Hello, Kyra here! This is Onamae wa? #9, our weekly encounter where we pick Anime character’s names and look for anything interesting in them.
I was a bit worried about today because first, this name has a very unique structure and second, our buddy himself is steadily getting used to nowadays technology so maybe he could end up reading this, possibly getting angry and telling me to kill myself as shown on Episode 8.
Our guest today is 青馬(ou.ma)剣之介(ken.no.suke)時貞(toki.sada), a Sengoku Period Samurai from Kuromukuro, a mecha anime currently airing in Spring 2016. I bet you wondered at some point: three names? Why? Yeah, I did too. For the sake of today’s post, it is recommended to have watched up to Episode 9 to avoid angering our short-fuse guest into committing Spoiler-Based 切腹(sep.puku; ritual suicide).
Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma
青馬 剣之介 時貞
青馬(ou.ma)剣之介(ken.no.suke)時貞(toki.sada), kindly named Ken by the most polite pilot ever, Tom Borden, is a Samurai from the 戦国時代(sen.goku.ji.dai; Sengoku Period, lit. Age of Civil War, 1467AC-1603AC). This period inspired uncountable works of art and will continue to, as there is no better theme than people killing each other for power. Sorry Ken-kun, back to you. Anyway, this is an interesting name because it moves away from the usual pattern of Family Name + Given Name that we see in most Japanese people and by extent in Anime Characters. I’ll go into details later.
Ken is portrayed as the classic honored samurai, being very polite unless provoked and focused on his duty to slay demons. So far we don’t know the details about how he got into that suspended animation, but we know that his Artifact, the black mecha Kuromukuro, is Alien and who knows, he himself might not be totally human. For starters, let’s do the usual: お名前は？
Family Name (?): 青馬(ou.ma)
By looking above, you’d probably guess that 青馬(ou.ma) means a blue or green horse. Well, you don’t really see many of those around, so you should try to guess again. We spoke a bit about 青 in Izuku Midoriya – onamae wa? a few weeks ago, but now it carries a different meaning. 青馬(ou.ma) stands for black horse. Yeah, seriously. 青 means blue or green, but in this very specific case, it is black. I know, I know. Furthermore, it could also be read as aouma, a reading shared with 白馬(ao.uma, shiro.uma or hakuba; white horse). All these colors aside, we can quickly relate black horse to the Kuromukuro, that Artifact Mecha used by Ken and Yukina. Speaking of which, クロムクロ(kuromukuro) comes from 黒骸(kuro.mukuro; lit. Black Corpse, depicted as Black Relic in the show). Direct meaning aside, we could understand 青馬(ou.ma) as an immature horse, maybe depicting his usual short-fused mood.
Given Name (?): 剣之介(ken.no.suke)
Right away 剣之介(ken.no.suke) brings a sword-related kanji, 剣. Although different from 刀(katana) that we have seen last week in Saya Sasamiya and Kirin Toudou – onamae wa?, it does brings the same idea of blades in general, even used in 剣道(ken.dou; Japanese Swordfighting Martial Art).
之 can be used to describe something as in 之れ(ko.re; this) but it is rarely used nowadays, most of the time represented only in hiragana: これ. It also shares a similar use as 乃 as a possessive article (we also saw this in Akeno Misaki – onamae wa? and Junko Enoshima – makasetekure!). On this last usage though, 之 is reserved for some special cases like tombs or archaic writing.
介 is usually read as kai, sharing the meaning of shellfish with 貝 that we saw on Deishuu Kaiki – onegai!, but its reading suke is common for naming purposes. Shellfish aside, it carries the idea of concerning, supporting, intervening or burdening.
Putting it all together, 剣之介(ken.no.suke) could mean the one burdened by the sword, which is an interesting way to depict a loyal samurai’s compromise to his duty. Ken showcases this very clearly throughout the show.
Bestowed Name (?): 時貞(toki.sada)
For starters, let’s cover its meaning.
時 brings the idea of time, moment, chance. Quite simple. 貞 is the main theme here, usually appearing in words like 貞(tei; chastity of a woman) or 童貞(dou.tei; virginity of a man). Under this idea it also covers justice and righteousness. So 時貞(toki.sada) could mean a lot of things, ranging from the age of righteousness to virgin time YOLO~! Another meaning could make reference to his righteousness and sense of justice transcending time, considering his background as someone who went through suspended animation and still keep his vows.
