mjj (flemmings) wrote,

To each his own Black Beast

If I have a bête noire in Japanese popular culture, it's Three Kingdoms. Yes, really- Japanese popular culture, not Chinese. (Far too much of a n00b to know anything about Chinese.) There are certain foreign works the Japanese have taken to their bosoms so that now you stumble across them everywhere. Coming Through the Rye is what they got from us: traffic lights play it, and Sakura Sakura for the other direction. Rather more respectably, what they took from China is Three Kingdoms.

There's an obvious problem with Three Kingdoms: the names (my constant refrain: the names, the names, dear God what's with the *names*.) They aren't Japanese names, obviously; frequently they aren't even Japanese use-kanji. Wei 魏 and Shu 蜀 are enough to give one fits, and Wu 吳 ain't much better. And of course the Japanese will casually remark that someone reminds them of 劉備 or 周瑜 or 曹操, leaving the HS-level kanji reader pathetically saying Who?

All this by way of saying that I sat down last night determined to get through my Gensou Fantasy 3 anthology, and came crashing down at the first story. Gensou Fantasy bills itself as 'oriental fantasy' and runs heavily to Chinese based stuff (plus Ima Ichiko's Silk Roads.) The first story was quite upfront about being a Three Kingdoms fantasy, so fine, here's the guy with the feather fan, no prob, but here's some other guy his servant *and* a bunch of city and provincial names which matter for the plot and... Well, need I say it? I spent my reading time online at the Dynasty Warriors webpage finding out who and where everyone was. Let us be grateful to Dynasty Warriors, bovine urine and all. It gives to airy nothingness (ie a bunch of unknown-to-me hanzi) a local habitation and a *face*.

The other guy is 姜維 Jiang Wei, and I've finally learned Zhuge Liang's 諸葛亮's name kanji because god knows it keeps turning up. Though to read certain manga you need the style names as well (weeps.) Actually I've often recommended to certain parents hem-hem that they adopt the notion of style names, with the difference that you use the style name *until* you're an adult and safely out of playground taunting range. Then you assume the weird/ high-falutin'/ old fashioned/ literary name your parents chose for you. Dorcas Amaryllis Sundancer Smithers, style name 'Sally'. Braxton Bragg Humphrey Sherwin, style name 'Bob.'

But the other thing one can do is read the hanzi literally. This is amusing, though it works better if you reverse the name order:

姜維 - ginger preserved (no comment)
諸葛亮 - several beans shining
劉備 - kill get-ready (a scion of the Slaughter family)
周瑜 - circumference jewels
曹操 - officials manage

So Liu Bei is ready to massacre, Cao Cao manipulates the officials, the ever disappointed Zhou Yu has jewels all around him (doesn't he just) and Bovine Urine himself is A Grand and Glorious Poohbah.

This makes me happy. Might even make those hanzi stick in my head.
Tags: 3k, chinese, manga_07

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