Let's pose a picture challenge for those of you reading at home. Before you scroll down to read the definition below, take a good long look at today's kanji: 人面獣心. Now try to guess which one of these pictures best suits today's yoji:
Your options are Beast, from the TV series Beauty and the Beast, Adolf Hitler, and the best non-erotic centaur I could find on Google images. I'm sure it's someone's avatar or something.
If you picked Adolf Hitler, you are correct! While Beast is a man with an animal exterior, and the centaur is a hodge-podge of animal, man, and otaku fantasy, Adolf Hitler is the best accompaniment for these kanji: the surface is that of a human being, but the heart is that of a beast.
1. A beast in human form
2. One who is mercilessly cruel
3. Inhumanly evil.
This is used to describe people who are capable of inhuman acts, so as you can imagine, it gets applied to shocking crimes that make headline news, and to the particularly nasty despots and dictators of history. If you'd like to see a particularly interesting mixture of results and Japanese perspectives, try doing a google search for 人面獣心 and 南京事件 (The Rape of Nanking).
I do have to admit though, that I got excited about this yoji because of the idea of it in its literal form. As I'm a bit prone to geeking out over magic and myth and demons and such myself, I like the idea of a beast that takes human form, like a werewolf but backwards. A wereman, I guess. But one animal that I would never immediately associate with 人面獣心 is the otter.
*Random Trivia Warning*
In Ishikawa-ken however, there are old, old stories about the 川獺 (かわうそ；kawauso: otter), who was often blamed when local fishermen had a bad run. It was thought though, that in order to get the fish and to perpetrate other shenanigans on the townsfolk as well, the otter would take on the guise of a small child or an old man, donning clothes and speaking in a human-like voice. It never managed to speak any intelligible Japanese words, but it got close, responding to questions of 「誰だ」 with 「オラヤ」 which might mean something in otter speak...
Forgive the digression, but I got this cool new book about Japanese ghosts and stuff. Will post more on it later in the week.
Check the sentence below for yoji usage!
That old man who killed those 8 little kids seemed like an inhuman criminal at first, but in the end, it turned out that those 8 "kids" were just otters, trying to steal the fish!