Tom Smith on the unfortunately-named band SUPER BEAVER
The latest Naruto Shippuden box set brings with it another hapless victim in Japan’s ever-spiralling series of ill-advised names. This time it’s a Japanese pop-rock band that goes by the entirely unintentionally obnoxious moniker of SUPER BEAVER. At least I like to think their naming process is innocent, any immature attempt at a double entendre would go against their clean-cut and happy image. Take their song ‘Shinkokyu’, the ninth ending of ninja-themed series mentioned above, for example. In English its title means ‘Deep Breath’ and its lyrics tell a vague tale of working hard for the future and moving on from the pains of yesterday.
Now compare everything you’ve just read to Spread Beaver, another Japanese band but one knowing full well what its name can also mean in English. The group was the backing band for hide, a notorious figure for Japan’s alternative youth whose influence is still felt strongly today, some 14 years since his untimely passing. hide was originally part of X Japan, the biggest visual kei band in history, and visual kei, much like the west’s rock ‘n roll, is highly sexed up – hide was no different. What would you expect from the pink-haired man that penned a song called ‘Electric Cucumber'? (It means exactly what your filthy mind is thinking).
The point is, it’s fairly simple to tell when someone or thing is exploiting the ambiguity of language in a provocative way. SUPER BEAVER’s image sways towards blissful ignorance, while hide’s does not, and could do with an antiseptic wipe. Yet, this journalist can’t help but wonder if those foreign companies and individuals with inadvertently provoking names, slogans or products are entirely innocent – the results are far too amusing to be a whimsical accident. There must be an evil English-language genius running around causing havoc at their expense, mustn’t there?
Anyone that witnessed L’Arc en Ciel live in London recently can confirm that the band’s leader and bass player tetsuya is a cheeky perv. With a glint in his eye, he asked the audience if they’d like to eat his banana or suck on his lollipop (gasp), which makes me think that the collaboration between the band and electrical giants Canon was no mere accidental language booboo when they revealed the Wonder BJ.
It’s not always dirty words or phrases they’re seemingly playing with; there are also clean names so ridiculous that the whole family can enjoy them. Trying to lose weight and have your suspicions that the water you’re drinking could be part of the problem? Try some low-fat Diet Water!
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It’s not always the Japanese suffering from misinformed English. It can work the other way too. Just imagine what the Japanese must think of Australia’s town of Eromanga, for example.
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Paul Jacques goes on the prowl at the London Super Comic Con
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Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements, for a series of rants and ill-informed commentary about anime, manga, the storm over the Hugo Awards, and your most awkward convention moment.