The Magic of Hiragana in Titles

Ayappi here (๑˃ᴗ˂)ﻭ
Let’s start off with some facts. Japanese has 3 main writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Katakana and Kanji should be the most familiar to most the way I see it, as these two are arguably the most prevalent in media overseas. For example, the characters シ、ツ、ン、and ソ are often joked about as the characters for happy, reflecting its popularity. Kanji, well this is the bane of existence for most Japanese learners. However, we often leave hiragana out as this sort of, normal Japanese characters or the curvy characters we often see at that one Japanese restaurant in the neighborhood. As if the purpose of hiragana, mostly, is for when you don’t know the kanji for this and that.

However today I would like to talk about a certain side of hiragana that may seem unimportant for the normal anime or manga viewer, or even a Japanese learner/person who knows Japanese but could actually make for a good way to appreciate the story even further. Specifically, I’m going to discuss the titles of certain works almost exclusively written in Hiragana. With this, I would like to use a certain manga’s title (which I will be posting a review of soon), called “Onii-chan is done for.” In Japanese, the title is written as お兄ちゃんはおしまい, onii-chan wa osimai.

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Slice of Life goodness right here

To be honest, I didn’t read even realize this until the translator of the series pointed it out. Honestly I wouldn’t have thought of this had I read the raws instead. Osimai (or oshimai) is a Japanese word pertaining to something being over. You might have encountered this word being uttered at Himouto Umaru-chan’s opening, with the hai! Osimai! 「はい!おしまい」in the ending. True enough, the “official” translation、at least according to the translator, is “Oniichan is done for,” literally over. However, the translator noted at one of the chapters that osimai could also be referring to an extra polite form of using the word sisters, or shimai (姉妹).

Note that in Japanese, one way to convert nouns and some words into super polite or humble form, is to add お (o) to the start of the noun. If we do this to the word shimai, then we can get お姉妹 osimai. Neat huh? Good job translator!

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Here is the page in question

What can we get from this aside from a free Japanese lesson then? We can see that in even something as boring as a series title, there could be hidden meanings scattered all around. This flexible ambiguity that a Japanese word written in hiragana offers the reader gives us many opportunities for many possible interpretations of the story. To illustrate its ambiguity’s beauty and flexibility, allow me to give an example.

I mentioned earlier that hiragana is one way for people who do not know the kanji, or forgot the kanji, to write out their thoughts in Japanese. Now, even in Japanese schools, kanji is formally taught by grade or year level, and there are some kanji that a 30 year old salaryman would know, that a grade schooler wouldn’t know. I never attended primary and secondary education in Japan, but I can assure you I know this much. Moving on, the main character of this manga (and I’m not even spoiling major bits of it, trust me) is already a grown man, but has been turned into someone younger other than to the opposite sex. Now at the body he’s been given, he has certainly turned younger.

Yes we could argue that the body he has been given could be the body of someone who already knows how to write osimai in kanji, both forms of it. Yes we could also argue that this is one of those words that are usually written in hiragana. But, this choice of the author to use hiragana instead of the kanji versions gives it a more young feel. It helps reflect and enhance the notion that the main character has been given a younger body. Please note that Japanese children do not dive in to kanji right away but rather start with hiragana and katakana like the rest of us who studied Japanese.

With that said, please remember that manga is a form of literature, just like a novel, drama or even a poem. Much like poems, I remember how even looking at the title could lead to more valid interpretations of a piece of literature, we could do the same process of close reading and looking at the title to manga. It’s not necessarily something that you’re required to do to enjoy yourself, and really you could still enjoy a manga without going through the mentally taxing process of close reading, but honestly it could help you appreciate the work even more.

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Sometimes people take the titles of manga, or really any other form of literature and dismiss them as something merely there to sound cool or catchy. But this manga, Oniichan wa Osimai, could easily show us that there’s more to a title than just being there to sound and look cool. Well you have to admit, that might have been clever on the author’s part, but still.

How about you? What do you think of this entire hiragana title magic? Did you ever tear apart a series and looked at the title? Please do let me know your opinions down below!

With that, please do have a great day ahead ❤

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Is Shishunki Bitter Change Worth a Read?

Ayappi here (°▽°)ノ

Spoiler Warning, Please Skim Through if You’re Not OK with Spoilers

Body swapping might not be a pleasant experience

Lately due to me being out of the house most of the time, I’ve been reading more manga than watching anime. Some of these series I only thought about reading just recently, while others I have read but have decided to re-read them because I simply lost track. Today I would like to talk about a certain manga series that at first glance might seem like it’s a Kimi no Na Wa rip off, but in reality it isn’t, and spoiler alert, it’s really good. I’ll get to why in a minute.

