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Archive for the ‘Words, words, words’ Category

Hai-Furi

As you would expect from Girls und Panzer on water, Hai-furi has more than its fair share of characters taking care of all the tasks aboard their ships. While we will probably end up calling most of them by their post (torpedo-girl, navigation-girl and so on), the show is also kind enough to highlight the main players by giving them special nicknames, and it seems cats are the name of the game.

Misaki Akeno’s "Mike", China Moeka’s "Moka" and Munetani Mashiro’s "Shiro" are all popular cat names, along the lines of “Spot”, “Mocha” and “Snowy” respectively. While some other members of the crew also get catlike nicknames, the above three also have a color theme going on (tricolor, brown and white). Akeno’s nickname in particular is the classic name for calico cats, and if Suzumiya Haruhi taught us anything, it is that the tricolored fellows are natural main characters of the Japanese feline world.

Hai-Furi-859x384

More importantly, the naming pattern is unmistakably meant to foreshadow the catfight that the love triangle will eventually lead to. Moeka seems easily in the lead right now, but the road ahead is uncertain. Typical anime tropes would have Akeno’s kindness and cheer break though the tsun-tsun wall of her deputy-captain just in time for the two to face, and ultimately overcome, Moeka’s behemoth of a ship. But a twist or two could not possibly hurt, right?

Looking forward to where the choices those kittens make will lead them.

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ゆゆゆ2

Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero is a story notable for several reasons, one of them being its portrayal of a semi-theocratic society. We are shown hints of the setting’s god-tree religion affecting the education system and government, and obviously religious undertones would make into the everyday lives of ordinary households and leave a mark on the naming patterns of children. In fact, every character in the show bears some mark of this religious influence.

Starting from the Washio generation:

Tougou Mimori’s name means simply "beautiful forest".

Minowa Gin’s name means "silver", which is formed with the "metal" and "root" radicals. The "root" reference probably doubles as an indication of Gin’s role in the group as the one keeping the other two safe.

Nogi Sonoko’s name refers to a "garden", which is most understandable if you imagine Japan’s extensive shrine and temple gardens. As a sacred space, the gardens create a small world to house the Japanese gods. On the one hand, this represents the inner sanctum that the Nogi family, as one of the most influential Taisha families, is responsible for. On the other hand, the Shikoku barrier can be seen as a miniature garden – a place of purity cut away from the impurity (death and destruction) of the world outside. In this sense, Sonoko’s name represents all the beauty left in the world as well as humanity’s hope.

During her time spent with the Washio family Mimori’s name was changed to Sumi. It is a special name insofar as it makes sense for it to be given with a clear cut purpose in mind. If you ignore the kanji and just look at the reading, the name refers to "purity", hinting at Mimori’s role as a miko/shrine maiden to the god-tree. As regards the kanji, the "su" part once more refers to Mimori’s "duty", while the "mi" part signifying beauty is borrowed from her original name.

For the younger generation.

Inubouzaki Itsuki’s name is the "great tree" straight out of the god-tree compound.

Miyoshi Karin has the "two-branch tree" radical slipped into the second kanji of her name, "rin", meaning "elegant, of stern or highly composed demeanor". Interestingly, that is the older variant of the kanji, with the newer one having a "shrine" radical in place of the "two-branch tree".

Yuuki Yuuna’s name seems to have no trees in it at first glance, but that is because the upper part of the "na" kanji was simplified along the way. With the kanji originally composed of a "tree" over a "shrine", the original meaning was that of a "fruit offered to the gods". The fruit in question was offered when seeking guidance from the heavens, so the kanji also meant *what should be done?". With the two "yuu" kanji in her name referring to "bringing people together" and "friendship" respectively, Yuuna seems to ask the question and provide the answer all in one.

Inubouzaki Fuu is a mystery to me. If you dig far enough back, the kanji for "fuu" seems to have originated from the same inscription as the 鳳 kanji referring to the divine bird (phoenix), which was considered a messenger from the gods. The contemporary form of the kanji replaces the "bird" radical inside for what is now most often known as the "bug" radical, which in this case represents reptiles; as beliefs changed, people came to believe it were dragons, rather than birds, that lived in the skies and controlled the winds.

