Kanji are one of the hardest parts of leaning Japanese, but they’re easier when they have move sets related to their meanings.

A lot of people who’re learning Japanese settle into a sort of adversarial relationship with kanji, the most complex of Japan’s three writing systems. There’re just so many of them (the set of general-use kanji consists of over 2,000 characters) that students of the language sometimes start to see kanji as powerful opponents that must be defeated on the path to Japanese proficiency.

So in that case, why not re-imagine kanji as the cast of a fighting game, like Japanese Twitter user @aramatypo has?

One day, @aramatypo was looking at 門, the kanji for mon (“gate”), and realized it looked a bit like a set of powerfully muscled shoulders. From there, he started wondering what it would be like if kanji were characters in a Street Fighter-style video game, which led to the creation of the video above, in which 13 kanji combatants show off the offensive capabilities of their composite strokes.

Let’s take a look at the fighters, who are initially shown in hexagons like a fighting game’s character select screen.

When combined with the phonetic hiragana character く, this becomes 砕く/kudaku, meaning “to crush,” and so its attacks make use of the long strokes at the bottom right as an axis for a variety or smashing and squashing techniques.

棒 is the kanji for bou, a “pole/stick,” giving the character a variety of thrusts in its move set.

傘/kasa is Japanese for “umbrella,” which keeps its protective canopy will peppering its opponent with projectile attacks.

After a hiragana add-on we have 廻る/mawaru, “to spin/rotate,” something this fighter does in three different ways.

轟く/todoroku means “to make a booming or roaring sound.” This one seems to have made the roster because of the high number of strokes needed to write it, giving @aramatypo plenty of freedom to create attacks for it (he even says that 轟 would be the game’s boss character).

巻く/maku means “to roll/wrap.” You’ve probably heard the related words makizushi or temaki, both types of wrapped sushi, and the fighting 巻 uses the hooked protrusion at its bottom to similarly envelop its opponents.

囲む/kakomu means “to surround,” and so it’s capable of striking from all sides and also constricting other fighters’ field of movement.

操る/ayatsuru means to “use/control/manipulate,” and is usually used with tools or weaponry of some sort. That’s why 操 uses its left section as a wand or controller by which it sends the three boxes at its upper right flying to the attack.

噛む/kamu means “to bite,” and it rearranges its strokes into some tooth-like weapons that chomp from both above and below.

興じる/kyoujiru (“to amuse oneself”) doesn’t show up all that often in everyday Japanese, but the related 興味/kyoumi (“interest”) does. Like 轟, it looks like @aramatypo chose to animate 興 strictly based on its appearance, as its attacks don’t seem to be related to the kanji’s meaning.

刈る/karu seems tailor-made for a fighting game appearance, since it means “to slice/reap,” something it does with its boomerang-style tossing of the crossed lines on its left side.

函/hako is a somewhat antiquated way of writing “box” (the more common kanji for the word in modern times is 箱). Nonetheless, the baroque aesthetics let it hide all sorts of weapons in its square interior.

And finally, we come to 鬱/utsu, which means “depression.” This one also seems like it was included primarily for the flexibility of having so many lines to work with, but there may also be a bit of a pun here, as utsu, written with a different kanji (撃つ) means to fire a gun, and the fighting 鬱 does have a lot of projectile attacks (@aramatypo also says it would be the game’s hidden, true boss).

Silly as the premise may be, the video could actually help you remember how to read/write the kanji it showcases. One of the key steps in getting your brain to see kanji as easy-to-remember writing (or at least easier to remember than straight-up illustrations) is breaking a single kanji down into its components, and even if the animations created by @aramatypo don’t use the official linguistic kanji radicals, they still show that one complex kanji is made up of several simple parts.

You might have noticed that despite all the imagination and effort that went into the video, @aramatypo forgot to include 門, the kanji that sparked the idea for the kanji fighters in the first place. But take another look at the character select screen at the video’s start, and you’ll notice a couple of blank spaces at the corners. While that was probably just meant to imitate how modern fighting game’s character select screens are designed from the start with extra spaces for eventual DLC characters, it also means @aramatypo left himself an out for adding 門, and other characters, later.

Unfortunately, there’s no actual Kanji Fighter video game in development (although @aramatypo does have a crowdfunding campaign going for a Japanese vocabulary-building four-player card game going on here). Still, maybe the video, which has racked up over 600,000 views, will catch the eyes of game developers wanting to collaborate with @aramatypo, who will hopefully one day add the kanji 空/”sky,” the sora in SoraNews24, to the roster.

Source: Twitter/@aramatypo, IT Media
Top image: Twitter/@aramatypo
Insert images: Twitter/@aramatypo, SoraNews24

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’d also like to see the kanji 狼 (“wolf”) pulling off Terry Bogard’s super moves.