“The Trials of Rikkai: A Rebel Who Challenges an Emperor” [Another Story OVA]

“The Trials of Rikkai ~A Rebel who Challenges an Emperor~”
(Rikkai Retsuden ~Ouja ni Idomu Hangyakuji~)
The Trials of Rikkai

The Trials of Rikkai

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That said, please do not post the video to streaming websites. Thank you!

DISCLAIMER: The original anime Tennis no Oujisama is based on the manga by Konomi Takeshi, produced in association with NAS, MSC Animation, Production IG, and the Tennis no Oujisama Project. The DVD is released (in Japan only) by Bandai Visual. The owners retain all rights to the original work, and the fansub distributed above is for preview purposes only. Please support the creators.


I’m posting this from my office (even Sys Admins get lunch breaks!), so I’ll try to be brief but thorough.

1) “Retsuden” is, in some ways, a real word and in other ways a made-up word.

Everything written in kanji has a meaning represented by the ideograph(s) used and a pronunciation, which can usually be recognized by skilled readers. In cases where the reading level of the audience is not expected to be high enough to know the pronunciation of a kanji character or compound, the correct reading may be given to the side of the word as “furigana”. Furigana may also be used to specify an abnormal pronunciation for a given expression.

There are various reasons to do this. The most common is, I would say, using a pronunciation for one term that is instantly recognizable, but using the kanji characters to give the term more depth or meaning. In the Prince of Tennis manga, for example, Momoshiro might have a speech bubble where he’s calling out to his coach: the kanji will read “Ryuuzaki-sensei”, but the pronunciation will indicate that what he’s actually saying is “Baa-chan” (“Grandma” or “Old Woman”). Likewise, various characters may have dialogue where they discuss their school teams, and while the kanji will spell out the school name properly, the pronunciation would simply be “uchi” (“us”). One of the more interesting uses of this I saw was extremely early in the manga, when Ryoma is discussing the difference between Eastern Grip and Western Grip. His co-conversant was only using the pronunciation for the terms in katakana, with no kanji (which is correct to do, as these are not usually written in kanji). Ryoma, however, has an extra layer to his dialogue. His pronunciation is exactly the same, but he uses a furigana and kanji combination with the kanji indicating “a way to grip that is Eastern” or “a way to grip that is Western”. The effect demonstrates that Ryoma, unlike Sasabe, knows what the English words “Eastern Grip” and “Western Grip” actually mean.

Another reason to include an abnormal pronunciation with a set of kanji would be in order to create new words, using the kanji to define them. The author of the Ai no Kusabi novels does this quite often. (Furniture?! But I digress.) It’s very similar to what Ryoma does when he’s explaining Eastern and Western grip, with the important difference that the word being defined is not one that the author could expect the audience to recognize (at least in the context in which he or she is using it). The designation “Big Three” for Yanagi, Sanada, and Yukimura is actually quite a bit like this. The pronunciation is given as “ビッグスリー”, which is a katakana representation of the English words “Big Three”, but in the manga and other places showing this in text (like the liner notes for Yukimura’s character album), the term is paired with the kanji “三強” – the number “three” with the idea of “being strong”. Ordinarily, this would be pronounced “sankyou”, and the kanji don’t appear in any dictionaries I’ve checked as a standard term (although I’d say its use here is commonly understood). The pronunciation “big three” might not mean anything to the audience, but together with the kanji, the author can create a term and define it all in one stroke.

Finally, because of the way kanji can have multiple pronunciations and one pronunciation can apply to multiple kanji, substitutions of kanji with the same pronunciation as a normal term can be used to create a kind of visual pun. I say “visual” because, although it is purely a play on words, it cannot be demonstrated without explanation or reference to the kanji used. For example, in the first Mirage of Blaze novel (alas, I don’t have it with me, so I will have to update this with all the proper kanji later), Kousaka addresses Takeda Shingen’s grave by saying “Oyakata-sama”. “親方” would be the normal kanji to use here, a common term that means “master”. The kanji that he actually uses, though “oyakata” is a possible pronunciation for them, would not normally occur in combination as such. They mean something along the lines of “box” or “house”, and seem to refer to the fact that Kousaka is addressing his master in the form of a grave rather than in the form of a person.

The effect of the term “Retsuden” in the title of this episode, though not so extreme, is most like this last one. There is a common term pronounced “Retsuden” that is applicable to the situation, but the kanji used are: 列伝 【れつでん】 (n) series of biographies. In keeping with this, what we have is a biographical short about Kirihara, which could easily be one of a series about the lives of Rikkai players. Wouldn’t that be nice? However, you might notice that the actual kanji used in the title are “烈伝”. The most interesting thing about this is that the first kanji, which is the one that’s different, contains the kanji from the conventional compound above. It simply adds the radical for “fire” to the bottom. It’s common for characters that have different radicals but otherwise match to share a pronunciation. In Shounen Onmyouji this trait is even used to create several kanji used in creatures’ names that do not exist in standard Japanese. (I do not have the capacity at this time to verify whether or not these characters exist in Chinese.) In the name for the creature called “Gouetsu”, the radical for “animal” is added to standard kanji that are pronounced “Gou” and “Etsu”. I believe something similar is done with the name “Ban-Ban”.

The kanji that replaces the “retsu” in the standard version of “retsuden” does exist — lucky me! It’s one way of writing the adjective “hageshii” — “烈しい 【はげしい】 (adj-i) violent; vehement; intense; furious; tempestuous;”. There are others that may be more common, but aside from this, the kanji does not seem to appear on its own. The kanji information lists the meanings this character can bring to a compound as, “ardent; violent; vehement; furious; severe; extreme”. Paired with fire (“hi”), you get “Rekka” – “烈火 【れっか】 (n) raging fire; conflagration”. With wind (“kaze”), you get “Reppu” – “烈風 【れっぷう】 (n) gale; violent (strong) wind” – and with “sun/day” (“hi”), you get “retsujitsu” – “烈日 【れつじつ】 (n) blazing sun; scorching sun; hot day”. It can also used in combinations with various words for men, women, and sex-unspecified persons to indicate heroism.

