Hello, Kyra here! This is Onamae wa? #35, our weekly encounter where we pick Anime character’s names and look for anything interesting in them.
There isn’t such thing as a precise method to decide which character is featured here in [Onamae wa?]. If I were to name one rule, it would be that his or her name couldn’t be too common, as that would make it difficult to trace any relation whatsoever about his or her personality and the characters and readings contained in it. And yet, today we have a case like this. Correction: we would have a case like this, if it weren’t for S2 episode 9.
Our main guest today is 田中(ta.naka) あすか(asuka), a main character in Hibike! Euphonium 2, a school drama anime currently airing in Fall 2016. Due to the contents of this post, it is recommended to have watched up to Episode 10 of Season 2 to avoid resounding spoilers.
田中(ta.naka) あすか(asuka) was, since Season 1, my favorite character in Euphonium. A stereotype perfect girl isn’t really something unique to this show, as this is a very recurring theme in fiction in general, but here I had, since the beginning, a powerful hope that she, at some point, would get her defenses plowed. And it finally happened on Season 2, Episode 10, culminating in the majestic display by Tomoyo, Kumiko’s Voice Actress.
So it was just natural that I’d play favorites here and pick Asuka’s name to talk about but to my despair, not only she had a full hiragana Given Name, her Family Name was also among the Top 5 most common ones in Japan; furthermore, featuring two very basic kanji; and lastly, had already been covered here in [Onamae wa? #12], six months ago when talking about Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge.
It is then obvious that I very much welcomed the development of Episodes 7-10 of Season 2 and this is why, today, we will speak about our 副部長(fuku.bu.chou; vice president). お名前は？
Family Name: 田中(ta.naka)
From the above mentioned [Onamae wa? #12], I quote:
田中(ta.naka) is the fourth most popular surname in Japan, used by over 1.3 million people. It literally means in the (rice)field, a clear example of those names depicting a location or work.
There isn’t much to add here, I suppose. Just hold on to the fact that this is a very common surname as it might be useful later on.
Given Name: あすか(asuka)
There is a vast myriad of possibilities on how to write this name, if kanji were to be used. After a few searches on Google, it seems that a very popular one is 明日香, which means the scent of tomorrow. Not bad, but hard to directly relate to her personality. Well… maybe if we point out how she basically dedicated her life to create a tomorrow where she would be able to let her father listen to her music. Lot of stretching here…
Another famous written form is 飛鳥(asuka; Flying Bird. Keep this in mind!), a reference to the imperial capital city during 飛鳥時代(asukajidai; Asuka Period 538-710 AD). During this period there was also 明日香皇女(asuka no himemiko; Princess Asuka), which uses the kanji combination mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Former Family Name: 進藤(shin.dou)
It is revealed in episode 9 that Asuka’s biological father is 進藤(shin.dou) 正和(masa.kazu), described as one of the best euphonists in the world and one of the leading names in the wind band cosmos. He has also written a serie of books named たのしいユーフォニアム(tanoshii euphonium) which can be translated to Fun Euphonium or, if you like puns like me, EuFUNium. HAH.
Anyway, let’s then take a look at her original Surname. This structure of Kanji + 藤 is a very common one due to 藤原(fuji.wara), the greatest noble clan of classical Japan, as mentioned a few weeks ago in [Onamae wa? #31].
進 is a common kanji, among the 150 most used in Japanese. Its main verb, 進む(susu.mu) means to advance, to go forward, to be ahead. Pretty fitting for both Masakazu himself, being one a widely respected musician and also to Asuka in her depicted profile throughout the series of being special and able to do everything better than others. An additional and, arguably, most interesting use of 進む(susu.mu) ties perfectly into the overall theme of Hibike! Euphonium: to do of one’s own free will. Wait, you thought this show was only about a brass band journey to a National Competition? Think again!
Every single struggle is related to the ability of an given individual to 進む(susu.mu). To choose your own path and advance, like Aoi did. To find motivation and work towards a goal, like Natsuki. To not give up on your objective if you are given another opportunity, like Kaori. And the list goes on. And this then, brings us to Asuka:
Music, more precisely, the Euphonium, was the only link that Asuka had to her father, who divorced when she was still around 2 years old. And yet, she chose of her own free will to pursue this tortuous path of reaching him after all these years apart. Well, as Haruka and Kumiko pointed out though, Asuka isn’t perfect. No one is. Gladly she had Kumiko to slap her back into reality on glorious Season 2 Episode 10.
Remember that Asuka, when written as 飛鳥, means Flying Bird? Alright, so what if I tell you that 進 is formed by 隹(old radical for bird) and ⻌ (radical for road or advance)? A bird that advances a road. This is a hidden connection between Asuka and her lost Family Name, one which carries much more about her personality than her mother’s, 田中(ta.naka). Here we can even point out how Tanaka is a very common, general surname, like the way of thinking of her mother; contrasting to 進藤(shin.dou) being a more refined one. Of course we don’t know which circumstances led to the divorce, so it would be wrong to point fingers.
Her father’s given name is 正和(masa.kazu) and here is another coincidence. This name can be read as 正和(shou.wa), who also happens to be a name for a period in Japan History, like 飛鳥(asuka).
Some thoughts about a few scenes in general:
At the scene above, Asuka says お嬢さん、これは重症ですぞ (ojou-san, kore wa juushou desuzo), 重症(juu.shou) being serious illness. The whole idea here is mimicking an old doctor when looking a patient medical exams.
Here Kumiko questions Asuka about why she wouldn’t accept Nozomi back into the club. This scene with the tea can be related to the expression 茶を濁す(cha wo nigosu; literally to let the tea gets muddy), which means to evade questions, reply evasively. Just another art that Asuka is a master.
When I watched this scene for the first time I couldn’t really understand what Haruka meant here. Camp Asuka? Paying attention to what was actually being said brings to: さすが、あすかはは違うな (sasuga, asuka ha wa chigau na). I suppose that は means 派(ha; clique, faction, party), which makes sense in the context, specially as Kaori reacts oddly after this statement by Haruka.
Let’s review our guest today! Two options:
田中(ta.naka) あすか(asuka), a commonplace perfect girl.
進藤(shin.dou) あすか(asuka), a flying bird pursuing her own path.
Thanks for your time, hope you enjoyed your reading. Hibike! Euphonium S2 is my favorite show of Fall 2016 and I highly recommended it. Just keep your mind open so you can see more than the marvelous animation, more than the cute girls and more than the dubious yuri shipping material.
If you don’t know yet about the Sakuga Blog, I recommended giving it a try. High quality writing and technical information about anime production. Here is a link for their latest post on Hibike! Euphonium episode 10.
Next time we will continue talking about Euphonium, but focusing on one of those theoretical yuri pairs. See you all next weekend!