There’s Some Culture in My Anime: Murder by Numbers

I was watching Another when I noticed something funny. No, the animators did not forget how to count to eight. It turns out that just like any culture, the Japanese have superstitions attached to their numbers. For some reason in American culture, we find the number 7 to be lucky and the number 13 unlucky. I couldn’t begin to tell you why we have special meanings attached to those numbers. But when it comes to the Japanese, their superstitions make a little more sense.

When you step onto an elevator in the states, you’ll commonly find that the floors go from 12–to–14. In Japan, in most places (and especially hospitals), they’ll go from three–to–five. In Japan, the number four (四) can be pronounced in two ways, “shi” (し) and “yon” (よん). Coincidentally enough, the kanji for death (死) is also pronounced “shi”. Most people choose to go with “yon.”

Why the same logic doesn’t apply to the number nine escapes me and the internet. Just like the number four, the number nine (九) has two pronunciations—“ku” (く) and “kyu” (九). The kanji for pain and suffering (苦) is also pronounced “ku.” It’s fairly obvious why everyone prefers “kyu”.

The number 49 is a real bastard. When pronounced as “yonjûkyu,” it closely resembles “Die with pain.” I can’t honestly blame anyone for wanting to stay away from 49.

When it comes to happy numbers, Japan truly loves the number seven. But again, they have a great reason for that. The Japanese have Shichifukujin, or the Seven Lucky Gods. Among Japanese Buddhists, after the birth of a child, the first family feast and the child’s naming ceremony, or Oshichiya, happens on the seventh day.

There’s also the celebration of Tanabata. This festival celebrates the meeting of two deities, Orihime and Hikoboshi. According to legend, the Milky Way separates the lovers and they are only allowed to meet once a year—during the seventh day of the seventh lunar month according to the Japanese lunisolar calendar.

And there you have it. To tempt your luck, watch Another here.

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