Saturday, September 22, 2018

Deeper Meanings

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the official worldwide name for From Software's upcoming release.  Obviously the last three words in the title are a reference to the revival mechanics found in the game.  Personally, I feel like everything past the colon mark sounds more like a James Bond film than a successor to the Soulsborne collection of videos games, but there are a few interesting little details that can be gleaned from the word "Sekiro" provided you know some Japanese.

According to the collector's edition box art, the kanji used to write "Sekiro" are 隻狼.  So...what does it mean?  Well, it's the name of the protagonist, a shinobi, which is obvious enough.  However, if we look more closely there's actually a deeper meaning.

The first kanji character, "seki" is rarely used in modern Japanese.  So much so high schools in Japan will sometimes skip over it despite it being part of the jōyō kanji (a collection of roughly two-thousand characters deemed for everyday use in Japanese newspapers and periodicals).  When used by itself "seki" means "lone" or "single" although it appears that the kanji is almost never used without being combined with at least one other character.  If we look at examples of such combinations then we get words such as "sekiwan," meaning "one-armed,"  "sekigan" or "one-eyed" and "sekishu" which translates to "one-handed" in English.  In all these cases it doesn't mean that a person in deliberately refusing to use part of their body.  Instead the connotation is that part of the body is missing or entirely in the person suffered a severe injury, illness or birth defect.  In Sekiro's case it is the first of the three.

The "ro" part of "Sekiro" is also intriguing.  The kanji simply means "wolf," so our shinobi's name literally translates into "Lone Wolf."  When you think about it wolves usually operate in packs, which means finding one all by itself is kind of an oddity...something is missing...where's your pack?  One wonders if this also factors into what we currently know about the story, in particular, the part about a shinobi who lost their master and an arm in the process.

One other interesting combination is "sekigo" or "of few words."  Perhaps this applies to the protagonist as well.  It's apparent from the trailers that Sekiro speaks, but From Software games have never been known for lengthy dialogues or especially chatty NPCs.  It's also important to note that the Japanese versions of Dark Souls I, II and III, all placed a fair amount of careful thought into their naming conventions and item descriptions.  In fact this was done to such a degree that some of the more subtle details were lost in the English versions (a number of examples can be found in this video as well as many others around the internet on the topic).  Hopefully, whoever is handling the localization has the talent and drive to maintain that level of depth without overdoing it in terms of word count. 

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