Hey! I am back! I'm sorry that my hiatus stretched so unexpectedly far; there wasn't a single thing that I could do about it and I anguished over it quite severely. Luckily, I can finally return to Sekiro. We'll pick up exactly where we left off: on the Fire Bull square before the gates to the inner castle. Today we will explore the Ashina Castle itself along with some of the remaining items. We'll also look at a bit of character art and go through all the Sculptor's Idols and see how they were localized and what interesting bits we can derive from their original names.
Disclaimer #0 — common sense is still everything. Please do not assume that I have access to some secret true knowledge; I'm just entertained by reading Sekiro in Japanese. My lore theories are just theories so treat them accordingly.
Disclaimer #1 —
trust me, I'm a professional if this fact is somehow important - I am a certified linguist. My major is English and Japanese as foreign languages, my minor is intercultural communication. Fun stuff!
Disclaimer #2 — I am not a professional translator, I have never worked in localization. Yes, I will say that something is translated poorly and something is not, and it will be my personal point of view. People have been complaining that I am picking on minor things or have weird opinions when it comes to "better translations". I want to emphasize that it's okay to have those :) Ultimately, my goal is to give you the information so you can see if the localization was good or not, whether something important was lost or not. My opinion is just that and I choose to share it, however odd it might seem.
Disclaimer #3 — I am not an expert on Buddhism or Shintoism, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D I will leave links to the religious terms that we will undoubtedly encounter so you can read more on your own, if you are interested.
This is a popular question in the comment section. In a nutshell, Japanese kanji usually have two types of readings: on-reading and kun-reading, there might be a number of them in each category. On-readings have carried over from Chinese since kanji were borrowed from there, and kun-readings are native to Japanese. When a kanji stands on its own and is used as a single word, it is read with its kun-reading. When a kanji is used as a part of a multi-kanji word, it is read with its on-reading. It is slightly more complicated, but in broad strokes I think it explains it.
As far as I know, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was localized into English by Mugen Creations.
[:] — colon after a vowel means that it's a long sound;
['] — apostrophe after a vowel or before a vowel (or between two [n]) means that these are two different syllables, not a single long one.
The transcriptions I give do not follow all academic rules, and I don't think it's necessary. They are just here to represent the pronunciation.
For this research I mostly used Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Official Artworks, English wiki and a number of dictionaries.
Before we even reach the Ashina Castle Idol, we meet one of the most curious NPCs in the game: the Old Hag. We talked about her at length when we discussed the Child of the Rejuvenating Waters. In the artbook she is called 信心深き人 [shinjinbukaki hito] - "a person of deep faith". She is pushing the Child of Rejuvenation's storyline by pointing out the whereabouts of Serpent's Viscera. She also always faces Mt. Kongo. My theory is that this lady is a version of 侍女の老婆 [jijyo no ro:ba] - a lady's elderly maid. This character is present in the artbook but is nowhere to be seen in the game. It's an old lady in the temple clothing, holding a scepter version of the Buddhist shakujou staff. I think this lady (or maybe there were several of them) was taking care of the Child of Rejuvenation in the Senpou Temple but as the Temple got more and more corrupted, eventually went insane. She is knowledgeable about the Child of Rejuvenation, and, most importantly, she knows where the Child resides because at the end of her storyline you can find the Rice Lady dead before the gates to the Sanctuary in the Main Temple. She also knows about the Cradle to carry the Dragon home, which is kind of a very special information restricted to the high monks of the Sempou Temple. If you look at the lady's elderly maid's art, and age it somewhat, it does look like a person of deep faith. Anyway, that's the theory I'm sticking to at the moment.
Back to the lady! She tells Wolf about the holy person that lives on the Mt. Kongo (she means the Divine Child) and asks him to join her in prayer. Funnily enough, it's not just a figure of speech: you can actually pray near her, using any items that prompt Wolf to pray, for example, a Mibu Balloon. For each prayer the Rice Lady would give you a little bit more dialogue and a reward, the biggest of which is Divine Confetti.
Ashina Castle Idol is called 葦名城 本城 [ashinajo: honjo:] - "Ashina Castle Main Castle". The first part of the original Sculptor's Idols' names usually indicated a bigger area, and the second part specifies the exact location.
