What light novel series (and now anime) would dare to combine HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos with a harem comedy? There can be only one: Nyarko-san! This indescribable anime is so packed full of eldritch in-jokes, if you blink you might miss them. So don't blink, instead, lock your dead, glazed, charnel eyeballs upon our episode-by-episode explanation of Nyarko's unmentionable Lovecraft references.
Episode 2, "Good Bye Nyarko-san"
The second episode introduces the first real villain in Nyarko-san…Nodens, Lord of the Great Abyss! This mysterious primal deity, described always as "hoary" (don't get excited, it just means "white-haired"), was created by Lovecraft in the stories The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and The Strange High House in the Mist. Based on an ancient Celtic deity, he is an ancient god of the sea, a bit like Poseidon, who commands the faceless bat-winged nightgaunts. Nodens also shows up in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.
In the original stories, Nodens is one of the only "good" gods, who looks less scary than the others and who helps the hero of Dream-Quest against the evil Nyarlathotep. But since everything in Nyarko-san is all Bizarro World, Nyarko-san is good and Nodens is an evil creep who summons Kuko (who I already wrote about in this article) and tries to kidnap Mahiro so (SPOILERS) he can star in a series of yaoi dramas with creatures that look like this as the seme. Now that you mention it, there is a lot of suggestive male friendship in "The Strange High House in the Mist," in which a man's soul leaves his wife and family so he can enjoy eternal manly times with Nodens and an magical sailor in a mystical love-shack by the ocean. (Besides, when is a bearded old guy ever a serious force to be reckoned with in an anime? If Nodens ever wants to become a recurring villain instead of just a one-off, he'd better turn out to have a young, moe alter-ego, quick.)
"The stars have aligned! R'lyeh will rise!" The Cthulhu Mythos is built around one central prophecy, from HP Lovecraft's 1926 story The Call of Cthulhu: when a certain time comes, the sunken island R'yleh, lair of Great Cthulhu, will arise from the ocean and Cthulhu will emerge. This "dripping Babylon of elder daemons" is known for its frightening, "non-Euclidean" architecture not designed for human beings. In Nyarko-san, the rising of R'yleh doesn't mean the end of humanity, though, since R'yleh is in fact a theme park—Cthulhu Corporation's Earth R'yleh Land!
R'yleh is, basically, a mixture of Comiket and Tokyo Disneyland with extra tentacles (no wonder Lovecraft calls it a "sea-soaked perversion"), combining the unspeakable horror of San Diego Comic-Con with the sweaty crowds and long lines of The Shadow over Innsmouth. Featuring rides such as Madness Mountain, Akrham Haunted House, and Leng Plateau Go-Carts, it's Earth's major tourist destination for extraterrestrial monsters. In the R'lyeh crowds you can see tons of Lovecraftian beings, including:
* gugs, H.P. Lovecraft's answer to the question "Do your stories ever have sexual themes?"
* the serpent people, invented by Conan creator Robert E. Howard
* the Fungi From Yuggoth, aka the Mi-Go, alien fungus-insect creatures from space who like to remove human brains and keep them alive in cases
* byakhee, mutant crow-mole-buzzard-ant-corpse monsters
* the Servitors of the Outer Gods, slimy tentacle-creatures who like to play the flute
* the Old Ones, starfish-like aliens who would be movie stars if Guillermo Del Toro ever managed to finish his film adaptation of HP Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. However, at least they get cameos in Hellboy 2.
* and of course the R'lyeh Direct Water Taxi, Dagon-kun! Father Dagon and Mother Hydra are the leaders of the Deep Ones, that adorable race of lovably randy fish-people who live underwater waiting to find passing swimmers and have sex with them so they can have lots of hybrid half-human fish babies. That's a whole 'nother anime series right there.
* the hideous unspeakable white manta ray thing is the Twitter profile of the author of the Nyaruko light novels, Manta Aisora.
If you spot them all, lose 1d20 SAN points. Lastly, there's one obvious creature missing from R'yleh Land: Cthulhu Itself. You'll have to wait longer for Cthulhu to be revealed. Meanwhile, don't miss the Cola of Cthulhu at 11:18!
Episode 3, "Yasaka Mahiro Wants to Live in Peace"
Another Crawling Chaos
In Lovecraft's original stories, Nyarlathotep is a shapeshifting god, but in Nyarko-san, the Nyarlathotepians are a shapeshifting alien race. Does that mean that Nyarko-san was the only Nyarlathotep who ever visited Earth, and thus, she is responsible for all the bad stuff Nyarlathotep ever did in an HP Lovecraft story? The answer, apparently, is no, as episode 3 introduces us to another Nyarlathotep: Nyarko's big brother, Nyaro Onii-san.
In episode 3's pre-credits sequence, Nyaro Onii-san first appears in the palace of the Gods of Earth in the Dreamlands, a sort of alternate fantasy dimension which appears in some of Lovecraft's stories. (More on the Dreamlands later.) In Lovecraft's novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Nyarlathotep taunts and teases the Gods of Earth, who are much weaker than him, but here, he's gone too far. Turns out that Nyarko's big brother is merely a "homeless and unemployed Nyarlathotep" who is killing the weaker Gods and causing trouble all out of jealousy for his gifted little sister. In the end of the episode, in a final attempt to defeat Nyarko, he even transforms into the ultimate monstrous Nyarlathotep form, the big thing with a red tentacle for a face. In case you're wondering where they got the design, it's taken directly from the Japanese edition of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.
Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls
Nightgaunts are one of the few not-completely-evil-and-dangerous aliens in HP Lovecraft's stories, so in Nyarko, of course, they're bad guys. Another creature that's fairly decent in Lovecraft and bad in Nyarko are ghouls, those underground-dwelling flesh-eating dog-people! In the story The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath they turn out to actually be pretty fun to hang out with (if you don't mind the continual stench of rotten corpses), but that doesn't stop Nyarko from hacking them up with a chainsaw.
We'll be back soon with more mind-blasting investigations of Nyarko-san trivia! Till then, watch the latest episodes of Nyarko-san on Crunchyroll!