All my attempts to verbally reflect both ideas – a ‘biography’ and a tale of something intense, extreme, or violent – were laughable. It was my final decision to create a title that I might call a series of biographical stories about the tempestuous, severe lives of the Rikkai boys we all know and love. Hence, “The Trials of Rikkai”.

…I think any claims I might have made that this note would be “short” are now invalid.

2) For the most part, there was nothing in the episode itself that I feel requires explanation. If you’re not familiar with kanji, however, Kirihara’s written challenge to Sanada, Yukimura, and Yanagi might benefit from a note.

As Sanada notes, Kirihara has made several errors in his writing. Specifically, he’s drawn many kanji incorrectly — either by putting the wrong elements in, or by drawing strokes in the wrong places. It’s a lot like writing a note full of spelling errors, or in some cases accidentally making up words that don’t exist in a way that makes the author appear uneducated (in contrast to intentional word creation, as discussed above). Since I can’t actually reproduce his kanji, I am including here a screencap of the note itself:

Kirihara's Note

Kirihara's Note

I am sad to say that my skills with kanji are not at a level where I could look at this note and just know what all the incorrectly drawn characters were supposed to be. I was able to see where he’d replaced the kanji for “noon” (午) in “afternoon” with the kanji for “cow” (牛), but that was about the extent of my first-glance knowledge. I did not manage to successfully look up any of the other kanji he misspelled, and was only able to find the proper ones through a combination of guessing and going through Kirihara’s dialogue for common terms in the hopes that he would repeat himself. At the end of that process, the following is what I believe his note is meant to say:

幸村精市 真田弦一郎 柳 蓮二 殿

みんなまともに 倒してやる


The top line is the names of the Big Three – Yukimura Sei’ichi, Sanada Gen’ichirou, Yanagi Renji – followed by the somewhat archaic-sounding “dono”: “殿 【どの】 (suf) (pol) form of address used for official letters and business letters, and in letters to inferiors; Mr;”. If I were properly addressing a formal letter to three men in English, I would use the honorific “Messrs.” (derived from the French “Messieurs”, but still proper English). Because he miswrote the kanji, in the screen text I changed this to “Missrs.”.

As stated above, he miswrote the kanji for “noon”, so I changed “Today, 3PM” to “Today, 3PN”. That’s about as close as I can get to a misplaced stroke.

The mistake I noticed in the third line may just have been a blot on the paper, as I couldn’t think of any reason for Kirihara to mess up the pronunciation-based word for “court”, but since it looked like he had, I went with it. The mark next to the “to” kana (ト) would change it to a “do” sound (ド). “Court” becomes “Chord”.

In the fourth line, there was a kana that wasn’t quite on the screen, but looked like he may have used the wrong one. What I believe he meant might have been translated “fair and square”, so I changed it to “fare and square”. The final mistake is the one I’m least certain I replaced correctly, as the note in the episode is missing the “shi” in “taoshite”, but the verb is good in context and has enough structural similarities to what he wrote, so I declared victory and moved on. What might have properly been “crush you all” I put in the screen text as “crash you all”.

To Kirihara’s credit, he spelled his own name correctly.

3) For anyone who ever wondered, when Sanada says “tarundoru”, it’s a contraction of the phrase “tarundeiru”, which is a form of the verb “tarumu”: 弛む 【たるむ】 (v5m,vi) to slacken; to loosen; to relax.

When you add this to “zaregoto” (戯れ言; 戯言(io) 【ざれごと; ざれこと; たわむれごと; たわぶれごと】 (n) prank; practical joke — another dictionary I have says ‘bullshit’, which is what I use) and “tawake ga!” (滑稽; 戯け 【おどけ; たわけ(戯け)】 (n) joke, trick), you have 80% of Sanada’s lines…

Just kidding. It’s only about half.

Does that cover everything? I think so. Everyone, that’s it for “Another Story ~Messages from Past and Future~”! Please enjoy the episode, and thank you for all your comments.

I still haven’t heard anything about an OVA to follow this, but should there be one, I expect I’ll pick it up. In the meantime, I’ll try to finish my secret projects. Unfortunately, I can’t give a timeline.

6 Responses to ““The Trials of Rikkai: A Rebel Who Challenges an Emperor” [Another Story OVA]”

  1. aoi Says:

    Thank you for sharing the OVAs ^O^.
    I was suppose to write this comment yesterday but my PC crashed.
    I just took OVA 3,4 and the bonus features.
    Your translations are amazing.

    I’m going to dl the rest of the OVAs too.
    My friend is kind of in a big Tennis no Oujisama fever and now I have caught it too.

    Thanks again ^^

  2. Tika Says:

    Sooo, I haven’t actually watched this before. I may now, though, since your explanations of the kanji, syntax and what not was really good. I’m studying kanji myself (dear. god. why did I do that to myself?!), so your presentation was strangely helpful to me. It made some things click in my mind that I wasn’t really grasping before. Anyway.

    Kudos on a well written piece.

    • impetuosity Says:

      Thank you very much. I’m glad you found the notes of use, and I hope you enjoy the episode if you decide to watch it!

      Best of luck with your continuing studies.

  3. Natasha Kirichuk Says:

    hello there, and thank you very much for the notes. these were extremely enjoyable and useful 🙂 for example, Kirihara’s letter – i was rather curious about it and now thanks to this post it’s much more clear. Thanks again! x

  4. fon Says:

    thank you very much 😀

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