時貞(toki.sada) is the tricky part in Ken’s name. As you are probably aware, having three names is not a thing in modern Japan, where the structure is Family Name (usually inherited from the father) + Given Name. There are a few exceptions to this and today we will cover one of those: bestowing. Here I quote Herbert Plutschow on his book Japan’s Name Culture: The Significance of Names in a Religious, Political & Social Context:
By regulating names, and especially by bestowing new names or parts of names, people in positions of authority, from emperors to artists and teacher, were able to create hegemony and unity. Giving a name to a vassal or disciple was a mean available to leaders of all kinds to create a power base, to establish a political and social hegemony at all levels of society. Such name-giving divorced the person from his predecessors and lineage, as well as from the political ambitions or traditions that may be attached to them, and created new bonds between the name-giver and name-receiver that were, more often than not in Japan, above and beyond blood relationships.
This practice was mostly limited to Emperors until around the, guess what, Sengoku Period, where Ken-kun used to live. By then, leading samurai adopted a similar concept, but instead of giving out Family Names like Emperors did, they would give portion of their personal names to vassals in order to create special bonds. Plutschow details a good example:
One of the early prominent warriors to give away a character of this taboo name was Minamoto no Yoshitsune. When Yoshitsune happened to stay overnight in Ueno, he discovered a man of excepctional physical strenght named Ise Saburou, and took him along as a vassal, having given him the element yoshi of Yoshitsune. His name was henceforth Ise Saburou Yoshimori.
It is mentioned over the series (sorry, couldn’t find where exactly) that Ken’s (fictional) Clan, Washiba, was located near Takeda and Uesugi territories. You can see on the map below that there is a large grey area to the left of Takeda/Uesugi, where many smaller clans shared control, although the Anime takes place in what used to be the border between Takeda and Uesugi (red dot!).
So one possible theory I propose is that Ken was bestowed 時 from 時貞(toki.sada) by his superior, either because of his deeds while fighting the demons or before that. I don’t think he ever mentioned the name of his former master in this show, but considering the above mentioned it would be fairly ok to believe this to be true.
Bestowed Name (?): 青馬(ou.ma)剣之介(ken.no.suke)
“Uh? Kyra, you made a mistake here…”
Nope. There is yet another possibility: Tokisada is Ken’s real name, before being given 青馬(ou.ma)剣之介(ken.no.suke) as a bestowed name from a superior or even choosing on his own, thus becoming either only Ouma Kennosuke or Ouma Kennosuke Tokisada.
One real example of this theory is the Heroic Spirit behind Shirou Kotomine from Fate/Apocrypha from Fate Series. He is based on 天草(ama.kusa)四郎(shi.rou)時貞(toki.sada), the teenager leader of the 島原の乱(shima.bara.no.ran; Shimabara Rebellion), an uprising that took place in southwestern Japan during the Edo Period. Shirou’s (I mean, the real one) was born 益田(masu.da)時貞(toki.sada) but later adopted the name 天草(ama.kusa)四郎(shi.rou). From then on, he fully gave up on 益田(masu.da; his former Family Name) but you will see his name either as only Amakusa Shirou or Amakusa Shirou Tokisada. Just to be clear, both characters having 時貞(toki.sada) as a name is purely coincidental.
This possibility is quite nice because 青馬(ou.ma)剣之介(ken.no.suke) has a lot to do with being samurai: A black horse bound to his duty. Thus I’d say it sounds interesting to think Ken adopted/received this name later on, although this is, like most things in this blog, just an educated guess.
Worth to note that so far in the series it is not totally clear that Kennosuke is even completely human, or just a defector from those human-like aliens. This possibility could also provide an interesting background for having his name bestowed upon him after he decided to join sides with Earthlings, maybe for the sake of the Princess. I personally believe he is indeed human though, and judging from his remembrances from the past I’d say we have around 99%+ chance that he wasn’t part of the bad guys at any point.
Let’s review our guest today!
青馬(ou.ma)剣之介(ken.no.suke)時貞(toki.sada), the black horse bound to his duty, whose righteousness persevere through time.
Thanks for your time, hope you guys enjoyed our guest today. Kuromukuro is a nice show and I’d like to point out that the battle choreography is really great! Give it a try if you are into mechas. Or samurais. Or mecha-samurais. See you all next weekend!