I think that the lyrics of this iconic anime song tend to be misunderstood. Here's my thoughts on the lyrics. I apologize in advance for grammatical errors.
The original lyrics
teru tsuki toyomunari
yobaini kami amakudarite
yowa ake nuetori naku
*Toh-kami-emi-tame in Utai III is a very iconic part, but I skip it in this article. First, it is very different from other parts. Plus, it's a bit difficult to analyze that part. I'd like to analyze it in another post.
Background of the soundtracks
*from the liner notes of the soundtrack CD
- When they started recording the soundtracks, Kawai had no good ideas. They had only decided to use the traditional drum beat. Kawai just kept beating drums in the first day, and he thought "Is this really okay?"
- Oshii got a confidence when he first heard the vocal.
- Kawai wrote the lyrics. Oshii was impressed that Kawai summarized the story of the film really well in the lyrics.
- Kawai thought that modern Japanese language doesn't fit the song, so he looked up ancient words in a library. "Manyoshu" is one of the books he read at that time.
- The idea of "toh-kami-emi-tame" was brought up by Kazunori Ito.
- Kawai says "I re-interpreted Bulgarian Polyphony's harmony and voices in Japanese way."
- Oshii says that the bell sound gave him an inspiration. GitS is based on the Bible, but the bell sound strengthened shinto vibes. Oshii didn't intend this at first, but the bell sound added yaoyorozu gods' ubiquity into the film.
- Kawai wrote the lyrics, even though he was inspired by some ancient texts.
- Kawai picked some words from Manyoshu. He also used some words from other ancient texts.
- The song is a summary of GitS' story.
I researched distincive words on Makoto Yoshimura's Manyoshu database.
The keywords are
まへば, くはしめ, ゑひにけり, てるつき, とよむなり, よばひ, あまくだり, よはあけ, ぬえどり
Some words are conjugated, so I researched variations as well.
あが まへば/ since I dance
Surprisingly enough, "dance" doesn't appear in Manyoshu as far as I researched. As will be described later, the "dance" phrase seemingly comes from Nihon-Shoki.
くはしめ/ beautiful lady
くはし/ beautiful often appears in Manyoshu, but "くはしめ"/beautiful lady appears only once. It's a long poem.
The corresponding part is
...since I didn't give the sweetfish to my lovely wife...
It is a fisherman's poem of mourning over his wife's death. "妹"(me) means woman in general, so it doesn't necessarily mean wife in other cases.
The poem itself is not related to GitS's theme.
ゑひにけり/ (the beautiful lady) was enchanted
酔/drunk appears in Manyoshu, but 酔ひにけり/ "was drunk" appears only once:
焼太刀の かど打ち放ち 大夫の 寿く豊御酒に 我れ酔ひにけり
When we drew a sword in the ritual party, I found myself drunk by good sake.
In this poem, 酔ふ simply means to get drunk. Kawai interpreted it as "enchanted by the dance". I think that's Kawai's original metaphor.
The auxiliary "に" (a conjugated form of ぬ) means perfect tense or "ended up". The auxiliary verb "けり" means hearsay past and discovery/admiration. And thus, 酔いにけり means "I found myself drunk".
In the lyrics of Utai, it means exclamatory expression on the past where the narrator danced in front of the beautiful lady.
てる つき/ shining moon
This phrase appears so often because the moon is a very common material in traditional poem. Manyoshu contains more than 100 poems about the moon. There're more than 20 poems even for "てるつき"/ shining moon.
It can symbolize various things, like a bow, party night, eternity, ephemerality, guidance, etc. However, it symbolizes lovers in many poems. In the ancient era, men used to visit their girlfriends'/ wives' houses at night. (It is called 妻問婚 or 通い婚.) And thus, the moon symbolized their romantic time. On the other hand, cloud and morning sunshine meant temporary separation and sorrow.
Plus, it is sometimes compared with mirrors.
朝日影 にほへる山に 照る月の 飽かざる君を 山越しに置きて
Like the remaining moon behind the morning moutain, I have to leave you behind.
まそ鏡 照るべき月を 白栲の 雲か隠せる 天つ霧かも
The moon should shine like a mirror, but it is now hidden by a cloud or a fog.