But a "fuu" name could have contained a god or tree reference much more easily just by sticking a "tree" radical to the "wind" kanji discussed above to get the "maple" kanji 楓 – the reading can stay as-is. Whether this was intentionally avoided (to point to Fuu as the one least loyal to Taisha, especially towards the end of the story?), or whether there was some other reasoning for this particular name/writing, I cannot be sure.

そのこ

The last names in Yuyuyu also matter, especially with the Washio generation. Other than the Nogi last name meaning “of the tree”, making them the obvious big-shots in this world, there are many significant real-world references packed in there:

  • Mimori likes being called by her last name, Tougou, because it tickles her history-otaku and nationalist fancy. She happens to share her last name with the famous Japanese admiral Tougou Heihachirou.
  • Sonoko shares her last name with Nogi Maresuke, a famous Japanese general
  • The above two lived in the same times, known as the “Nogi of the land and Tougou of the sea”, and were acquainted with each other… whether the two got along is a different matter
  • When general Nogi died, he was deified as a god of war (and education and marital affairs) and a shrine was built for him… partly for the purposes of the Japanese army’s propaganda
  • The above happened when Tougou was still alive, and Tougou was appalled to hear that the navy planned to do the same to him to regain the balance of power between the land forces and the navy. He strongly expressed his objection to the idea… but was deified anyway after his death (there are three shrines bearing his name)

Readers can probably see how the above parallels the story of Yuyuyu with Mimori learning that Sonoko was turned into a god for the Taisha’s benefit, only to be set on the same track against her will. Yuyuyu questions whether in creating heroes, we are not taking advantage of people for our own benefit.

Additional Notes:

Minowa Gin’s short, one kanji name gives off a somewhat boyish image.

I particularly like the usage of the “ko” ending in Sonoko’s name. In contemporary usage, the “ko” ending for female names ended up being so popular that around 1960, almost all women had names ending that way. That in itself became so clichéd that now parents often actively avoid adding “ko” to names. For this reason, the “ko” ending in anime is perfect to create “average Jane” background characters.

However, historically, the “ko” ending was reserved only for females of the highest social class, holding offices at court and in administration. The later popularity of the name came exactly because the “commoners” envied the image of sophistication and prosperity the ending carried.

With Yuyuyu bringing back social elements of Japan’s past, Sonoko’s name carries with it the elegance and dignity of the well-bred part of society. 

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aoi

Shirobako mostly lacks “anime names”. Instead for meaningful names full of foreshadowing, the show opts for a more down-to-earth and realistic take on the issue. Ema does get the kanji for “drawing” in her name, and plenty of the side characters are humorous takes on real-life people, down to their names, but otherwise Shirobako does not try too stand out too much.

Which is not to say there are no tasty parts at all. Our protagonist’s name, Aoi, is currently a very popular girl’s name, duking it out for first place against Yui throughout the last few years.

Miyamori has her name written all in the meaning-neutral hiragana (a popular choice for girl names in general, as the round shapes of hiragana characters are considered very feminine). That need not stop us from guessing, though. People who know a bit of Japanese will point out that one common meaning of aoi is the color blue. But the word actually covers various shades of blue and green, as the two were not considered separate colors in Japanese tradition.

There is a metaphorical meaning to the English green shared by the Japanese aoi. As unripe fruit tends to be green in color, so the young and inexperienced in any field can also be called green. And this is exactly Aoi’s function throughout the first cour of Shirobako – to make mistakes and ask questions, so that we can learn about the studio and what is necessary to make it work. Aoi works as our perspective character exactly because she is inexperienced in the field.