On the stairs there is a Samurai General mini-boss - 侍大将・松本内蔵佑 [samurai taisho:・matsumoto kuranosuke]. The "Matsumoto" part of his name is clear but to be honest, I am not sure that the rest of the kanji can be read as "Kuranosuke". However I've spoken multiple times on difficulties of reading Japanese names so we'll just move on.
The artbook has a couple of amazing spreads depicting the main part of the Ashina Castle: it is enveloped in twilight and the gold elements stand out more prominently; and another one depicts the roofs of the castle, already covered in snow. The spread with the roofs is called 天守閣屋根上 [tenshukaku yaneue] - "on the roofs of the Castle Tower".
On the roofs we meet the incredible Nightjar shinobi who serve Isshin personally. We talked about them when we were discussing Prosthetic Arts. The Sculptor developed the Nightjar Slash and the Nightjar Slash Reversal by watching them fight and adapting the heavy Prosthetic to be the counterweight in this combat art, much like Nightjars use their heavy shurikens as counterweight. Their Japanese name is 寄鷹 [yotaka], which is a wordplay on the word 夜鷹 [yotaka] - nightjar (the bird) and can be translated as "approaching hawk". The artbook calls them 寄鷹衆 [yotakashu] - Nightjar people, to specify that it is a group or a clan.
While we are on the topic of the Nightjar, let's talk about Nightjar Beacon Memo that you can get from Fujioka. I always got it way too late but as far as I understand you are supposed to explore the ground level of the Castle before climbing up the roofs. Anyway, its original name is 寄鷹の狼煙の覚書 [yotaka no noroshi no oboegaki] - Nightjar Beacon - or Smoke Signal - Memo.
It says that these pale pink smoke signals are 道しるべ [michishirube] - "path guides" of the Nightjar. The last paragraph, however...
「もっとも、あの狼煙を辿れる者など、奴らだけだろうが。。。」ー "though, they seem to be the only ones able to follow these smoke signals..."
The original wording is somewhat more inviting with the three dots at the end and the だろう [daro:] part, which kind of expresses doubt and uncertainty. It teases you into following the smoke signals yourself and see what you can find, in contrast to the English localization that spent way more effort on the "ashen-feathered flock" than on preserving this little open-ended trail of thought.
As with all the other notes, memos and letters in the game, if you look closely at the item picture, you can see the subject matter depicted on it: here it's the roofs of the Ashina Castle and the thin trails of smoke.
Upper Tower - Antechamber Idol is called 天守上段・武者侍り [tenshujo:dan・mushahaberi]. Here we are introduced to a new area, which is Tenshu Upper Section. We discussed what a tenshu is in the last post, it is a central tower or a main keep of a Japanese castle. We'll just call it tenshu. 武者侍り [mushahaberi] is a very interesting word that does not mean "antechamber", as you've probably guessed. 武者 [musha] is a pretty standard word for "warrior", and 侍り [haberi], which uses a kanji for "samurai", is an archaic word of the humble, kenjougo sort, which means "to be" or "to humbly do". From what we are going to see next, I figured that this part of the castle is something like "warriors' abode" or the place where Ashina warriors spent their time while not, you know, warrioring. Why do I think that? Well, mainly because this small part of the room behind the Idol is called 茶屋 [chaya] - a tea room or a place of rest. The next room is called 書物部室 [shomotsu bushitsu] which directly translates to "book clubroom". I think this is a library where the Ashina samurai would spend their time in more peaceful times. This part of the castle seems to be for their day-to-day activities that are not samurai training and Ashina Arts practice.
Oh, this is a funny little thing that proves that I was dumb and the localization was actually on point! This is a 屛風 [byo:bu] folding screen, we've seen these things before. Look at it a little closer. It's called 竜泉川図屛風 [ryu:sengawazu byoubu] - "a folding screen [depicting] a scene of the Dragonspring River". So, a while back, when we discussed the Dragonspring Sake, the localization - albeit inadvertently, because the line wasn't there in the original - was right, Dragonspring is an actual water source, and it's the name of the river that flows along the Hirata Estate grounds. You can even see the familiar bridge. The Dragonspring River is also depicted on the in-game map (yes, I know, I also did not see it on my first playthrough), the kanji are kind of faded but still readable.
