Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

Painting Words and Worlds
Mia Lewis, Columbia University
This study explores wordplay in the works of CLAMP, a popular Japanese mangaka (comic artist) group. Specifically, it examines CLAMP’s use of ateji, the pairing of kanji (Chinese characters) and furigana (a reading gloss) with different meanings. This allows two different words to become one, creating meanings that transcend words’ literal definitions. Original research on ateji in six different manga zasshi (comic magazines) and three of CLAMP’s works—Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, and Clover—identifies five distinct ateji techniques. This study focuses on the way these techniques are employed by CLAMP to express complex ideas, develop plot, and portray characters. As a technique embedded within the Japanese language, the implications of ateji use in manga extend beyond the medium of comics, pointing to shifting trends in the language as a whole. anga—Japanese-language comics1—span a broad range of genres, including romance, historical drama, adventure, and fantasy, among numerous others. In many ways manga has its founding influences in Western, and particularly American, comics. However, the visual and verbal styles as well as the plots of contemporary manga are clearly distinct from their Western counterparts. Manga are almost exclusively monochrome, their visual vibrancy paling in comparison to colorful Western comics. Within the language of manga, however, there exists a depth and dynamism that creates a unique semantic space within the Japanese language.2 In particular, we see the use of ateji, the joining of two words into one through a reading gloss.3 Specifically, it is the pairing of kanji (Chinese characters) with furigana (a reading gloss located either above or beside its corresponding kanji) that has a different meaning.4 In ateji, the kanji represents the meaning or concept behing the word, while the furigana denotes how it is meant to be read. These ateji are employed in creative and strategic ways by manga writers to seamlessly add layers of meaning to the dialogue, furthering story and character development and creating deep and complex worlds within the stories. This paper examines the strategic and creative ways in which contemporary manga employs ateji to concretely affect the reader’s understanding of the text. I
1 While the term manga refers to printed comics, the term anime is used to describe animations that are largely based on the manga style. 2 While ateji can be found in Japanese literature, in the majority of works it is not present to the same extent as in manga or with the same frequency. The only other medium in which we find ateji with a comparable frequency of usage to manga is in some Japanese song lyrics. Along with this, the only other language found to have a reading gloss is in Taiwanese texts, where it is used predominantly in educational works or books for young children. 3 A reading gloss, in this context, refers to a word inserted above or beside another that gives its pronunciation or reading. 4 While the vast majority of ateji pair kanji (Chinese characters) with the furigana, at times we see the main word to which the furigana is attached written in hiragana, katakana, rōmaji or as entire phrase rather than in kanji. Note Illustration 2 and the explanation for the ateji 恐怖の間 under the subheading “Catergories of Ateji”.


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analyze its usage in three works by CLAMP, a group of female artists with a single writer, Nanase Ohkawa: Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, and CLOVER. CLAMP uses ateji and other visual and literary techniques to develop characters, create worlds, and position the reader in relation to these characters and their worlds. Cardcaptor Sakura, for example, uses ateji to textually depict the dually Chinese and English origins of the magic the story revolves around. Clover, meanwhile, uses ateji to express the changing meanings and shifting implications of words within different contexts, whether that be within the science fiction setting of the story or a specific conversation. Before progressing further into the paper, it is useful to provide a concrete example of the ateji this paper focuses on and the ways Illustration 1: (CLAMP 2003, Tsubasa I, 58) these ateji function within manga. In Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, CLAMP constructs the ateji through pairing the kanji 記憶 (memory) with the furigana こころ (soul/heart) (Illustration 1).This combination allows for the integration of the concepts of ‘memory’ and ‘soul’ within the story’s plot. Establishing this connection between the two words allows the author to in effect change the significance of these words within the text and to create a unique understanding of these two ideas that allows for the stabilization of the fantasy world. This ability to change the significance of words and concepts is one of ateji’s most integral and unique roles within manga and will be discussed in length later on. Through this example we see how ateji works in the creation of new meanings and aids in the storytelling process within CLAMP’s manga.

This study is a continuation of a study I completed in the spring of 2009 that focused on manga spanning six different genres5 and included a survey of six different manga zasshi (magazines),6 123 different works, and 3,074 pages. All of the manga zasshi examined in this previous study were released between November of 2008 and April of 2009. The study focused on the use of wordplay in the form of ateji but also examined the use of katakana and kanji in these works. While the Spring
5 The study covered six genres: shōnen manga (Shonen Magazine), shōjo manga (Hana to Yume bi-weekly), shōnen manga aimed at elementary school children (Coro Coro), shōjo manga aimed at elementary school children (Ciao), shōnen manga aimed at otaku, or adamant fans of manga, (Ace A), and shōjo manga aimed at otaku (Asuka). 6 Manga zasshi are compilations of works by a number of different authors within a single genre. These are published on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis and include both one-shots and individual chapters of serial series. Most manga is published in Japan as manga zasshi.


Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

2009 study was a general survey of the use of these techniques across a broad range of contemporary manga; the present study focuses in depth on a small number of works, looking at how techniques are employed within specific contexts in the story and examining how ateji usage factors into character voice and story development in CLAMP’s works. Although there is scholarship on the use of ateji in the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods, no equivalent studies could be found on the use of ateji in contemporary Japan. Indeed, despite contacting the research center at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, I could find no reference to the use of ateji in the past 150 years. While the studies on older examples of ateji provide vital insights into some of its uses, the usage of ateji in Japanese literature from the Edo or Meiji Periods is very different from how it is employed in contemporary manga. For this reason, this paper is based almost entirely upon primary research conducted in the spring and fall of 2009.

The contemporary written Japanese language is distinct in many ways from what it was a mere seventy years ago. On November 16th, 1946, directly following the Second World War and in large part in response to demands from the US-led occupation, the Japanese cabinet and Minister of Education jointly issued a list of 1,850 Chinese characters for use in written Japanese (tōyō kanji), down from the 7,500 to 8,000 in use by major newspapers in 1927.7 This change greatly impacted what had become a delicate and complicated blend of Japanese’s three writing scripts.8 Prior to the 1946 changes, the plethora of kanji in use meant that few people were fluent enough to read a text without aid. This brought about the creation of a reading gloss, commonly referred to as furigana or rubi. Furigana has been used in Japanese texts since at least the beginning of the Nara period (710-794), appearing in the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) written in 712.910 It not only enabled writers to use a large variety of kanji regardless of the reader’s familiarity with them, but also allowed authors to play with the meaning of common and well-known kanji with words different from those prescribed in the furigana: ateji.11
7 Roy Andrew Miller, The Japanese Language (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 133-135. 8 There are three scripts comprising the contemporary Japanese writing system: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Kanji refers to Chinese characters that have been incorporated for use in the Japanese writing system. Hiragana and katakana are both phonetic scripts used in place of kanji or when there is no corresponding kanji. Hiragana is normally used for words of Japanese origin or in combination with kanji acting as verb stems, while katakana is largely used for sound effects and loan words from foreign languages. Contemporary Japanese also employs the Roman alphabet, called rōmaji, but it is not considered one of the three primary scripts due to its rare usage in Japanese texts and that it is overwhelmingly reserved for non-Japanese words. 9 In its earliest form, furigana provided readings for Chinese characters using other Chinese characters that had preestablished readings. Over time, however, furigana came to be written almost exclusively in either hiragana or katakana. 10 Chieko Ariga, “The Playful Gloss: Rubi in Japanese Literature,” Monumenta Nipponica: Studies on Japanese Culture Culture Past and Present 44, 3 (1989): 309-335. 11 This use of the term ateji is different from the more common usage referring to kanji in the writing of foreign words employed on the basis of their phonetic reading, such as in the case of 珈琲 (kōhī [coffee]) being used instead of the

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Ateji use was prevalent during Japan’s Edo and Meiji periods when literature, particularly satire, flourished. In these periods, ateji was most often used in a comical way, the meaning of a sentence being simultaneously benign and brimming with political or social commentary. Chieko Ariga writes that in works from the Edo and Meiji periods, “the dictionary standard equation of kanji vis-à-vis [furigana] is often broken and displaced to achieve certain literary effects. The tension created by the gap between the kanji and [furigana] contexts creates a more complex semantic space, rendering the reading process more intriguing.”12 Adam Kern also writes on ateji’s use in the Edo period, specifically in the Kibyōshi, an Edo era picture books for adults. He describes the use of ateji as a “double structure of pitting a formal, Chinese layer of text against an informal, playful Japanese layer,” which “has its analogue in the variational technique of acclimation (hanemono) in which a Chinese story world is transposed or intertwined with a Japanese one.”13 Kern emphasizes the distinction not only between the two different meanings simultaneously employed in ateji but also between the two writing systems (Japanese syllabic writing and Chinese characters) in which the two parts of the ateji are written. The script in which the kanji and its furigana are written allows for complex semantic implications and nuances, which can then be paired with contrasting meanings through ateji. The work of eighteenth-century novelist Hiraga Gennai (1728-1780) also employs ateji as a literary device. On his use of the tension between furigana and kanji, Sumie Jones writes that: These Hiraga-buri sentences create absurdity and achieve satire by pulling apart, as far as possible, word and meaning, written language and spoken language, and form and content. In the process, however, the sentences also pull together words in different categories, separate languages and forms, and realities of incompatible sorts.14 This “pulling apart” and “pulling together” emphasizes the central use of ateji, and of Japanese scripts as a whole. Use of furigana can break words into their basic syllabic functions, while kanji can break words into their basic meanings. Ateji indicates a singular aspect of the kanji and furigana that connects the two, specifying a specific meaning within the two words. At the same time, ateji combines the full meaning and implications of the two words, allowing for a breadth of significance and expression that could not be held within a single word. In contemporary Japanese, ateji, while still present to a limited extent in literakatakana form コーヒー (kōhī [coffee]). It is also considered by some to be an incorrect usage of the term. The term ateji is employed here because this is the most common term for the technique in the vernacular. 12 Ariga, “The Playful Gloss: Rubi in Japanese Literature,” 321. 13 Adam L. Kern, Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyōshi of Edo Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006), 166. 14 Sumie Jones, “Language in Crisis: Ogyū Sorai’s Philosophical Thought and Hiraga Gennai’s Creative Practice,” Principles of Classical Japanese Literature, 246.


Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

ture, has become increasingly visible in manga. Although it is read by a broad range of audiences, manga is often written for children and therefore in many cases still uses furigana for all of its kanji. A comparatively high rate of ateji usage accompanies this high rate of usage of furigana in many manga. The particular nature of comics, in which separate panels force readers to create a single, fluid scene in the space between the panels,15 lends itself to ateji, as the reader must also create a single meaning in the space between the two words. Manga also employs a variety of different forms of wordplay using the different Japanese scripts, such as the use of katakana in cases where kanji or hiragana would traditionally be used, or the use of a rare or uncommon kanji in the place of a simpler, more commonly used kanji. Interestingly, these techniques are used in portraying conversations, thereby adding a level of written complexity to the dialogue which would be impossible to express through the verbal speech that it is supposedly transcribing.

Through both my broader survey research and examination of CLAMP’s works, I have determined five usage patterns of ateji, which I have labeled Translative (T), Denotive (D), Contrastive (C), Abbreviation/Contrastive (A/C), and Translative/ Contrastive (T/C). Translative ateji refer to ateji where the translation for the spoken word written in the furigana is provided in the kanji. The ateji 決闘者where the kanji kettōsha (duelist) is paired with the furigana duerisuto (duelist), and the ateji 恐怖の間 where the main phrase kyōfu no aida (terror area) is paired with the furigana terā rūmu (terror room), are examples of Translative ateji.16 Translative ateji almost always involve words in English. Of the six manga magazines studied in my spring 2009 research, Translative ateji was used most frequently in Shonen Magazine. In this case, the ateji was used to explain Western sports terminology, allowing the author to employ a broad range of terms irrespective of the reader’s familiarity with them and eliminating the need for cumbersome footnotes that would be detrimental to the visual flow of the manga. Translative ateji also lend an aura of foreignness to a work by manipulating the different connotations of the English and Japanese words. In an informal interview with the young manga artist Kojima Eiyu on April 4, 2009 on his use of ateji and katakana, he described English words as having an aura of “coolness” to them. In addition, English words often have different connotations than their Japanese equivalents for Japanese audiences, thereby allowing Translative ateji to bring out the tension and contrast between the two words. Kojima gave as an example the title of his work, 英雄, which combines the kanji 英雄 (eiyū, hero) with the furigana ヒ ーロー (hīro, hero). While eiyū has the serious connotation of a knight or samurai, hīro connotes an American cartoon hero who has high hopes of saving others and achieving greatness but is, in reality, a joke. This is a metaphor for the main character
15 16 Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 89. Matsumoto Shigenobu, “Dueru Masutazu Sutā Kurasu,” Getsukan Coro Coro 4 (2009): 119.

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himself, who, though striving to become an eiyū, manages to be stuck at the comical level of the hīro. Kojima’s ability to express this complexity of meaning in the single word that comprises his title demonstrates the potential of Translative ateji. Denotive ateji refers to ateji in which a proper noun is given in the kanji while the pronoun actually spoken by the characters is given in the furigana. This allows the characters to have conversations referring to “that,” “he,” etc. without the author worrying whether or not the reader follows all the references being made. For example, in xxxHOLiC, Yūko says: “これで、ノートパソコンは出 [There, now you can't use the laptop (that) anymore]”17 (Illustration 2). It can also serve as clarification for those who begin reading midstory, providing names for people or things referenced in conversations. This is particularly important because manga magazines contain multiple works in sequence, Illustration 2: (CLAMP 2003, with different works beginning, continuing, and ending xxxHOLiC, 157) in each issue. Denotive ateji can also explain a character’s deeper thoughts about and relationships with characters, employing different kanji with the same furigana over the course of the story to define the different roles that a specific character plays or to further elaborate on the relationship between two characters. Contrastive ateji is in many ways the most intriguing of the five ateji categories. It combines two different Japanese words that are not directly referential in the way of the pronouns and nouns of Denotive ateji. Contrastive ateji enables the writer to signify a meaning between two the words by playing off the differences and similarities between them and either broadening or narrowing the meanings of the words in question. This can allow an author to highlight a specific aspect of the words in question, while also expanding the meaning of the words to encompass deeper and more complex ideas. It can also clarify a character’s feelings about other characters or provide clarification for a certain word within the current context. Contrastive ateji most clearly display the true potential of ateji to give writers in Japanese the ability to expand beyond pre-established words and their prescribed definitions. In the Spring 2009 survey, Contrastive ateji was predominantly employed— particularly in Hana to Yume—in the most of emotional scenes. It is in these scenes that words are literally incapable of expressing the depth of the characters’ emotions and feelings, and their words are able to break free of their conventional bounds, reaching new levels through the combination of two different words, such as in
17 CLAMP, xxxHOLiC, Vol. I, (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2003), 157. The underlined text refers to the main word, in most cases the kanji but in this case the katakana. The word in parenthesis refers to the furigana. This is only use for ateji, as the meaning of the text is not effect in instances of standard furigana usage.


Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

Illustration 1. Abbreviation/Contrastive and Translative/Contrastive are both subcategories of their respective categories. Abbreviation/ Contrastive ateji were found primarily in Coro Coro magazine and were not found in any of the CLAMP works studied here. Pairing Roman letters with entire words (usually English words written in katakana), Abbreviation/Contrastive ateji was primarily used in fighting scenes and comics about sports in Illustration 3: (CLAMP 1997, 11) Coro Coro to represent long and cumbersome terminology with simple letters. For example, in the ateji the word ゴールキ ーパー (goalkeeper) as the furigana is simplified down to GK.18 This ateji allows for quicker reading once the reader is familiar with the abbreviation. Translative/Contrastive ateji refers to kanji paired with an English (or other foreign language) reading that is obviously meant to contrast with the Japanese word written in kanji rather than simply act as a translation. This category only includes ateji in which the foreign nature of the English word is important and in which the English word cannot be assumed to be part of the everyday vocabulary its readership. This form of word play allows for both the sense of foreignness, unfamiliarity, and alienation in the text inherent in Translative ateji, as well as the tension between the two words provided by Contrastive ateji. The only convincing examples of this found in my research were in CLOVER, in which English readings were paired with multiple different Japanese kanji. For example, in the ateji 暗号 the kanji 暗号, normally translated as "code," is instead paired with the katakana for the English word “spell”, while the English word “spell” is paired with the kanji 認識表(ID graph) in the ateji 認認 認 (Illustration 3).

The six works in examined in the spring of 2009 employed ateji in the Translative, Denotive, Contrastive, and Abbreviation/Contrastive categories, as displayed in Figure 1. Figure 1 demonstrates large disparities in usage by category among the different magazines. While the rates for Shonen Magazine, Ace A, Asuka, and Hana to Yume show similarities in relative usage of different categories, demonstrating a degree of similarity along target audience gender lines, the broad nature of the categories fails to reflect how usage of particular ateji categories varies with the magazine and the story. Yet, that the ateji, as defined in this paper, found in these works all fell into one of the four categories is by far the most significant aspect of these findings. In contrast to those categories employed in the six magazines in Figure 1, CLAMP’s works employed ateji in the Translative, Translative/Contrastive, Denotive,
18 Yabuno Tenya, “Inazuma Irebun,” Getsukan Coro Coro 4 (2009): 302.

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and Contrastive categories. That all ateji examined over the course of this research fall into some combination of the above five categories shows that their usage is standardized and can therefore be analyzed in terms of wider trends. In the manga examined, the usage rate of specific ateji categories demonstrates broad variations along genre lines, indicating that ateji usage varies according to target audience. At the same time, variation between different authors and stories is greater than between genres, suggesting that writers maintain the freedom to employ these techniques without being

restricted by the genre in which they are writing. With all this in mind, it is important to remember that the division of ateji into categories denotes the primary relationship between the word in the kanji and the word in the furigana. While the category indicates the broader significance of the relationship between the two words, it does not definitively indicate the role of that specific ateji. This specific role can only be understood through analyzing the ateji in its immediate and broader contexts within the story. The role played by different ateji in the context of a story may therefore at times be similar across category lines, even though the concrete relationship between the kanji and furigana in the two ateji remain different. In short, it is important to recognize that the generalizations made about the categories are not definitive, and that the significance of the contrast between the kanji and its furigana must always be examined in the context of the work.

Cardcaptor Sakura gives an invaluable demonstration of how ateji can play an integral role in manga. The magical foundation of the story is manifested through Translative ateji that uniquely enable the almost complete integration of Chinese and Western magic. Cardcaptor Sakura, one of CLAMP’s most popular works, is the story


Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

of a young girl named Sakura who comes upon a book filled with magical cards in her father’s study. Opening the book, she inadvertently breaks the seal holding the cards in, releasing the spirits inhabiting the cards to wreak havoc on the world. With the help of the guardian of the book, Cerberus, her friend Tomoyo, and her rival Syaoran, she uses her new status as “Cardcaptor” to transform defeated spirits back to their card form. Once they have been captured and returned to their card form, they can later be called upon to fight other cards or perform other tasks as commanded by their captor. The cards were created by Clow Reed (and are therefore known as “Clow Cards”), a very powerful magician whose father was English and mother was Chinese. This led to his magic being a melding of English and Chinese magic, a combination apparent in both the physical cards and the magic used to control them. Each card is provided with three means Illustration 4: of identification: its Chinese name, its English name, and its (CLAMP 1996, 7) likeness as shown in the center of the card. On each card the Chinese name is at the top, while the English name is written at the bottom, such as in Illustration 4, with the character 風 (wind) on the top and “The Windy” on the bottom. We can therefore see the cards as literal embodiments of Translative ateji. When writing her name on the card to claim it, Sakura writes in rōmaji, not hiragana or katakana. The foreign nature of the cards therefore requires Sakura’s identity itself to become foreign. In-text ateji also carries much significance, as demonstrated by the following excerpt: Sakura: やっと追いつ [We finally caught up] Cerberus: さくら!![Sakura!!] Sakura: 闇の力を秘めし『鍵』よ![“Key” which holds hidden within it the power of darkness!] Sakura: 真の姿を我の前に示せ [Show thy true form before me]
Illustration 5: (CLAMP 1996, 9)

tract commands you]