It often appears because it is related to birds. Birds' chirp or mountain echoes are used in many poems. As far as I researched, it is not related to the moon in Manyoshu. I suppose "the shining moon echoed" is Kawai's original metaphor. "響むなり" appears only once:
巨椋の 入江響むなり 射目人の 伏見が田居に 雁渡るらし
A sound echoes over Lake Ogura. Geese fly to Fushimi rice field, where hunters lie down on.
よばひ/ marriage, sex, calling
It often appears in Manyoshu.
As I already explained, ancient Japanese people used to visit their girlfriends' houses at night. That is a common process of marriage, so the linguistic distinction between marriage and sex is vague. The same word also means to call someone. I found 8 poems in Manyoshu, and 4 of them means just to call someone.
In GitS's context, it means marriage and spiritual fusion (sex).
他国に よばひに行きて 大刀が緒も いまだ解かねば さ夜ぞ明けにける
I visited a lover in foreign country, but the dawn broke even before I wore off the sword cord.
あまくだり/ (the god shall) descend
It can be read as both "あまくだり" and "あもり". It should be read as "あもり"(amori) in Manyoshu, but both of them mean the same thing.
I found five poems. In most of the cases, it means Tenson Korin, the descent of Ninigi-no-Mikoto from Takamagahara. It is a myth of the emperor/ tenno's lineage. It is also an origin story of the three secret treasures.
Ninigi is a grandson of Amaterasu, and thus the emperors are hei descendants. Ninigi came from Takamagahara/ heaven and ruled the land of Japan. Amaterasu gave him the three treasures at that time.
The three treasures include Yata-no-Kagami, the mirror that reflected Amaterasu's face in Amano-Iwato.
天降りつく 天の香具山 霞立つ...
When the spring comes and Ame-no-Kaguyama, the mountain of the god's descent, is veiled in mist...
よは あけ/ the night clears away
Manyoshu includes so many poems about night. I found dawn (night clears away) in 10 poems, and 7 of them are poems about sorrows of separation. As I explained in the shining moon part, dawn used to symbolize separation from lovers.
暁と 鶏は鳴くなり よしゑやし ひとり寝る夜は 明けば明けぬとも
The first cock crow says it's morning, but I don't care. It was a lonely night, anyway.
ぬえとり/ night birds or scaly thrush
It is read as ぬえどり(nuedori) in Manyoshu.
Some websites translate it as "chimera bird", but that is very misleading.
ぬえ (nue) originally meant birds that sing sorrowfully at night. Ancient people regarded the song as bad omen. It is assumed that nue is scaly thrush today, but people in the ancient era obviously didn't know that. People just thought that some birds were singing in an ominous, sad voice. That is what people called "nue".
Nue came to mean a chimera-like monster in the 14th to 15th century. In The Tale of Heike, a chimeric monster was slayed by a famous samurai. That monster had a nue-like voice, but it didn't have a name. That's why it came to be called nue later.
In the context of Utai's lyrics, it obviously means night birds.
Manyoshu covers six poems about nue. In most of those poems, nue/ night birds/ scaly thrush symbolize sorrows of separation, or unrequited love. Since their sorrowful songs were heard at night, people connected them with sorrowful separation.
I think it is related to another source material. I'll describe it later.
久方の 天の川原に ぬえ鳥の うら歎げましつ すべなきまでに
Zhinü cries like a scaly thrush beside the milky way, since she can't do anything other than that after the annual rendezvous.
Oshii said that the lyrics of Utai are a summary of GitS's story. We need to consider that aspect.
Oshii has not talked about the song so often. Since the original story was written by Masamune Shirow, Oshii sometimes emphasizes that GitS is not his own idea.
For example, Oshii says this in "This Is My Answer: 1995-2004". (The original interview is from WIRED Japan magazine 1997 October issue.)
The theme of Ghost in the Shell the movie is not cyberpunk. It is a more classic story.
By adding futuristic things into the real scenery, I built some sort of expected world.
That explanation is so vague that it doesn't help us.