From the Antechamber we move straight to the 天守回廊 [tenshu kairo:] which is the Tenshu hallway. Here we encounter the old lady that would raise alarm when she spots Wolf; she is not present in the artbook, however she has the same character model as the Shura Narrator, although dressed in different colors. She is different both from the Old Hag, Lady's Elderly Maid and the sisters from the Fountainhead Palace. There is a whole bunch of different old ladies in Sekiro so it's important to differentiate between them!
The artbook also depicts some 格天井画 [go:tenjo:ga] - decorative paintings on coffered ceiling, here it's phoenixes.
The next room is called 謁見の間 [ekken no ma] - "audience room with [someone] superior". I think it's probably where Isshin would gather his samurai, or maybe the Ashina Elites. The scroll painting that turns out to be the secret room entrance is marked as 謁見の間掛け軸 [ekken no ma kakejiku] - "a hanging scroll from the audience room", which is kind of meh, I really wanted more context for this painting because I have no clue who this man on a horse is. He is holding a Buddhist shakujou staff in addition to a blade, and that is all I am able to derive from this depiction.
The artbook also has the map of the Ashina Castle and its grounds, about as comprehensible as the in-game map of Ashina Lands. It's called 曲輪図 [kuruwazu] - "kuruwa map". We discussed Kuruwa in the previous post, it is an architectural term that refers to the walls of a Japanese castle and areas surrounded by those walls, like a "ward" or something along those lines. Anyway, the map is driving me crazy because I cannot read the writing and I don't think it was meant to be read, and these things always annoy me :D You'll see later with the okami scroll, there is like a wall of text but I can't read a single thing, and it just sends me into a linguistic rage.
There is also a depiction of a typical treasure chest that you can find in the Ashina Castle (宝箱 [takarabako]). The fusuma designs from the artbook initially caught my attention. Fusuma (襖) is a Japanese sliding screen comprised of several panels that can be used as a door or sort of a wall to restructure the room. Fusuma from the Ashina Castle depict a sakura tree, and since in Sekiro all the sakura trees are accounted for, I stared at it for a while. No, it is just an era-appropriate fusuma design. Moving on.
Ashina Dojo is trickier than I thought. Its original name is 天守上段・葦名流伝場 [tenshujo:dan・ashinaryu: denjo:], it is also a part of Tenshu Upper Section. The English localization called it a Dōjō which is kind of the only option you have here. Dōjō is a hall for martial arts training where students would gather and practice, conduct exams with their sensei and do other related activities. This place, however, is called a 伝場 [denjo:], the second kanji is that of dōjō, but the first one is 伝わる [tsutawaru] - to pass down, to transmit. So, 葦名流伝場 [ashinaryu: denjo:] is "a place for passing down the Way of Ashina". Since I could not find 伝場 [denjo:] in any dictionary that I use, I have to assume that it is a coined word, possibly because Ashina Arts differs so much from traditional martial arts practiced in a dōjō.
Here we meet Ashina Elite - Jinsuke Saze, his original name is 葦名流・佐瀬甚助 [ashinaryu:・sase jinsuke] - Way of Ashina - Jinsuke Saze (or Sase). Genichiro also has this name pattern in his third phase or during our last encounter in the Field of Silvergrass: Way of Tomoe - Genichiro Ashina.
The folding screen from this room depicting some era-appropriate cranes and mountains, is just a 葦名流伝場屛風 [ashinaryu: denjo: byo:bu] - folding screen from the Way of Ashina denjou.
In the back of the room, however, we find the most curious 古戦の掛け軸 [kosen no kakejiku] - a hanging scroll of an ancient battle. The scroll depicts an okami warrior descending from the skies enveloped in lightnings and dark clouds, and a warrior standing in water (a horrible idea) prepared to face her head on. The scroll has some text on it, I can discern mostly hiragana, the kanji are too smudged for me to read, if they are even meant to be read.
This scroll is a tutorial for Lightning Reversal that is about to come in rather handy. It calls the Okami warriors あやかし [ayakashi], which is like a "ghost", something of the appartition type. Since Sekiro uses the "apparition" word when referring to enemies, it would be great to use this word here in the localized version. I think that maybe those Okami who swept over Ashina a long time ago were projections, much like the False Monk is an apparition version of the True Monk.
The word "lurked", thus, confuses us even more because it implies that these apparitions were present in the lands of Ashina but were in some kind of hiding. The original just says 「来たり」, "came", and on the scroll you can see an Okami warrior descending from the sky.
