I bet that anyone reading this article has read –even if only once in a lifetime– a dictionary, whether it is a bilingual one or single language one. But certainly you have read any of them as a whole from the first page to the last.
It’s not a problem if you have never done such a diligent act like that. But have you ever think of how difficult it is to create a dictionary that consisted of thousands, or even millions of words in just one book? Then it’s your time to watch Fune wo Amu.
About the Story
Based on a novel (a conventional one, not a light novel) written by Shion Miura, it tells the story of the making of a Japanese dictionary called Daitokai (The Great Passage). The Dictionary Department of Genbu Shobo had been troubled to find a successor of Kohei Araki, who needed to leave the job because of some problems regarding his wife. Then, they found Mitsuya Majime, a man from their sales department who is able to define the meaning of a word perfectly. He was asked to do the job, and accepted it. While later he started to have a crush on his landlord’s granddaughter, who suddenly moved to his rooming house, the dictionary project still had to be continued and he needs to balance both of them.
Majime is an awkward man who isn’t able to convey what he really wants in daily conversations. He also has a strange hobby of observing people on escalators, which as he said, is “patient and systematic”. But what makes him outstanding is his ability to define a word or term perfectly. Whenever he hears a word, he would try to define it in a clear sentence, yet it has a deep meaning on it. Well, it is to be expected from an avid reader and a post-graduate degree on linguistics.
While his co-worker, Masashi Nishioka has the opposite personality. He is kind of a funny guy who can enliven the atmosphere of the workplace. He has good social communication skill, and that makes him able to converse to anyone easily. His special ability –if it can be said as that, – is a well-kept database of many famous, yet cheap restaurants, inside his head. He may not really like the job of checking thousands of word definitions, but he has a good respect towards older people.
The Making of Daitokai
Moving on to the dictionary issue, there are some things to learn here. There are many kinds of dictionary aside from what we known as bilingual dictionary (for example, The English-Indonesian Dictionary by Hasan Shadily). There are also single language dictionaries, such as the one being produced in this anime. And there are also dictionaries for terminologies specific for one field (you may know of biology dictionary or engineering dictionary). Making those dictionaries would be different in terms of defining the words’ meanings, but the principle might be the same.
As the second episode runs, some clear presentation are given on how a dictionary is made. First of all, of course you need to find words from many sources: magazine, radio, books, and so on. Then write down those words in a vocabulary card (I don’t know if in Indonesia the same tool is used, but seems like it’s really helpful to have one). To be more precise, they need to check whether those words has been used in other dictionaries, as in this anime they also used the Kojien, Daijirin, and Daijisen dictionaries as references.
The question is, why do they need to check them? Daitokai is considered to be a middle-sized dictionary that will consisted of around 250.000 words. So they need to check which words that are important, and which words that aren’t that important. Checking another dictionary will help them to know whether a word is widely used or not. They also need to specify what kind of words they will use the most, so as to adjust to their reader’s needs. In this anime, they decided to focus on more IT terms as it was becoming more popular during that time.
Another fascinating thing is that the department has a room that contains more than 900.000 vocabulary cards, called the references room. Those cards were compiled by the people in the department. But the person who collected the most is the Head Department, Tomosuke Matsumoto. Aside from collecting words from many sources and another dictionaries, checking words in the references room is also important.
Is It Worth to Watch?
The most interesting point of this anime is that it presents a rarely depicted setting: it’s about office work, with linguistic-theme and specifically, dictionary-making project. The story is quite entertaining in some ways, and of course, it’s informative regarding how a dictionary is actually developed. Seeing these processes will make you have more respect for the people behind the dictionaries in your bookshelf, because of their efforts to create it.
o far, it may not contain intensely dramatic conflict like in Hibike! Euphonium, has intense battle scenes like in Bungo Stray dogs, or has the blazing fighting spirit of Haikyuu!!, but this series teach us on how to do something in a systematic way and patiently, and the efforts to check thousands, even millions, of words is no less challenging than the effort of playing musical instrument or engaging in a volleyball match. Simply put, it may still can be put to consideration as a favourite. You’ll find it interesting (and maybe challenging) to define a words in a sentence, as you’ll find that things a lot in this anime.
The Indonesian Anime Times | Written by M Razif Dwi Kurniawan