"...and as the cycle falls, once every one hundred years does the Shogun participate in The Hunt, offering himself as prey for the restless spirits that have made way through the cracks. Hide yourselves as the Shogun flees, wary the sound of the oni approaching from behind. Bare witness to the bell sound of the Shogun's return, in victory or defeat, and prepare the next one hundred years of bountiful harvest, or barren misery."
Very rough and unpolished art, I know, but I just wanted to get this little idea out of my head and onto a picture after watching an episode of Natsume Yuujincho (which is also where the mask design comes from). Japanese legend and myth seems to place the importance of masks concerning yokai or spirits, i.e. you can blend in with spirits by hiding your human face. I like the idea of Neighpon having some sort of huge, nation-wide festival every so often, where maybe the barrier between Neighpon and The Door gets blurred, so old, highly superstitious Neighpon used to see everyone walk around with a mask for a whole week, and it just grew into a custom or tradition.
Or it's customary for the Shogun to participate in some sort of elaborate song and dance where s/he's dressed up like a powerful yokai of legend, and essentially offers himself up as bait for the lesser oni that have slipped through The Door. Whether he manages to remain at large for the entire night or gets captured by an oni determines the overall success of Neighpon for the next hundred years until the Door cracks open again (at least according to legend).
...Also haven't drawn a human in a while, so decided to practice that. I actually have a sketch WIP of a picture similar to this with actual pony Ryuichi, but decided to switch over to a human!Ryuichi at some point. The mask actually worked fairly well over a snout, surprisingly - I might go back and try to finish that at some point.