As we climb up to the Castle Tower Lookout or 天守望楼 [tenshubo:ro:] - Tenshu Watchtower, we meet - yet again - Genichiro Ashina. But before we get to talk about him, let's look at the Fourth Prayer Necklace and see what it has to say about Ashina Elites.
四の念珠 [yon no nenju] - fourth prayer necklace. The English localization skipped one line, possibly because they lacked the space on the card. The line goes like this:
「葦名の城の中枢には、葦名流の伝場ある」 - "at the heart of the Ashina Castle lies the Way of Ashina Denjou".
The description says that only 葦名流の達人 [ashinaryu: no tatsujin] - experts in the Way of Ashina - may set foot into this place, which kind of makes little sense considering this is the place that is supposed to be a training ground for these experts to pass down Ashina arts to their students. And you see the different types of Ashina samurai being at different level of Ashina Arts mastery: the majority of them know Ichimonji, some of them even know Ichimonji Double (I think) and Ashina Elites wield all Ashina Arts up to Ashina Cross. I think it's more about the fact that regular samurai cannot enter the Denjou unless the Ashina Elite is in there and it's training time.
The rest of the descrition is localized correctly, the only thing skipped is the "too" part: "Sometimes, Isshin, too, would visit unannounced".
All the time people ask me what my favorite bossfight is and it is this one. Sure, Kensei Isshin is way more of a spectacle, Lady Butterfly is way more of an enraging humiliation and Priestess Yao on the Crimson Bridge is way more of a challenge, but it is here, on the Castle Tower Lookout, I really fell in love with the game.
I am convinced that this Genichiro bossfight is the ultimate tutorial bossfight. Even if you defeated Lafy Butterfly before him (as I do all the time), it's Genichiro that really teaches you how to play Sekiro. I love this bossfight not because of how great it is from a design standpoint or how beautiful it looks, but because of what significance it holds. Before Genichiro you were probably stumbling along the main quest, getting in occasional mikiris, being thrown off a cliff by ogres, dodging the fiery bulls by sheer luck and generally dying more than twice. For me, progressing Sekiro all the way up to Genichiro felt like an accident. Yeah, I knew how to mikiri, how to dodge, I knew I was supposed to jump over a sweep attack but I never really felt confident in any of that.
Genichiro made me confident.
Let's explore his character art. I'd say Genichiro has probably the most incredible design of all the characters that just gets better the further you progress in the game. His unique outfit combines Ashina armor with their Japanese Iris on the chest and on the back and their Iris headpiece (which is the exact same one that Kensei Isshin wears) with okami color palette, he has the same light-blue trousers as them. If you look closely, you'll see that Genichiro's battle look is kind of a mix between Gyoubu and an okami warrior.
He wields a katana sword and an okami bow. The bow is very worn out and if you look closely at the tip of an arrow that goes with it, you'll see that there is a five-petal sakura flower engraving on it. I think, the bow and arrows belonged to Tomoe and Genichiro inherited it after her death. I already mentioned it when we talked about Genichiro in Remnants, but he has a "bowstring" kanji in his name - 弦 [gen].
When he is in the Way of Tomoe mode, you can see that his right arm and the right side of his body are burned and have the tree-like black pattern. Since he is right-handed and catches lightning with his sword in the right hand, the lightning travels on that side, so it's more burnt, although his left forearm also bears the same marks.
The artbook depicts Genichiro in his Way of Tomoe form already with Kaimon, the Black Mortal Blade, but during our first encounter he has a normal katana sword. I find it incredibly funny that Genichiro doesn't use Ashina arts at all, despite being Isshin's protege, instead he uses a bunch of okami arts, including their gravity-defying bow attacks and the Floating Passage. Well, while he was being trained by Tomoe, Isshin was making an Ashina Elite out of Ema so it's all fair. This is what I mean by saying that Genichiro's design is getting better the further you progress in the game: at this point you just don't get it. He looks weird, has this giant bow that no one else seems to use and wields lightning. And then you learn about Tomoe and her lightning, then you get to the Fountainhead Palace and it all becomes clear.
Just like Ema, he has an insane early concept art that didn't make it into the game but it is one of the most shiver-inducing spreads in the artbook. He wears a purple cloak, half of his face bears a white mark of immortality and he wields Shichishito: - a Seven-Branched Sword that Sakura Dragon wields in the game - covered in blood. I wonder what the thought behind it was on those earlier stages of production.