In "Mechaphilia", Oshii explains the design of TO8A2. In this essay, he finally explains the mythical aspects of GitS the movie.
Spiders are divine entities even in foreign myths. In Nihon Shoki, Sotoori-no-Iratsuhime composes a poem:
"My lover must come to see me tonight. The spider at the foot of bamboo tells that to me."
Motoko is Ame-no-Uzume, a shaman who dances on the tank (the tub) in order to bring back Puppet Master (Amaterasu). She can't open the hatch (Amano-Iwato), but Batou (Ame-no-Tajikarao) comes there. It is actually a very Japanese story. However, the background environment is the Christian church-like museum. Even the angel appears, and the sound of the AP bullets (the metaphorical sound of church bell) comes into the fusion (marriage) moment. Since the story is set in the chaotic world with little nationality, the mythical background is chaotic as well.
In this text, Oshii brought up two inspiration sources. The first one is Nihon Shoki, and the second one is Amano-Iwato myth. Amano-Iwato myth is included in both Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. I suppose Oshii referenced Kojiki. Ame-no-Uzume takes off her clothes in Kojiki, but that part is deleted in Nihon Shoki. Motoko takes off her clothes in the introduction and the climax, so I suppose it is based on Kojiki version.
Plus, I suppose "I dance" and "the night clears away" parts are based on Amano-Iwato. That's probably what Oshii means by "summary of the film".
*btw, I said I'd skip toh-kami-emi-tame in this article, but I should touch upon it in this part. Before Ame-no-Uzume's dance, Ame-no-Koyane chants "布刀詔戸言"(futonoritogoto, great chant). I suppose, toh-kami-emi-tame stems from that part.
In this chapter, I use Aozora Bunko's data annotated by Yukichi Takeda.
1. Amano-Iwato, Ame-no-Uzume, and dance
Ame-no-Uzume's dance part in Kojiki is written as follows:
天の宇受賣の命 天の香山の天の日影を手次に繋けて 天の眞拆を鬘として 天の香山の小竹葉を手草に結ひて 天の石屋戸に覆槽伏せて 蹈みとどろこし 神懸りして 乳を掛き出で 裳の緒を陰に押し垂りき
Ame-no-uzume began a thunderous dance on an overturned tub, and divinely possessed, she exposed her breasts and lowered her skirt string to her genitals.
(Ama no Iwato (Cave of Heaven) - Japanese Wiki Corpus)
Ame-no-Uzume dances like the lyrics, but "儛ふ" or "儛ひ" is not used in the sentence. It is used in other parts of Kojiki, but "儛へば" doesn't appear. Then, where did Kawai find the phrase "あが まへば"/ since I dance?
That question leads us to another source material: Nihon Shoki. In Nihon Shoki volume 16, 弘計/Okenosumera reveals his noble lineage and becomes Emperor Kenzo. In a party, he dances and sings his identity. That poem includes this sentence:
...あしひきの 此の傍山に 牡鹿の 角挙げて 吾が儛すれば 旨酒 餌香の市に直以て買はぬ...
...At the foot of this mountain, I dance with the deer horns on. These good sake and delicious food can't be bought even in the famous market...
Deer horns can be seen in Manyoshu too. It symbolizes ephemerality of nature.
I suppose the poem itself is not so relevant in this case. Some people might notice that the verb is a bit different (儛へば and 儛すれば). Nihon Shoki and other ancient texts are written in classical Chinese text form, so you can rewrite them down into Japanese in various ways. I suppose Kawai read one of those variations. What really matters here is that there is, at least, one source material of "since I dance" phrase.
2. Okuninushi, Nunakawahime, and night birds
In Kamitsumaki (first volume) of Kojiki, the stories of Okuninushi are told. A goddess called Nunakawahime appears in one of those chapters. That part is important to understand the lyrics of Utai.
