Those of you who are regulars on this blog… Oh my… There are people who regularly read my posts… that’s still a little though to wrap my mind around. Sorry I’m back! As I was saying, those of you who’ve read a few of my posts may remember that I have an odd interest in names and the act of naming things. It’s ritualistic and often associated with magic. It’s also deeply human. A representation of our unique sense of, even need for, individuality.
I’ve been meaning to put together a top 5 list of shows that also shared this odd little interest with me but I was stuck at 4 for the longest time. And then I started watching a certain magical index. Huzzah! SPOILERS, a Certain Magical Index is going to be on this list.
There’s a reason any good pokemon hunter(?) needs to have a nice fat pokedex (am I making all these words up? I’ve never seen the show…) Even a pokenoob like me knows that to summon the little critters, you need to shout out their names. Which also happen to be the name of their species (?) breeds (?)… Does it ever happen that they accidentally summon someone else’s Pokemon?
In any case. I realize that structurally this is just an equivalent to shouting out your power moves. But it still gives a unique importance to pokemon names and marks their relationship with their owners(?) masters(?). I’m sure it’s a great show but you gotta admit, it’s really weird in concept..
4. A certain magical index
Now this is what I’m talking about, secret names! A certain magical index has a somewhat complex universe. Certain people have xxx (think Quirks in MHA) that are genetic and considered scientific, while those without have the potential to learn magic. You can’t have both. (I’m still in the middle of the first season, this may change). Anyways, people that do learn magic are called sorcerer’s and they all have a magical (or true) name. It’s all scrumptiously chuuni.
Even though it’s implied that knowing a sorcerer’s true name creates some type of bond, in practice (so far) it just looks like the sorcerers are fronting with big claims of, if I tell you my true name then I’ll have to kill you and nothing happens. Which is even more chuuni and delights me. I hope it doesn’t change.
3. Natsume’s book of friends
Natsume treats names like currency and treasure. The book of friends is really just a collection of Yokai names but those names give whoever possess the book power over the owners of said names. As such , the actual names are a type of incantation for Natsume and a shackle for the Yokai. this is why they regularly come to beg for their names back.
Although we never get too much of an explanation as to why, Nyanko also regularly warns Natsume not to let unknown Yokai know his name. It seems the power can go both ways. This is a common theme in many old timey fairy tails. It’s never wise to let otherworldly creatures know your name. I think it’s like giving out your password or something.
As the seasons go by, the presence of the Book of Friends and Natsume’s quest in returning the names have become less central, but they are nevertheless a very important part of the story. My favorite softly sad part is that for the most part the Yokai are just as angry about having had to give their names as they are sad about not being called by them.
I’ve written about it quite a bit. The entire covenant between God and regalia is embodied by the act of giving a wandering spirit a name. This name is as much a contract as it is a promise, and for a regalia having that name revoked is a faith worse than death. It represents their existence and purpose. Without it, they are lost.
I always liked the idea that the most important thing a god can give you is a name. It’s an acknowledgement that you are here, the your presence matters and is felt. As such, it also needs to be earned. I like that Noragami gives power and significance not only to the names themselves but to the act of naming. I also love how it conveys the horror of being stripped of a name.As it parallels being stripped of an identity.
My Hero Academia
Although it’s not a big part of the overall story, the short aside showing the students choosing their hero names was one of my favourite moments. The series used the opportunity to reaffirm everyone’s personality through their choices. Is Bakugo still officially “King of Explode-Kills”? Moreover, we got a short lesson on the importance of names and branding in any people oriented industry, such as professional heroism.
Of course, since I’m more of a sugar coated marshmallow than a real person, I cried real tears of feels when Deku decided to reapropriate his childhood insult nickname and make it his. This simple moment of empowerment through names still makes me smile whenever I think of it.
1. Death Note
Death Note is very much a plot driven narrative. No matter how much you may love those characters, it really owes its success to that twisty twervy story that kept so many trying to figure out what would happen next. And everything rests one a basic conceit. Giving an ordinary person indiscriminate power of life and death as long as they know someone’s face…and name! This is why you don’t put pics of yourself on the net kids!
Death Note happens in a universe very similar to ours. As such names don’t have any special powers or meaning. However, they are absolutely necessary for the plot to advance in any way. A lot of time is dedicated to Light trying to figure out people’s real names (both L’s and Naoimi Misora). Misa Musa’s big ace up her sleeve is the power to see people’s names when she looks bat them. The unique Japanese spelling of proper names even plays a role in the story.
Basically, nothing happens if Light’s one of those folks that’s bad with names…I kid but you know what I mean!
There you have it. Just a few series that understand that names are for more than just calling people on the phone.