Memories of 2013 part 9: Enemies, opponents and rivals

One thing I really enjoy about following a show closely is the language that it can teach me. The first series I remember fondly for this is Bakemonogatari, which taught me what in the world an “amateur virgin” was. Translating a certain drama CD back in the day also taught me a lot about how love is expressed differently in English and Japanese. Now, as I’m watching more Korean dramas, I’ve also finding the nuances of this particular aspect of human interaction fascinating. But to return to what I found to be the most contentious term this year, Taichi’s “teki” in episode 19 of Chihayafuru 2; whilst the debate over what is the correct interpretation has been really frustrating for me, I’m really glad that all the research I had to do has given me a much better grasp of how ‘enemy’, ‘opponent’ and ‘rival’ are expressed in Japanese. Care to have a gander?

"Enemy"??

“Enemy”??

To begin, let me note that this is more complex than a lot of people seem to think. The debate on Animesuki over the translation of Taichi’s “teki” remained polarised between the two terms of “enemy” and “rival.” On the mangafox forums, I kept getting attacked for trying to argue that it is more complex that than. Admittedly, I probably tried to draw lines a little too finely then…but following a reread of some parts of Chihayafuru, I’ve come to realise that there is only one additional term that we need to pay attention to: “opponent.” To demonstrate why, I will first lay out how these three concepts are typically expressed in the Japanese language. Following that, I will draw evidence from the manga to show why, out of the three, “opponent” is the most accurate translation, though it ultimately remains inadequate.

The sources I have used will be given in [square brackets], and refer to the following:

  1. Daijirin (大辞林) – the version I downloaded on the iPad and the one in the electronic dictionary that I picked up in Japan five years ago are pretty much the same for this entry.
  2. The Genius English-Japanese dictionary that’s also in my electronic dictionary.
  3. A core group of Japanese friends from the uni I work and study at.
  4. various Japanese websites and blogs that discuss the terms in question.

The many kinds of ‘enemy’

“Enemy” is expressed in several ways in Japanese, including “teki,” “kataki,” and “raibaru” (= ‘rival’ written with Japanese sounds) [Genius]. However, most English-Japanese dictionaries do not go into much detail about differences in meaning – for that, you have to consult a good Japanese-English dictionary, or a good Japanese-Japanese dictionary. And here’s what I found.

The ‘enemy’ most commonly encountered in Japanese news and other media is the one related to war. I’ve encountered it in quite a few dramas and anime, such as NHK’s Shinsengumi and Code Geass, where it is used to refer to units and people on the opposing side of a conflict. I’ve also seen it in the news, especially recently, with the tensions being ratcheted up in Northeast Asia. Japanese is known for being euphemistic in the news and official government documents, but nevertheless, the word used in this case tends to be “teki” (敵).

But there are other kinds of ‘enemies’ in English that we might want to express in Japanese, such as “the enemy of women” (e.g. Servant x Service episode 4 @ 08.17) “England, the old enemy” (an example from sport – cricket), or “a bitter enemy.” A little bit more research suggests that “teki” is used for the first and second examples, “ribaru” for the second as well, and “kataki” (敵/仇) for the third. [Daijirin, friends, WWW]

‘Opponents’ in times of war and peace

As with ‘enemy’, there are several ways of expressing ‘opponent’ in Japanese: in order of commonality of use, these are “aite” (相手), “taikousha” (対抗者), “teki” (敵 – yup, the same character/pronunciation as above) “hantaisha” (反対者) [Genius]. According to the same dictionary, “aite,” “taikousha” and “teki” are all used in the contexts of sporting matches and contests, debates and conflicts/disputes etc, whereas “hantaisha” tends to refer to a person who opposes something rather than someone else.