"Kuro's Room" is one of the most unfortunate slips on the part of the English localization, it honestly breaks my heart. Its original name is 天守上段・御子の間 [tenshujo:dan・miko no ma] - Tenshu Upper Section - Miko's Room. This is not Kuro's room specifically but the room reserved for Dragon Heirs - previously this room belonged to Takeru, and possibly to another Dragon Heir before him. Kuro mentions it in one of the dialogues that this room was preciously Takeru's so it kind of remedies the situation but I really wish the localization went out of their way to preserve the original name.
In the Dragon Heir's room we find 香炉 [ko:ro] - an incense burner that Takeru used to burn parts of the Everblossom as, well, incense. It still retains the faint aroma that Wolf recognises as nostalgic; later we'll learn that he felt it from his foster father who plucked the original branch of the Everblossom and carried it with him for years.
There is also a small Shinto shrine called 祠 [hokora] which is kind of curious because Hokora shrines are traditionally either parts of bigger shrines or small wayside shrines that house kami that protect travellers. Hokora shrine is not really supposed to be inside, however "hokora" is one of the most ancient words for "shrine" and it is believed that first hokora shrines housed yorishiro. We discussed yorishiro multiple times throughout the project, it is basically some type of physical object that is supposed to attract kami. This is also backed by the fact that the shrine is tied by shimenawa (しめ縄) rope with shide (紙垂) - lightning-shaped paper streamers, and the whole thing is supposed to ward off evil spirits. So, chances are this hokora shrine is ancient and it likely houses some type of object that is supposed to attract kami.
This hokora shrine is remarkable in more than one way though: it has the same carving style and pattern as the houses in the Fountainhead Palace. I noticed it for the first time while recording footage for the video. It has the exact same sakura and lotus motifs as the engravings from the Palace. Maybe, that's why this hokora is inside the castle: it was not built here but brought here?..
Let's visit Isshin, shall we?
His room is called 一心の離れ [isshin no hanare], where 離れ [hanare] denotes a room detached from the main house or a solitary room. The artbook depicts Wolf entering Isshin's room as he lies on the floor sick and Ema is taking care of him, quite a touching scene actually.
Let's not forget that Isshin is also the Tengu of Ashina, at some point you can see his Tengu outfit hanging inconspicuously on the wall just behind the folding screen. If you don't do the Tengu quest before reuniting with Ema in the Ashina Castle, you'll find Isshin's note in his room instead of Isshin himself.
The note's original name is 一心の置手紙 [isshin no okitegami] - a letter left behind by Isshin (who has departed). This is the letter that Isshin left in his 離れの櫓 [hanare no yagura] - solitary watchtower.
There is some noise around the Front Castle Gate. Tengu will see to the rats. Worry not. Isshin."
We know that the Tengu of Ashina is Isshin himself which begs the question: why tengu?..
To be honest, this is not a question I really pondered while playing through the game for the first time. It's Japan, tengu just makes sense. But as I started to research how the world of Sekiro is built and why some things were chosen over other things, I could not help but wonder: why tengu? Japanese legendarium is so incredibly vast, Isshin could've been whatever creature and yet he is tengu.
Tengu have been around for centuries and because of that they have amassed a great deal of imagery, legends, descriptions and details that are often opposite in nature. Tengu are described as both good and bad, as proficient in martial arts and outright stupid, as mischievous and benevolent, as mountain gods and simply yokai tricksters. Every hundred years or so the myths seemed to change course and Buddhism was partially responsible for that.
Initially tengu had human, monkey and avian characteristics but over time Tengu evolved to be more human and less animal. The image we refer to today is the big red nose, which is a transformed beak, feathered cloak or wings and generally anthropomorphic figure. This is the image of a Daitengu who can be the leader of a group of kotengu - smaller tengu that often take forms of smaller birds of prey. This little detail plays really nicely with the Nightjar who serve Isshin, even though the nightjars are not really birds of prey - these shinobi also wear masks with long beak-noses, so having a Daitengu - Isshin - in the picture just makes sense.