Shishunki (or Shisyunki) Bitter Change is a romance manga that deals with body swapping, much like Kimi no Na Wa. I figured that there would be a possibility that people would dismiss the manga as a rip off of the said series. However, the premise they operate, and how the body swapping works is entirely different. On Na Wa’s side, they body swap to each other on an alterate daily basis as soon as they fall asleep. On Shishunki’s body swapping, the two body swap indefinitely one day when the main male character Yuuta falls down on Yui, the main female character. They might be similar as well as to how they deal with their body swapping, such as “To Not Do Lists,” but the two are still different from each other. It should also be noted that Shishunki came out 4 years before Kimi no Na Wa stormed to success.

With that out of the way, let’s move on. The manga from what I read does a great job of using the whole body swapping thing to develop its characters and create, as the title implies, changes. The two, in the story, as they live out their lives in the bodies of each other, consciously and unconsciously fill in what was missing in their lives before the entire incident happened. Yuuta (in Yui’s body), fills in her desire to have friends and gets her out of the lonely zone, while Yui (in Yuuta’s body), gives Yuuta good grades.

Change is a common theme in this entire manga, and most if not all characters are NOT spared from the clutches of change. It’s a dynamic character festival, and we’re given front row seats to watch these characters grow up and change. There may be instances of characters that look like static ones, such as Mr. Hopeless Romantic, but in reality they had some subtle changes that could easily be overlooked, especially when binge reading.

(Super spoilers) But where does the “bitter” in bitter change come in? My guess on the matter, other than the side characters getting rejected of their romantic feelings for the two, which have lead to many changes in their lives, is how Yuuta developed romantic feelings for Yui. The two main characters had to deal with heartbreaks and rejections, as well as countless fights between each other for misunderstandings and deviations from the “To Not Do Lists.” Yuuta in particular had to deal with Yui not being able to “read” his feelings and blabbering nothing but Takuma, Yuuta’s best friend Yui has fallen for. These Although in the last chapter I have read, it may be implied that the two will end up together based on how I interpreted it.

My other guess on the whole “bitter change” bit is the entire concept of puberty. Shishunki translates to puberty, and in the story, we could see the characters dealing with puberty in bodies that aren’t even theirs. Oftentimes this has been bitter for the characters, especially because they weren’t supposed to experience puberty like that. Take for example Yuuta having to experience menstruation in Yui’s body. Couple that with the uncertainty on what could happen while the current owner is in the body, and it could make for one bitter experience.

As for the characters, they’re very relatable and believable, especially those that are still kids and/or undergoing puberty at the moment. The characters are the types of people you would commonly find in both grade school and middle/high school such as the smart lonely one, or the sociable one, or even the hopeless romantic. Family issues are also tackled in the story and I think it just helps with the whole relatability and believability factor. Not all families are the same after all, and it’s something every child eventually comes to know as they go out and explore and interact with the world. Although in this story’s case, they were unspared the trouble of finding out at a very early age, first hand. Me personally, I could relate with both Yui and Yuuta a lot, equally.

On the subject of character development, allow me to get this out of the way, but I’m personally glad that this didn’t turn out to become an ecchi manga. Ecchi can work and can even develop characters, maybe even faster than the current pace of the story. However, it feels kind of lazy in my opinion, and it could easily get lost in the fanservice should that be the case and I’m glad the author managed to develop its characters without going the ecchi route.

Art is handled well. It’s not tough to look at compared to something like Kotoura-san’s art style. I love Kotoura-san, but Kotoura’s eyes just look really weird and uncomfortable to look at. But it isn’t really groundbreaking or revolutionary for me to write an extra paragraph about it. Although, I have to give the author props because the simple art can actually help in keeping focus. This story can get confusing after all, given the whole body swap thing, and a lack of focus would make you get entirely lost in the story.

Would I recommend this manga? Yes. A definite yes. It’s a simple, yet beautiful story about body swapping that in my opinion, manages to hit the right spots. It’s not tough to read as well, light despite the presence of some drama scenes and fights. My only issue with this entire manga, really, is that it’s still not over. I personally want to see these two together (I ship them) and I couldn’t wait to see the ending already. It’s not a bad thing by any means, just that I can get impatient with these kinds of things.

So yes, if you’re looking for a lighthearted but interestingly kind of confusing romance manga, Shishunki Bitter Change should in my opinion be in your list. There are 8 volumes currently available, but I suspect a 9th volume coming soon. You could buy these on Amazon or eBookJapan at around standard manga price (around ¥4-500 before tax).

Have you read Shishunki Bitter Change? Would you consider reading it? Please do let me know and have a nice day ❤