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What most English-speakers realise within their first few encounters with the Japanese language is the obvious fact that it is immensely different from English. Accent, intonation, writing and even the creative use of portmanteau words that, we as anime and manga fans know all too well, create an immense distinction from English. That aside, Japanese is somewhat notorious for being hard to follow, due to its heavy reliance on contextual clues and contextual analysis for day to day conversation. Words can carry several different meanings and sometimes, while the general idea might be similar, different variations of a certain word can carry heavy connotations. That brings us to what we call the “Koi-pond”, four words which bear the general idea that is “love”.
The words “Ai” (愛), “Koi” (恋) and their variants have deep connections to the concept of love and the words themselves translate to “love”. However, because they are written differently, it becomes clear that despite bearing the same English translation, they have distinct implications when used in Japanese conversation. The simplest possible definition for both words relate to the type of love represented: “Koi” represents romantic love, while “Ai” represents love of the pure kind, the kind one can have for just about anyone, including, but not restricted to, a romantic interest.
“Suki” (好き), on the other hand bears several meanings depending on context, but in everyday conversation, it is used to describe feelings of fondness, favour or preference for a particular person or object. The kanji “好” bears the implication of “like” or “to prefer” and as such, when used in conjunction with different hiragana or kanji, its pronunciation can change. As such, while “好き” means “to like”, 好み (konomi) refers to “preference”. From those two examples, we come to understand the basic underlying message that is conveyed when someone uses the word “suki”. Like many other Japanese words, “suki” has several variations which, given context, have fairly similar meanings.
The above can be seen as base words which have variations based on context.
“WAH~! Ei-kun, AISHITERU!!!”
While the lines seem very blurred when it comes to the words “aishiteru” and “daisuki”, a commonly accepted explanation is that “aishiteru” is a very strong word associated with true love. If love in the Japanese language exists on a spectrum, then “aishiteru” exists at the very end of the spectrum, at the top of the chain, the final and strongest form of the verbal expression of love.
Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru (My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend Fight Way Too Much)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2013 – March 2013
Kidou Eita is a studious, hard-working student who aims to earn himself a scholarship so that he may achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. After his parents abandon him, Eita sees love and romance as mere hindrance that will prevent him from achieving his goals. Unfortunately, despite having no desire to pursue romance, romance pursues Eita when the very popular, platinum-haired Natsukawa Masuzu confesses to him. Eita sees through the confession and it turns out that Masuzu only confessed because having a boyfriend would prevent people from asking her out every day. Eita attempts to turn her down, but Masuzu’s possession of his journal and her willingness to post it online should he refuse to pretend to date her see him caught between a rock and a hard place.
Despite Eita’s views on love and romance, his childhood friend, Harusaki Chiwa, harbours clear romantic feelings for him, but masks her feelings under the pretext of their friendship. In what seems like her feelings for him both romantically and as a person, Chiwa quite frequently tells Eita that she loves him, ecstatically exclaiming “Ei-kun, AISHITERU!!!” whenever he does something that pleases her, like whenever he cooks a meal that consists of meat.
The Koi Does What?
Next up in the “Koi-pond” is the word “koisuru”, which is a verb; very similar to the phrase “koi wo suru” which means “to love”. Therefore, “koisuru” can be seen as a verb form of the word “koi”, meaning love of the romantic variety. Although context dictates what the sentence means, most cases containing this word are used to convey the fact that the subject loves, is “in love” or falls in love.
- Episodes: 2 (OVA)
- Aired: June 2010 – November 2010
Morinaga Tetsuhiro is in love with his upperclassman, Souichi Tatsumi and even manages to build up the courage to confess to him. Unfortunately, that courage is wasted as it turns out that Souichi is an aggro, narcissistic homophobe who claims all gay men should be wiped off the face of the earth. However, an accident with an aphrodisiac sees Souichi brought together with Tetsuhiro, an experience which changes their lives forever. The question is, will that experience be the bridge that helps them form a bond, or will it be the wall that keeps them ever so separate?