What’s important to note is that, as in English, no matter what Japanese term is used, the idea of ‘opponent’ is actually quite neutral. By this, I mean that the terms themselves does not entail that there is enmity in the relationship in question, unlike with the notion of ‘enemy’. In other words, whether there is enmity or not has to be discerned from other facets of the relationship between the two people in question – the use of any of these terms themselves does not signify what where it lies on the spectrum from bitter enemies to friendly rivals. [Friends]

Another significant thing to note is that whilst “aite” is the most common term used for “opponent,” just as “teki” does not always translate best into “enemy,” “aite” does not always translate best into “opponent.” The example that comes to mind has to do with relationships – in this case, “aite” actually refers to one’s partner, companion, or in the case of romantic relationships, the person that one is interested in, dating or married to. This caveat is particularly significant for understanding that controversial scene in Chihayafuru. [Daijirin]

Love and sports and ‘rivals’

Finally, “rival” is also conveyed in a number of different ways in Japanese. The most commonly seen one is, if I’m not mistaken, “raibaru” (ライバル = “rival” being used as a loan word) even though it doesn’t show up in the Genius English-Japanese side (it shows up when I search for it as a Japanese word 「ライバル」). Other terms include “kyousou aite” (競争相手 = fellow competitor), “taikousha” (対抗者 – same as above, i.e. opponent), “koutekishu” (好敵手 = literally, ‘good enemy hand/person’), and “douryou” (同僚 = colleague/associate) or “nakama” (仲間 = associate/comrade). [Genius, WWW]

There is one more way of expressing rival that we should take note of, one that is specific just to romantic relationships: “koigataki” (恋敵 = rival in love, composed of the characters for “(romantic) love” and “enemy”). Just as with “opponent” above, the use of this term does not actually indicate where the rivals in questions lie on the spectrum of “friendly” to “bitter.” Whether there is enmity in the relationship between the two rivals, a sense of competitiveness, or sadness at liking the same person, or resignation on the part of the one who knows that he/she is on the losing end, or any other emotion, has to be discerned from other facets of the relationship. [Friends]

Enemies, opponents and rivals in Chihayafuru

Returning to Chihayafuru at last, let me begin with how the word “teki” is generally used in the story. It’s actually used quite a lot, but always to mean an ‘opponent’ on the karuta field.

  • “teki-jin” – the opponent’s side (e.g. v1ch3p12 = “opponent’s cards”; v20ch104p18 = “the enemy’s formation”)
  • “teki” – opponent (This was left out of the anime, but was translated on v1ch3p21 as “enemy)

The other word for opponent, “aite,” is also used frequently, e.g.:

  • “shosen no aite” (v4c21p22 = “our first opponent” (translated here as “our first match is against”)
  • “aite ha Fujisaki no sannen” (v5c28p14 = “my opponent was a third year from Fujisaki”)
  • “aite sonna tsuyoin desuka?” (v14c78p7 = Kana: “Is (Chihaya’s) opponent that strong?”)
  • Suou’s “aite ga toru” (“your opponent takes a card”) and “aite ga misu wo suru” (“your opponent takes the wrong card”) in c123

And then we have “raibaru” for “rival,” although in at least one case – Chihaya when congratulating Taichi after he won at the high school tournament and rose into Class A, the character for “teki” (敵) is also used:

  • Hyoro regards Taichi as his “raibaru”
  • “tsumari…raibaru (teki)” (v17c90p6 = “that means he’s now…a rival!”)

On balance, “aite” appears more often, whereas “teki” is used when referring to the opponent’s card placements in a match, or sometimes, one’s opponent. In the match when they were kids, Hyoro’s use of “teki” was in direct contrast to the idea of the “team” that Arata wanted to try playing on. The three of them were meant to be on a team, but it seemed like they were competing against each other. And in fact, a similar contrast appears for Taichi’s use of “teki” after the high school team tournament:

Here, Taichi brings up the fact that Chihaya wants to play with Arata on a team again...

Here, following Arata saying that the only team for him was the one with Taichi and Chihaya, Taichi observes that whilst Chihaya wants to play on a team with Arata again…

...to say that he doesn't want to play on the same team...

…Taichi himself doesn’t want to play on the same team…

...because he sees Arata as a "teki."

…because he sees Arata as a “teki.”

