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Posts Tagged ‘Nakahara Mai’

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There is a track in the Saki-Achiga soundtrack entitled Miyanaga Teru.

This is not exactly something to write home about. The character bearing that name appears in the show, and there is nothing unusual about her getting a track to herself. But for some reason, the track title stands out from those for other characters. Theme of Shizuno, Theme of Yuu, Ryuuka and Toki, but Miyanaga Teru. Cold and formal, creating a sense of distance between viewer and character.

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The mahjong champion is a normal girl with her own worries and silly slip-ups – and a time will come for us to learn of those things, but not now. The first time we experience Miyanaga Teru, we must see her as do the girls sitting by the same mahjong table, as an overwhelming and unstoppable ‘something’. The tacit understanding delivering that image is everywhere – in Nakahara Mai’s drone-like voice acting, in the lack of Teru’s internal monologues, in how the other characters refer to her more often as ‘champion’ then by name, in the directing and the music.

And that understanding even found its way into the track titles few fans will ever see. But that’s fine. Because if you can unite the entire staff under a single vision, the final effect always pays off. 

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Mankind has Declined – lovable fairies, simple character designs and vivid colors that bring both to life. The perfect packaging for a sugary fairy tale. Well, sugar is an important plot point, too…

 

But if you’ve seen the first episode or two, you don’t need me to tell you that what’s inside the package isn’t exactly your typical fairy-tale. The social commentary is harsh, the characters jaded. But it’s exactly because of the show’s cutesy style that it never feels gloomy or preachy. 

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The episode title screen shows how much though goes into maintaining this unusual balance. To create a fairy-tale like feel, we have:

  1. a fairies-and-sweets theme
  2. a rich and curly font style
  3. non-standard hiragana usage
  4. non-standard honorifics usage

The first two points are obvious enough. What about point three? We have three nouns that would be written with kanji in standard Japanese: fairy (妖精), secret (秘密), and factory (工場). Japanese children learn how to write the kanji for ‘secret’ in sixth grade and the kanji for ‘factory’ in second grade, but both are intentionally written with hiragana in the title, like they would be in a picture book geared towards young readers. The kanji for ‘fairy’ stand out here, especially since the first half of the word uses a kanji that goes beyond the basic schools curriculum entirely. But this, again, is common treatment for a select few keywords that will repeat again and again in a given picture book (usually with furigana to help the children out).

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The fourth point regards honorifics. The honorific –san is probably one of the best known among anime fans, often equated with the English Mr. and Ms. In this case it is attached to a plural noun, and a species name in particular. You’ll probably never see this usage in everyday Japanese… except in fairy tales and when speaking to children. Mr. Doggy and Ms. Sakura Tree are perfectly valid characters of a fairy tale, and the honorific helps distinguish those ‘characters’ from simple ‘creatures’.

Every part of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is packed with detail like this, and it will certainly be fun to look for those details in the episodes to come. Though to be honest, I was sold when I heard Nakahara Mai’s performance in this…        

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