Another signature Tengu trait that is important in the context of Sekiro is that for the longest time Tengu were viewed as sworn enemies of Buddhism. They would enact all kinds of mischief trying to lure monks off the path to enlightenment: they would kidnap monks and randomly drop them in the deep woods, they would possess women and try to seduce the monks, or just straight up conjure vision of Buddha to confuse them. Given Isshin's exceptional dislike for the monks of Senpou Temple and their shinobi, I think it makes the most sense that his alter-ego is Tengu.
Traditionally, Tengu are also considered to be proud and arrogant; in one of the branches of tengu mythos they were the spirits of people who were arrogant in life. Let me know if you think this detail fits with Isshin or not.
Lastly, as the Tengu myth aged, they became known for their immense strength, exceptional swordsmanship and proficiency in martial arts - just around the time when Sekiro takes place. The famous Kurama Tengu was said to have taught Minamoto no Yoshitsune the skill of swordsmanship. This is probably the most important tengu trait that we can attribute to Isshin's choice of his alter-ego.
In time, the image of tengu and their goals grew well past being tricksters messing with Buddhist monks, they became associated with war, swordsmanship, martial arts and appeared to have more things to do other than antagonize buddhists. However, one of the details that survived through centuries is that whatever noise you hear in the forest or on the mountain is surely made by tengu. If you hear weird music, or trees making sounds, or stones rolling down the mountain side - it's bound to be the tengu's doing, they just make a bunch of noises to scare people and make fun of them. In Japanese there is a whole group of words that describe tengu-made noises you can hear when taking a walk in the woods or climbing a mountain.
I hope you enjoyed this little digression. Moving on!
The place where we find Sabimaru and Eel Liver is marked in the artbook as 天守入り口 [tenshu iriguchi] - Tenshu Entrance. There we can see Ashina 具足 [gusoku] - suit of armor. The artbook also depicts a fusuma handle or fusuma knob - 襖の引き手 [fusuma no hikite] - adorned with Ashina iris.
Deer antlers tied together and lying around either by themselves or placed in pots are also in the artbook, quite straightforwardly marked as 鹿角 [shikatsuno] - deer antlers. To me, they seemed like utility objects but I could not figure out for what they could've been used, if you have some ideas - please, share them in the comments. Technically, the events of the game take place in late autumn, which is the season for cutting deer antlers, or they might shed their antlers in December themselves. Deer are sacred animals in Japan and have been for centuries. Deer antlers actually fit pretty well with the general theme of Sekiro: since deer shed their antlers and then grow them back, these animals - and their antlers in particular - are the symbols of death and rebirth.
The giant well-like atrium that you enter when going deeper into the Tenshu is called 天守吹き抜け [tenshu fukinuke] - Tenshu Hall or Tenshu Atrium.
Before we discuss Old Grave Sculptor's Idol, I'd be amiss not to mention a single Shinobi Hunter patrolling the yard just before the Idol. All Shinobi Hunters are called 忍び狩り [shinobikari] - shinobi hunters, and the artbook depicts the Shinobi Hunter mini-boss from the Hirata Estate as the archetypical one. All other Shinobi Hunters have, I think, the same character model as him but might be dressed differently and they also lack the white headpiece that the mini-boss wears.
This shinobi hunter is a funny character, you can eavesdrop on him after the final invasion and hear him mumbling about the conflict with Interior Ministry and wondering whether or not he would get paid for his services now.
Honestly, "Old Grave" is kind of a weird name when you think about it: it's not a single grave but at least two, or rather three, if you count the Everblossom, and these graves are not actually old at all. They are only a couple decades old - if that. In Japanese this Idol is called 名残り墓 [nagoribaka] which consists of 名残り [nagori] - relics, remains, and also the sorrow of parting, and 墓 [haka] - grave. "Nagori" is a very Takeru word, it is present in the description of the Aromatic Flower: Takeru took a sakura branch from the Divine Realm as a nagori - a parting relic. Do you think their actual bodies were buried here, or these are just tombstones to honor them?..
In the artbook this sight is called 丈と巴の墓 [takeru to tomoe no haka] - Takeru and Tomoe's graves. We've been here multiple times throughout the project, it is one of the saddest places in the game. Tomoe's gravestone is bigger, and it has the kanji 巴 [tomoe] engraved on it. Takeru's gravestone is smaller, hinting at the fact that he was a child, just like Kuro. There are three pink sakura petals offered to Tomoe's grave.