Given this direct contrast, the most direct translation of Taichi’s “teki” in this scene would be “opponent.” There is an important similarity in that both terms are quite neutral in this context, so we have to look at Taichi’s body language and overall behaviour towards Arata on other occasions in order to decide some of the other feelings are encompassed in his use of that word. But there is also a significant difference between the English word “opponent” and the Japanese word “teki,” in that the latter also encompasses the meaning of “rival,” particularly “rival in love,” whereas “opponent” does not. The more common Japanese word for “opponent” – “aite” – cannot be used in this context because it actually refers to the target of one’s affections instead of the rival for those affections. Hence, I think we can easily say that Taichi’s “teki” encompasses both the “opponent on the karuta field” and the “rival in love” meanings. But as noted above, both meanings are actually quite neutral by themselves. Hence we have to look elsewhere in order to figure out how he feels about seeing Arata in this way.

To summarise, I don’t think there is one word in English that is able to express what Taichi meant by that “teki.” My own sense is that “opponent” is the most appropriate because both “enemy” and “rival” are loaded terms, with negative and positive connotations respectively. Using “opponent” instead means that we have to look at both at Taichi’s body language in this scene, and at other instances where he interacts with or thinks about Arata, in order to form arguments about how Taichi feels towards his childhood friend. But that is a whole other essay, one that I will have to tackle at some other time.

Footnote:

Let me finish with a short comment about the translators who work on Chihayafuru. Given what I saw of the translations of the official subs for the anime, my own opinion of them is as follows. The editing was decent, as the flow of the English was generally good. However, the translation was not particularly trustworthy, as they got several things wrong over both seasons (e.g. “suisen,” which means “recommendation” rather than “scholarship”; and “kanji,” which refers to “hearing” rather than “game sense”). Most of the fan translators I’ve come across are worse on at least one front; I won’t say anything about relative translation accuracy here, but in terms of editing, there is only one translator whom I would say has skills worthy of the story. Unfortunately, that person does not regularly work on Chihayafuru. This is, of course, my own opinion, though I am confident that I have both the English and Japanese skills to claim that it is a fairly objective one. YMMV.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

13 Responses to Memories of 2013 part 9: Enemies, opponents and rivals

  1. ravenanne says:

    Ehe… I truly enjoyed reading this one. I learned a lot,. 😉

    I used to view what Taichi says here in a borderline way. His “Enemy” which I’m more inclined to think as rival that is a mixture of positive and negative feelings based on his reaction with Arata and not purely antagonism.

    Thanks again for your hard work! 😉

    Like

    • karice says:

      You’re welcome. I learned a lot in researching it too – I’d always felt that “enemy” was too strong because Taichi has not displayed the degree of animosity it implies. At the same time, “rival” wasn’t quite either, because it was arguably too positive; the fact that Taichi used “teki” and not “rival” is significant. The question is: is “opponent” sufficient? I’m still not sure…

      Like

  2. Guest says:

    I’d argue that the notorious “teki” scene actually sets up Taichi’s true role in the narrative:as the antagonist. Antagonist comes from the Greek for “opponent, competitor, enemy, rival”–which encompasses all the definitions of “teki”. Wikipedia further defines “antagonist” as “a person…who opposes the main character(s).” In the scene, Taichi establishes himself as both an antagonist opposing Chihaya (by opposing her dream of being reunited in a team with Arata) and Arata (by mentally declaring that he sees him as his “teki”).
    Note that there’s no inherently negative connotation to the word “antagonist;” an antagonist is simply someone who opposes the protagonists. Taichi has never gone back on his declaration that he doesn’t want to be on a team with Arata; whatever positive feelings he may have towards him, they don’t outweigh his feelings of rivalry/opposition to that extent.

