While it naturally isn’t a complete summation of Japanese culture, anime very naturally pronounces its Japanese origins with elements borrowed from day-to-day life. One of these is the tongue-twister, which exist in various languages and they can have you questioning your ability to speak! They are a whole lot of fun, particularly in languages that are secondary, and the Japanese variety are quite tough, so here are five that have appeared in anime!
5. Tokyo Tokkyo Kyokakyoku - Clannad
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: October 2007 – March 2008
Okazaki Tomoya is a cynical delinquent who believes he’ll never become anything. He often skips school with his friend, Sunohara Youhei. One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a girl from his school muttering to herself. She then exclaims “sweet bread!”, catching Tomoya’s attention. Her name is Furukawa Nagisa and she quickly thinks of Tomoya as a friend, but he isn’t too moved by their encounter. However, he starts seeing more of her around school and so he eventually befriends her. He learns that Nagisa has been held back a year due to a severe illness and she wishes to revive the school drama club. Tomoya decides to help her, with the assistance of four others. As Tomoya interacts with each girl, he learns more about them and their problems, trying to help each one overcome her obstacles.
Tomoya meets the young Fuka, an energetic and eccentric ghost girl who has an overwhelming obsession with crafting starfish out of wood and handing them out to people as gifts. She is essentially an adorable little girl and part of that stems from her stubbornness and obstinacy, which clash with Tomoya from time to time. One such time arose when Tomoya challenges Fuka to a tongue-twister, to which she promptly accepts. “Tokyo Tokkyo Kyokakyoku!” yells Tomoya three times in a row without any issue. Fuka’s turn is not so impressive as she yells a comedic “kyokyo kyokyo kyukyokyu!” Maybe Fuka-chan should stick to making starfish.
4. Nya Nya Me Nya Nya Do – Bakemonogatari
- Episodes: 15
- Aired: July 2009 – June 2010
Araragi Koyomi is a third-year high school student who survives a vampire attack he suffered during summer break. He survives with the help of Oshino Meme, a mysterious man who lives in an abandoned building. Despite being saved from vampirism, Araragi still suffers the side-effects of the incident, which include superhuman strength and other enhancements. Araragi still tries to live as a normal student with the help of his friend, Hanekawa Tsubasa. However, that normalcy meets its end when his classmate, Senjougahara Hitagi, falls down the stairs and he catches her. He realises that she is weightless and offers to help her, turning to Oshino for assistance with the occult again.
Bakemonogatari presents Araragi attempting to help people with various supernatural issues, one such issue affecting his good friend Hanekawa Tsubasa. As a result of a certain cat apparition which brings out her dark side – Black Hanekawa–making her appearance and speech patterns like that of a cat, so when Araragi asks her to repeat the tongue-twister “Naname nanaju nanado no narabi de nakunaku inanaku nanahan nanadai nannaku narebete naganagame” ("Can you imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie?). Due to Hanekawa’s speech pattern, she very comically said “nyaa” for every “na” in that sentence. It was cute.
3. Jugemu-Jugemu – Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 4-Koma Theatre
- Episodes: 16
- Aired: August 2009 – November 2010
The 4-Koma Theatre of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood consists of short specials from the DVDs and Blu-ray disc versions of the series. It is a parody of the main show and very different in look and feel, and it is comedic, featuring our favourite characters from the main title. The tongue-twister presented here is one that is popular in the Japanese storytelling form known as rakugo.
This particular one comes from a story where a couple can’t come up with a name for their baby, so they head over to the local temple to ask the priest to do the honours. The priest suggests names which the father likes, but with each name, he comments that he needs something more, or something better. After a while, the father decides to use all the names suggested, naming his son “Jugemu Jugemu Go-Kō-no-Surikire Kaijari-suigyo no Suigyō-matsu Unrai-matsu Fūrai-matsu Kū-Neru Tokoro ni Sumu Tokoro Yaburakōji no Burakōji Paipo Paipo Paipo no Shūringan Shūringan no Gūrindai Gūrindai no Ponpokopii no Ponpokonaa no Chōkyūmei no Chōsuke”. In the 4-Koma Theatre, King Bradley asks for Scar’s name, to which Scar replies, “I am Jugemu Jugemu…”, to which Bradley begins using the name… the whole name. Every single time.
2. Nama Tamago – Outbreak Company
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2013 – December 2013
Kanou Shinichi is a shut-in otaku with a lot of knowledge regarding anime, manga and games. He applies for a job in order to change his life; however, he is quickly whisked away to the Eldant Empire, a fantasy world complete with elves and dragons! His job in this strange land is to spread Japanese otaku culture far and wide, effectively becoming an otaku missionary. With the support of the Japanese government, Princess Petralka of the Eldant Empire and the half-elf maid Myucel, Shinichi brings the way of the otaku to the fantasy world.
One of the things Shinichi brings to the Eldant Empire is the fairly difficult tongue-twister that goes as follows: “Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago,” which roughly translates to ““Raw buckwheat, raw rice, raw egg.” It naturally left characters’ tongues raw and twisted.
1. Inami Inami – Working!!!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
This is the third season of the anime Working!, which follows high schooler Takanashi Souta, who has an obsession with cute things. He finds himself working at a family restaurant part-time because of the first meeting with his senior, the small and cute Taneshima Poplar. She begs him to join the staff at Wagnaria and upon meeting his quirky co-workers, Souta realises he has his work cut out for him.
The androphobic Inami is someone with whom Souta has gradually grown closer to over the course of three seasons and now he even has a crush on her. One day, Souta isn’t quite himself and Inami asks him what’s wrong. Deep in thought, Souta thinks “If Inami were Inami, then Inami's Inami would Inami Inami,” and if that isn’t inspiring, we’re not quite sure what is.
Tongue-twisters are fun aspects to language that show that many languages have the capacity to be carriers of wit and creativity. The ones we’ve mentioned are by no means the only ones out there in anime right now. Which anime tongue-twister is your favourite? Drop a comment below and challenge yourself to the verbal labyrinths!