Of course, every novice eventually gains experience and becomes better at their job, like Aoi does. But as we get deeper into the second cour of Shirobako, we learns that the people in the industry can be broadly divided into two categories: those who wake up from their dreams about the industry, and those that never do. If the stories of the veterans presented in the show are any indication, many of the greatest works are crafted by those in the latter category. As we see in the later episodes, Aoi herself is still far from waking up from her own dream. And that enduring innocence is another meaning contained in her name.

tarou  

Another interesting, and much more light-hearted name choice is Takanashi Tarou. As  Anime Diet’s Gendomike puts it, “it’s a shame that we all know a Tarou in every office”. Which is exactly the intention behind this character’s name – Tarou is the stereotypical male name, the Japanese John Smith.

Of course, to complete the cliché, you would normally use a very common last name – preferably Yamada. What we get instead is Takanashi. Maserbeam complains about the overabundance of Takanashi characters in anime when discussing Tarou, and he does have a point. Chuu2koi, Working!, PapaKiki, Black Rock Shooter and other anime titles seem to be in love with this surname, not without reason.

The 小鳥遊 variant of the surname is famous because while it actually exists and is in use in contemporary Japan, it is one of the country’s most unreadable last names. Taka-nashi can be taken to mean “no hawks”, and the surname is written with kanji for “small birds playing around” (completely ignoring traditional readings of the kanji), the logic apparently being that small birds only play around in places with no hawks. This is most likely an odd remnant of the times when the Japanese language was not so much a tool of universal communication as a toy for the noble-born to play around with and use as a barrier between them and the uneducated. At one point, everything could be written in the word puzzle style described above, for art and beauty. (And then nobody could read a text 10 years after it was written, as nobody remembered the author’s witty jokes and puzzles.)

So the last name is weird and cool, and just perfect for your fictional character. Except that in Tarou’s case, while the last name might be pronounced exactly like the “cool” Takanashi, it is instead a variant written with perfectly ordinary and boring characters. This Takanashi is written with the kanji for “tall pear tree” (高梨), and read in a standard way.

I am not sure which joke the writers were aiming for here: “we wish all the Tarous of this world were just fictional characters… but they’re not”, or maybe “this guy wishes he were special… but he’s not”.

Or maybe just both.   

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liebster2

Thanks to medivalotaku for nominating me for the Liebster Award. It’s always a now-or-never thing for me with such community projects. If I put it off once, I’ll never get to it at all. Forgive me, then, for the simplicity of my answers/questions.

Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Answers

1. Do you watch the Olympics?

I tend only to watch the Olympics/other sports events together with my family. Most of the time, however, I live elsewhere and do not have access to a TV at all. In terms of sports I sometimes watch for personal pleasure, what comes to mind is volleyball and snooker.   

2. Who is your favorite historical figure?

Gautama Buddha. Thomas Aquinas.

3. Vikings vs. Samurai. Who wins on a level playing ground?

I’m no history buff, but my vision of the Vikings is that of an army wielding axes and the like, plundering some poor British village, while my vision of the Samurai is Nobunaga’s armies with firearms and stuff.

Samurai? Easily???  

4. Do you like Jane Austen’s books?

They are lovely. I remember reading about the frolicking of “young, gay soldiers” and wondering how the main character could be certain the soldiers were indeed gay.  

5. If you were marooned on a desert island with little possibility of rescue, which five books would you want to have with you?

Give me whatever survival tutorials of practical value that you have. Other than that admission of being a geek with no idea how to survive getting stranded?

The Dune, The Little Prince, Umineko (text-only printout is fine), some unfinished light novel to keep me hoping for more, one empty book for my own writing.    

6. Also, a lifetime supply of what drink would you want to have with you on that island?

Water.

Provided that water is abundant, tea. Or apple or orange juice. 

7. Have you ever thought about joining the military or joined it?  Which branch?

I have thought about how not to join the military. Thankfully, they didn’t really want me, either.

I still remember the questionnaire lady asking us questions after our meeting with the military commission. She got to “What is your stance towards military service?”, and my expression must have been telling enough, because after a moment’s pause, she continued with: “Yes, you can say ‘negative’.” 

8. If for one night you could dine with anyone–living or dead, who would it be?

Albert Einstein. 

9. If for a fortnight you could be transported into a fantasy world before returning to the real world, which one would it be?