Sakura: 契約のもとさくらが命じる [Sakura under the con-

Sakura: 『封印解除』[“Release seal (release)”] Cerberus: さくら!カードを!! [Sakura! The card!!] Sakura: わかってる! [I know!]

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Sakura:『クロウ』の創りしカードよ [Card that “Clow” created] 我が『鍵』に力を貸せ [I lend my power to the “key”] Sakura: カードに宿りし魔力をこの『鍵』に移し我に力を! [To this “key” transfer the power dwelling within the card and to me the power!] Sakura: 『風 』 [“Wind (windy)”]

Sakura: 風よ!戒めの鎖となれ! [Wind! Become chains which bind!] Sakura: なんじのあるべき姿に戻 ![Return to thy proper form!] Sakura: 『クロウカード』[“Clow Card”]19 (Illustration 5) There are a number of important things to note here. Firstly, the kanji used in reference to the Clow Cards and their associated magic are meant to be in Chinese rather than Japanese. We can see this in the exclusive use of kanji, without the phonetic alphabets that demarcate written Japanese from Chinese. We can also see it in the choice of obscure kanji not introduced to elementary children, such as the use of 翔, which is not even a jōyō kanji,20 for the card “The Fly.”21 The esoteric nature of the kanji give the cards a mystical and foreign connotation. The font for the kanji resembles an old, worn-down seal, and the card names are denoted by brackets, further distinguishing the magical Chinese words from normal conversation. These aspects of the visual representation of magic not only make it appear foreign but also imply its ancient and complex nature; the lines between what is Chinese and Western/ ancient are blurred, and the font further indicates the otherness of the character not only in terms of physical, cultural, and linguistic difference but also in terms of time. Along with this, it is important to consider the use of ateji within the context of the medium in which they are being employed: the comic. In comics, particularly in manga, the text is almost entirely comprised of dialogue. As such, when the manga is converted to anime, i.e., when the written dialogue becomes spoken conversation, the textual balance between the two types of magic provided by Translative ateji is lost. In the Cardcaptor Sakura anime, only the English words are spoken in the incantations of spells.22 Meaning is further lost in both the English dub of the anime and the English translation of the manga, in which even the foreignness of the English word becomes lost as the English in the rest of the conversation becomes indistinguishable from the English of the spell. The magic of the Clow Cards is foreign on every level to Cardcaptor Sakura’s
19 CLAMP, Kādo Kyaputā Sakura, Vol. I, (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1996), 9-12. 20 The 1,945 characters specified by the Japanese Ministry of Education for use in schools; a slightly modified version of the aforementioned tōyō kanji. 21 CLAMP, Kādo Kyaputā Sakura, 59. 22 Cardcaptor Sakura. Episode 1. Directed by Kumiko Takahashi. Written by Nanase Ohkawa. Madhouse, 1998.


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target audience of elementary-aged schoolgirls: from the English furigana paired with complicated Chinese characters, to the old-style script, to the main character writing her own name on the cards in rōmaji. Yet, magical powers aside, the main character is a normal Japanese schoolgirl with a normal school and home life. The normality of Sakura’s everyday life allows readers to relate to her, while her otherworldly magical powers and encounters with complex and exotic spirits keep audiences in awe.

Clover drops the reader directly into the story, with no pause for explanation or introduction; it is the ateji that keep the story afloat. The Translative ateji explain technological terms, the Denotive ateji clarify relationships, and the Translative/Contrastive ateji explain and explore the meaning behind the foreign words in use. The first volume of this science fiction manga describes the story of a former soldier, Kazuhiko, who accompanies an unnamed girl, identified in later volumes as Sue, to an amusement park. Their travel by teleportation using a futuristic device is somehow interrupted and they quickly find themselves beset upon by foes. As with many science fiction stories in manga, English words are used when speaking of technology. This reflects the recent tendency to (1) express new loanwords with a Japanese phonetic approximation of their original pronunciation, rather than give them a native replacement written in Illustration 6: (CLAMP 1997, 9) kanji and (2) associate technology in general with the Western foreign. We can see a similar trend in the English language, with many technology-related words in science fiction employing supposedly technical language that is unfamiliar to the vast majority of the population. Yet, unlike in English, the readers of Clover in Japanese are simultaneously provided with an entirely foreign word and an explanation in their native Japanese. Still, while the kanji provides a Japanese definition, many of the kanji meant to explain their English furigana through the form of Translative ateji are used in uncommon and unfamiliar combinations. These definitions of the English terms are also tentative rather than absolute, as demonstrated by their shifting nature in the form of Translative/Contrastive ateji. The first instance of such variable meaning in Clover occurs with the word コード (code): General Kō: 手を [Give me your hand...] General Kō: 印をやろう [...Let’s imprint (code)]

