I have recently found myself in a very strange position in conversation over the the last week or so, in fact it was the same position, twice, I found myself defending the attributes of, our friend, the noble cicada.
The summer air, at dawn and dusk rings with the iconic cry that I had always previously associated with the Australian January. But as it turns out the cicada, or 'semi' as he is known here, is just as iconic in Japan. So much so that, in manga to simply write the sound made by the 'semi' in the background of a scene, is to indicate a hot, summers day. Now I, who have a long history of hunting down and collecting cicada shells, summer after summer, barely register the constant chirping hum he produces with his wings, I am too accustomed to it to even really hear it anymore. This appears however, not to be the case, for those who have travelled from the North American continent, as on more than one occasion now I have been drawn into conversation where I was being advised on how abhorrent, disgusting and annoying he is, something that I just couldn't agree with, and I will proceed by sharing my reasoning.
Firstly, as bugs go they are mostly harmless, other than having a somewhat unfortunate habit of coursing directly into the side of your head at times, he does not bite and he is not poisonous. For an Australian child, growing up in a country where most things you could wish to poke are deadly, this is already a major plus.
Secondly, despite not fitting the conventional standards of beauty, the way for example a butterfly does, the cicada does sport in some cases gorgeously, almost snake-like patterned wings, and in others a glass and lead light transparent type. Growing up, cicada wings were the ultimate find, the highest in playground currency, worth at least a hundred shells, and highly coveted.
Beyond that, the black cicada most common in Japan is a warrior, wearing his thick armour plating to prove it. He is at war with the crow. His foe, a giant creepy Edgar Allan Poe-esque thing, caws and pounces on our hero, without a moments notice, who would never escape if not for the utilitarian shielding that adorns him. There is beauty once again to be found here, in the same way there is beauty to be found in a crushed helmet that saves a skull, and I have seen too many of those in my time.
Our hero is, encumbered with bulging eyes, which I think is where he loses much of the observers favour, but this is where it does well to point out, you will come across a similar problem if you look too closely at the butterfly. As for the noise, it heralds in the hot weather, when the beach beckons, and could therefore never go unwanted by me.
Lastly, I was raised on a diet of C J Dennis, he being one of my father's favourites, and was regularly fed 'The Triantiwontigongolope'. I believe that my soft spot for our hero has stemmed from this, listening to my Dad read the poem I always envisioned a creature very like, the very handsome and noble cicada.