Archive for January, 2012

Publishing company Taishukan Shoten asked Japanese high school and junior high school students what words they would like to see added to the dictionary. The company selected ten from the over 84,000 words submitted. Next to words related to earthquakes, saving electricity and Japan’s cherished Nadeshiko female football team, there are two entries anime fans might find themselves exchanging knowing smiles at.

Owakon... or is it?

Owakon – A shortened form of the phrase “owatta kontentsu”, describing games, movies and other things past their prime. Ubiquitous at all Japanese anime forums to describe series and authors that should call it quits before they destroy whatever is left of their image and popularity. The word has yet to catch on in the western hemisphere… and maybe for the better. A tried and true trigger of flame wars.

Well, there is something alluring about it...

Moe-sode – Literally “moe sleeves”, the word points to sleeves long enough to reveal only the tips of a person’s fingers. Often seen on cute anime girls… and everyone else on cold winter nights.

The dark side of the force is strong in the Japanese youth. And let’s hope it stays like that.

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Kanji:         有頂天外
Hiragana:         うちょうてんがい
Romaji:         u – chou – ten – gai
Literally:         exist – summit – heavens – beyond
Meaning:         In seventh heaven, in perfect bliss

Tears of joy, author unknown

This week brings us the singer/wrestler/baseball player and, hopefully, happy wife Yui from Angel Beats. Having gone through a life with more than her fair share of suffering, Yui gets the chance to catch up on everything she missed out on after she joins the Afterlife Battlefront. Her varied and colorful endeavors are a sight to behold, and Yui’s never-ending optimism and inexhaustible energy keep up the spirits of her battlefront comrades.

But like all other members of the battlefront, Yui received this ‘opportunity’ because of a darkness she couldn’t overcome while alive. Even as she smiles brightly, there’s no way she can shake off the ultimate doubt constricting her heart.

At least, not alone. But with the help of somebody who truly loves her, somebody who can accept her fully even if she can give him nothing back, Yui can break through the last of her fears and regrets. Through a symbolic promise of marriage, which she calls “a girl’s ultimate happiness”, Yui is freed of her horrible burden and granted the happiest moment of her life.

Incidentally, Yui’s happiness allows her to move on within the cycle of death and rebirth. Although the afterlife that gives everyone another shot at happiness might be exclusive to the Angel Beats franchise, people of all cultures have always associated the heavens with ultimate joy. The seventh heaven, a Muslim and Jewish concept, is one possible translation of the yojijukugo that originally refers to the highest heaven in Buddhist theology.

We are used to cheerful characters in our anime, but picking just one moment of genuine and ultimate happiness can be quite difficult. Is your favorite moment one where laughter mixes with tears, like in Yui’s case, or is it something else entirely?

Yojijukugo are four-kanji idioms representing some of the most important ideas and concepts in the Japanese language.

In this weekly series, I see how those ideas are represented in the anime world, and invite readers to share their own examples of series, characters and scenes best illustrating those concepts.

For other posts in this series, look for the Yojijukugo Series under the Category section on the right.

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Kanji:         異口同音
Hiragana:         いくどうおん
Romaji:         i – ku – dou – on
Literally:         different – mouth – same – sound
Meaning:         Different people sharing the same opinion.

Featured this week is To Aru Kagaku no Railgun’s AIM Burst. A monster created from a network of ten thousand human brains, the AIM Burst is a menace to the entire city, boasting a multitude of powerful offensive abilities and possibly infinite regenerative powers. However, the true nature of the creature is the amalgamation of the emotions of the ten thousand children hooked up to the network.

The brains absorbed into the network all belong to students of Academy City. They are boys and girls of various ages, personalities and dreams, most of whom have never met each other in their daily lives. However, all of them are connected through the pain and frustration of failure in their struggle against the “absolute wall called talent”. Those who wanted to be acknowledged, those who wanted to meet the expectations placed upon them, those who wanted to be of use to others but found themselves powerless… all of their anguish is contained within AIM Burst’s shrieks.

Of course, more uplifting examples of the idea are sure to be found within the varied world of anime. A great leader uniting the entire nation to fight against an evil, a peace-maker helping a conflicted group strive for a common goal, or maybe a pair of sworn enemies gaining mutual understanding, what characters and scenes does this week’s yojijukugo remind you of?

