If you are watching Fate/zero (like everyone else this season), you might remember that Kiritsugu’s parents came up with his name, which translates to ”to cut and join again”, after finding out that this unusual process was his origin, or the centerpiece of his existence as an individual. Names are important in any culture, but the Japanese delight in taking things to the extreme: not only do they have to choose a name that sounds good, looks good (kanji!) and has the desired meaning, but they also agonize over stroke counts that bring the best luck. But who could blame them? After all, a name can affect the child’s personality, future and yes, even mahjong powers.
Saki – to bloom
Saki is the most obvious example of this trope, as the meaning of her name is brought up in the series proper. With her favorite rinshan kaihou – the flower blooming atop the mountain – and the flower motif so common in her mahjong matches, the connection is easy to see.
Teru – to illuminate
The older sister could not be any worse than her younger sibling, could she? Kokaji-pro mentions that Teru’s ability to see through play styles and special powers within a single hand is referred to as shoumakyou – the mirror of demonic illumination. The connection is obvious when you look at the kanji, but might get lost in translation.
Koromo’s last name could be translated as “heavenly inlet”, which leads to her connection with the moon. Her favorite yaku is the haitei raoyue – scooping the reflection of the moon from the bottom of the sea. When Koromo’s moon and Saki’s flowers clash, we get katen gecchi (花天月地) – flowers blooming in the moonlight.
Toki – time (?)
When you realize that the Japanese word for time is toki, the reasoning behind the name of Senriyama’s ace does not seem like much of a mystery. But in fact, Toki’s name is written with the kanji meaning “bright, of a clear mind”, and the reading of the character just happens to have a connection with her special ability…
Japanese fans also often view Toki as a reference to this gentleman of Fist of the North Star fame, as they share their name and both suffer from less than perfect health. With all due respect to the classic anime series though, I think Onjouji Toki is much cuter.
Finally, Nanpo Kazue who played in the individual tournament in the first Saki series specialized in the south round games, and her last name translates to southern bay.
That would probably be all for the obvious examples – Saki does not overuse theme naming when distributing its powers. After all, there are still other ways to mahjong haxx…