Ommetaphobia—Fear of Eyes in Otsuichi’s Black Fairy Tale

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Otsuichi’s first published novel begins with a fairy tale of the classic variety, a horrifying fable consistent with the Brothers Grimms’ grimmest tales, resplendent with gore, good intentions gone awry, and a cautionary dénouement.

In this short story/prologue, a talking raven befriends a young, blind girl. Because she is unable to see him, the girl assumes that the raven is human, a misunderstanding that the bird relies upon. Feeling sorry for her condition, the raven begins collecting eyes for the girl, pecking them from various people in the unfortunate village. When the girl places the eyes in her empty sockets, she is able to vividly dream the memories of those to whom they originally belonged, allowing her to temporarily see all that they have seen.

As the villagers become increasingly wary of birds, the raven becomes desperate for new eyes, and thus visions, with which to please his friend, eventually coming to steal the eye of a corpse. When the young girl puts the eye in her socket, however, she begins screaming as she reliving the torture which led to the first owner’s demise. Unable to withstand her horror, the girl dies, and, broken hearted, so too does the raven perish, lying beside her so that her parents come in upon the corpses of the two strange friends intertwined.

This story, however, is probably the lightest part of the book. (In some accounts, this short story is given as the book’s entire contents—such descriptions are misleading as there is actually an entire novel that follows!)

In Otsuichi’s (Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse, Goth) distinctive vision of the macabre, he weaves the story of the fairy tale’s writer, a man with the strange ability to causing strong experiences of pleasure in his victims when enacting violence upon them, with that of a young woman who has recently lost her memory following a traumatic accident in which she loses her own eye.

After receiving an eye transplant, Nami, the story’s heroine, begins to witness the memory’s of the eye’s previous owner, Kazuya, much like the young girl in the fairy tale. However, after seeing another young woman imprisoned after seemingly having her arms and legs surgically removed by the fairy tale writer, Nami makes it her mission to save her. In this manner, Nami literally follows in the footsteps that led to Kazuya’s demise.

Creepy, gruesome, and unpredictable with Otsuichi’s standard narrative twist, Black Fairy Tale offers a Lovecraftian entry to the author’s oeuvre with a novel that simultaneously asks the true nature of kindness, the manner in which one’s identity shifts over time, and whether or not fate exists in our muddled world.

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