Damn, I hate you xD. My practical side tells me to pick any fantasy world with magic-medicine developed and reliable enough for me to reap lasting benefits from those two weeks.

Even I can’t deny the temptation for a little bit of adventure here, though. A ticket to the Touhou-verse sounds most alluring. Even if I would likely end up serving as a hungry loli’s dinner before the fortnight is up. 

10. (For men) If you could grow a beard like JEB Stuart’s, would you?  (For women) If you could be any height you wished, what would it be?

I could, who would stop me? I see no point, though. The longest I’ve gone without shaving is less than a week, I think. 

11. What’s your favorite sea creature?

enguarde_02Teh Swordfish, ‘nuff said.

Fun facts

1. My grandmothers from my father’s and my mother’s side are sisters. There is some anime-esque not-related-by-blood stuff going on that makes the resulting diamond-shaped family tree legal and morally sound (???).

2. I can swim, ski and all that, but I first rode a bicycle a couple years ago, aged 22. I can now kind of keep the devilish invention going straight, but I’m not nearing any traffic with my current level of skill!

3. I was brought up in a “somewhat Catholic” household, like most Poles. By the time I was a teen, I was pretty no-no about the faith, but me and my mother agreed I would take part in the confirmation rite before doing whatever I wanted with my faith and ideology from then on.

The fun part of confirmation is that you get a third name (or second, if you never had that), which you get to choose from a list of saints. The choice is free, but you have to explain it to a priest first. My third name ended up being Boniface, for the patron of converts. I was able to tell the priest that my faith is not all that, and the support from Boniface might be necessary to help me.

I did not mention the other reason for the choice: that Boniface happened to be the name of a certain lazy cat…

bonifacy4. The number four is my favorite/lucky number, which often gets me awkward glances from my Asian acquaintances, many of whom link the number to death. (The words “four” and “death” share the same/similar pronunciation in both Japanese and Chinese). Then again, I always felt some kind of affinity for the necromantic side of force in fantasy/rpg settings.

5. I cried at a work of fiction thrice in my life:

  • Dracula: Dead and Loving It, when the titular character dies
  • Dragonheart, see above
  • Pokemon, near the end of the first season, when Ash loses to his friend in the league 

All those were in my childhood, and apparently at some point I’ve lost the ability to cry at fiction. Doesn’t mean I don’t get the feels from watching/reading stuff – I can be a real softie.

6. There is a Japanese textbook out there for Polish learners of the language with the entire grammar part of the book written by yours truly. The request for that came on a “by the way” basis, since my main job on the book was in proofreading, editing and romanization. “By the way,” my boss said at the end of the project, “could you also write a few pages explaining Japanese grammar? ASAP, please.”

The book apparently sold well enough, and it’s one of the rare cases where I’m happy not to be credited for my work. (Hint: try explaining the grammar of any language within the limit of about five pages and a two days’ deadline).

7. Through the years of writing anime-related stuff, I’ve had the pleasure of getting my work plagiarized, translated into foreign languages and adapted into animation.

A fellow fanfiction.net writer plagiarized large portions of Piko Piko Trouble. I don’t think he had any idea what he was doing, as he copied a surreal description of wind gradually breaking out of a time-frozen space straight into his own scene of an everyday conversation, but it was still funny.

Many of the character profiles for ISML2011 are available in Chinese. As far as I can tell with my basic grasp of the language, some of those translations are quite loose, but I hope to be able to read them properly one of those days. (I should probably put more effort into my Chinese.)

Finally, one of my readers came to me asking whether they could animate Twisted Equilibrium. I was like “Huh…? Um, go ahead?” The result was a Microsoft Paint slide show summarizing the story in a surrealistic manner. I regret not downloading the video from youtube at the time, as it is no longer available.

8. During my first year of high school, a piece of paper started circulating the classroom during a physics class, with the single question of: “Have you ever studied German?” and two columns of names underneath. Little did we know that the piece of paper would be used to decide who would qualify where… for the English beginner and advanced classes. Cue in people starting the language from scratch getting sorted to the same group as people with nine years of language study under their belt.