    Like

    • karice says:

      I don’t see how this single scene supposedly sets up Taichi’s ‘true role’ as the antagonist in the narrative. If Taichi opposes Chihaya’s dream of playing with Arata on a team again, we should see him actively trying to prevent that, but other than the 2nd year HS tournament where he was trying to get Chihaya to focus on their matches instead of looking for Arata, he hasn’t done anything that can be construed as opposing Chihaya’s dream. Consider also how Chihaya regards Taichi: a childhood friend, a rival in karuta (the 2nd HS tournament, or when she finds out that he skipped the school trip to enter the Meijin qualifiers, thus ‘getting the jump on her’), the boy who’s accompanied her on this path towards her dream (chapter 104). Taichi has seldom—if ever—taken on an antagonist role for Chihaya, and I don’t see him doing it in future either.

      If we were to use terms like “protagonist,” which have arisen from what I think are very specific structures for storytelling in classical theatre, then “deuteragonist” and “tritagonist” might be better in describing Taichi and Arata’s roles in the story. Alternatively, we could, at a stretch, think of all three of them as protagonists, because each seems to have a clearly defined character arc. But Taichi as the “antagonist”? Sorry, so many other players and ‘issues’ have taken on that role, and for far longer, that I just don’t see it. To me, all Taichi is doing is stating that Arata represents what he himself has to overcome. If you do want to use the term ‘antagonist’, then you could say that that’s the role that Arata plays in Taichi’s development. But if so, then both Chihaya and even Taichi himself are also ‘antagonists’ in terms of Taichi’s development, because they represent challenges that he has to overcome.

      Rivalry is a huge element of sports manga. The rivalry between Hikaru and Touya Akira in Hikaru no Go is the first one that comes to my mind, but it’s in virtually every other sports manga I have read. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the characters in question don’t relate in any other way: Hikaru and Akira even end up on playing together on the Japanese team in the ‘North Star Cup’ — and there, they fight for the right to play against the top star of the Korean team. However, even though Akira can be said to take on the role of ‘antagonist’ occasionally, he has other important roles to play in the narrative. And, IMHO, the same can be said of Taichi.

      Like

      • Guest says:

        “If Taichi opposes Chihaya’s dream of playing with Arata on a team again, we should see him actively trying to prevent that, but other than the 2nd year HS tournament where he was trying to get Chihaya to focus on their matches instead of looking for Arata, he hasn’t done anything that can be construed as opposing Chihaya’s dream.”
        He wouldn’t be able to do it in a direct manner; Chihaya would resist any serious attempt of his to do so (as she did when he tried to block her from going back to Arata’s house early on.) If he were to seriously try and oppose Chihaya’s dream, he would do so in a sneaky manner, not openly.
        “Consider also how Chihaya regards Taichi: a childhood friend, a rival in karuta (the 2nd HS tournament, or when she finds out that he skipped the school trip to enter the Meijin qualifiers, thus ‘getting the jump on her’), the boy who’s accompanied her on this path towards her dream (chapter 104). Taichi has seldom—if ever—taken on an antagonist role for Chihaya, and I don’t see him doing it in future either.”
        Just because Chihaya doesn’t currently perceive him as an antagonist most of the time doesn’t mean that he isn’t one; an antagonist is not defined just by the protagonist’s perception of him.Othello didn’t see Iago as an antagonist for a long time, but he was still the antagonist of the play “Othello”.
        “If we were to use terms like “protagonist,” which have arisen from what I think are very specific structures for storytelling in classical theatre, then “deuteragonist” and “tritagonist” might be better in describing Taichi and Arata’s roles in the story.”
        Actually, officially, Arata’s the deuteragonist and Taichi’s the tritragonist (as the Kodansha website makes clear). An argument could be made that Taichi’s the “false protagonist;” that is, a character that seems like the protagonist, but isn’t. Both the tritagonist and the false protagonist can be antagonists (in fact, tritagonists were traditionally antagonists).

        Like

      • karice says:

        He wouldn’t be able to do it in a direct manner; Chihaya would resist any serious attempt of his to do so (as she did when he tried to block her from going back to Arata’s house early on.) If he were to seriously try and oppose Chihaya’s dream, he would do so in a sneaky manner, not openly.

