Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hidamari no Ki, Part 2

Here is the second installment of Hidmari no Ki, episodes 7 to 13, bringing us to just past the halfway mark in the series. This seemed like a logical breaking point, because the ending song changes in episode 14 from Hikari no Mouko e to High Dive, both by the rock group Charcoal.

This batch of episodes sees significant developments for all the major characters. Ryouan is summoned back to Edo from his studies in Osaka to help his father in the western doctors' struggle to establish a smallpox vaccination clinic in Tokyo, which is vehemently opposed by the official Shogunate physicians. Manjirou is assigned to guard the newly arrived American envoy, Townsend Harris, against the threats of the Joui movement. Both Ryouan and Manjirou experience life-changing events in their families, to comic and tragic effect, respectively. And both are drawn inexorably into the increasing chaos of the Bakumatsu, as the Shogunate's attempt to deal with foreign intrusion creates violent counter-reactions. For more information on the complex politics and numerous historical characters, the show's translator, Sunachan, has prepared a selection of links and summaries from Wikipedia. It is available here.

Three new female characters are introduced in this segment of the show. The first is Oshina, the daughter of a shop owner in Osaka.

She actually appeared in an earlier episode but wasn't named. The second is Okon, a "nighthawk" (boat-based prostitute) in Osaka.

The third is Otsune, the daughter of a distant relative of Ryouan. 

(The character designs are much less distinct than for the male characters.) All three women are drawn to Ryouan, for very different reasons. All get to experience first-hand the ups-and-downs of a woman's life during the Bakumatsu. Ultimately, their trajectories diverge, one propelled by the demands of love, one by the imperatives of survival, and one by the customs of family life.

Some translation notes:
  • "ri" (里) is translated as "miles," signifying "Japanese miles." One Japanese mile is about 4 kilometers. This should not be confused with "Chinese miles," or "lǐ" (里), which use the same character. One Chinese mile is about 0.5 kilometers. 
  • It's no coincidence that all the women's names begin with "O." In the Bakumatsu and later Meiji eras, it was common to prefix women's names with the polite honorific "O." Thus, all the men (even the ruffians) call the Ninaya shop owner's daughter "Oshina," while she refers to herself as "Shina." Okon, interestingly, calls herself Okon rather than Kon, as part of her self-given title, "Okon of the Seven Ghosts."
  • Ep07. A "nighthawk" was a prostitute who lived on a boat. 
  • Ep07. "Joui" was one half of the slogan of the neo-Confucian Sonnou Joui ("Revere the Emperor, expel the foreigners) movement. It was particularly popular with the samurai class and became the rationale for violent attacks on foreigners and revolts against the Shogunate.
  • Ep08. Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland was considered the most eminent practical physician in the Germany of his day.
  • Ep09. Bousshuu is the old term for the Awa region of Japan.
  • Ep12. Satsuma-age are deep fried fish-paste balls. Shochu is liquor distilled from rice, barley, or sweet potatoes. It is typically around 50 proof - more than sake but less than whiskey.
  • Ep13. Hougan is an old word for doctor.
  • Ep13. Manjirou's removal from his post as bodyguard to American envoy Townsend Harris reflected the chaotic politics inside the Shogunate following the ascension of Ii Naosuke as chief minister.
  • Ep13. Korori is an old name for cholera.
The retention of old words and terms, instead of using their modern equivalents, is the translator's choice.

One minor change to the project staffing: starting in episode 10, Yogicat did the preliminary timing by shifting the workraw-based scripts to the final encode. Eternal_Blizzard did fine timing of each episode. As before, Sunachan translated; I edited and typeset; bananadoyouwana, Nemesis, and VigorousJammer did QC; Skr encoded the workraws; and M74 encoded the final video and audio.

Before closing, I have to rant a bit about the chickenshit disclaimer that appears at the end of each DVD:

Whom, exactly, were the producers afraid this "biased" show would offend? Ultra-nationalist defenders of the Shogunate? Chinese medical practitioners? Any remaining samurai? The show portrays the Bakumatsu as a turbulent and corrupt era. It was. The show portrays the samurai class as having both honorable and lawless elements. It did. The show portrays the role of women in the era as subservient and limited. That was true. If Hidamari no Ki leans more to the western-oriented views of Ryouan than the traditional samurai outlook of Manjirou, that reflects Tezuka Osamu's optimistic and pacifistic outlook on life. Does that constitute bias in the eyes of certain authorities in Japan?

Hidamari no Ki is a gripping, complex, and suspenseful series - Tezuka Osamu at his best, IMHO. If you aren't watching it, you should. You can get this batch of episodes, and the previous batch too, from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on