High school is an amazing place.

9. My mother isn’t sure whether she knows what anime is all about, but the few series me and my sister exposed her to “taught [her] that no one is ever fully good or fully evil”. Yay.

10. I was class representative (or vice-representative, or class something) for six years straight, starting from 4th grade until the end of junior high. Other than my close friends, classmates probably saw me as something akin to a half-teacher, and so I either learned about something first, or dead last. Towards the end of junior high, I accidentally discovered that half my class were smokers, and I had no idea until then. Something similar went down in high school – I know there were people doing drugs there, but nobody even bothered trying to invite me to join the club.

Should I feel left out, or just glad for the trouble it saved me?

11. One of my Japanese friends comes from Nishinomiya, and graduated from North High – the same high school Kyon & co. attended in the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. He was kind enough to give me and a couple friends a tour of the city, and our last stop was the high school itself. The idea was to ask the guard for permission to enter for a few minutes, but since it was summer vacation, no guard was present and the gate wasn’t locked, we, uh, slipped in for a bit xD?

The photos from that are my treasure, right next to K-On high school photos – but those were taken without breaking any laws.

Nominees

The Huge Anime Fan

Kyarakuta

A Thousand Years From Now

Anime Soup

Marusera no Sekai

Questions

1. The world will blow up in an hour. What do you do with your final hour?

2. Aliens come and want to know whether Earth is worth saving – they ask you to show them three works/things/places/facts to convince them. What do you choose?

3. The same aliens offer you a deal: they will save Earth if you can beat them at a (fair) game. What game/sport/challenge do you choose?

4. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten/drunk in your life?

5. Name one thing somebody did for you that you are most grateful for.

6. Has your opinion on a subject ever changed 180 degrees after years passed/something happened/you learned something new? If so, what was it?

7. You happen to reincarnate as an animal of your choice, what animal do you pick?

8. Choose one anime character for president of your country.

9. Pick one book school forced you to read, and now you’re glad about it.

10. What is the ultimate form and kind of cheese?

11. Cat person? Dog Person?

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sorashiro

No Game No Life is pretty upfront about the basic idea behind the names of its characters. We have Sora (sky) and Shiro (white), whose names put together just happen to form the word blank (kuuhaku).

For a long time, I thought that was it. The series does get plenty of mileage out of the blank idea. The official way of writing that term within the series is just an empty space within Japanese brackets like this: 「   」. Throughout the series, Sora and Shiro delight in capturing various things in those metaphorical brackets, like one would in a camera lens, and thus claiming those things for their own.

blank 2 

The blank idea also plays nicely into the urban legend the siblings have going on. The title of Blank is an open declaration that the miracle gamer everyone wants to believe in does not exist: in the sense that Blank is the joint effort of two people rather than a single person, obviously, but also because the truth behind the siblings is much more down to earth than most gossipers would like to think.

Still, there was something left nagging at my brain – the reasoning behind Sora’s name. Shiro, after all, has her albino coloration, which is reason enough for her name both from an in-universe and the readers’ perspective. Sora’s connection to the sky seemed oddly lacking, or even inappropriate considering his hikikomori habits.

sorashiro2     

Then I had a talk with that white squirrel-cat thing called feal87. It was complaining that while Sora was constantly out doing something cool, Shiro had no personality at all. Feal, I found myself telling it, they both have similar, twisted personalities. The main difference between the two is that Sora covers up his poison and hurt with lies and deception, Shiro with silence and a mask of neutrality.

Then it clicked.

shiro  

Shiro is the easier one of the two. Shiro’s white is, on the surface, a white of perfect purity. Her strength lies in the world of calculations and absolute truths. Aside from raw brainpower, Sora also points to her ability to retain perfect focus at all times as one of the reasons behind her proficiency at games. Internally, Shiro embodies the pure and serene mind. Her outward appearance keeps up the trend: the obvious white hair, the petite build and the sailor fuku all represent youth, innocence and purity.

