Tenchi Meisatsu is originally a novel by Ubukata Tow, the man behind Soukyuu no Fafner novels. There’s a movie adaptation coming out sometime last year, starring V6’s Okada Junichi. I’ve never read the novel nor watched the movie so the review here will only be applicable to Maki Ebishi’s manga adaption that’s still on-going in Afternoon magazine.
Keeping it short and simple, the setting for Tenchi Meisatsu should be around early 1600s (I’m guessing it’s 1620s till 1690s) during the Edo period. The focus is on Shibukawa Harumi(渋川春海) who is a Go player for the Shogun, as well as a famous astronomer, mathematician, scholar, and I guess, a jack of all trades. The manga follows Harumi from around the age of twenty until late forties, detailing his journey to create a more accurate calender for the Shogun.
If you Google Shibukawa Harumi, you’ll find that he was a very important figure that helped shaped Japan.
It took me a few reads to understand some of the more technical aspect of the story since it touches on traditional mathematical terms (I don’t even learn these in Chinese?!) used during Edo period. Not to mention, math isn’t really my forte right now. There are also discussion of Go plays, techniques, strategies and somehow relating to astronomy.
The prologue starts from the future with Harumi receiving the imperial decree to change Japan’s calender. Back to the present timeline, Harumi meets many people who helps him hone his mathematical skills, as he struggles with his ability and passion for Go, and his responsibility to his clan. First is Andou, who learns about his love for Math, and sends him to the right direction, Konnou Hachimanguu (金王八幡宮) for its Sangaku (算額). Sangaku are wooden tablets (ema – 絵馬) with theorem or geometrical problems that are placed in Shinto shrines as offering to kami or as challengers for anybody to solve.
At the shrine, Harumi gushes at the amount of ema (fanboy!) and finds one by Isomura Yoshinori (礒村吉徳), a mathematician who wrote the book Harumi’s always carrying around with him, the Sanpou Ketsugishou (算法闕疑抄).
As he sits on the floor with his trustie equation calculating tools which I don’t know what they’re called but it’s a piece of paper with charts and sticks, he meets his future spouse, En. En berates him for blocking the path and being the polite gentleman that he is, he apologises. She also reminds him of the daily imperial/government gathering he has to attend. In his haste to get to the palace, he forgets his sword and has to rush back to grab them.
Back at the temple, he finds all the ema equations solved by someone within the short time frame he’s away and learns about the existence of a man called Seki from En. He then meets his would-be-mentor, Murase Yoshimasu (村瀬義益) who wrote the Sanpou Futsudankai (算学淵底記). Murase talks about Seki Takakazu, who is so good at what he does, instantly solving math problems as soon as he reads the equation, that people called him a monster.
Harumi also has the passionate support from Dousaku who just wants to him to be serious about Go but gives him the right push anyway. Determined to challenge Seki Takakazu, Harumi embarks on an epic journey that’ll mind boggle me to pieces.
Having prior knowledge of Japanese history during the 1600s isn’t a must but it will help readers (or me anyway) to appreciate and understand the intricate plot. To end the post, I’ve compiled some information below which has both information on the manga and historical facts.
Shibukawa Harumi (渋川春海)
Manga: Harumi carries the title, Yasui Santetsu (安井算哲), which he inherited from his late father. Harumi’s very obsessed with math (算術). He’s always carrying a book titled Sanpou Ketsugishou by Isomura Yoshinori. He was ordered to carry a Katana which is a plot to the manga we’ll get to but being a
nerd scholar, he wasn’t used to heavy weapons. Thus, he’s always tripping over the katana. Once, he almost lost his sword.
Facts: Harumi was the son of Yasui Santetsu whom he inherited the title from after the death of his father. He was a go player in service of Tokugawa Shogunate and was appointed as an official astronomer for his service in reforming the Chinese lunisolar calender which had been adopted in Japan in 862. For more info, just read the articles below:
Honinbou Dousaku (本因坊道策)
Manga: Dousaku’s a genius go player studying under Honinbou Douetsu (本因坊道悦). He’s really passionate about go. Dousaku always berated Harumi for dishonouring his family by not playing to his potential and bringing the math book, Sanpou Ketsugishou, to the sacred go dojo.
Fact: Dousaku was in fact, one of the greatest go player in history. It was said that he never really reached his true potential due to the difference in level between him and his opponent. At the young age of 33 he was appointed the fourth Meijin.
I don’t remember where I read it but Harumi’s constant loses to Dousaku got him oust of playing go for/with the shogun. :’D I’m speculating that’s why he went back to being called Shibukawa? So don’t quote me on this! /runs
Yasui Sanchi (安井算知)
Manga: Harumi mentioned an elder brother which Dousaku responded to with the name “Yasui Sanchi”. Dousaku doesn’t seem to think very highly of him?
Fact: He doesn’t sound like a very good person in real life anyway. It’s said that he achieved the title of Meiji by going through underhanded methods. Just read about him in the article below.
Yasui Santetsu (安井算哲)
Manga: Harumi’s father. Not much is known about him in volume 1.
Fact: First head of Yasui clan and was Harumi’s dad.
Former name for Japan’s capital in Tokyo during Tokugawa Shogunate’s seat of power, 1603 to 1868.
Closed Door Policy – Sakoku (鎖国)
Japan’s Closed Door Policy, Sakoku is (or was) in effect throughout the whole plot of the manga. The policy states that no foreigner are allowed to enter, nor local Japanese able to leave the country without being penalised with death.
Four Go Clans For Shogunate
Can’t find a better title but in the manga, Tenchi Meisatsu, there are four clans that were in service of the Shogun. They were: Hayashi (林), Honinbou (本因坊), Inoue (井上) and lastly, Yasui (安井).
Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康)
For some reason, Dousaku mentions that their family are in service of Tokugawa Ieyasu, though he’s in office only for 2 years, 1603~1905 before Hidetada took over him as the second Shogun of Japan.
Anyway, I do recommend everybody to get the book if you’re interested in this mind boggling story. The print is superb, the paper quality is so good, online raws really crapped up the colours for these pretty colour inserts and it’s Maki Ebishi’s book!