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Literature / Nansou Satomi Hakkenden

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Nansou Satomi Hakkenden ("The Tale of the Eight Dogs of Nansou's Satomi Clan"), also known simply as Hakkenden ("The Tale of Eight Dogs"), is a Japanese yomihon epic novel by Kyokutei Bakin (also famous for his translation of the Chinese classic Water Margin). Serialised from 1814 to 1842, it consists of 98 installments published over 106 volumes.

His territory under siege, Lord Satomi promises the hand of his daughter Fusehime/Princess Fuse to anyone who brings him the head of the enemy commander... and finds himself regretting that decision when the contest is won by Yatsufusa, his dog. Controlled by a curse placed on the Satomi family years ago, Yatsufusa then impregnates Fuse with half-dog children. While a distraught Fuse works to dispel the curse, her former suitor Kanamari Daisuke shoots Yatsufusa dead, accidentally killing Fuse in the process. As she dies, the spirits of her eight unborn "pups" emerge from her body as mist, snaring her crystal prayer beads and then scattering to the winds to be born in different families.


Sixteen years later, Daisuke (now a monk named Chuudai) sets out to find Fuse's lost children and assemble them under one roof as the "Eight Canine Warriors". Each bears the character 犬 (dog) in their family name, one of the crystal orbs from Fuse's necklace (each marked with one of the Eight Confucian Virtues), and one of Yatsufusa's peony-shaped birthmarks somewhere on their body. In order of appearance, they consist of:

  • Inuzuka Shino: Bears the orb of 孝 (Duty), and his peony mark is on his left arm. Acts as The Protagonist for the first half of the story. Wields the heirloom sword Murasame-maru, which controls water and rain.
  • Inukawa Sousuke: Bears the orb of 義 (Justice), and his peony mark is on his back. Suffers more than anyone else in the group.
  • Inuyama Dousetsu: Bears the orb of 忠 (Loyalty), and his peony mark is on his left shoulder. Initially an antagonist who controls fire, he switches sides after learning his origins but remains the most hot-headed and least virtuous member of the group.
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  • Inukai Genpachi: Bears the orb of 信 (Faith), and his peony mark is on his right cheek.
  • Inuta Kobungo: Bears the orb of 悌 (Brotherhood), and his peony mark is on his buttocks. A huge man talented at sumo.
  • Inue Shinbei: Bears the orb of 仁 (Benevolence), and his peony mark is on his side. The Protagonist of the second half of the story, described as the youngest and greatest among the Dogs.
  • Inusaka Keno: Bears the orb of 智 (Wisdom), and his peony mark is above his right elbow. Frequently confused for a woman.
  • Inumura Daikaku: Bears the orb of 礼 (Etiquette), and his peony mark is on the left of his chest. A lover of books.

Hakkenden has received many, many adaptations over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, from the stage to the cinema and TV. These include the films Legend of the Eight Samurai and Message from Space, as well as the manga Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East. Fuse, the Canine Warriors and their orbs also make a prominent appearance in the videogame Ōkami.


