Hello, Kyra here! This is Onamae wa? #32, our weekly encounter where we pick Anime character’s names and look for anything interesting in them.
This is a very special series as far as the purpose of this blog goes. Even before airing I had high hopes for this show and ultimately it has been delivering overall great episodes and even more if you are into 日本語(ni.hon.go) or languages in general.
Our main guest today is 馬締(ma.jime) 光也(mitsu.ya), though I’ll also cover a bit of 林(hayashi) 香具矢(ka.gu.ya), both protagonists from Fune wo Amu, a slice of life anime currently airing this Fall. Due to the contents of this post, it is recommended to read the dictionary entries up to Episode 6 to avoid ネタバレ(netabare; spoilers).
馬締(ma.jime) 光也(mitsu.ya) was a former salesman who got hired by Araki to the dictionary department due to his keen sense for words. While being graciously gifted when it come to vocabulary, transforming those into emotions and effectively communicating is his main drawback, trait which we have seen slowly but steadily improving since he met Nishioka. He is also called as Micchan (from Mitsuya) by the old lady from where he lives. Let’s check his name out. お名前は？
Family Name: 馬締(ma.jime)
馬締(ma.jime) is a very unusual surname, as pointed out by Araki on Episode 1. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be able to trace back its origins without help from the show itself. Micchan said that 馬締(ma.jime) used to be a name for wholesale stores in ancient Japan and Araki then theorized that those establishments might have been originally a place where you could leave your horse that eventually evolved into a wholesale store with the time. A place where you “park” your horse could be called 馬の元締め(uma no moto.jime; managing horses), which could be shortened to 馬締(ma.jime). Though initially only keeping horses, these stores would then start selling horse related material, then travelling related material and over the ages developing into a full wholesale store. Pretty amazing small reasoning of why 馬締(ma.jime), a word that nothing to do with wholesales, could carry that meaning, a beautiful showcase of language evolution.
Sidetracking a bit here, but I was dumbfounded by 向屋場. I don’t even know how to read it… maybe kouyaba? In the above scene Majime said that his name came from wholesale stores, which in the past were named 問屋場(ton.ya.ba in Edo, toi.ya.ba otherwise), which is how Araki came up with the whole story I covered on the previous paragraph but… why did he write 向屋場 instead of 問屋場? Hmm. Further researching came up with very few, maybe not even 5 entries on Google. In one of them, from 2009 (link here), someone describes his/her visit to 日光(nik.kou; famous touristic city) and something interesting came up. This person pointed out that in a stone craving that depicted the founding of the city and enumerated the buildings at the time, the word 向屋場 appeared but left him wondering what was it. By checking on official records, it was actually just a misspelling that was supposed to be 問屋場. I wonder if, once again by the caprice of language evolution, this mistake eventually led 向屋場 to also be used to describe a wholesale store.
Ok, back to Micchan’s surname. 馬 was covered when we spoke about 青馬(ou.ma)剣之介(ken.no.suke) from Kuromukuro a few months ago in [Onamae wa? #9]. Back then we managed to relate it Kennosuke’s black steed (yeah, I know that 青 is blue or green, but in this case, it is black. Check that post for more info!), but what about now? Is there a way to tie this to Micchan? Aside of 馬(uma; horse) related words like 馬小屋(uma.go.ya; stable) and 騾馬(ra.ba; mule), 馬 also appears in the widely known 馬鹿(ba.ka; fool, idiot, dull) and variants. Surely, it is tempting to associate baka to Micchan but his problem is better describe as being a 内向(nai.kou; introvert) or 引っ込み思案(hik.komi.ji.an; reserved, shy).
Second kanji is 締, mainly known for the despair of many, the 締め切り(shi.me.ki.ri; deadline), but also appearing as 締結(tei.ketsu; conclusion) or 引き締め(hi.ki.shi.me; tightening). In general it brings this idea of tightness or something coming to an end.
Putting both kanji together, 馬締(ma.jime) would describe a tightened horse? A horse locked up? If we try to bring the idea of 馬鹿(ba.ka; fool) here, why not someone who appears to be a fool because he is too tight? This fits very well into the image of Micchan depicted so far in the show.
Lastly, and probably the first association that many people did, is the one pointed out by Nishioka in episode 1. 馬締(ma.jime) shares a reading with a extremely common word in Japanese, 真面目(ma.ji.me; diligent, serious, earnest) which also happens to be a perfect description for Micchan, better now that he is being able to work towards something that he loves.
