Reciting Relevant Japanese Classic Literature in Anime

Sometimes background noise is actually meaningful. Imagine that.

(Spoilers for Twin Angel Break and Gakkou Gurashi!)

It happens from time to time. A show that features characters in a school setting sometimes includes a scene where a teacher or a classmate reads some literature out loud.

Sometimes this instance of reciting is just extraneous noise. But sometimes it’s not.

I’m probably one of the few who still watch this show, but Twin Angel Break (in episode 10) makes use of this class reading in order to sneak in some commentary about the human condition and about transience. The excerpt is the opening paragraph from Hōjōki (the title of which is often translated as An Account of My Hut or The Ten Foot Square Hut), which is considered a Japanese literary classic and part of the Japanese school curriculum.


As a classmate reads the excerpt from Hōjōki out loud, Meguru struggles with guilt over getting involved with Veil and Nui. Nui and Veil were dolls who wanted to be human yet were afraid of being rejected by humans. Nevertheless, Meguru was still willing to accept them even though they were also enemies for both Meguru and Sumire.

However, Mary, another villain, had actually planted bombs inside their bodies and destroyed them both while claiming that it was Meguru’s fault for getting involved. And so Veil and Nui thus had a short-lived truce with Meguru and Sumire.

In Gakkou Gurashi! (episode 7), Miki overhears Yuki reading the same passage and mistakes her for Kei, her missing best friend who loved Hōjōki. The excerpt was probably referring to how the current situation couldn’t last forever. The school is only momentarily safe and Yuki’s delusions might not last for the long-term. It might have also been describing the friendship between Kei and Miki. It’s definitely open to interpretation.

The excerpt is also translated slightly differently, but the core message remains the same.


That’s all, folks.

4 thoughts on “Reciting Relevant Japanese Classic Literature in Anime

  1. Once again, you really pay attention to details! I don’t think I’d have even recognized the poem as being the same.

    That said, it’s a lovely way of conveying the messages the show wants to convey. I’m of the opinion that inserting quotes or poems can be seen as tacky if clumsily handled but that their effect is nothing short of striking when done well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It’s probably why I can’t go as fast as I would like when watching anime. I get too into details.
      Yeaaah the effect of different translations is powerful! I wonder how many other shows use this same passage.

      Mmm I also think they really handled it well. Some shows totally flop this but that wasn’t the case here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My OCD tendencies looks at those translations and is bothered by its inaccuracies. XD

    Chambers has a good (official) translation that’s up on Wikipedia, as he keeps the nuances that aren’t expressed as well in the translations above. I wonder why these translators don’t just google it if not to maintain some level of literary accuracy?

    Meh. That just brings me back to my rant in the past about the types of translators out there. In the end, I’m not too surprised.

    Regardless, you’re right — the core message is pretty much the same, so who cares, really. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmmm. I saw the translation and that was very well done. These…seem a bit lacking.

      I don’t think it’s something that should be considered unimportant! The fact that the translations aren’t up to snuff makes me feel disappointed, too.


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