Yojijukugo are four-kanji idioms representing some of the most important ideas and concepts in the Japanese language.

In this weekly series, I see how those ideas are represented in the anime world, and invite readers to share their own examples of series, characters and scenes best illustrating those concepts.

For other posts in this series, look for the Yojijukugo Series under the Category section on the right.

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The burglar charged with breaking into the Ayakashi Mansion has been safely detained by police. While no information about the case has yet been made official, it is widely suspected that the burglar was a foreigner. Otherwise, he would have known what he was getting into just from seeing the name plates…

Ayakashi Mansion Tenants

Shirakiin Ririchiyo

(a.k.a.) The Stately Butterfly of the White Demon Palace

Stately as in elegant and dignified, but also imposing and cold

Miketsukami Soushi

(a.k.a.) The Twin Embers of the Great Fox Deity

A good name for a child with heterochromia

Roromiya Karuta

(a.k.a.) Karuta of the Temple of Skulls

Does the girl with skulls in her name look like good hostage material?

Yukinokouji Nobara

(a.k.a.) The Wild Rose of the Snowy Alley

A classic touch

Sorinozuka Renshou

(a.k.a) The Continuous Victories of the One-tan Mound

A cloth demon or an "ittan-momen", literally "one tan of cotton"... which is 10,6 meters in length and 30 centimeters in width. Can't blame the burglar for not getting this one, I suppose.

Considering that the name “Ayakashi Mansion” can itself mean anything from “Bewitching Mansion” to “Mansion of Monstrosities”, the burglar was really trying his luck here…

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Kanji:        合縁奇縁
Hiragana:        あいえんきえ
Romaji:        ai – en – ki – en
Literally:        fit – bond – strange – bond
Meaning:        The mysterious bonds between people.

This weeks’ yojijukugo goes to the relationship between Okazaki Tomoya and his daughter, Okazaki Ushio, both of Clannad After Story fame. Few bonds are as strong as what exists between a parent and a child, but these two know no equals. Even after death, father and daughter are unknowingly reunited in an alternate reality, where the young girl creates a vessel for her father’s wandering soul… from garbage and scrap metal on hand.

The illusionary world they meet in is itself a repository for the happiness of the people Tomoya helped in his original life. His daughter, master of this new world, will eventually use the power contained in those orbs and overcome the boundaries of time, space and dimensions to save the original Okazaki family from an impending tragedy.

Another use of the yojijukugo, other than to describe the general mystery of what connects us to each other, is to point to strange couples united through extraordinary circumstances. Romance fans certainly suffer no shortage of examples of couples who seemed doomed to fail at first glance, only to be united through a strange twist of fate.

Be it unique relationships or one-of-a-kind couples, what characters does this week’s yojijukugo bring to your mind?

Yojijukugo are four-kanji idioms representing some of the most important ideas and concepts in the Japanese language.

In this weekly series, I see how those ideas are represented in the anime world, and invite readers to share their own examples of series, characters and scenes best illustrating those concepts.

For other posts in this series, look for the Yojijukugo Series under the Category section on the right.

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With the broadcast of the first episode of Another right around the corner, it’s time to take one more look at what we learn from the preview. Last time, our main character found out more about Mei than he bargained for. But Mei sure knows how to get even…

“You’re Sakakibara Kouichi, right…? Nobody in class told you? Your name makes them think of death. And no ordinary death. Cruel and senseless death surrounding a school.”

Kouchi’s family name happens to overlap with the alias of the real-life homicidal maniac Sakakibara Seito. The murderer’s resume includes beheading a child with a hand saw… but then again, Sakakibara himself was no more than fourteen when he committed his crimes. There should be no surprise that the incident shook Japanese media and society, and it will undoubtedly still be fresh in the mind of those watching Another.

Notably, the killer’s alias was something he made up himself, and it’s writing does not match that of a normal family name. In fact, the characters used (酒鬼薔薇聖斗) can be interpreted as “a demon drunk on the blood spilled through his holy fight”, which tells us a lot about the murderer’s mind…

The main character of Another has his name written in the standard kanji meaning basically “a field of sakaki trees”, so there’s no risk of mixing the two up on paper, even if the phonetic similarity is disquieting. This way, the precise kanji writing, which indicates both meaning and reading, saves the Japanese language from its numerous homophones.

