“Call for the Devil!” (short story) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History: Bullseye! (2017, Kurodahan)
Original: Japanese (悪魔を呼ぶ連中), 1980
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2017
Synopsis: The president, the finance director, and the marketing director for a large company have gathered together to decide the fate of their company by attempting to sell their souls to the devil; otherwise, scores of employees and many subcontractors would suffer under the company’s collapse. With the tables and candles placed in a pentangle, they begin to burn ingredients in the middle fire so that the devil may be drawn out, but Benkei—a folklore Japanese character—greets them. Shocked yet disappointed, they cast different variations in the fire only to summon a variety of characters, including Jesus, Popeye, and Beethoven. Undeterred by their failure, the marketing director takes the first shift to draw the devil out.
Analysis: Good Corporate Governance isn’t a very exciting topic of conversation. Big Business is an easy target of attack as its a bodiless entity without a soul and whose main purpose for existence if the generation of profit. Naturally, human bodies that actually embody the profit-seeking nature of their respective business is, of course, its board of directors, president, CEO, etc. Like the bodiless entity of the business, these heads of governance are also easy targets as they tend to be just as disembodied as the “entity”, what with their lofty offices, exorbitant salaries, and daily distance from the lowest rungs of operations.
Rather than facing the problem head-on—perhaps with line graphs, Gantt charts, or multivariate tables—the now-embodied governors of fate for the company take to the supernatural to rectify their errors in leading the company to profit or success. As they begin to summon the devil himself, they first accidentally evoke Benkei and then Jesus, neither of which have they any interest in assistance. The former entity can be seen as a long-winding tie to the past, a reminder that many of today’s hardships can be overcome with the advice of our elders; the latter entity represents altruism, an all-loving entity that can overcome hardships with understanding and love… yet as, as the president says, “God has no place in commerce!”
Review: When I say like bizarro fiction, I usually have a hard time just defining what exactly that is; however, “I know it when I see it,”as Potter Stewart had said. In “Call for the Devil!”, merges elements of the bizarre, a tenuous parallelism to the plot, and my favorite topic of Yasutaka Tsutsui’s stories: the effects on Salarymen. Granted, this effect isn’t as direct as “Rumours About Me” (1972/2006), “Commuter Army” (1973/2006), or “Hello, Hello, Hello!” (1974/2006), but the story still has salarymen in its scope. I’m not sure if there’s a numerological significance to this story (Benkei’s so-called seven famous weapons and the later Seven Gods of Fortune), but this notions adds another layer of analysis to a story that’s already steeped in a good looking-at.