Monday, January 31, 2011

Fun with Japanese: The Language of Love

It took Daisuke 19 episodes to tell Riku how he felt.
When it comes to anime relationships, that's not so unusual.
Until an admission occurs, be prepared for a lot of awkward moments. 
So Valentines Day is coming up in a few weeks and your looking for a way to impress that special person in your life. How best to do it? Some anime characters use chocolates, others, bold declarations of their feelings, and sometimes they'll just make something for them. Of course, some might even break into a pop-song (I hope it won't come to that for most normal folks, but I know it'll probably happen somewhere. ><;) All of these gestures are indeed romantic, and the awkward comedy that often comes with them can be entertaining, such as the misunderstanding that almost occurred just before this scene in D.N. Angel here, but how about we take a look at some of the phrases and mannerisms that come with them. Yes, it's that time again. Here's five more Japanese words and phrases this time related to the language of love.

I guess it would make since that as a doctor, Black Jack would have
a lot of patience. ^^ Pinoko can require a lot of it, as she will sometime try to
 get his attention by flirting with the neighborhood kids.
Dai suki.

This phrase is a staple in anime. Which is interesting once you realize the literal translation. You see, "suki" literally means that the speaker finds the subject of the sentence pleasing. Dai, as you can see above is written with the kanji for "Big" and therefore serves to intensify the meaning. This brings us to the fact that the Japanese aren't necessarily the most direct linguistically. While there are ways to say that you love someone more than just as a close friend specifically, most of the time this meaning gets relegated to being a secondary meaning for an adjective that is usually used to describe anything from friends to one's favorite foods. It's usually the context that determines whether or not it actually means "I love you" rather than just "I like you." Such a contextual usage takes place in this scene from Black Jack where one of Pinoko's friends is asking her about her feelings for the titular physician.

I dunno why they say the line about the time
Aoshi is walking deliberately across a bridge in the moonlight.
Maybe because Misao is waiting on her crush in the next frame?
Ai suru.

Now we're kicking it up a level. This is the direct way to tell someone how you feel, however, you will almost never hear it being used by someone who is actually voicing this sentiment to someone else in an actual scene. Thus far, I think I may have only seen one Japanese dub for an anime where a character ever came close, and I'm not sure because the sentence remained unfinished. (Granted, I will admit that it could be I'm watching the wrong anime for spotting phrases in this category, so, if I'm wrong about this, call me out! We can discuss it in comments, I'll love it!) In my experience, you'll see this much more in relation to anime in areas that are not directly linked to the content, such as opening theme songs. Never mind that as JesuOtaku from "That Guy With the Glasses" points out, it seems kind of odd that a series about samurai would have a predisposition towards bubbly pop songs. Whatever the reason, it gives us an opportunity to spot an instance of this phrase's usage in the second opening theme song for the series Rurouni Kenshin, 1/2 by Makoto Kawamoto. To be more specific they use the verb suru in the form shitteiru which made it the state of being in love, but considering that Kaoru is definitely in that state in relation to Kenshin, it works.

Just an observation, but aren't these kids a bit young
to be thinking about who loves who, just yet? I'm just sayin'.
Koi shitteiru

This one has basically the same meaning, with this particular usage being "I'm in love" (usually with some contextual indicators as to what the speaker is in love with.) However, it's probably used even less often than "Ai suru." It's that tendency to be indirect again. Even so, once again, it will pop up once in a while in an anime theme song, such as the opening theme for Card Captor Sakura. (Once again, comment and call me on it if you find another instance worth noting.) Since the show always seemed to have an eye out for who likes who, I guess it's fitting that a bubbly love song would be the first thing you hear.

What's really funny is that Sonoko only instigated this trip
 because she wanted to get her loyal
though oft-abroad boyfriend to notice her.
Chocoretto wo tsukuru.

It is a recent tradition in Japanese culture for girls to give the guys they like a gift, and often this turns out to be chocolate (somewhat in reverse of how we do things in the states but that's how inter cultural exchange flies). This little favor is returned on March 14th, which is called White Day, often because the preferred gift is white chocolate. As this institution has largely been instigated by the candy manufacturers of the country, this tradition, understandably indicates that if a guy gets a present of a certain value, he's supposed to return affections by getting a gift of greater value, which supposedly indicates interest while a gift of the same value indicates cutting the relationship. (Or so I've heard.) Regardless, this tradition pops up occasionally in anime and sometimes the more thoughtful characters will put even more effort into their gifts by making them. One of the three-part mysteries in Detective Conan revolves around this past time, as Conan goes with Ran, Kogoro, and Sonoko to a chalet in the mountains that specializes in teaching folks how to make these little treats. Naturally variations on this phrase are batted around quite a bit before they get into the nitty-gritty of finding out whodunnit. Seems even detectives need a little romance now and then.

Koga's in for a rude awakening if he thinks Kagome is
 just going to let him claim her like a piece of property.
_______ ni horeta.

The last phrase on our list is probably an extreme example of how the Japanese can be direct if they want to be. By the way, those lines and parenthesis indicate that you can insert names interchangeably. It means, "I've fallen in love with you, (so-and-so)." You aren't going to hear this bold declaration in most instances but once in a while you'll come up with a brazen anime character who declares his feelings to the world. A character like Koga from the series Inuyasha, for example. Granted he's a bit of a pushy character to begin with and maybe a bit selfish, especially when the regular cast first meets him, so he's gonna go for what he wants. Unfortunately, it just so happens that Kagome is not the kind of girl who will just go along with amorous intentions. There's also Inuyasha standing in the way, so this really doesn't seem like it's going to work out.

And there it is folks. See ya next week!

Images taken from Black Jack (the 2004 series), Cardcaptor Sakura, Detective Conan, D.N. Angel, Inuyasha, and Rurouni Kenshin

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