Come for the heartwarming story of a famous artist actually getting time off to spend with family, stay for the weird Japanese linguistics lesson!

Being a manga artist gives you the opportunity to realize your storytelling ambitions on a grand scale, and possibly make yourself quite wealthy while doing it. The trade-off, though, is that it’s an incredibly busy job, even by Japanese standards.

Japanese comics are published on a relentless schedule, with new chapters appearing in anthologies every week, and that pace makes the work cycle pretty much constant for creators. However, the official Twitter account for turn-of-the-century treasure-hunting manga series Golden Kamuy says the series will be taking a break for a very special reason.

“Golden Kamuy will be on hiatus in Volume 12 of [manga anthology] Weekly Young Jump, which goes on sale February 20, because [series author/artist] Noda is taking take time off for having a baby.”

The announcement was both a surprise and a head-scratcher to many, though, because Noda’s first name is Satoru, a male name, but the Japanese-language verb used in the announcement is shussan. While shussan does mean “have a baby,” the way the verb is written, 出産, contains the kanji character 出, meaning “out,” and so shussan refers to the physical act of birthing the baby, so it’s something only the mother can do, not the father.

▼ Trailer for the Golden Kamuy anime adaptation

Of course, true Golden Kamuy fans know Satoru Noda is a pen name, and that the artist’s real name is Satoshi Noda, but Satoshi, once again, is a male name. This caused online reactions such as:

“Golden Kamuy is drawn by a woman?”
“Has Noda actually been a woman all this time?”
“Noda is a woman? Or is this like that Schwarzenegger movie there the guy gets pregnant?”
“Maybe giving birth to a manga and giving birth to a baby aren’t so different.”

However, Noda is indeed a non-baby-birthing dude, as a quick Google image search corroborates. The confusion seems to stem from the specific phrasing used in the announcement, which was “Noda-sensei ga shussan no tame oyasumi desu,” which looks like this when written in Japanese:

Sensei is the industry title used for manga artists, and ga just marks Noda as the subject of the sentence. Oyasumi desu, as it’s used here, means “taking time off.”

The tricky part comes in the middle, with no tame. No tame is a very common, but also potentially very confusing, phrase. Quite often it means “for the sake of” or “in order to.” For example, Gokaku wo suru tame ni benkyou shimashita means “In order to pass the test, I studied.”

However, no tame also has another meaning, which is “because of.” For example, “Ame no tame ni densha ga okureteimasu” means “Because of rain, the train is late.”

So when the Golden Kamuy Twitter account sent out the hiatus announcement, they were using no tame in the second sense, with shussan no tame meaning “because of a birth,” i.e. Noda’s wife giving birth to the baby. However, some people took no tame to mean “in order to,” a technical grammatical possibility, which would make shussan no tame mean “in order to give birth to a baby,” implying that Noda himself had carried the kid to term.

Two other factors might have been at play. First, while no tame can mean either “in order to” or “because of,” in spoken Japanese, the first usage is slightly more common, and perhaps the casual nature of reading tweets caused some people to initially think the phrase meant “in order to” in this instance. Second, it’s pretty uncommon for manga artists to take time off for any reason, and paternity leave is also still something very few Japanese men take, and so the doubly rare possibility might have been something that didn’t register in some readers’ minds.

Still, mixed in with confused comments about whether or not Noda had been a woman the entire time were those from people who’d interpreted Noda’s wife as the one giving birth from the start, as well as a number whose reactions amounted to “Umm…I’m not sure who’s having the baby, but here’s hoping for health and happiness for the whole family!” And while the announcement promises Golden Kamuy will be back for the February 27 issue of Young Jump, at least Noda will get to spend a few days focusing on his expanding family.

Source: Twitter/@kamuy_official via Otakomu
Top image: YouTube/NBCUniversal Anime/Music
Insert images: SoraNews24, YouTube/NBCUniversal Anime/Music
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