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Goin’ Japanesque!

Manga “The Little Match Girl” – Fairy Tale for Adults Also Adapted into Live-Action Film

The fairy tales parents read to children are often didactic stories with moral implications. But original versions of some fairy tales contain many parts that are considered too violent for children.

For example, “Cinderella” includes descriptions of how the wicked stepsisters of Cinderella sliced off their own feet in order to wear the glass shoes.

Stories blending lessons, morals, and unreasonableness, are what fairy tales are.

The piece we are introducing this time, “The Little Match Girl” is one of such fairy tales.



Rin is a girl who peddles a match that can materialize delusions conceived while the match is lit.

She suddenly appears in front of people and sells the match, and the price is one year of the buyer’s life.

However, the matches are strictly to materialize the delusion, not the wish.

Obtaining the match and making the delusion real, some people end up getting ruined while others are saved.

A man wants to be loved by all the women.

A boy wants to be a hero of justice.

A girl wants to draw pictures better than anyone else.

This manga depicts what happens to these people after gaining the means to fulfill their delusions.



1. Rin ( A homonym in Japanese means “phosphorus”. )

Rin is the main character of this manga, or the storyteller.

She has the appearance of a little girl wearing a pretty frilly dress, but her speech and personality are adult-like and she speaks in the formal style, using honorific words.

Usually she peddles matches, but she actually owns a property combining her store and dwelling.

Basically she is business-like without showing her emotions in facial expressions, and she is calm and collected.

Though not showing on her face, she gets sad or mad as an average person would. Thus she seems to be just not facially expressive.

In general, storytellers of this type of stories tend to be inhumanely philosophical, but Rin may be pretty mundane and emotional in comparison.

2. Kurage (Jellyfish.)

(Real name: Raku Kurage)

Kurage used to be a human, but turned into jellyfish because of its delusion while the match was lit.

When it was a human, it had a tendency to attract misfortunes, and furthermore, it had a masochistic tendency to accept such misfortunes willingly.

After turning into a jellyfish, it became quite the capable jellyfish, being in charge of all the daily household chores as Rin’s assistant.

Its character is always positive and never gets dispirited, and it’s a chattery happy jellyfish.



A similar manga that comes to mind is “Warau Salesman (The Laughing Salesman)” by Fujiko Fujio.

“Warau Salesman” is strictly a satire on modern society using black humor, and episodes conclude in unhappy endings from readers’ point of view.

Many unhappy endings do appear also in “The Little Match Girl”, but there are episodes that do not end unhappily. One such example is a story of elderly couple who spend their last moment most delightfully thanks to the delusion offered by the match.

This manga unfolds such a wide variety of stories, and its charm is to stir up readers’ desire to read on to know the ending.

Each episode is a self-contained story and story’s central figure keeps changing, but some figures appear again in different episodes.

A specific condition to materialize “delusion” is the unique setting of this manga.

It may be somewhat unclear for readers how it is different from “wishes coming true”.

When we keep reading and watching characters with almost every imaginable delusion granted, we start wondering what separates their “delusions” from “wishes”.

However, as the story progresses, a peddler appears that sells “candles to grant wishes”.

As the story further progresses from that point on, it gradually reveals the difference between “delusions” and “wishes”.

This manga makes readers feel the existence of such bigger flow in the story.

Photo by tumblr

The drawing of this manga sets itself apart from other manga, as it may be aiming to achieve the texture of fairy tales.

The thick distinctive lines are unique, resembling bold touch of wood-block prints. Configuration of panels and decorative composition of drawings weaves one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

The author “Sanami Suzuki” has published other works than this piece. Though slight variations exist, these idiosyncratic drawings appear to be the result of her drawing style.

“The Little Match Girl” was recently adapted for a live-action movie.

We are also anxious to know who this Rin is that peddles matches to people in the story.

The story describes human delusions and where they lead to with highly unique drawings. Wouldn’t you like to read a slightly bitter fairy tale written for adults?

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Berial the Demon

About the author

It has been over 40 years of reading manga in the deep world of manga. Japan’s manga has an endlessly wide variety of genres. I will be recommending special manga for you to read from such infinite amount of works.

View all articles by Berial the Demon