Spotting the references in Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos is half the horror! Each episode is packed with in-jokes to anime, manga, other light novels, games, and most of all, the horror stories of HP Lovecraft. As a Keeper of countless Call of Cthulhu RPG sessions, we will now take you on a Lovecraftian journey into the fanservice- and terror-packed world of Nyaruko-san. (You'll have to figure out the non-Lovecraft references yourself; trust us, there are a lot of them.)
Episode 4, "Mother's Attack!"
Cooking with the Great Old Ones
"I swar ter Gawd thet picter begun to make me hungry fer victuals I couldn't raise nor buy!!"
—HP Lovecraft, "The Picture in the House"
Girls who can't cook are an old joke in anime (shame on you, anime), but perhaps never before Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaoshas an anime featured a girl who cooks with the alien, protoplasmic flesh of otherworldy beings. But that's how Nyarko-san likes to cook, using "Shub-Niggurath brand meat, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!" You can see her unearthly cooking skills in Nyarko-san ONA episode 6 and generally everywhere.
Lovecraft, whose favorite foods were chili, cheese, french fries, chocolate and other junk food, wasn't fond of exotic ethnic food either. He wrote tons of creepy stories about cannibalism (The Picture in the House, The Rats in the Walls, Pickman's Model, The Lurking Fear, etc). There's no scenes in his stories where the people actually eat the monsters (sounds kind of backwards really), but the alien fertility god Shub-Niggurath, mother of the Dark Young whose silhouette appears on the meat label, is definitely something you wouldn't want to put in your mouth. Lovecraft's least favorite food was fish, which may explain why so many of his monsters have fishy bits, scales and tentacles. Episode 4 also features the delicious Tindalos dog, no doubt stuffed with bits of the ravenous, eternally flesh-hungry, time-traveling, blue-slime-dripping Hounds of Tindalos. Kuko can cook alien cuisine too; she says she can make a Dunwich sandwich, to which Mahiro replies "You don't have to force yourself to make jokes."
This episode introduces one of the most powerful characters to appear so far: Yoriko Yasaka, Mahiro's mom! Far from an ordinary mother, she's a "deity hunter" (jashin hunter, "evil deity" hunter, in Japanese). Apparently her ability to turn ordinary household forks into deadly monster-killing weapons is genetic.
Lovecraft's fiction doesn't have many characters who would qualify as "deity hunters," except possibly Professor Henry Armitage in The Dunwich Horror, and even he freaks out and collapses for two days just because he reads a few pages of the Necronomicon. In Lovecraft's universe, there just isn't room for heroes. However, later authors such as August Derleth and Brian Lumley, and of course game designers, started to introduce badass humans who are powerful to stand up to the gods of the Mythos. But Yoriko is by far the best-looking jashin hunter, as well as the best at playing video games. (Incidentally, her X-oth game console is named after the green double star Xoth, where Cthulhu comes from, according to Lin Carter.)
The real big event of this episode is the appearance of Hasuta-kun, aka Hastur, one of the Great Old Ones! Like Nyarko and Kuko, Hasuta turns out to be actually a cute alien rather than a gigantic, apocalyptic god-monster.
The origin story of Hastur is so complicated you'll have to read the wikipedia yourself, but basically, Hastur is one of the gods of the Cthulhu Mythos who was loosely described by HP Lovecraft and later fleshed out by Lovecraft's buddy August Derleth. He appears as various forms, including (1) the elemental god of wind (2) a giant tentacled monster with a face so scary it'll kill you if you see it and (3) "a black, shriveled, flying monstrosity with tentacles tipped with razor-sharp talons that can pierce a victim's skull and siphon out the brain". Apparently, he is also (4) the embodiment of shotacon, which is more or less scary than the other forms, depending on your opinion.
One of Hastur's most well-known forms, however, is The King in Yellow, a mysterious prince of darkness from an alien planet, which sounds much more like Nyarko-san's little ex-Student-Council-President cutie. He is associated with the color yellow, and with the Yellow Sign, a mysterious symbol of evil. The Yellow Sign shows up in the opening credits on the newspaper Hasuta-kun is reading, and in fact, it also looks quite a bit like Hasuta-kun's hair. He also carries a star-shaped handbag, and he works as a librarian at the Library of Celaeno, a giant extraterrestrial library of alien lore first introduced in August Derleth's novel The Trail of Cthulhu. Hastur is all about secrets and forbidden things, so does Hasuta-kun have more secrets that are yet to be revealed? Or would the shocking knowledge irrevocably change Mahiro's orientation and transform this anime into an 18-and-up series?
Coming up: the identity of the mysterious green-haired woman! The reason why Hasuta is seeking Mahiro's mother! And many bonus Lovecraftian adjectives! In the meantime, just watch Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos already!