Everblossom's remains are also interesting - you can see a shimenawa rope going around the fence to keep evil spirits at bay, even now.
The artbook doesn't really have much to say on the 白蛇の社 [shirohebi no yashiro] - White Serpent's Shrine. This is a shrine dedicated to the White Serpent Nushi whom we discussed in detail in one of the previous posts. The artbook depicts the 拝殿外観 [haidengaikan] part - the exterior of the front shrine, or hall of worship, and the 本殿内観 [hondennaikan] part - the interior of the inner sanctuary, where we can meet Tengu who killed a Ministry agent.
We've covered most of the Ashina Reservoir in the last post, let's look at some mini-bosses that we can encounter in Ashina Castle before the invasion. We won't talk about the Abandoned Dungeon at this time, it will have its own post because there is a bunch of related notes we need to go through.
This guy guards the Moon-view Tower; in the artbook there is one archetypical image of a Seven Spear warrior with a very special Ashina Iris headpiece that sets them apart from Samurai Generals. Their spears have only one horn. The original name of Seven Spears is 葦名の七本槍 [ashina no nanahon'yari] - Ashina Seven Spears. This particular boss' name is 山内式部利勝 [yamauchi shikibu toshikatsu] - as usual, a bunch of reading options here but we'll leave it as it is. I wonder if he is related to samurai general Yamauchi Tenzen whom we encountered in the Ashina Outskirts.
Oh, about him! On his back Yamauchi Tenzen has a Hirata sigil on top of another sigil, and that original one is a sigil of the Toyotomi clan.
Let's see what the Final Prayer Necklace has to say about Ashina Seven Spears.
十全の念珠 [ju:zen no nenju] - final prayer necklace. The word 十全 [ju:zen] generally denotes something complete, whole, so it also tells us that there are no more necklaces after this. It also has a 十 [ju:] kanji, meaning "ten".
In general, the localization is on point: Seven Spears were vital in Isshin's "stealing the country" war, and he entrusted only his most loyal samurai with spears. The last line is much more poetic in Japanese:
「だが今や、槍の穂先も、残りわずかだ」 - "However, now, only a few spearheads remain."
Now let's discuss a Lone Shadow that we can encounter while in Ashina Castle before the invasion.
In Japanese all Lone Shadows are called 孤影衆 [koeishu], where 孤影 [koei] means "lonely figure", someone who is on their own, and 衆 [shu] points at the fact that there is a group of these people, much like the Nightjar are called 寄鷹衆 [yotakashu] - Nightjar clan. Their original names are really curious because they are all kind of metaphorical. This guy at the bottom of the well in Ashina Reservoir is called 太刀足 [tachiashi], where 太刀 [tachi] is, well, tachi, a type of a long sword, and 足 [ashi] means "leg". So, this one is Lone Figure Tachi-Leg, which sounds ridiculous, but kinda cool (?) The English localization honestly had no choice but to localize him as a "longswordsman" even though he doesn't wield a long tachi sword. I bet they didn't even see what he looks like. He uses his leg as a long tachi-sword, that's what the metaphor is all about.
八の念珠 [hachi no nenju] - Eighth Prayer Necklace. The localization is pretty accurate. For "poison" the original uses 毒手 [dokushu] - literally "poisonous hand", the name of Lone Shadow Vilehand, but also - a dirty or underhanded trick, which fits really nicely here. They each have 得意とする秘技 - a secret art or technique they are proficient in.
Seventeen born! We got absolutely robbed, I'd love to fight more Lone Shadows, they are among my favorite mini-bosses. For a while I thought that they have only one arm, that's why they are using their legs to fight, but later I noticed that they have both arms, it's just that their purple cloaks kind of hide one. The artbook has an archetipycal Lone Shadow depicted, there is nothing really special that we do not know already - purple cloaks, pointing at the fact that they serve the Interior Ministry that could afford garments of such color, a bunch of kunai strapped to their legs and even a chain with a hook hidden under the cloak. The artbook also depicts a shinobi hound - 忍犬 [ninken].
My super-theory is that Lady Butterfly assisted the Interior Ministry in Lone Shadow's training because their leg-fighting styles are way too similar to be a coincidence :D
That was a lengthy one, so much to see in the Ashina Castle! Next up - Hirata Estate, probably a much shorter visit but still, a bunch of things to discuss. Feels great to be back :D
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.