This work provides examples of

  • Adaptational Villainy: While she was already villainous, a number of adaptations have Tamazusa curse the Satomi without dying, promoting her to a series-long Big Bad or Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • Ancestral Weapon: The Murasame-maru, Shino's sword which conjures water from its blade and never becomes stained.
  • Behind Every Great Man: Lord Jin'yo is a drunkard heavily dependent on the advice of his favorite concubine Tamazusa. She takes advantage of this to hand out favours to those who please her, and eventually marries Evil Chancellor Sadakane after the two plot together to have him assassinated. When Sadakane's forces are captured and placed on trial, Tamazusa is by far the most quick-witted, repeatedly and easily twisting the protagonists' words to paint them as the villains.
  • Birthmark of Destiny: The eight peony-shaped spots on Yatsufusa's body are divided up between his eight children. In the ending they start to slowly fade away.
  • Curse That Cures: The man who gives a young Fuse her prayer beads explains that he could simply remove her curse, but that fate is a complicated thing where good and bad outcomes are hopelessly entwined, and that as long as they remain virtuous the curse's attempt to destroy her family can ultimately raise them to further greatness.
  • Debut Queue: The Dogs' full roster of eight is slowly assembled over the course of the story.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: Learning that two men plot to assassinate him, Evil Chancellor Sadakane convinces Lord Jin'yo to go on a hunting trip incognito. He then loudly announces his own intent to go on a hunting trip. Soon into the trip, the lord's horse mysteriously falls ill, so Sadakane lends him his own distinctive white steed. This has the desired effect, tricking the assassins into killing their lord and allowing Sadakane to seize the throne.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The eight large beads from Fuse's necklace are divided between each of the Canine Warriors, while the remaining 100 small ones are restrung and carried by Chuudai.
  • Dying Curse: After he deposes the treachorous Sadakane, Lord Satomi initially plans to spare his wife and partner-in-crime Tamazusa, but on Kanamari Hachirou's advice changes his decision and has her executed. With her dying breath she curses the Kanamari family to die out, and the Satomi to "fall to the level of dogs". This results in her lingering grudge inhabiting the dog Yatsufusa, kicking off the main story.
  • Egopolis: When Evil Chancellor Yamashita Sadakane (surname meaning "Under the Mountain") and his new wife Tamazusa (read "Jewel Azusa") take control of Lord Jin'yo's lands, he renames Takita Castle to Tamashita Castle (meaning "Under the Jewel"), which is either a invoked Portmanteau Couple Name or a gesture that it would be under her ownership.
  • Embodiment of Virtue: Each of the Canine Warriors is themed after one of the eight Confucian virtues.
  • Evil Chancellor: Yamashita Sadakane to Lord Jin'yo in the prologue. He eventually has him assassinated and seizes the throne.
  • Foreshadowing: Near the start of the story, Lord Satomi and his retainers witness a white dragon as it rises from the ocean to the heavens. While they discuss what good omens this might bring, he makes an off-hand comment that even though dragons are divine beings, they can still succumb to earthly desires, in particular citing the various Hybrid Monsters that exist because of their habit of mating with beasts.
  • The Good King: Lord Satomi is repeatedly shown as a humble, intelligent man who believes in using his wealth to enrich the people.
  • Jidaigeki: The story is set in the Sengoku era, with some of the characters being based on historical figures.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The title characters are each part-human, part-dog.
  • Hereditary Curse: Tamazusa's curses extend not only to Satomi Yoshizane and Kanamari Hachirou, but also to their descendants.
  • Hitodama Light: After Daisuke's father commits seppuku, Lord Satomi spots a flame next to him which briefly takes the shape of a woman and embraces him, implied to be the soul of his dead mother.
  • Honorary True Companion: The character of Masaki Daizen teams up with the protagonists later in the story, and is treated as an "honorary Canine Warrior".
  • The Magic Goes Away: After the Canine Warriors restore the Satomi family they gradually lose their supernatural traits, with their peony birthmarks fading away and their orbs losing their markings.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Each of the Canine Warriors is born to a family with 犬 (dog) in their name.
    • Fuse's name was chosen as an Alternate Character Reading of 伏, referring to the summer rest period in which she was born. However, the components of this character are 人 (person) and 犬 (dog).
    • Yatsufusa means "Eight Spots", one of which is inherited by each of his children.
    • Daisuke's name as a monk is 丶大 (Chuudai), derived from splitting 犬.
    • Daihachi/Shinbei's parents are named "Fusahachi" and "Nui", inversions of "Yatsufusa" and "Inu" (dog).
  • Mineral MacGuffin: Fuse's prayer beads, gifted to her as a child by a mysterious old man (implied to be the spirit of En no Gyouja) in order to ward off the worst of the family curse. When the Canine Warriors are born they each take one bead with them (in some cases appearing inside their bodies). While holding them, the Warriors gain a Healing Factor and can sense each others' presence.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Fuse's pregnancy is clearly not normal, and depending on the version of the story it occurs without the couple ever getting physical.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: Yatsufusa is significantly more intelligent than the average dog, which is attributed to him losing his mother and being raised by tanuki.
  • Old Beggar Test: Kanamari Hachirou makes his entrance to the story as a hideous beggar covered in scabs, only revealing his identity to Satomi Yoshizane once he's sure he's someone he can count on.
  • Rotating Protagonist: The prologue focuses on Satomi Yoshizane, the first half of the main story on Shino, and the second half on Shinbei.
  • Snipe Hunt: In the prologue, when a dispossessed Satomi Yoshizane offers to join the Maro and Anzai families in their fight against Sadakane, they try to get rid of him by ordering him to fish up a big carp (supposedly so they can present it as an offering to Hachiman before they march to war). Naturally, the area contains no carp. However, while fishing he is spotted by Hachirou, who introduces himself as an enemy of Sadakane and provides the Satomi with the means to defeat him by themselves.
  • Spirit Advisor: The deceased Fuse appears to her children in spirit form at multiple points in the story, with Yatsufusa in tow.
  • Standard Hero Reward: How Yatsufusa becomes Fuse's husband. Though depending on the version of the story, Lord Satomi promised this to Yatsufusa as a joke, never expecting he'd be forced to uphold it.
  • Suicide Pact: Before they were killed by Daisuke, Fuse and Yatsufusa had planned to commit suicide together by jumping into a river.
  • Theme Naming: Each of the Canine Warriors has "Inu" (dog) in their name.
  • Tragic Villain: Yatsufusa's villainous behaviour is the result of Tamazusa's spirit, and he's a genuinely good dog once Fuse helps free him from her influence.
  • Trojan Prisoner: In the prologue Hachirou defeats Shietage Kokurou, the first of Sadakane's lieutenants, by having a group of peasants pretend to tie him up, then walk up to the gate presenting him for judgement.
  • Youkai: A number of classical youkai appear in the tale, including villainous tanuki and bakeneko, and a benevolent kitsune.

Alternative Title(s): Hakkenden


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