Except that Mei plays around with that paper-thin defense. As she walks away, she pronounces Kouichi’s family name one syllable at a time, tearing away the rhythm associated with a kanji word and bringing it to the fair playing field of simple sounds. Somewhere where there is no way to distinguish between demons and innocents. The producers join in on the sadistic fun by displaying the word in the phonetic katakana.

The first episode is coming to our screens soon enough, let us hope for a great ride.

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I’m not much into the idea of dating sims in general, but this one definitely caught my attention when I learned about it from 2DT’s site. My reasons for taking a closer look at this game are probably no different from what sparked the interest of other people in the blogsphere – this title is either a horrible insult and feat of fetishism, or a daring statement giving equal opportunity to the people facing disabilities, who are often ‘invisible’ in the media.

The whole idea is something that could only come about as a fan production. What company could risk the scorn they would likely get for the mere idea? It would actually be “weird” if the game sold too well. I think many people, me included, are only giving the production a fair chance because there’s no money involved.

But that’s all preconceptions, and what’s the real deal? Well, I’ve only had time to play through the introduction, but I can say there’s a spirit of sensitivity behind the writing. It helps that the main character we’re supposed to identify with stands on equal ground with the heroines – he only stays alive as long as he keeps pumping chemicals into his arrhythmic heart. But obviously that’s not something he wants to define who he is. And everyone else at the school is exactly the same, facing various difficulties, but holding their own ambitions and dreams unrelated to any disability.

The game is sure to get some flak and, even without reading it all, I can say there will be controversy about how particular scenes are handled. But you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. I think there is nothing wicked in the creators’ intentions, and I view this as a small contribution to breaking the status quo of complete silence.

And, as 2DT remarks elsewhere, the people behind it deserve props for just completing the project, regardless of content. We live in a fascinating age when people from all over the world can come together joined by nothing but a single idea and a will to act. I can’t stop finding that inspiring and beautiful.

On a different tangent, TWWK brings up what is called people-first language, a way of speaking used to shift focus from a person’s disability to the person itself. He notes that it is a way to “show love by being kind”. While watching out for how we speak can be part of good etiquette and a way of showing we care (not only when speaking with people with disabilities!), people-first language is a controversial idea because it’s implications extend beyond and individual’s informed choice about their manners.

Imagine you’re in a dark room. You can only see the outlines of things – barely enough to walk around without tripping over something. A friend invited you over for something to drink, and indeed, there seems to be some drinkware lined up on the table inside. As you approach to take one of the containers into your hand, your friend calls out: “Grab a mug and come here!”

When the magical keyword “mug” is spoken, your expectations about the unknown container change. You can start guessing how thick and heavy it is, the material it is made from and maybe even what your friend intends to drink. Think how different the answers to those questions would be if your friend mentioned a “cup” instead.

Mugs? Cups?

There’s no big problem in drinking beer from a teacup, and nobody can tell exactly how thin a mug can be before it stops being a mug. But the human mind needs to categorize, and once it categorizes, it associates and generalizes. Calling somebody a “nigger” is different from your average insult in that it expresses the belief in the existence of a naturally inferior race of people. Rude words are an individual’s problem. The beliefs and associations hiding behind those words are society’s problem, because words can only have meaning when shared and understood by a group.

What this all boils down to is that we need not only think about the listener when choosing our words – we should also think about the effect our words have on ourselves. Words have a magic power much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Call somebody disabled long enough, and the “technically correct” term might make you forget that the person is quite “able” to perform everyday actions their own way.

To what extent do the words we use direct our thinking process? That in itself is arguable. But it is certain the influence is there, in the subconsciousness, where we tend not to notice. And that’s why the proper terms to use, be it people-first language or anything else, will forever remain a point of heated debate.

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Hayate no Gotokou author Hata Kenjiro announced that chapter 351 will be the last one before the serialization takes a break until February 29th.

Well, as for the reason, it’s honestly nothing like me being tired or anything like that. It’s simply that in 2012 there’s some work that I absolutely have to do, even if it means stopping the serialization for a short while. I decided to take a break to make the necessary preparations for that.