Kazuhiko: ......機密事項か [...so it’s highly classified information

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then] Kazuhiko: いいのか/民間人に [Is it alright / giving it to a civilian] General Kō: 念を押さなくてもお前は口が固い [You will keep quiet even if I don’t remind you of how important it is] Kazuhiko: 緑の葉? [A green leaf?] Kazuhiko: 認識表? [ID graph (code)?] 暗号か?[A code (spell)?] General Kō: この仕事に必要なものだ [It is necessary for this job] 終わったら消える [Once you’ve finished it will vanish] Kazuhiko: なにをさせられるんだ? [What are you going to have me do?] General Kō: 運んでほしいものがある [There is something I want you to transport]23 (Illustration 6) In the above example, two different kanji are given for the word “code” (shirushi (imprint) and ninshikihyō (expression of recognition), as well as the kanji normally associated with the word “code” (angō) paired with the English word “spell”. So what exactly does コード (code) mean here? Primarily it is a physical imprint, a seal, as indicated by the first kanji. But within this physical form lie multiple possibilities. It could be a form of identification (associated with the kanji in the first ateji), or it could mean a spell (associated with the furigana in the first ateji). The ateji 印 (imprint [code]) can therefore be viewed from two perspectives: verbalization represented by the furigana and the physical presence represented by the kanji. Both carry equal semantic significance for the speaker. The uncertainty of the space created by the ateji in this excerpt is emphasized by its being left unresolved. Not only is the verbal form dismissed when Kazuhiko’s question about it remains unanswered, but he is then informed that even the physical form will vanish. With both the physical and verbal forms discounted, we are left only with the potential that lies between the two, the potential to realize some task that relies upon both the physical form and that physical form’s deeper significance embodied in the ateji 印. It is here that we can see the potential of ateji to occupy two different spaces simultaneously, creating an uncertain yet undeniably significant space between the two. In a single instant it is a verb, a command, a form of identification, a tool, an imprint, and a spell, symbolizing the deeper significance
23 CLAMP, CLOVER, Vol. I, trans. Tetsuto Sokura (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1997), 9-11. LAMP,


Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

behind what we are experiencing visually: the appearance of a leaf tattooed through the physical transfer of rays of data. In Clover there is also extensive use of Translative/Contrastive and Contrastive ateji to represent the technological differences between the science fiction world of the story and the world of the reader. In these instances, many of the English and Japanese words in the furigana are familiar: movie, norimono (vehicle), bus, plane, beam, modem. The kanji they are paired with, however, are unfamiliar, even if their meanings are often close if not equivalent to the English meanings. Examples include: 記憶 [memory projection (movie)], 移動装 [movement device (vehicle)], 近距離転送 [short-distance transportation device (bus)], 瞬間転送装着 [instantaneous transportation device (plane)], 兵器召喚 [weapon-summoning device (modem)], and 手動光 [manual light (beam)]. All of these ateji combine common words, particularly words that have become common in both English and Japanese since the computer technology boom in the 1990s, with complicated kanji-based words explaining the furigana’s specific context within the story.24 This allows the

Illustration 7: CLAMP 1997, 26

words the characters speak to sound natural and fluid, as the Chinese-based kanji words in these instances would sound very formal and rigid if spoken. At the same time, the ateji demonstrate that the technology behind these seemingly familiar words in the world of the manga is far more advanced than and far different from our own. These ateji combine the common with the technologically advanced, fluidly presenting this world through the simultaneous use of the linguistic and visual aspects of the manga. They are explained and compared verbally as follows: Kazuhiko: 移動装置だ [It’s a movement device (vehicle)] Kazuhiko: 藍が改造した な [Ran remodeled it, you see] Kazuhiko: どーみても近距離転送装置なくせに[Although to all appearances it’s a short-distance transportation device (bus)...] Kazuhiko: 瞬間転送装着より速いんだよ これが
24 CLAMP, CLOVER, 8, 26, 37, 45.