Given Name: 光也(mitsu.ya)
Contrary to his Family Name, 光也(mitsu.ya) isn’t really uncommon, appeasing to both genders, although apparently usually read as 光也(kou.ya) when addressing girls.
We have seen 光 here many times and when talking about 酒井(saka.i) 光宗(mitsu.mune) from Mayoiga in [Onamae wa? #10] I wrote:
光宗(mitsu.mune) uses a reading variant of 光 only seem in Names: みつ(mi.tsu), but otherwise 光 retains its idea of ray, light, something bright, shining. 宗 is mostly related to religious activities or essence, though it appears in an interesting word that most gamers probably heard once in their lives: 正宗(masa.mune).
Hmm. Light uh? Micchan isn’t exactly someone whose personality would be described as brightful. He doesn’t seem to be very religious either. Let’s put this on hold for now.
Second kanji, 也, was covered on 桃月(momo.tsuki)心也(shin.ya) from Momukuri in [Onamae wa? #21]. From there:
也 isn’t used very much nowadays and even when done, it is mostly written in kanas. It appears in proverbs and such as a classic way to describe existence, like in 可愛いは力也(kawaii wa chikara nari; cuteness is power).
After this quote there I then talked a bit about two other examples where 也 works as a way to further emphasize the meaning of the previous kanji. In our case then, 光也(mitsu.ya) would mean something akin to Light itself; Essence of Light. Hmm. It is beautiful, I know, but it doesn’t really tie to our guy here. A possibly detour would be to point out how 也 is a kanji mostly present in classical Japanese, which would then link to how Majime often seems to be a case of 時代錯誤(ji.dai.saku.go; Anachronism, when someone or something feels misplaced in time). Stretching a bit here, we could then point out that Micchan is someone that must be understood from a classical light. Trait that, among other things, gave us this scene:
Kaguya-chan is adorable, probably earning spots among many as the waifu of Fall 2016 (although beating Akari from Sangatsu no Lion is a very complicated matter). She aspires to be a chef in spite of it still being a position mostly dominated by men in Japan.
林(hayashi) means woods, thicket, being a very common Japanese surname. 香具矢(ka.gu.ya) literally means an arrow used as incense, although this doesn’t make much sense, I guess. 香具 can sometimes be used to describe a charlatan or faker in 香具師(yashi) and I apologize already for even pointing out this here. Sorry Kaguya-chan.
The most relevant point here is that, similarly to how 馬締(ma.jime) tied to the very common 真面目(ma.ji.me; earnest), I’m certain that many quickly associated 香具矢(ka.gu.ya) to かぐや姫の物語(kaguya.hime no mono.gatari; The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), a 2013 adaptation by Studio Ghibli of the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a fictional prose narrative from 10th-century Japanese literature.
On the two scenes above, from Episode 2 and Episode 6, moonlight is used as a motif for decisive encounters between Micchan and Kaguya. If you aren’t aware of details of this folktale, Kaguya-hime was actually from the Moon.
As a side note, Kitchener is an Old English surname that, not unsurprisingly, was originally used to denoted people who worked as a cook in a Lord’s kitchen, following patterns that we often see here in [Onamae wa?] when looking at names. Similarly to how we don’t hear this term anymore, Majime points out how 厨人(chuu.jin; chef, head cook) isn’t really used nowadays. I suppose this is why Commie decided to also pick an old term for chef.
The kanji 厨 means kitchen but nowadays it is rarely used, the most common word being 台所(dai.dokoro) or even writing it in katakana only as キッチン(kicchin). Recently it grew into something totally different, as 厨房(chuu.bou), which was also sometimes used to describe a kitchen, is now one of the many ways to denominate an internet troll. It also appears as a kanji variant in a recurring word for Anime fans, 中二病(chuu.ni.byou), which becomes 厨二病(chuu.ni.byou).
Let’s review our main guest today!
馬締(ma.jime) 光也(mitsu.ya), a tightened, earnest man who is bathed in classical light.
Frog-kun did some nifty comparison between the trailers of Fune wo Amu live-action filme (2013) and the Anime one. You can read it here.
Aldael has been doing weekly short reviews of a few shows, including Fune wo Amu. You can read the one regarding Fall 2016 Week 7 here.
Thanks for your time, hope you enjoyed your reading. I’ve been enjoying every week of Fune wo Amu so far and I highly recommend it, although yeah, it is biased coming from someone who loves not only Japanese, but languages in general. See you all next weekend!