Interviews with Monster Girls- Machi the Dullahan
Machi is the second monster girl we are introduced to in Interviews with Monster Girls, and she is a Dullahan, a creature which hails from Irish/Celtic mythology. The Dullahan is an unseelie, or dark fairy, and as a group they are almost always evil, and humans don’t have to do anything to earn their wrath. Dullahans are usually male and ride black horses while carrying their heads, which are described as looking like moldy cheese, of all things. He also carries a whip made from the spinal columns of his victims.
I prefer Machi over the original version. Oh, and there really isn’t any way to stop a Dullahan, but they cannot cross rivers and do not like gold. Before I continue I want to be clear that there is a fairly obvious trait of the Dullahan that I will not be covering because it’s just a little too far beyond the realm of science.
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m not going to even try to figure out the whole bit with how her head and body are connected yet not connected and everything involved with that.
We are told during the course of the show that Machi is one of 3 Dullahans in the world, making her condition extremely rare. You have all probably heard of some rare conditions in the news like progeria (rapid aging), or albinism (no pigmentation). Despite being very rare, there are more than 3 people in the world affected with them. The question is then, are there any real-world conditions so rare that only a handful of people have it? The answer to that question is yes. Fields Disease is an ultra-rare neuromuscular disorder that currently affects only two people in the entire world. The disease causes the patient’s muscles and nerves to break down over time. Currently they are wheelchair-bound and use mechanical devices to assist them in talking. Given this, it’s not a big leap to believe that a monster girl could be so rare that there are only three of them in the world.
Balance is the ability to maintain a stable position/posture when remaining stationary and while moving. The human sense of balance is maintained by three separate systems, the vestibular, somatosensory, and visual systems. Essentially the vestibular system in the inner ear is how you feel motion, specifically changes in motion, even when you can’t see it. That’s why you can tell when a car turns when your eyes are closed, or when an elevator is moving while you are inside of it. The visual system uses the eyes to see motion, this is why you can sometimes feel like you are moving when watching a movie on an IMAX screen. The final system is the somatosensory system, which uses information from the musculoskeletal system to determine where different parts of the body are. This is why you know when someone moves your arm when your eyes are closed or are not looking at that part of the body. For a more in depth look at some aspects of balance, you can read over an older post I did on motion sickness in SAO.
Machi does not have an issue with balance per se as each of her systems works perfectly as seen by her lack of issues regarding balance in the show. She is even the most athletic of the Monster Girls, and one of the most athletic girls in the school. Her issue with balance arises during her date with Tetsuo.
When a person is moving, the body has to make slight adjustments as a result of that movement. Specifically, the head and neck, will make slight adjustments so that your field of vision remains stationary instead of bouncing around all over the place. Essentially our body provides image stabilization for our vision. If you don’t know what image stabilization is, watch the video below.
Since Machi doesn’t have a neck, how does her body make the small adjustments needed to provide image stabilization? First off, some of those adjustments are made by the eyes themselves, so there is no issue there. Second, she most often carries her head in her arms, and they have slowly adapted over time to making the small adjustments needed to maintain a stable field of vision. This is why she doesn’t have any problems until Tetsuo carries her head for the duration of their date. She ends up getting motion sickness because Tetsuo can’t make all of the minute adjustments needed to keep her field of vision stable. This was an interesting episode for me to watch because it was the first time I had heard of dynamic balance and I had to do a fair bit of research on the topic.
Fear of Rivers
The Dullahans of mythology do not cross rivers, and crossing one is one of the only ways to escape from a Dullahan. The anime actually gives a very good reason for this: it wouldn’t take a whole lot of water to drown when you are just a head. There is, of course, a chance for a well-trained Dullahan to pick up their own head after dropping it, but most rivers have currents which would quickly carry the head away from the body. Thus, it makes sense that Dullahans would come to fear rivers, and even Machi leaves her head on the side of the pool while swimming.
It actually shows the level of trust Machi has for her friends and teachers when they finally do convince her to allow the teacher to hold her head underwater briefly.
Fear of Gold
It is not mentioned in Interviews with Monster Girls, but the Dullahans of Irish mythology have a fear of gold. Now you are probably thinking, but gold isn’t toxic so why and how would it be dangerous to Dullahans, I mean gold leaf is used to decorate food?
You are, of course, correct- gold in its pure form is not toxic, but gold salts are. Salts that contain gold can be very toxic to the liver and kidneys. We are able to eat gold in food because there is no process in the body that can take gold and turn it into a salt. Of course this begs the question, why are some people allergic to certain types of gold jewelry?
The answer there is not the gold, but the nickel the gold is plated over. Gold is expensive, and it is possible to place a thin layer of gold over another metal using a process known as electroplating. This way the jewelry has the appearance of being all gold, while only containing a small amount. The metal used to create the body of the jewelry is nickel and it is possible to be allergic to nickel.
Clearly it is not the most pleasant condition especially if it becomes infected. If you remember, earlier I mentioned how the skin on the Dullahan’s head resembles moldy cheese, and the rash in the picture above bears a certain resemblance to moldy cheese. I would hazard to guess that Dullahan’s have the unfortunate trait of being allergic to nickel plated gold.
Metaphysical wormholes connecting a Dullahan’s head to its body aside, all of Machi’s Dullahan traits can be explained by current scientific knowledge.