[...It’s faster than an

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instantaneous transportation device (plane), this one] Sue: こういうのは使ったことない [I’ve never used anything like this] Kazuhiko: どこの田舎少女(いなかしょうじょ)だ [What part the boonies are you from] Gingetsu: 軍が開発した兵器召喚装置だ [This is the weapon-summoning device (modem) the government developed] Kazuhiko: んなもん民間人に [Givin’ somethin’ like that to a civilian...] Gingetsu: 紘将軍の依頼だ [General Kō’s orders] ly] Gingetsu: 楽にすむはずないだろう [You can’t expect things to go smooth-

Kazuhiko: また右手だけですむといいんだがな [Although it’d be nice if I could get by with just my right hand] Kazuhiko: もらっとく [I’ll take it]25 (Illustration 7) The effects of combining the casual with the technologically fantastic are particularly remarkable in the above passage, where the modes of transportation in the comic (represented by the kanji) are both compared to and contrasted with contemporary modes of transportation (represented by the furigana). As in our world, buses are for short trips and planes for high-speed travel over greater distances, but all forms of transportation here, as we are soon shown through images, rely upon teleportation rather than movement in the traditional sense. Kazuhiko’s accusation of Sue being an ignorant countryside girl distances both Sue and the reader from the new world she has entered; we are just as ignorant as she of the technological intricacies behind what initially appear to be familiar machines. Through this accusation, Sue is able to exist in the rift separating the world of the reader from the world of the story. She herself is as clueless about the technology as the reader, but she is also literally enveloped in it before the reader’s eyes, her physical acceptance echoing and reinforcing the suspended disbelief of the reader. Within this exchange, one item stands out in particular: the weapon-summoning device, or “modem,” 兵器召喚.The modem is as foreign to the central character Kazuhiko as it is to the reader. The reader’s attention to this object and the implications of its power and its place in the scene quickly supersedes the importance of the fact that the characters are teleporting. By dismissing the first three terms as normal but identifying the last as surprising, the writer forces the reader to ac25 CLAMP, CLOVER, 26-28.


Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

cept the normality of the new technology and instead focus on the modem as out of place. This also directs the reader to compare the four terms to determine what about the last one makes it so unique. It initially becomes apparent that while the furigana of the other three are transportation-based and common in contemporary language, the furigana “modem” for this ateji is technical and relatively uncommon. It also focuses on the explicit transportation of weapons rather than on transportation in general. In the space of just over a page of text, therefore, the author is able to establish that teleportation is a common and normal means of transportation; that transportation is characterized by the amount of time it takes, the distance to which it can transport, and whether it is meant to transport people or weapons; and that the technology of transportation (specifically that of weapons) is regulated by the government. While some of these conclusions ccould be drawn from context, such a clear and concise construction of the fantasy world vis-à-vis our own would not be possible without the use of ateji. Through this example, we can see just one of the roles of ateji in Clover: it normalizes fantastical technology and realities through the use of Translative/Contrastive and ContrasIllustration 8: (CLAMP tive ateji, even as these ateji clearly distinguish the world of Tsubasa I, 2003, 173) the story from that of the reader. Ateji are the foundation from which the reader understands the world of the story. Without this foundation, the world would not be able to exist in this natural, yet strikingly different, universe that is separate from but connected to our own. By redefining “bus” and “plane,” the author establishes that what we consider to be buses and planes do not—cannot—exist in this reality. As a result, our concept of the world (as represented through words) cannot exist. These ateji demonstrate that words cannot be taken at face value, on the denotative level. Rather, the idea that within a single word lies expansive and unrestrained potential is continually reinforced. This, along with the expansive use of white space and bleeds (where the ink travels to the edge of the page, unbound by panels), gives the comic a sense of expanding beyond the boundaries of its medium in terms of time, visual space, and verbal meaning.

Ateji in Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE are undeniably integral to the story, with the central theme of the story embodied in just two Contrastive ateji: 記憶 (memories [soul]) and 羽根 (feathers [shards]). Tsubasa recounts the story of a princess named Sakura whose memories mysteriously transform into wings, which then fly away to multiple different dimensions. She and her childhood friend, Syaoran, em-

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bark on a journey to retrieve the feathers and thus return her memories. Transported to another world, Syaoran and Sakura encounter Kurogane, a warrior forcibly removed from a world to which he wants to return, and Fai, a wizard who wants to travel to worlds other than his own. Yūko, also known as the Witch of Dimensions, bestows upon them Mokona, a creature capable of transporting the group to different worlds. The story revolves around the group’s travels to different worlds to collect Sakura’s feathers, where they must recover any feathers located in that world in order to move on to the next. The most memorable ateji in Tsubasa are those used in relation to Sakura’s feathers and memories. Although the kanji for feathers and memories are usually paired with their normal readings in the furigana, the majority of Contrastive ateji in Tsubasa relate to these two words, particularly in relation to the kanji for feather. The priest in Syaoran and Sakura’s home world explains that “....その羽根は姫 [.... those feathers are the princess’s memories (soul)]” and “サクラちゃんの記憶の羽根 [In order to take back the feathers (shards) of Sakura’s memories you must walk across various worlds]”26 (Illustration 1, Illustration 8). The use of the word “shards” implies that these memories (feathers) are fragmented parts of a larger whole, and furthermore, that within these scattered memories lies a soul waiting to be unified. Ateji is not only used to illustrate a complex connection between the physical form of feathers and the abstract conception of memories, but is also later used to signify the connotation of the feathers as symbols of great power and influence. The use of ateji to attach more complex connotations to the feathers also parallels the rising significance of the feathers in the story’s plot. The concept of feathers as memory shards comprising the soul lies at the crux of the story, and this central idea is manifested through ateji. The use of these two ateji are crucial to the understanding of the manga. Tsubasa thus demonstrates the ability of ateji to carry a depth of meaning that is uniquely capable of embodying an entire storyline in only a few words.

