Kushagara (TV Drama)
One night, a guard patrolling a university building hears shouting in one of the rooms. Worried, the guard enters the room, which is completely disordered. The guard asks if the occupant is well, but nobody answers. He eventually sees with horror that the university professor who was in the room is dead. The next day, Rohan Kishibe reads about this incident in the newspaper as a radio announcer explains that the deceased had not returned home for a month and had been secluding himself to read. There is no sign of homicide and it seems that he died from starvation. Rohan finds the news interesting and declares he would have liked to read the man's memories.
Kyoka Izumi, Rohan's editor, visits Rohan again. Nobody answers when she knocks so she enters the house, but she sees that Rohan is absent. Rohan is in fact sitting at a café, organizing his material for a new story when someone suddenly sits at the same table as him. Rohan tells him that there are free tables, but the man replies that it is only natural for fellow manga artists working at Shumeisha to sit together. The man feels that Rohan has forgotten about him and thus formally presents himself as Jugo Shishi. His pen name was formed from a multiplication error in which 4 x 4 ("Shishi") equals 15 ("Jūgo"). Jugo mentions that they met at Shumeisha's celebration party last year in which Rohan left early. Rohan argues that he doesn't have to be friends with other manga artists and could even see them as business rivals. Jugo tells Rohan not to be so unfriendly and mentions that manga artists ought to socialize. Annoyed with Jugo's talkative personality, Rohan tells Jugo to go away but the latter insists on staying, pretending that both are seeking ideas for their work. As Jugo offers to pay for the drinks, Rohan begins to lose patience but Jugo tells him that Rohan's yelling will attract attention so he'll have to sign autographs for kids, which he hates. As the server comes to give Jugo his ginger ale, Rohan resigns himself to Jugo's company.
Jugo begins a tirade on the value of reality and inspiration from real life in one's manga, to which Rohan actually agrees. Rohan adds that ideas for work aren't something that can be gossiped over tea. Jugo says that one would need an objective eye to assert storylines and ideas, although Rohan retorts that's something a manga artist with no confidence would say. Jugo mentions he wants to challenge himself and write horror, which Rohan dismisses. Jugo continues and explains that he finds everyday things scary, and has ideas for a horror story centered around toilets and disgusting things, which Rohan snarks about. Rohan tells Jugo to talk to his editor about this, prompting him to talk about how said editor suddenly went missing. Jugo tells Rohan that his editor was a great guy who shared his tastes and that just before he disappeared, the editor handed him a list of words that were forbidden for publication. Finding the concept boring, Rohan nonetheless browses through the pages, finding some phrases too extreme for him and being amused that other milder terms are forbidden. Jugo rants about the censorship, as it hinders the realism of the work, although he is a professional and thus must follow the rules. Jugo then points to a word in the list that he isn't familiar with, "kushagara". Rohan is shocked that he doesn't know the word either. Jugo has tried to investigate but couldn't find anything. Both Jugo and Rohan agree that they should find the meaning of "kushagara", at least to know why it is forbidden. Curious, Jugo tells Rohan to tell him what "kushagara" means if he discovers it. Before Jugo brusquely leaves, he gives Rohan a banknote, which annoys him.
Rohan begins to think about the words, but then Kyoka arrives. She begins her "meeting" with Rohan and informs him that his one-shot was well-received and that the editor-in-chief is thinking about making it a series. Rohan asks about his main series Pink Dark Boy, but Kyoka tells him that the series would only be one new volume. Besides, Pink Dark Boy is a monthly series. Annoyed, Rohan leaves the place and gives her Jugo's banknote. Meanwhile, Jugo is returning to his office but his curiosity turns obsessive. He begins to repeat the word to guess its meaning. When he spots a flyer where he thinks he can read the word "kushagara", he immediately picks it up but is disappointed to find that it isn't the correct word. Kyoka finally catches up to Rohan, who gives her a napkin to wipe her mouth. On their way, Rohan and Kyoka discuss the list of forbidden words. Kyoka says that she doesn't know of such a document and even then, editors wouldn't hand it to manga artists. When Rohan says that Jugo got it, Kyoka reveals that his editor has completely disappeared. Kyoka theorizes that it could be a typo, and although Rohan briefly thinks that she could be right, he realizes that the word is correct, even if it seemingly doesn't exist. In his office, Rohan decides to search for the word in his library while Kyoka also helps, by looking it up on her phone. Rohan dismisses online resources because of their unreliability and much prefers books for their physicality. Kyoka mentions that Rohan still searches things online, but Rohan angrily retorts that he doesn't completely reject the internet. At night, in his office, Jugo scribbles ideas of scary things, and inadvertently writes "kushagara". He searches on Joogle for any meaning but doesn't find anything about "kushagara". He tries to take a break, but his nagging curiosity compels him to resume his research moments later.
Later, Kyoka meets up with Taro Hirai, her boyfriend. Taro is reading articles about himself on a tablet. However, he feels disconnected from his former self. Kyoka tries to cheer him up and tells him to find "himself" with real information and not the internet, but Taro doesn't react much to her words. Kyoka suddenly has an idea. About a week later, Rohan finds himself in a Used bookstore. Talking with the owner, he learns that no one has come to sell his manga, as expected. Rohan inquires about the availability of books about folkloric, linguistics, dialectology, and the likes, which makes the bookseller ask if it's a trend among manga artists. Rohan is surprised, to which the bookseller explains that a manga artist comes every day to request the same things. Incidentally, Jugo barges in and begins to frantically research through the shelves. Jugo asks for books, but the seller denies having any new books for him. Rohan witnesses Jugo get angry and push around the old seller. Thinking that Jugo was going overboard, Rohan defends the bookseller and drags Jugo out of the store.
