Tatsumi Miyako and the End of Narutaru


What’s up with this guy?

As mysterious as he is vis-a-vis others, we as readers get a pretty clear picture of his aims.  Here’s how I see it.  He wants Japan to be number 1, and he is willing to use any means at his disposal to achieve this aim.  He tries to manipulate Sudo, but ultimately Sudo is unmanageable and the fundamental problem for Miyako is that Sudo is not a nationalist at all.  Rather, Sudo is a nihilist in the service of Mamiko Kuri.

There are a couple of elements in Miyako’s story that invite us to think and consider.

First, there is the moment in Volume XII where he admits defeat to Aki Sato.  He uses two proverbs in succession that are very telling, and even more telling is the fact that the manga editors (or maybe Kitoh himself, but I’m guessing it wasn’t him) actually add footnotes at the bottom of the page to “explain” the proverbs.

Miyako smiles wistfully and says “With things like this, I guess our work here is done.”  And then he says:

“It was all like the dream of the kinka flower in the morning, huh…”

This proverb goes back at least to the 14th century.  The kinka is thought to be the “morning glory”, which as its name in English implies looks absolutely glorious in the morning but then withers in the evening.  Miyako is realizing that his whole plan was in vain and his moment in the sun was but a dream.  It’s very curious to see this proverb explained at the bottom of the page.  I don’t know how familiar Japanese people are with this proverb today, but even as a foreigner somewhat acquainted with Japanese culture and feelings I can totally guess that the meaning is related to the pathos of the impermanence things (the so called “mono no aware”).

Actually, I do have a theory on why this proverb is explained, and I’m quite confident in it.  The reason is that Miyako is not done with his proverbs.  He’s got one more up his sleeve, a four-kanji phrase so explosive that I’m guessing the manga editors felt compelled to “explain it” (=explain it away) in a footnote, and in order to disguise their efforts they decided to put footnotes for both proverbs, as if they were telling us “Oh, you know us, we explain every proverb to you.”  But of course they haven’t explained any other proverbs elsewhere so their efforts are pretty bare!

Anyway, so Miyako talks about the kinka flower.  And then he gives his four-kanji phrase “八紘一宇”, followed in the next panel by the line “I thought we were going to get it done”.

So what is this thing Miyako wanted to get it done??  Well, the phrase in English is hakko ichiu.  Check out that Wikipedia link I gave you (also, my recent post on Gunbuster episode 5, where I discuss the same slogan).  In short, Miyako wanted to create a global Japanese empire.  And he knows he has failed.  The footnote in the manga glosses this as “To make the whole world into one family”.  This explanation is so lacking that it’s ridiculous!  You would need to at least add three words to it: “…under Imperial rule”.

I can’t see Kitoh having Miyako say such a thing only to explain it away, so that’s why I figure the editors did it.

The second element we need to bring up is the schemer’s name: Tatsumi Miyako.  Tatsumi is written with a single character 巽 , one of the 8 Chinese trigrams, which has a number of associations.  The character is usually read “son” in Sino-Japanese (the Japanese way of pronouncing Chinese loanwords).  So how do we get the “tatsumi” then?   This is where things get interesting.  The Chinese traditionally use this Chinese trigram to denote a direction.  Here’s a depiction of the traditional Chinese directions [from here]:

There are 8 trigrams and thus 8 directions in this system (north, south, east, plus one direction between each of these four).  “Son”, the “southeast” direction, is circled in red.  Notice the two characters that surround it, circled in blue.  These two characters represent two of the 12 zodiac signs.  Besides the 8 trigram-based directions, the Chinese also used a 12-direction system based on the 12 zodiac signs (north, south, east, west plus 2 directions between each of these four).  In this system, the dragon and the snake signs are in between “south” and “east”.  So a shorthand for referring to the southeast region is to call it the “dragon-snake region” (辰巳).  and these characters are called in Japanese “tatsu” (=dragon) and “mi” (=snake).  Therefore “tatsumi” becomes a shorthand for “southeast” and by association the character 巽 (pronounced “son” in Sino-Japanese) acquires the additional pronunciation “tatsumi”.

This means that Tatsumi Miyako’s given name is literally “dragon + snake”.  What a coincidence!

But we’ve yet to cover the surname.  Break down the two characters in Miyako (宮子) and you get 宮 (=womb) and 子 (=child).  “Miyako” is also a homonym with another Japanese word (都) which generally means “capital” and refers to the old Imperial capital at Kyoto in particular.

Womb, child, dragon, snake, Kyoto…  From the name alone I’d be expecting Miyako to be the most important character with Shiina in the show!  But he isn’t.  Maybe the name just highlights even more the spectacular failure that Tatsumi Miyako is.


I liked it.  The yin-yang deal was neat.  The only thing that makes me scratch my head is trying to figure out Sudo and Tsurumaru’s relationship.  To what extent were they consciously enemies and/or collaborators??  I’d like to know.

~ by Haloed Bane on December 10, 2011.

2 Responses to “Tatsumi Miyako and the End of Narutaru”

  1. It’s been too long for me to explain away Sudo and Tsurumaru’s relationship… I can only remember that I was very much okay with Narutaru’s ending and the work in general, though I did not like it as much as I do Bokurano.

    I do remember enjoying how Tatsumi Miyako failed, but learning the symbolic context/subtext here in this post makes it a lot more delicious. I’m not feeling a rush to revisit this work soon, but I might re-read Bokurano (robots or no).

    • Yup, it’s a satisfying ending, but nowhere near as explosive as other volumes in the series.

      I’ll try to read Bokurano next year.

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