The Japanese language provides writers with unique possibilities for textual representation. Writers in Japanese have at their disposal four different writing scripts (rōmaji, hiragana, katakana, and kanji); ten, a form of emphasis that uses dots placed alongside words as accent marks; and most intriguingly, ateji, which uses a reading gloss, furigana, alongside kanji to combine two different words. Ateji can be used as a technique to explain unfamiliar vocabulary, lend a feeling of foreignness to words, or broaden their meaning and implication. Different combinations of the scripts of Japanese, as ateji, printed in various fonts and sizes, are paired with illustrations in order to create a fluid text with a depth of meaning and character development that creates an effect unique to the Japanese language. Manga itself occupies a unique linguistic space within the Japanese language.
26 CLAMP, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, Vol. I, (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2003), 58, 173.


Lewis • Painting Words and Worlds

With a readership composed predominantly of children and youth, and unacknowledged as a legitimate form of literature, manga writers have a freedom of expression not found elsewhere in the Japanese language. As a predominantly visual medium, it is only natural to find an emphasis on the way texts are written out and not simply on the dialogue. Although restricted by the relatively small vocabulary of their young readership, writers such as those from CLAMP employ ateji with an astounding depth of creativity, creating a complex semantic space unrivaled by novels. Yet the ateji are presented with a clarity that allows even children to understand the text. It is through this use of ateji that CLAMP is able to imbue their stories, characters, and worlds with the wealth of detail and depth that I believe is the key to their popularity. Wordplay in manga is constantly changing, paralleling the shifting visual, technological, and cultural landscape of the Japanese language. Through manipulating manga’s visually-oriented text, manga authors allow us to view the Japanese language under a new light. Although CLAMP’s readership is mostly comprised of elementary school students, their very youth means that their sense of the language is still forming, and they are more open to its creative use. The ways in which concepts are visually portrayed in CLAMP are therefore likely to be considered valid ways to present complex ideas and relationships, allowing for the formation of a new understanding of the written language. It is therefore precisely in the medium of manga that the written Japanese language is growing and evolving.

Ariga, Chieko. “The Playful Gloss: Rubi in Japanese Literature.” Monumenta Nipponica: Studies on Japanese Culture Past and Present 44, no. 3 (1989): 309 -335. CLAMP. Kādo Kyaputā Sakura [Cardcaptor Sakura]. Vol. I. Reprint, Tokyo: Kodansha, 1996. ———. CLOVER. Vol. I. Translated by Tetsuto Sokura. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1997. ———. Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. Vol. I. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2003. ———. Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. Vol. II. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2003. ———. Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. Vol. III. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2003. ———. xxxHOLiC. Vol. I. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2003. ———. “CLAMP intabyū [xxxHOLiC] [CLAMP interview (xxxHOLiC)].” CLAMP no Kiseki [CLAMP’s Season] 10, no. 5 (2005): 5. Delassus, Pauline. July 17 2009. “Plus qu’un Clamp, un empire!” ParisMatch.com. http://www.parismatch.com/CultureMatch/Livres/Actu/Plus-qu-un-Clamp-un-empire-!-113630/ (accessed December 15 2009). Festival International de la Bande Dessiné. 2009. CLAMP “The Queens of Manga.” http://www.bdangouleme.com/ exhibition-to-rent-316-clampthe-queens-of-manga (accessed December 14 2009). Ibaraki Masahiro. 2008. The reminiscence of my 25 years with Shonen Jump. March 31, 2008. Comipress. Trans. and adapted by T. Ohara. Proofread and adapted by Anthony Andora. http://comipress.com/article/2008/03/31/3452 (accessed November 3, 2009). Jones, Sumie. 1985. Language in Crisis: Ogyu Sorai’s Philosophical Thought and Hiraga Gennai’s Creative Practice. In Principles of Classical Japanese Literature, ed. Earl Miner, 209-256. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kern, Adam L. Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyōshi of Edo Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006. Makino, Seiichi. 2009. What will be lost in translation? A cognitive linguistic view. Fifth Shirato Lecture on Japanese Language, Donald Keene Center, New York. Matsumoto Shigenobu. “Dueru Masutazu Sutā Kurosu [Duel Masters: Star Cross].” Getsukan Coro Coro [Coro Coro

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Monthly], no. 4 (2009): 119-156. McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993. Miller, Roy Andrew. The Japanese Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967. Yabuno Tenya. “Inazuma Irebun [Lightning Strike No. 11].” Getsukan Coro Coro [Coro Coro Monthly], no. 4 (2009): 289-324. Yoshida Daisuke. “CLAMP ga egaku sekai to kizuna [The worlds and bonds CLAMP draws].” Da Vinchi [DaVinci], Mar.6 (2009): 24-27. Videos: Cardcaptor Sakura. Episode 1. Directed by Kumiko Takahashi. Written by Nanase Ohkawa. Madhouse, 1998.

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