herself as she described what she had seen in this strange other world, but suddenly she shivered as if she had just remembered something.
Apparently, it wasn’t a very pleasant memory.
８．禁忌の膜壁 (The Taboo Membrane)
[Kinki no Makuheki]
According to the physicists that capable of seeing the unseen, this world is apparently constructed of and upon a thin membrane. There has also been talk that there are multiple such “branes” that exist alongside ours.
Is what Merry is seeing one of those other brane-worlds?
According to her, there is something that forms a boundary with very strongly rejects passage between this world and others. However, once you get the hang of it, it apparently really isn’t that difficult to pass through if you know what you’re doing.
“Is this thing that rejects passage as you say, the Sanzu River?”
“That’s probably what people who saw it in the past named it.”
I wonder if a brane is like a dyed cloth floating in the flow of a river.
Perhaps a pattern from one cloth could cross through the flow of the river and move to another cloth. If you were to put it simply, maybe that’s basically what Merry has been doing. Of course, it’s not as if what she is doing is really all that simple.
But what happens when the pattern from one piece of cloth transfers to another? Usually when that happens, it is not thought of as a pattern, but a stain.
“…if a foreign substance adulterates our world, we must exterminate it…”
“Huh? What’s wrong, Merry? You seem to be a bit out of it.”
“Oh, umm… What was I talking about again?”
“You were talking about what you saw in ‘that world’. The theme that we’re running with is that this journal is a compilation of all of the things that you’ve seen.”
９．故郷の星が映る海 (The Sea in Which Our Home Planet is Reflected)
[Kokyou no Hoshi ga Utsuru Umi]
I saw a forest rich in diversity.
I saw a spiritual mountain standing proud and tall, which kept away those living things that like to lurk in lower grounds.
I saw a deep lake immersed in an occult mist.
There was a nature that was more than just beautiful.
All of these lay in unseen world, which hid within the gaps between quanta.
As for what happens when one goes to another brane-world, dominated by these particles with different properties, well…
…as Merry remembered, her face contorted in fear.
１０．ピュアヒューリーズ ～ 心の在り処 (Pure Furies ～ Where the Heart is)
[Pure Furies ～ Kokoro no Arika]
“So when they found me, the youkai that lived in that other world attacked me.”
“What, really? …Well actually I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You do have a knack for getting attacked by creatures of all kinds.”
“I’m already used to it. I suppose they really can tell right away that I don’t belong. From my perspective the youkai appear unclear and wavering, so perhaps from their perspective I look something like a ghost.”
In the same way that shapeless quantum particles endlessly race to and fro across the vacuum of space, the youkai in that world flew through the sky and swarmed to attack her, Merry said.
“What kind of youkai were there? Kappa? Tengu?”
“They were human shaped. But you know? In ‘that world’ form really has no meaning.”
Before Merry even had the time to wish that she and the youkai might be able to come to some sort of understanding, she woke from her dream.
１１．永遠の三日天下 (King for a Day, Forever)
[Eien no Mikkatenka]
“We don’t get this opportunity very often, so why don’t we turn the end of the story into an exciting battle or something?”
“Wasn’t this supposed to be more along the lines of a scientific journal?”
“I think a journal that reads like an adventure epic would be pretty well received. I mean, all of the literature we get out of the age of exploration is really just a bunch of adventure tales, right?”
“Well you’re the one writing it, so you can do what you want.”
“Alright, well with that direction in mind, let’s continue our little interview shall we, Merry? Or should I say, ‘Dr. Latency’?”
“Are you really going to stick with that pen name? It’s kind of embarrassing…”
“You’re an expert who sees worlds that lurk within the gaps of quantum particles. It’s a perfect fit! The name doesn’t suggest male or female, and it has both a western and eastern sort of ring to it.”
As the subject matter was what it was, they decided to keep the details of their authorship undisclosed. From any reader’s perspective the journal was sure to be perceived as having very strange content, but perhaps it would find a following among maniacs obsessed with outrageous books.
However, this story is one that really happened.
Hello, there. It’s ZUN. This is my first music CD in 4 years.
Lately advancements in artificial intelligence have been quite remarkable, don’t you think?
You have an AI that has won against a champion in the game of go, AI that have made art you would not have thought possible to have been made by anything other than human hands, and AI that have swept up awards in literature.
These are phenomena that have come to be as the value of technical knowledge and information has been on an ever continuing decline.
Not long ago, if I remember correctly, courses on how to paint or draw, how to write music or how to create a game were very popular, but now the skills which can be had by teaching these techniques to humans can just as easily be learned by artificial intelligence.
Lately, (and I don’t honestly believe this, just to say), I find myself talking about how this world has gotten ever more anxiety inducing.
One of those reasons for me bringing that up is that we live in a world where artists, actors and even ordinary people are just not allowed to make mistakes anymore. You look at the news or turn on the television and again and again you see businesses and corporations apologizing far more than is necessary.
How did it come to this point?
I think first part of the reason for this is that now absolutely anyone can stand up and disseminate information.
The second part of the reason is that while we live in a world overloaded with information, we still ascribe to all information an inordinate amount of value.
Once you take the plunge and throw away your faith in information, it may be possible for you to enjoy the doujinshi (?) that Renko and Merry have written together.
Shanghai Alice Illusionary Orchestra ZUN
(You cannot find truly enjoyable things with Google)