There is only one catch to all of this: the purity of white is achieved through rejection. Just as white objects refuse to absorb light, Shiro refuses to interact with the world around her. She rarely speaks to anyone but her brother. Her great focus comes from shutting herself away from unnecessary interference. Her default expression is having no expression at all. Rather than an ideal, Shiro’s purity is her way of dealing with the “unfair” world around her.

If the duality of perfection and rejection contained within the color white sounds familiar, it has been extensively covered in the first arc of Monogatari Second Season. Come to think of it, Tsubasa and Shiro do have plenty in common.

sora

Sora is the more difficult one to crack because the image and symbolism of the sky are just too powerful and distracting. It is necessary to take a step back to see the double meanings involved with his name.

The Japanese choose to view the sky as, among other things, a vast empty space. This explains why the terms sky and empty, share the same character, albeit with different readings: 空 can be read as, respectively, sora and kara. This is the reason why the sky is part of blank in the first place.

But a look through some other sky-compounds turns out to be quite enlightening:

空言 soragoto  falsehood, lie

空手形 karategata bad (fictitious) bill, empty promise

空威張り karaibari bluffing, bluster, bravado

空涙 soranamida crocodile tears

空空しい sorazorashii false, hypocritical 

It turns out that the sky has found its way into half the deception and falsehood going on in the Japanese language (and plenty of those retain the sora reading, to boot.) The last one is my favorite: just line up one Sora after another to get falsehood and hypocrisy.

Where his sister deals with the world by giving it nothing of herself, Sora has no qualms about sharing. What he gives away just happens to be 100% bullshit. While some viewers found it incongruous why Sora could easily communicate with others after years of seclusion, the answer is simple. For Sora, there is no actual communication going on. He is not putting his own feelings on the line, or trying to establish bonds, he is just trying to get the NPC around him to move the way he wants them to. Even then, there is plenty of stress involved in it for him, but Sora is probably good enough at lying to trick even himself into believing that it is all just a game, and that he can handle it all.

Life is a battlefield, and deception is Sora’s only shield.     

sorashiro3[HorribleSubs] No Game No Life - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.13_[2014.05.10_17.25.19]

Sora and Shiro, and by extension, Blank itself, were named for deception and rejection, the two ways in which the siblings learned to deal with the world.

It is awful and toxic. The siblings weaponized their concepts, creating Blank to lash out at the world by proving their superiority at every game. Blank is not allowed to lose, they say, but provide no reason for the rule. But that should be obvious. Blank was not born to play games and just enjoy doing it. Blank came to be to play and win, win, win. It is the siblings’ universal accusation against the entire world and the people within it: as long as the system is bound by specific rules, Sora and Shiro can thrive within it. And as long as the two can prove this truth, it is the senseless world around them and the people living within it that are responsible for the siblings’ inability to fit in. Blank cannot lose in order to protect that truth.

There is no shortage of hypocrisy in their beliefs, of course. Shiro needs her brother, somebody she can speak to without fear. Sora needs his sister, somebody who can see though his lies without fail. Their inseparable bond is made of the very elements they so vehemently deny through their actions. And their invincible armor is full of holes, ready to fall apart if confronted with the dangers of failure or separation – experiences mature people must at some time learn to face and overcome.

sorashiro.jpg4

But this is also a reason why their journey to Disboard might yet turn out to be a journey of salvation. Because for the first time in their lives, Sora and Shiro will end up using Blank not to cut themselves away from the world, but to affect and change it. In the real world, the two were literally nobodies, an urban legend with no connections to anybody. In Disboard, they are king and queen, shouldering the responsibility for an entire race. And along with that new responsibility, the two might just find the trust and friendship they had once lost.

God might be just a spectator, like Sora claims. But he might have also set up Tet and Blank to meet each other, silently supporting the siblings from the shadows. 

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kohina243565

“Should have thought things through first,” Kohina thought as she found herself standing in front of the convenience store door, about to face the challenge of her first ever shopping errand.

Model Mantis VS Coffee

A silly fic that went all wrong? Homicidal loli goes shopping, but things are never quite as simple as they first appear.

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enju

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.

Enju_2         

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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