“Daisuki”, a variant of the word “suki”, translates fairly easily to “I love you”, but with Japanese being a language which emphasises context, “daisuki” is not as significant a word as we may think. While in English, the words “I love you” are a big deal, “daisuki” in Japanese can be seen as the second highest on the pecking order, being not as profound and as strong as “aishiteru” and it is mostly used in a more casual sense.
Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Comedy wo Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru (My Mental Choices Are Completely Interfering With My School Romantic Comedy)
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: October 2013 – December 2013
Amakusa Kanade is a seemingly normal high schooler, but unfortunately for him, whatever pleasant high school life fantasies he may have had fell completely to the wayside when he contracted a strange curse: the “Absolute Choice”. The Absolute Choice randomly presents Amakusa with a mental selection of actions (much like in a videogame) that he must act out based on his choice. To make things worse, the curse has no sense of timing and Amakusa has had to suffer immense embarrassment from having to carry out the actions, which unfortunately are always crude and unbecoming. With his reputation in tatters, Amakusa can only hope to live a normal life to the best of his ability. At least, until one choice sees a beautiful girl come crashing down from the sky, and his already not so normal life head further down the road where strange things take place very often.
So after his life takes a crazier turn, Amakusa has the (dis)pleasure of having his zany childhood friend, Hakoniwa Yuragi, return to Japan and transfer to Seikou Academy to join him. Yuragi takes great pleasure in playing the little sister to any and all, somehow managing to encompass all “imouto” stereotypes from moe to yandere, a fact which is somewhat impressive. As part and parcel of the imouto package, Yuragi often tells people, especially Amakusa, that she loves them, taking ownership of the phrase “Onii-chan, daaaaaaaisuki!!” (I love you, big brother!).
Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Comedy wo Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru (My Mental Choices Are Completely Interfering With My School Romantic Comedy) PV
PS. Say I Love You
“Suki desu”, a variation of “suki”, is quite possibly the most commonly heard love-related phrase heard by foreign anime fans. Much like all the others in our “koi-pond”, “suki desu” translates to “I love you” or “I like you”, again, depending on context. In most confessions of love we see in anime, this is the phrase we will hear. However, to “suki” something generally means “to like”, and that’s where a hint of confusion can occur. Because context is so important in Japanese, some situations will be easier to decipher than others.
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO – Starting Life In Another World)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2016 – September 2016
Natsuki Subaru’s life changes forever when a routine trip to the convenience store sees him transported from his mundane city life to a fantasy world. His surprise turns to anguish as soon after his arrival, he is attacked by thugs and beaten to a pulp. Luckily for him, a silver-haired beauty named Satella, on a mission to find the one who stole her insignia, comes to his rescue. Grateful to her for coming to his aid, Subaru offers to help her search for the stolen item and after spending the day gathering information, they find its whereabouts. However, in the shadows lurks a dark presence. Minutes after getting their hands on the insignia, Subaru and Satella brutally murdered. Suddenly, Subaru finds himself back in a familiar scene; attacked by the same thugs, again crossing paths with Satella, and searching for the same insignia, the memory of death fresh in his mind.
Towards the end of the series, after Subaru has experienced the excruciating pain and hopelessness brought on by countless encounters with death, he becomes a husk, a shadow of his former self. Emotionally, physically and mentally drained, he is on the verge of giving up on his goal to protect the one who, in one of his incarnations, called herself Satella (now Emilia). Understanding that Subaru is on his last leg, one of the many friends he made during his time in this new realm, a maid named Rem, makes an emotional, beautiful confession of her love for Subaru. “Subaru-kun no koe ga suki desu” (I love your voice, Subaru)… “And when I playfully touch your lips, you don’t even notice… and it makes my heart ache terribly… “suki desu” (I love you)”.
Japanese is a beautiful language that we are often exposed to as a result of our anime-watching habits. Its various intricacies make it an incredibly interesting language to learn, but it can get difficult, near impossible at times due to the heavy emphasis Japanese has on context. Despite this, there are often ways to explain things to non-native speakers that will make a world of difference, and that’s where Honey’s Anime comes in to save the day, one small dose at a time. If you’ve come to understand the subtle differences in “aishiteru”, “daisuki”, “koisuru” and “sukidesu”, drop a comment below and tell us just how much you loved learning something new!