18 August 2007


"Three days, fifty hours, one hundred episodes," my Son muttered when I asked him "Naruto again?" Son was referring to the marathon that Cartoon Networks had going for Naruto fans. Up to recently, I had thought of the anime series as "that cartoon show with the kid who looks like a cat," because the main character, Naruto Uzumaki, has what appears to be whiskers on his cheeks. Of course, Son had been watching the show more intently and words like jitsu, chunin, hokage, and chakra flowed out of his mouth with ease. He sure knew what the words mean, or at least in what context to use them. I realized that I haven't watched much TV with him lately. I think I used to watch many Japanese animes with him, on VCDs and translated into Cantonese. Maybe I wasn't as busy with work back then. It's nice when I can quip jokes related to his favorite shows or act out with him scenes from the shows.

To catch up with Naruto, I recently spent a few hours watching the marathon with Son. It's actually quite an interesting story. Naruto appears to have whiskers perhaps because his father, the Fourth Hokage, sealed the spirit of a Nine-Tailed Fox demon in him, at least that's what I think. Most of the fighting in the show involve magic, not the typical ninja martial arts. I detected some resemblance to Harry Potter, as one of evil character was able to put himself into various bodily shell to make him harder to eradicate.

I supplemented the info gaps with Wikipedia and library books. I tried to get Son to read more and watch less by borrowing a Naruto graphic novel for him. He didn't read much but I ended up reading the whole book myself.

Perhaps subconsciously I tried to do for my son what my father did for me. To get me know more Chinese, for years my father got me my weekly supply of Oriental Heroes graphic novels. The book series was actually called 龍虎門, which is nothing close to Oriental Heroes, just something that's lost in translation. Reading 龍虎門 helped me learn a lot of Chinese. Although the story is mostly understood just by looking at the pictures, there are times knowing the key words help, so I actually looked them up in Chinese-English dictionaries.

In case you are curious, here are the meanings of the Japanese words I mentioned:
  • jitsu - magical art
  • chunin - some kind of exams ninjas take to advance to the next level
  • hokage - village leader
  • chakra - perhaps what the Chinese call qi (氣), some kind of internal energy that when properly channeled, can come outside as a ball of energy... hey it's a fantasy cartoon, don't forget.

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