Thanasis is a writer, editor, and professional geek. He usually writes about what he thinks he knows about the struggles of studying languages, surviving as a creative soul, and socializing as an extroverted introvert.
Fune wo Amu is going for an 11-episode cour, and unlike popular mainstream fandoms, I wouldn’t have asked for more. We still have three episodes to go, and with the inclusion of the new character, Kishibe, I am guessing that the story is going to make a full cycle with an event that will signify the passing of the dictionary baton from the previous generation to the next.
Japanese Title: 編む
— ゼクシズ公式 (@zexcs_animation) December 1, 2016
Even though the episode makes no direct reference to it, Episode 8 is not continuing from where Episode 7 left us. The introductory scene should have been a clue, but its vagueness only made sense as soon as the episode was over. Majime and Kaguya are facing the sea of words holding hands as Majime talks about the importance of the ship that is going to guide them through the sea. Words bring understanding. Words do not only express our feelings and emotions but they also enable us to understand the thoughts and words of other. If you will, think of every person as a secluded island where words are the only thing that enables us to visit other islands and enable other to visit ours.
You can’t write a dictionary in a day
Nishioka has transferred to the PR department, Majime married Kaguya, and she owns a restaurant. Forgive me, but I don’t remember if she owns the same restaurant she used to work in, of how many years passed from the last episode. If I have to guess, I’d say about three years. He is now Chief Majime, and he is the only company employee at the dictionary department (Sasaki is a contract worker.)
But this episode is not about Nishioka or Majime. This episode is all about the new addition to the department, Kishibe, and the constant nature of time. In just one episode we witness the transformative effect that a sudden change can have in our lives. Kishibe was used to a different kind of life. Before her transfer she was part of the editorial team of a fashion magazine, Northern Black. Her whole career revolved around fashion. Her articles were about fashion. All she knows is fashion. And suddenly she finds herself working for the dictionary department that is housed on the old company building. Quite the shock. No wonder Kishibe looks so disappointed.
Majime picks a word Kishibe uses, アウェー感, and asks her about the meaning. ‘Like you don’t belong,’ she readily says, ‘or when you are a little lonely, or like when you are in enemy territory.’ Majime, being the lovely wacho that he is, immediately recognizes the meanings as indicative of her present feelings and tries to console her, in the Majime way which usually proves unsuccessful. Where is Nishioka when you need him?
But, the magic of this scene is that through a simple narrative technique as this, the author manages to weave Kishibe’s feelings into the main theme, words and dictionaries. Kishibe feels lost, alone, even threatened by this new environment.
It’s a job about organizing words in a specific order
Kishibe is then exposed to a small dictionary-nerdy moment as Majime and Miyamoto talk about paper quality and the thought process that goes behind paper-making. That isn’t enough though to make Kishibe see her new job in a different light.
What their first encounter failed to achieve was accomplished at Kishibe’s welcome dinner at Kaguya’s restaurant. Everyone is here, including PR-department playboy Nishioka (has he broken up with Miyori?) aging Miyamoto-sensei (I think he is dying) Araki-san (nothing’s changed). During the course of the night, Kishibe gets drunk and doubtful. How could she add any value to the dictionary department? She was thrown out of the fashion editorial team because of her unwillingness to compromise her choice of words. What she doesn’t realize is that was precisely what makes her perfect for the dictionary department
Words are hard
Kishibe is good with words. She loves words. When Nishioka finds her crying at the park, she uses the passion that was instilled in him by Majime to instill passion in Kishibe, proving once again the contagious nature of kindness. He asks Kishibe to describe a word. After a slow start, Nishioke manages to bring out of Kishibe the ‘Majime’ she hid inside. And with that hidden ‘Majime’ she also finds an unwavering passion to work in the department that 22-minutes ago she considered enemy territory.
Dictionary Time: I think this was the first ‘Dictionary Time’ half-episode segment that was genuinely funny. The little guys found themselves in the fashion editorial room of the Northern Back magazine. Not the perfect place to be for a dictionary, but as we saw later in the episode, all words, even those found in a fashion magazine are included in a dictionary.
Couple Moment: Majime and Kaguya are one of the cutest couples I’ve seen lately. They are perfect for each other. They are both dedicated to their craft, Majime is incredibly fond of her passion, and Kaguya is amazingly understanding of his inability to properly express himself.
— アニメ『舟を編む』放送中！ (@funewoamu_anime) December 1, 2016
Word of the Episode: Compile 「あむ」
to compose out of materials from other documents
e.g. Compile a dictionary.
Translation: Have you heard the expression, ‘lost in translation’? It is usually used when something is not transferred in its entirety (usually referring to meaning) from one medium to another. When Majime asks Kishibe for the explanation to a word, he enquires about a certain kanji (the Chinese characters that the Japanese language uses) the translator tried to find the best equivalent of Romanized western languages. Since the word アウェー感 is translated as ‘out-of-place-ness’, Majime (for western audiences) asks for the suffix ‘-ness’ which in English turns an adjective into a noun. Part of a successful translation is to be able to ‘translate’ foreign concepts to their equivalent in the target language. I found this translation to be on-the-spot. It wasn’t a literal translation, but the English linguistic example was correct.
Paper: Did you know that paper has various different levels of quality? One could certainly tell from the different quality of magazines and books, but there is so much more to it. The Wikipedia article has a whole paragraph dedicated to the different types of paper under the title ‘Paper’ and different main articles for ‘Paper size’, ‘Grammage’, and ‘Paper density’. At first I thought Majime was a little too strict with the sample paper for the dictionary, but when I saw Miyamoto coming to the same conclusion, the paper is not sticky enough, I came to realize the passion that is involved in every creation process, even paper-making.
For another episode, Fune wo Amu delivers a complete narrative that starts with a single protagonist, Kishibe; continues with a definitive struggle, a sudden change of environment; and concludes with the realizing of a previously unfound strength and a new sense of purpose.
— ゼクシズ公式 (@zexcs_animation) December 1, 2016
‘The Great Passage’ is not the work of a single person. It’s the cumulative effort of a team of dedicated lexicographers whose passion of words translates in one of the most ‘boring’ books of all time. At least that’s what most people think, but I find that dictionaries have a hidden appeal that most people don’t realize. I hope that Fune wo Amu will make a few viewers to reconsider their approach to these word-hoarders.
Did you like the episode? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to read the rest of our episodic reviews!
NEXT TIME: Blood (血潮)
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