After getting married with Suseribime and Yakamihime, Okuninushi hears that a very beautiful lady called Nunakawahime lives in Koshi. He visits her house and composes a poem in front of the house:
八千矛の 神の命は 八島国 妻娶きかねて 遠々し 高志の国に 賢し女を 有りと聞かして 麗し女を 有りと聞こして さ呼ばひに 有り立たし 呼ばひに 有り通はせ 大刀が緒も 未だ解かずて襲衣をも 未だ解かねば 嬢子の 寝すや板戸を 押そぶらひ 我が立たせれば 青山に 鵺は鳴きぬ さ野つ鳥 雉は響む 庭つ鳥 鶏は鳴く 心痛くも 鳴くなる鳥か 此の鳥も 打ち止めこせね いしたふや 天馳使 事の 語り事も 此をば
I, the god of military arts, can hardly sleep with my wife these days. Then, I heard that a wise, beautiful woman lives in the far land of Koshi. I hereby came to marry you. I don't wear off the sword cord and clothes yet. I'm still trying to break the door open. Night birds chirp in a green mountain. Voice of pheasants echoes in the yard. Even cocks crow. Oh, annoying birds. Stop chirping and crowing. Tell that to them, the gods' messangers in the sky.
Many familiar words appear in this poem, like よばひ/ marriage, 鵺/ night birds, and 響む/ echo. Kawai didn't say anything about it, but I suppose it inspired Kawai to some extent.
As I already explained, night birds and dawn symbolize sorrowful separation from lovers. Okuninushi suffers from the same symbols. Now, we can see why Kawai put night birds into the lyrics about dawn and marriage.
However, it also gives another question to us.
(Ballpoint Pen Kojiki by Fumiyo Kono)
Why did Kawai choose night birds?
When we look at the lyrics of Utai again, we realize that most of them can be interpreted only by comparing it with Amano-Iwato.
aga maeba: Ame-no-Uzume's (Motoko's) dance
kuwashime yoinikeri: Amaterasu (Puppet Master) is enchanted by Ame-no-Uzume's (Motoko's) dance.
teru tsuki toyomunari: Amaterasu sees herself (Motoko) in Yata-no-Kagami mirror.
yobaini kami amakudarite: The marriage (fusion) of Motoko and Puppet Master. That part is a bit different from Amano-Iwato story, but we can easily interpret it in the psycho-analysis frameworks. It is a conceptualization of mirror image.
yowa ake: The dawn symbolizes the second coming of Amaterasu (Puppet Master) in Amano-Iwato story.
However, night birds don't fit this story-flow. Birds appear in Amano-Iwato story, but they are 常世長鳴鳥/ cocks. Putting the rhythm of the words aside, why did Kawai use night birds, not cocks? Why did he use the symbolic bird of separation?
I suppose, that part represents Batou's feelings at the end of the film. When Motoko got married/ merged with Puppet Master and transcended this world, Batou was separated from her. We can compare the sorrowful night birds symbol with that feelings.
There is one side evidence for that theory. In the explanation about Batou's scene from "methods: from LAYOUTS of INNOCENCE", Oshii says this:
I believe, there is a composition of farewell, or a composition of premonitory farewell. When I was young, I learned that from my master (Hisayuki Toriumi).
"Oshii-kun. What do you think is the composition of farewell?"
"Well, plane composition?"
"No, it is composition of depth. Two characters turn their back on each other in different layers. That's the composition of farewell."
I was too young and immature. He told me that.
I trained myself and developed my own answer. That's the last scene of GitS: While Batou looks downward in the inner plane, Motoko shows resolute expression to the foreground...
Oshii says the same thing even in the audio commentary of INNOCENCE. The "farewell composition" is apparently a very important theme to Oshii.
I suppose, Oshii might have asked Kawai to add some "expectation of farewell" nuance to the lyrics. That might be the reason why Kawai added night birds.
Even if that didn't happen, we can still interpret the text itself in that way.
GitS is a story of marriage/ spiritual fusion/ transcendence, but it looks like Batou's tragic story of separation to us. Kawai successfully, or unintentionally, put the two different story layers into the lyrics.
Utai is a song of encounter and separation, which is based on Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, and Manyoshu. As Oshii says in the liner notes, those materials perfectly fit the flow of the film's story. They also emphasize shinto and ancient Japanese love story aspects.
In conclusion, I'd like to quote Oshii's words from the novelized version of Patlabor 2 the Movie:
Some separate to meet another person, but others need an encounter, even only to separate.