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Tom Smith finds out if there’s meaning behind a name

While the world of Japanese entertainment often finds itself lost in translation (see here), some elements of it not only fail to translate, but can cause outright offence. Britain isn’t without its own insensitivities towards other cultures (Jeremy Clarkson and the Daily Mail, I’m looking at you) but there does tend to be an over ruling idea of political correctness that saves the majority from looking like a bit of a prat. Unfortunately, Sumitada Ozumano (a.k.a. DJ Ozma) had no such advisory committee (or sense) when he appeared on primetime TV with his band Kishidan brandishing Nazi-styled uniforms… never a good idea.

A more recent example, which I experienced firsthand, was with a certain band from Japan that I work with. While on tour in Europe earlier this year, some local staff refused to wear the band’s shirts because they deemed the imagery on them too offensive. Their protest was met with a mixture of ignorance and plenty of apologies. Apparently staff had no idea that inverted crosses and SS style logos could offend anyone. Yep, sometimes Japan doesn’t even realise it’s being offensive, which might be why two-time Bleach theme provider Sambomaster still have a name that’s not 100 per cent offense free.

Sambo can be a racial slur with connotations to slavery, making the marrying of Sambo and Master perhaps not the most sensitive of combinations. Then again, Sambo can also be an acronym for the Russian martial art Samooborona Bez Oruzhiya, literally meaning ‘self-defense without a weapon’. The latter is of course the one that the band was originally named after. There was a boom in martial arts when vocalist Takashi Yamaguchi was growing up, and this mysterious Russian take on Judo inspired him. Unlucky for Yamaguchi-san, it was also a martial art with a name that could be taken another way…

Nevermind though, once you hear a blast of Sambomaster you’ll soon realize they’re completely oblivious to any negative meanings and are out to have as much (offence-free) fun as possible.

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Just look at that gurning face! This is a live video of the band’s hit song ‘Kimi o Mamotte, Kimi o Aishite’ (‘I Protect You, I Love You’), which is also the 19th ending to Bleach for anyone keeping count. It’s far from their only tie-in with anime. If you’ve been following the series to date, you would have heard the trio before in the end to The Diamond Dust Rebellion, the second Bleach movie that had their song ‘Hikaru no Rock’ (‘Rock of Light’) as its ending theme.

Their upbeat, happy rock vibes were also in Naruto (the fifth opening; ‘Seishun Kyosokyoku’), as well as in Manga Entertainment’s recent tentacle rom-com Princess Jellyfish.

Currently the band are still touring Japan, creating music and are completely slave free – at least according to their record label.

Bleach Series 11 – Karakura’s Battle, featuring Sambomaster’s ‘Kimi o Mamotte, Kimi o Aishite’ as its closing, is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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