As far as I know, Enju-chan probably never met her parents. Childbirth cannot exactly be safe when infected, however lightly, with the Gastrea virus. Still, I would like to believe that Enju’s name did come from her parents, a parting gift for the child about to face the hardships of a post-apocalyptic world all on her own.
The name Enju (延珠) brings to mind a homophonic word written with the characters for long and lifespan, and meaning longevity (延寿, enju). The first of the two characters finds itself into Enju’s name as-is, expressing her parents’ wish for their child to lead a long and healthy life. Prayers for health/longevity are one of the most common meanings slipped into names in contemporary Japan, but the desire must be felt all the stronger in a dying and uncertain world, and especially so in the case born with a ticking time bomb inside her body.
The second of the two characters in Enju’s name, however, is made different without changing the reading. The character, read separately as tama (珠), refers to a sphere in general, and a pearl (真珠, shinju) by implication. As a symbol of fullness and perfection, the sphere often finds its way into Japanese names, as do references to jewels and precious minerals, which present the child as the family’s treasure. That, at least, is the surface meaning.
If we delve a bit deeper, we notice that the specific character for sphere used in Enju’s name can be further divided into two smaller characters. The left-side radical is a more general character for a sphere (玉, tama). The right side, on the other hand, refers to cinnabar/vermillion (朱，shu), giving us the additional, hidden meaning of cinnabar spheres.
Many Japanese parents choose to wait until the child is born before deciding on a name in order to include a reference to the time and circumstances of birth or the child’s characteristics in the name. I can only imagine what went through the mind of Enju’s mother when she looked into her daughter’s eyes for the first time and saw the crimson glow confirming her daughter as one of the cursed children.
But painful though that must have been, Enju’s mother chose to accept the truth head on, accepting her daughter the way she was born. In linking Enju’s eyes to a pair of jewels, she is telling her daughter that whatever society thinks of Enju, she is forever her mother’s greatest treasure. And with the first part of the name meant to grant Enju longevity, her mother chooses hope over despair, believing Enju can live a long and happy life despite the danger hanging over her head.
Names are like small miracles – they are messages that never disappear, even if fate will not allow the sender and receiver to meet ever again.
All speculation based purely on the anime, please refrain from posting spoilers.
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