Truth be told, I’ve tried rearranging my schedule multiple times to see if I could do it without taking a break. But I’ve realized I cannot avoid scheduling trouble without putting the serialization on hold… I can only apologize.

But eventually (this year, actually), I hope to give everyone a nice surprise. You’ll be thinking ‘Oh, so that’s what the fool took a break for,’ so you can look forward to that.

Hata also hinted he might reveal more information on his Twitter account at a later date.

A feature-length Hayate no Gotoku movie was screened in Japanese theaters last year and a third season of the Hayate no Gotoku anime has already been announced. What new surprise is Hata preparing for his fans?

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Kanji:            不撓不屈

Hiragana:     ふとうふくつ

Romaji:         fu – tou – fu – kutsu

Literally:      never – bend – never – yield

Meaning:      Indomitable, unbroken regardless of the hardship encountered.

Akemi Homura, representing Puella Magi Madoka Magica, is the one to open the yojijukugo series. With her indomitable spirit, she sets out on the quest to save her only friend, never giving up or slowing down regardless of the pain and hardship she has to face along the way.

Time travelers often shoulder a burden heavier than a single human should ever be allowed to, and so other candidates might include a certain mad scientist of Steins;Gate fame, or maybe a small miko trapped in the eternal June of Showa 58.

But the strength to conquer any and all adversity is of course not limited to those jumping across different timelines. What characters does this week’s yojijukugo make you think of?

Yojijukugo are four-kanji idioms representing some of the most important ideas and concepts in the Japanese language.

In this weekly series, I see how those ideas are represented in the anime world, and invite readers to share their own examples of series, characters and scenes best illustrating those concepts.

For other posts in this series, look for the Yojijukugo Series under the Category section on the right.

Read Full Post »

With International Saimoe League’s candidate nominations phase now open, a new year has officially begun for the world’s premier saimoe competition. You have until the end of Saturday (GMT) to prepare your ballots… But in the meanwhile, I suggest seven ways to have fun with a saimoe tournament.

1. Allow yourself a moment of self-reflection.

Picking your twelve candidates is a great opportunity to take a deep breath and remember all the great characters and moments from last year as well as your entire personal anime history. This is the time of the year when I inevitably recall Kajiwara Sora – a lesser-known anime character I rarely get to rave about, but one that has always held a soft spot in my heart.

2. Get anime recommendations.

Saimoe tournaments have always been about like-minded individuals exchanging recommendations for worthwhile anime titles. It’s impossible for anyone to watch every title out there, so it’s never a bad idea to see what others found worth getting fired up about.

3. Take part in crazy political machinations.

Not everyone on the Internet has the opportunity to take part in the general elections of their country, but moe tournaments are a great place to get a first taste of the cloak-and-dagger tactics involved in vote-gathering. Long before the tactical voting of the main tournament begins, some more devoted fans have already started a character nomination trade system at the ISML Forums to help their sweethearts advance.

4. Contribute your skills.

ISML began with a few guys at Animesuki who didn’t really know each other thinking “Hey, let’s do something big!” and a few other thread lurkers responding “If you’re really doing that, we’ll help you out.” Everyone pitched in their skills at whatever they felt confident about and a few weeks later there was a tournament ready (I was there, true story.)

Four years later, ISML has grown and evolved, but its basic principle – by fans, for fans – remains unchanged. Anyone is welcome to contribute, as there are never too many number-crunchers, writers, translators, graphic designers, movie editors, forum moderators, programers and other staff. There’s no need to limit yourself to filling somebody’s shoes, either. ISML space maps and ISML Seitokai are two original projects that started from a bright idea – the next one might be yours!

5. Bite into the statistics.

Otaku are often called database animals, and ISML has its own share of algorithm enthusiasts. The people at the forums compete in creating perfect result predictions in a race for geek glory and attractive prizes.

6. Socialize with other fans.

Grab a cup of tea (or other preferred beverage) and have a nice chat with fellow fans of your favorite characters and series at the ISML Forums. Aside from all the indispensable “moe is serious business” topics, there are plenty of general forum hijinks to keep you busy during your relaxation time.

7. Support your favorites.

Last but not least, vote for the characters that won you over. Wait for the results and either rejoice or eat cardboard… all in good fun.

I hope to meet you all over at ISML 2012. Let’s have another great year!

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