Fun with pretend government offices from 19th century Japan

Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi title imageSean and I recently went back to Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi, a show I started watching via fansubs in 2006 but never got around to finishing. Now the whole series is on Crunchyroll.

The fansubs always translated the name of the agency the Arashi worked for as the “Occidental Investigation Office,” so I was surprised to see it called the “Office of Barbarian Knowledge Enforcement” in the official translation.

Transliterating what they’re saying, you get “Bansha Aratamesho”. I put this phrase into hiragana, ばんしゃあらためしょ, and googled it. The official page for the series came up, as did the official kanji for the name: 蛮社改所. Obviously, since this group was made up for the show, this term doesn’t appear in dictionaries. Here’s how it breaks down:

蛮: ban, “barbarian”

社: sha, “association, society, etc. (or the counter for those things)”

改: this kanji can be part of a verb meaning “to inspect”, which I’m guessing is the intended meaning here.

所: this is just weird; alone and pronounced sho, it only appears in dictionaries as the counter for places.

Searching the phrase in compounds yields better results. According to this page, 蛮社 is short for 蛮学社中, bangakushachuu, which refers to the Western learning done by samurai attendants. Meanwhile, I found the compound 改所 along with a different starting phrase. 貫目改所, or かんめいあらためしょ, refers to an office under the Edo shogunate that tracked the weight of shipments moving along highways, according to this page. Since 貫目 means “weight”, you can infer the meaning of 改所 to be something like “inspection office”.

Based on this, I’d say 蛮社改所 could be translated as “Western Learning Oversight Office.” I can see where the translators got “Office of Barbarian Knowledge Enforcement,” though, given that there’s no distinction between “barbarian” and “Western learning” in this time period.

(Fun side note: Here is an article about 蛮社の獄, or “Jailed for Western Learning,” that mentions Takano Chouei, who happens to be one of the many historical figures featured in Ayakashi Ayashi.)

The main cast of Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi

Abi, Yukiwa, Atl, Yukiatsu, Saizou, Ogasawara, and Edogen

Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi

Let me say first off that I have no idea how to translate the title, which is 天保異聞 妖奇士 in Japanese. Tenpo is a period in Japanese history; the show starts off in Tenpo 14, or 1843. As a prophetess(?) in the show remarks, that’s 10 years before Commodore Perry and his black ships.

Ibun means “strange tale”.

The kanji 妖 has the connotation of ghosts or monsters, but I can’t find an entry for it on the WWWJDIC with the pronunciation ayakashi.

Ayashi is what the group of main cast is called. They fight supernatural beings from another dimension. The first part of that kanji, 奇, has the connotation of ghostliness or otherworldliness. The second part, 士, can mean “officer” (or soldier, I would assume).

So maybe “The Strange Tale of Tenpo Period Supernatural Fighters”? I don’t know.

Regardless, I’m really enjoying the show so far. The historical references are great.

I also love that there’s a guy who wears a tall hat, like Sai. (That he dresses like a woman the rest of the time is none of my business ;P) There’s also a guy who looks like Gwendal.

The plot is really interesting. Somehow, fighting monsters from another dimension is the duty of people who have studied foreign countries. Because that’s going to give you a leg up against monsters. Up until recently they’ve been able to kill the monsters without letting the general populace know of their existence, but things seem to be rapidly changing.

They recently introduced a character who is a direct descendant of the destroyed Aztec culture, and her supernatural companion, Quetzalcotl. :D

I’ll leave you with a picture of my favorite not-quite-character, Kumoshichi.

Quick anime reactions

Kanon 3

Boring. Not as boring as the original anime incarnation. But I’m only watching because Kyon’s in it.

Himawari! 4

Still waiting for this dude to realize his ninja heritage and go apeshit.

Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge 3

Um.

Well. At least their lips aren’t quite as pink now. Either that or I’m getting used to it…

Seriously, this is fun. It goes all kinds of weird places.

Asatte no Houkou 3

They’re not related by blood! I sense a love triangle coming on. ;P

Prince of Tennis: National Championship 4

Ludicrous speed, go! (I mean, I like my Prince of Tennis ludicrous, but at least normally somebody explains the ludicrousness so that it halfwaysorta makes sense.)

Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi 2

How many people knew from the beginning that nobody else could see that guy? *waves hand*

NANA 23 and 24

Just…wow. This is one of the best series, with some of the best character development, I have ever seen. And that’s in general, not just in anime.