August 28, 2008

Strike Witches -- shishou

There's a word in Japanese, 師匠 shishou. It can be translated into English as "master, teacher" except that doesn't really convey the meaning very well.

I first ran into the word in Fruits Basket but didn't really come to understand how the Japanese see it until I got more deep into Dragonball Z. It's the word that the martial artists use for their first teacher, who they hold in very high regard for life no matter how far they advance, even if they transcend their master utterly. That's why there's a special relationship between Gohan and Piccolo; Piccolo was Gohan's first teacher. And even though Krillin has long since left Roshi behind, and even though Roshi is a silly, lusty old man, still Krillin holds him in great honor. Krillin wears Roshi's sigil on his gi.

I don't really know of an English word for that relationship which really conveys the meaning, but in the inverse direction, the word protegé comes close. The problem is that the inverse of protégé is "patron" and that isn't at all a good translation for shishou.

A shishou takes pride in the accomplishment of his students and gains glory for them, even if, and in fact especially if, the student goes on to greatness and transcends the shishou. In the second episode of Kamichu,

They talk, and he says that part of why he left was that he didn't want to be just another small-town god, like all the others. But as he talked to Yurie, and found out that she lived in his town and liked it there, and sensed the sheer power that she had, he began to see a different future for himself.

She was obviously going to be one of the greats. But she had to be trained. She needed a shishou and if he went back, he was the natural choice. Which would mean that he wouldn't be just another small town god. He'd be the shishou of Yurie-sama.

That's some of why he was willing to go back. (Another part was that he was feeling guilty about ducking out of his duty and leaving Miko and Matsuri in the lurch.) He saw a better future for himself, something more interesting and unusual and promising.

Some of the dialogue in ep 9 of Strike Witches made clear that Sakamoto may be looking for a legacy. And she seems to think that Miyafuji could be it. That came out in her last conversation with Wilcke before she left to fly into combat. And when she saw I think her hopes for Miyafuji and her mental image of her own legacy she hoped to leave clouded her judgment.

The reason I brought up the word shishou is that I think that's what Sakamoto is trying to be to Miyafuji, only I don't think Miyafuji is seeing it in those terms.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 10:05 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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