Hello, Kyra here! This is Onamae wa? #43, our weekly encounter where we pick Anime character’s names and look for anything interesting in them.
“Best girl”. (Anonymous, 1200~ AD)
Our best today… oh, sorry. Our guest today is 皆川(mina.gawa) 茜(akane), arguably the most hated supporting character in Kuzu no Honkai, a school setting drama Anime currently airing in Winter 2017. For the sake of this post, it is recommended to have watched up to episode 4 to avoid having your feelings destroyed by spoiler.
As I searched for a suitable picture to open this post on 皆川(mina.gawa) 茜(akane), something occurred to me. How should I portray her? Would it have been better to show her despicable side first? Her eyes, those manipulative eyes? And yet, ended up choosing the calm and adorable façade that she so perfectly keep up. Because this is what makes her a glorious character, in my opinion. One could argue that there is no saint in this Anime and thus Akane is just another sinner in the sea, but what makes she stand above the rest? Maybe it is both her motivation and determination into fulfilling her unethical desires. Despite how each of us individually judge her actions, remember that as a great philosopher postulated, just because you are correct it doesn’t mean you are right.
Moving on, お名前は？
Family Name: 皆川(mina.gawa)
皆川(mina.gawa) is a surname common in East Japan, in some places even reaching as far as being among the 100 most used, while still keeping an overall standing at around 500th in the whole country (data here and here), something quite unusual considering our usual names here in [Onamae wa?] posts.
皆 is a rather common kanji, present in words that everyone reading this is aware of, like 皆(mina or minna; everyone, all. Minna is quite informal). While most frequently used to describe people, it can also appear to point out the totality of a certain thing, as in 皆殺し(mina.goro.shi; massacre, slaughter) or 皆勤(kai.kin; perfect attendance). When paired up with 無, it becomes 皆無(kai.mu), a word that means non-existence or null. For Akane, the most important idea here is completeness. It is less about one experience, but the major scope. It is less about the individual, but everyone involved. It is about conquest, to which you may ask, of what?
In Episode 4, Akane makes it clear that it is all about being wanted. But you see, there is no glory in conquering unclaimed land. The joy is to invade, ransack and subjugate the weak, taking for you what was once theirs. Is this ethical? Probably not. Her way of thinking reminds me of Genghis Khan (1162-1227), one of (if not the) most powerful military leaders, and here I quote him:
A man’s highest joy is in victory: to conquer one’s enemies; to pursue them; to deprive them of their possessions; to make their beloved weep; to ride on their horses; and to embrace their wives and daughters.
An adjustment here and there and the above quote would suffice to describe the whole premise of Akane. The Great Khan was also known for never settling in one place, being more interested in conquering them governing, an attitude similar to how our teacher is not interested in relationships. Seriously, Akane is probably Genghis incarnated. But let’s get back to the kanji in her surname.
川 was seen here a few times, most recently in 藤川(fuji.kawa) 歌夜(ka.yo), the music producer from Stella no Mahou (Fall 2016) in [Onamae wa? #31]. Among the covered names, it never really stood out as far as carrying an important meaning. Well, until today. 川 describes, both in its drawing and meaning a stream of something, usually water. It is then not any body of water; no, you can’t think of a 湖(mizu.umi; lake), or a 池(ike; pond) or even the 海(umi; sea). What we see here is a 川(kawa; river). A flow, a current. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t stale. It only moves forward.
When we tie both kanji together, 皆川(mina.gawa) could describe something adorable and gentle as a river for everybody. And this could have been today’s explanation were not for Akane’s true nature. Although hinted before, as of Episode 4 we can be sure this is not a safe river, meant for everybody. Were it a lake, it would drag you in, but stay with you. Yet this is not the case for Akane. This is a rushing river that won’t stop until it drowns you, savoring as it drives you away from your former home, only to drop you at a nearby shore when you are no longer an interesting plaything.
Oh. I spoke about lust up there but in Akane’s case it is less about 欲望(yoku.bou; desire, sexual lust) and more about 征服欲(sei.fuku.yoku; the lust for conquest).
Another interesting idea is to see 皆川(mina.gawa) as a stream of all of them, referring to all the ones who were already conquered by Akane, purposely leaving it as them to emphasize their meaningless in the overall picture.
I had decided to write about Akane merely because she is one of my favorite characters this season, but her Family Name is beautifully fitting, making it one of those cases where I’m happy to have started writing about this theme almost one year ago.
- 皆川(mina.gawa) 英雄(hide.o) from Initial D Fifth Stage (Fall 2012)
- 皆川(mina.gawa) 瞳美(hito.mi) from Kämpfer (Fall 2009)
- 皆川(mina.gawa) 素子(moto.ko) from Fruits Basket (Summer 2001)
Hah! Hitomi (second character above) was voiced by 皆川(mina.gawa) 純子(jun.ko), VA also responsible for Cornelia in Code Geass and Jun in Akatsuki no Yona.
Given Name: 茜(akane)
茜(akane) is that red tone we see in Fall leaves. Here is a image to make it clear:
My first impulse is to associate Red to Lust, which I think is rather reasonable, although madder is probably not the correct tone to fully draw out the idea of sexual desire. But it was only when I saw the picture below that it came to me.
茜(akane) may also refer to the plant from which this pigment is extracted for textile use, named Rubia. As you can see though, the plant itself is green. The red dye is actually contained in its roots. By now you can see where I am going with this. Like our adorable teacher, its roots, hidden away from sight, are widely different from what is shown in the surface. This connection here to Akane’s nature is so strong and yet I doubt that this was intentional. Regardless, associating her calm and innocent façade to the lushful green and her unnerving thirst for sexual conquest to the deep rooted red is tempting and I’ll let myself be dominated by it.
- 木幡(ko.wata) 茜(akane) from Flying Witch (Spring 2016)
- 櫻田(sakura.da) 茜(akane) from Joukamachi no Dandelion (Summer 2015)
- 紅本(kou.moto) 茜(akane) from Jitsu wa Watashi wa (Summer 2015)
Oh. While most Akane characters have red hair, I guess you can’t really bind witches by rules. I wrote about her sister, the adorable Makoto, in [Onamae wa? #3].
皆川(mina.gawa) 茜(akane), an untamed, seductive river of beautiful red water that relish in conquering those unaware of its true nature.
Kuzu no Honkai is raging all over the interwebz and here are some interesting posts on it:
- kindle from NICHI NICHI-CHAN is doing weekly reviews. Good stuff.
- Benigmatica from The Anime Rambler clearly loves Akane. You can read her impressions on Episode 4 here.
- Aldael from Aldael’s Attic wrote a nice post on this show. He is also covering it in his weekly reviews.
- edsamac spoke a bit about his thoughts after Episode 4 on his weekly reviews.
- KimmieKawaii and Weekend Otaku wrote some nice thoughts on Episode 4 and Kuzu no Honkai in general, including some name exploration as well!
Thanks for your time, hope you enjoyed your reading. I’ll say it again, I love Akane. It is not about whether I think she lacks ethic or not. Going against the flow, contrary to the other characters in this show, Akane stays true to herself and this is something that people often don’t value enough. Truthfully, being honest to yourself by toying with others might not sound good to our current society, but I’m sure Genghis Khan would approve her. In fact, I bet he would go as far as to say: Best girl. See you all next weekend!