Rohan brings Jugo into a deserted alley to scold him, and ask him if he's been searching "kushagara" all this time. Jugo confirms it and even reveals that he hasn't eaten since he last saw Rohan. Jugo adds that he's read as many dictionaries, novels, and picture books as he could to seek the meaning of "kushagara". He even went to the police for help yet found no answer. Rohan reveals that he's also failed to find the definition. Cussing, Jugo rants about how hard it is to find a banned word and rages at his inability to know why it is banned. Seeing Jugo's sorry state, Rohan decides to say something uncharacteristic and suggests that Jugo should just stop caring about it, explaining that they're crossing a line. Jugo reacts by angrily cursing at Rohan and tries to grab him. Rohan almost punches him with his dominant hand. Shocked, Jugo falls to the ground. When Rohan threatens him, Jugo grovels and pathetically laments how "kushagara" has overtaken his mind. Rohan tells him to go back home, but Jugo collapses. Exasperated, Rohan brings Jugo back to his office. In there, he is appalled at the state of the room as it is filled with piles of books and other papers. Shockingly, as soon as Rohan drops Jugo, the latter immediately resumes his search for "kushagara". Rohan leaves but notices something odd about Jugo. He has one neighbor order a pizza for Jugo out of worry for his colleague, giving him a banknote to pay for it. Meanwhile, Jugo's frustration turns into raging madness.
Rohan meets Kyoka at his office. They talk about Jugo and his insistence on meeting his old editor. Kyoka even adds that the editorial department is starting to get annoyed with him. Kyoka reveals that she had found the editor in a warehouse. When she asked about "kushagara", the editor reacted angrily and stated that he was about to forget about it. He also added that he failed to find the word but passed it onto Jugo because he had faith he would find it, expressing his relief at this. Suddenly, Jugo appears with a box of pizza in his hands. Jugo madly claims that he's found the word and presents his "kushagara" pizza. Jugo increasingly starts mentioning "kushagara" in all of his sentences. When Kyoka asks what is up with "kushagara", Jugo turns violent, assuming that she knows something. Rohan defends Kyoka and Jugo grabs Rohan to shout at him. During the struggle, Rohan spots something like black tentacles in Jugo's throat repeating "kushagara". Rohan tells Kyoka to step outside and she hurries out of the office.
As soon as she's out, Rohan uses Heaven's Door and turns Jugo into a book. Jugo falls onto Rohan's chair, allowing Rohan to read his biography. He learns that Jugo's real name is actually Keitaro Nishi (西桂太郎 Nishi Keitarō). His father loves manga. When he was in high school, he won an award for the work that he submitted which led to his debut. Two years prior, he had broken up with his girlfriend but was invited to her wedding at the start of the current year and attended it. He chuckles but regains his focus. As he flips the page, Rohan suddenly sees that the most recent pages are covered in writings of the word "kushagara". Plus, a strange black, wet pouch pokes out of the pages from which something keeps whispering "kushagara". Rohan is horrified by the creature inside Jugo and wonders what he should do. As the thing seems to be escaping from Jugo, Rohan writes in Jugo's book to make him forget all about the word "kushagara", but the ink disappears because it is "banned" to write it. Afraid, Rohan theorizes that the word may be so horrible that it is literally banned from this world. He tries again with thicker writing but the ink is erased again. Moreover, Rohan realizes he may be a target himself. With no time to spare, Rohan uses his supernatural drawing speed to write in Jugo's pages.
Kyoka waits outside and Rohan opens the door, telling her that she can come back in. Rohan then wakes Jugo up with his head feeling refreshed. With no idea what happened to him, he is surprised to see Rohan with him and is told that he's in Rohan's house. Rohan creates an excuse to erase Jugo's confusion and persuade him that nothing unordinary happened, stating that Jugo came to his house to discuss his new story. Now feeling as if he has a good idea for a new story, Jugo finally decides to go home. Thus, Jugo immediately leaves Rohan's house. Kyoka is surprised by Jugo's completely different behavior, but Rohan tells her that he's used hypnosis to tame him. In truth, he's ordered Jugo to forget everything that has happened the previous month. Although there may be inconveniences, he declares that everything should be fine. Rohan forbids Kyoka from repeating "kushagara" and not obsess over this word. However, Kyoka says that she saw something in Jugo's mouth. Rohan tries to deny it but Kyoka insists. Forgetting about the incident, Kyoka asks if Rohan can teach her hypnosis. Exasperated, Rohan throws Kyoka out of his house, only opening the door again to hand over her bag. When Jugo returns to his office, he is surprised by the mess in the room. He spots the editor's list of forbidden words but throws it out without looking inside.
Rohan returns to the bookshop, only to find the bookseller looking through his books and begging him to help find the meaning of "kushagara". Rohan thus uses Heaven's Door and notices the strange pouch again inside the man's book. He writes that the bookseller would forget everything up until three days ago. As he walks back home, Rohan worries about the people Jugo could have met and spread the word to. Although the word is benign to most people, once you take an interest in it, you are overwhelmed by it, and Rohan fears that the same creature is laying dormant inside of him. These creatures use "kushagara" to create curiosity, feed on it, and multiply like microbes. Feeling it is dangerous to pry any further, Rohan decides not to investigate and he returns home.
A disclaimer from NHK is shown and tells that the word "kushagara" is different from the actual cursed word and has been modified for the sake of the audience.
- Takahiro Sakurai, Rohan's voice actor in the Part 4 anime, can be heard as a voice on the radio in the episode.