        Just because Chihaya doesn’t currently perceive him as an antagonist most of the time doesn’t mean that he isn’t one; an antagonist is not defined just by the protagonist’s perception of him.Othello didn’t see Iago as an antagonist for a long time, but he was still the antagonist of the play “Othello”.

        Ok, so please provide evidence of him doing things or not doing things ‘sneakily’. I can think of three important ones from the HS time period, for which I will include my counterarguments.

        1. Taichi didn’t tell Chihaya Arata’s phone number for several months.
        Counter: why is it Taichi’s responsibility to tell her? I know that a lot of Taichi detractors dislike his behaviour here, but I still think that Arata should have told her himself (yes, this is an opinion. But so is the ‘argument’ that “Taichi should have told Chihaya”). Even Taichi told him to just go and tell her. How is that keeping them apart?

        2. Taichi didn’t tell Chihaya that Arata was thinking of coming to Tokyo for uni.
        Counter: again, why is it Taichi’s responsibility to tell her? Just as Arata should tell her his phone number, he should tell her this himself.

        3. In the chapter where Chihaya is completely spaced out after Arata confessed to her, Taichi sneakily found out that Arata was the reason behind her inability to concentrate by purposely raising Arata’s name in conversation. (And yes, I found this particular action of his ‘sneaky’ – I just don’t think that ‘sneaky’ can be used to describe EVERYTHING he does…)
        Counter: er…he hasn’t actually prevented them from contacting each other, and we see no evidence that he’s plotting anything that will contribute to keeping them apart.

        Have I missed anything? Please, if you have others, tell me. All I’m asking is for people to provide evidence, rather than speculation. I know it’s annoying that I keep trying to pick apart evidence that I don’t agree with, but to me, that’s the whole point of discussion. If you can’t defend your argument and the evidence you use, then I don’t see why I should believe it. I’m happy to agree to disagree with other people’s opinions, but I will always ask for an argument and the evidence to back it up. And I will try to be reasonable and accept when I am wrong about evidence (which I have not always been good at doing), but if you only provide an opinion, that’s all I’m going to be able to take it as.

        Actually, officially, Arata’s the deuteragonist and Taichi’s the tritragonist (as the Kodansha website makes clear). An argument could be made that Taichi’s the “false protagonist;” that is, a character that seems like the protagonist, but isn’t. Both the tritagonist and the false protagonist can be antagonists (in fact, tritagonists were traditionally antagonists).

        It’s ‘official’ if you believe that Kodansha/Suetsugu thinks of Chihayafuru as fitting into the structures of Greek storytelling, and that’s why they arrange the three of them on the website in that manner. I don’t know enough about Greek storytelling to know how those structures all work, but to me, Chihaya is the main character, and Arata and Taichi have around the same level of importance, though I have yet to decide whether I should also consider them to be main characters alongside Chihaya (after all, the same amount of space is devoted to all three of them in e.g. the fanbook). I’m happy to disagree about this.

        Like

  3. Guest says:

    Ok, so please provide evidence of him doing things or not doing things ‘sneakily’
    Sure, how about his treatment of his ex-girlfriend Kasumi? It could be argued that he was emotionally cheating on her from the moment he reunited with Chihaya (although he didn’t admit it until after the breakup), but he didn’t bother to break up with her; she had to break up with him.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Sure, how about his treatment of his ex-girlfriend Kasumi? It could be argued that he was emotionally cheating on her from the moment he reunited with Chihaya (although he didn’t admit it until after the breakup), but he didn’t bother to break up with her; she had to break up with him.

      First, let me put aside the fact that I asked you to provide evidence for your claim that “Taichi’s true role is to be the antagonist,” i.e. that his role is to get in the way of Chihaya and Arata’s dreams and goals. Pardon me, but I just don’t see how his behaviour towards his ex has much to do with that… I also don’t see how his behaviour was ‘sneaky’ – arguably unchivalrous and disrespectful towards his girlfriend, yes, but devious?

      But let’s consider your example as evidence about Taichi’s character. Although this is further back in time than I tend to consider because I perceive Taichi as having changed since then, that’s a good one that looks at behaviour that no one can praise — I was also taken aback the first time I read this scene. (Was her name Kasumi? I don’t remember her being named…)

      On the other hand, now that I’ve actually spent time thinking about it, my problem with Taichi’s behaviour in that scene ends up at a different place from yours. There are two reasons for this. First, I can think of one important factor for why Taichi would have preferred that she break up with him, rather than the other way around. In Japan — and possibly in other East Asian cultures — being dumped or turned down (in the case of an omiai, or marriage meeting), is seen as a loss of face, especially for the girl. As such, it’s better for Taichi’s girlfriend to break up with him rather than the other way around, so that she can tell the people around her that she was the one who dumped him because he was boring/didn’t have time for her etc. I’m not saying that negates the problem, just that Taichi would be censured no matter which path he took (initiating the break-up or leaving it so that his girlfriend would initiate it). On balance, I personally think he should have initiated it, rather than let it drag out for 3-4 months; however, I can also understand why he may have decided against it. Westerners might think that the concern about ‘face’ is a stupid reason especially when compared to Taichi continuing a relationship insincerely, but ‘face’ is an important consideration in Japan, whether we like it or not.

      The second reason is that we don’t actually know what went on between the two of them between spring and the end of summer. Let me speculate a little here. If they got to know each other and started dating because they went to the same middle school, then chances are that they live pretty far apart. And given that the school was an upper-level one, his girlfriend may also be a high achiever, so she could also be busy and they might never really have the chance to meet because of all of these factors. Please note: I’m not trying to come up with excuses for Taichi here. Rather, my point is that we don’t actually know how they interacted in the intervening 3-4 months, which makes it difficult for me to condemn him, even though I won’t call him a saint either. As I mentioned above, I can personally understand why Taichi didn’t initiate the break up. What I didn’t like was how he didn’t actually leave the clubroom so that the conversation was more private, nor did I like how abrupt it was; however, I don’t think I have enough evidence to call him ‘a complete jerk’ for the latter, and to a certain extent, I think this scene was problematic because of what the author wanted to do with it (see below). If we knew more of what their relationship had been like, then we might have that evidence, but there is also a possibility that we’d get evidence for the breakup being inevitable and somewhat mutual. So the only problem I really have with Taichi re: his girlfriend is that he agreed to go out with her even though he liked someone else, i.e. he was trying to use her to get over Chihaya. However, people in real life do that all the time, and it can be argued that some of them need to do this (of course, it failed for Taichi, but he did need to learn that). If Taichi never actually mentioned his crush on Chihaya to his girlfriend, then I’d have a bigger problem, but I don’t know enough about their relationship to make that call.

      In sum, I’m on the fence with regards to what happened between Taichi and his girlfriend, due both to the concept of ‘face’ in Japan and because so little information is revealed to us. In fact, the ‘break-up’ phone call to me seems more like Suetsugu-sensei wanting to make sure that readers knew they’d broken up, what with the way it’s written to seem like a joke, so ultimately, I never really saw the point of dwelling on it.

      Of course, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me; I do in fact understand the pov of those who dislike what Taichi did with regards to his former girlfriend. However, I did want to point out some of the context of the scene/relationship and explain how it influences my own view of what happened. Finally, thank you for bringing it up, because it made me actually think about and reflect on a part of Japanese culture that I hadn’t really pondered before.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Chihayafuru Manga: Poems 135 & 136 | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

  5. Anna Maria says:

    Wow, that was really something. I knew that Japanese was complicated and had so many “fine lines”. But this is mind blowing, I think I learned quite a lot about Chihayafuru and Japan today, thanks for the detailed explanation! 🙂

    Like

    • karice says:

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you found it helpful!

      Must admit though, since then, I’ve learnt more about “teki”, and I’m going to have to do a little follow-up post at some stage!

      Like

  6. Pingback: Chihayafuru: an update on the “teki” debate | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

  7. Pingback: For the record: かるたしょっさ | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: