Chloe?: Personally i think Sai is not very feminine... you can obviously tell that he's a guy. I think it's the lip stick that turns peoples off. He'd be pretty sexy without the earings and lipstick.<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Oh and that reminds me, the fact that he doesn't have chin hair... i bet it's because he never went through puberty!!!! Oh nu!!! hahahahahahahaha!!!
erifer? When I first started reading the series, I thought that he was a woman too! But imagine if he was a woman! :D
jesusin: I am just kidding, please do no take this too seriously.
My Japanese friends have told me that Sai is a man. I had always thought she (sorry, he) was a woman.
What do you think about it?
To my Western eyes, his face, his hands, his hair, his hat, his ear-rings... look all very feminine.
What to say about his chin? Hundreds of years trapped in a goban without shaving and there is not even a beginning of a beard!!! ;-)
SomeGuy? ^^ answering the beard question, the reason he doesnt have one is that he's a spirit or soul. They dont continue to age fromt he moment they die, so if he died with the beard (the anime didnt show on in his past) then he would have a beard, but because he was clean shaven (if he shaved at all) his spirit is clean shaven too
splice: I doubt Sai is a woman. The emperor of Sai's time most likely would not have had a woman as a go tutor. And I'm pretty sure Akira is very definitely a boy's name.
Virag0?: Traditionally Japanese are not shown as hirsute. I would say that Sai is a "gentle" man.(All together, now:"sigh!)
Skelley: Sai is obviously a man, any one who'd read properly and pay attention to the texts and pictures would know. Go back to your reading table and find the proof for yourself :)
Akira is not a boy's name though, splice, it's commonly used for girls too (probably a family name). Akira Touya is definitely a boy, read the text on the pages where Hikaru first meets him.
exswoo No, Akira is not a family name (It's obvious that Touya is) but it is one of the few sex-ambiguious names that's available in the Japanese language (The only other one I can think of at the moment is Kei...although I know I'll recognize more if I hear them). It's sort of like the name Alex in English. Usually given to males, but every so often you'll meet women with that name.
Skelley: Thanks for clearing that up :)
HandOfPaper: (I hope this isn't too digressive or off-topic for SL.) If you have seen Sailor Moon and El Hazard, you will know that Makoto is also an androgynous name: it is the name of both Mizuhara Makoto in El Hazard (definitely male) and Kino Makoto in Sailor Moon (definitely female). In Sailor Moon, however, Makoto's name is generally shortened to "Mako" because (to my understanding) names ending in "ko" are generally female. This is because "ko", which in this context (we all know it has another meaning :-) ) means "child", is a diminutive. This suggests some possible puns...
This is from a post on the subject in rec.games.go (the post was signed by DW, sorry I cannot cite the author better):
To a western eye unaccustomed to Japanese manga, perhaps, but if you familiarize yourself with a variety of other manga titles you'll realize any such judgement is overly hasty. Different artists and genres have different styles of course, but there is a long tradition of the "beautiful male" (aka "bishonen") in Japanese comics and whole genres devoted to it.
You also need to consider the period Sai is from, most westerners only see images of modern or "samurai" japan. Sai is from a much older period, and a culture where poetic skill was prized above just about anything, where communication among the elite was frequently via poetry and the selection of paper was as important as the words. Women were not supposed to be directly seen by men, people entertained themselves at "moon viewing parties" and the like. I'd venture to say most men from such an environment would seem feminine by most modern standards.
My friend (whom is incidentally the only one who has read Hikaru No Go, yet still refuses to learn the game) and I have a slightly different take. While we acknowledge he could just be a bishonen character thrown in for the heck of it, we think Sai is intentionally gender neutral. If you look at him closely, he may not seem male, but then again, he doesn't seem all together female eiher. We believe that this was a deliberate device to show that his gender does not really matter, and to further his image as an embodyment of Go. We never noticed any spoken hint to a trace of the sexuality of Sai anywhere. So it appears to us that this gender neutral-ness is to emphasize the fact that the only reason for Sai's exhistance is Go. Just our two cents. --BlueWyvern
Dieter: As someone said on rgg, there is an episode in which Hikaru makes a very bad comment on women playing Go. Sai corrects Hikaru and tells about the ancient times and that even then women played Go. All of this would be nonsensical if Sai were a woman him/herself.
Scartol: And besides, there's a little interstitial line drawing thing at the beginning of one of the episodes where the author complains about being asked (erroneously) "Is Sai a woman?" all the time..
My full respect to Japanese people. My full respect to Western people. My full respect to homosexual people. My full respect to Hikaru No Go Junkies. My full respect to Fujiwarano Sai. If you have felt offended by my words, please accept my apologies and feel free to delete it all.
Mike: Without necessarily contradicting what has been said, Sai is not so much genderless as neotenic (having young features). The assumptions about gender come with assumptions about age.
To some extent things we associate with aging (eg body hair, hardening of features) come later for women, hence the association of youthful looks with femininity. "Sai as essence of Go". Sure, to a point - but Touya Meijin is also presented as one close to the Hand of God, and there's no questioning his maleness.
It's not just looks, it's behaviour. Sai is to some extent immature (eg the "oh goody I get to play" kind of scenes). Here again, a more traditional stereotype of femininity - giggly & helpless etc, makes us question Sai's gender.
I think Sai's appearance is meant to fit in with the young characters, and Hikaru in particular. How much could the younger manga readers identify with a Sai who looked like (even) Touya Meijin, much less many of the other adult males or females?
Most particularly, how credible would the way Hikaru & Sai deal with one another be if Sai looked and acted more like an adult???
Last, a question: in a story filled with children who play better Go while sleeping than most of us aspire to achieve in our lifetime, why do we question Sai's gender and not his age??
Some thoughts.... Mike
moonprince: As a fan of Heian period culture for more than twenty years, I can confirm that Sai is a proper Heian gentleman. Obata-sensei's art is amazingly detailed and accurate, from which we can deduce Sai was probably a gentleman of the 5th rank. He is usually depicted wearing noshi sugata (causal clothing).
A high ranking bureaucrat: http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/japanese/EKCourt/heianmen.html. A high ranking military officer: http://www.iz2.or.jp/english/fukusyoku/kosode/12.htm. Change the hats, supply proper shoes, shorten the trains a bit, and Sai would have worn very similar clothing while attending the Emperor.
Heian gentlemen were supposed to display their emotions as elegantly as possible. A stoic man would have been considered an insensitive lout. The stoicism which is the norm for Western men is merely the fashion of our day, in other eras Western men have been much more flamboyant. However, since stoicism is considered 'masculine' by English speakers at this time, men who display their emotions are seen as 'unmanly' (childish, feminine, weak, even gay). This tells us nothing about Sai's gender or personality, but it does tell us a lot about Western beliefs regarding personal appearance.
Viewers tend to remember the humorous parts of Hikaru no Go, but they should keep in mind that the more weepy and giggly images of Sai are done in a comic style and are not supposed to be taken seriously. Do we really believe that both Hikaru and Sai would fall flat on their backs with their feet in the air during the insei test? I doubt it. But such moments of comic relief are a welcome break during the rather dry professional go proceedings.
But while Sai is clearly a Heian gentleman, his very long hair tied in the middle of his back is the epitome of Heian women's hair style. Heian men wore shorter hair, confined by their caps. Artists frequently depict them with short hair, which is reasonable artist license. Given the high degree of historical accuracy in the series I cannot believe that Obata-sensei made a mistake, I believe he deliberately chose to depict Sai with a female hair style. The earrings are an anachronism too, Heian men and women did not wear earrings. Perhaps the earrings are an attempt to make Sai appear more 'hip', there's a good chance a Heian go master would have been considered stultifyingly dull by a modern audience unless his image was updated. Yet if Obata-sensei intended Sai to be unequivocally male he would have not used details which deliberately undermine our perception of Sai as a man.
In other words, I think Obata-sensei is toying with us :) Obata-sensei and Hotta-sensei are very skilled, by making Sai's gender ambiguous they force us to look at him as a person, not a gender, and to respect him for who he is and not what he looks like.
Hmm, *question* for the historians: is Sai effeminate because he is upper class? e.g. so as not to be perceived as a threat to the emperor? It seems to me that social class correlates with apparent effeminateness in men. Social graces. Anybody agree?
To me (straight male football-hating intellectual american, if it matters) he's _masculine_, in a weird but appealing way, laser-focused on go, justice, and teaching. Just childlikely open. No poses. A cool character, probably my favorite. But then I'm weird. Anybody else? -- evpsych
(But if the Heian scholar above is right about hair and ears, then maybe not. Where are all those teeming hordes of Heian scholars when you need them? speak up! :-))
No, Sai doesn't have any! Hikaru no Go is a G rated manga, we can't have any of that! Besides, Sai is a ghost, I mean, unless there was some other ghost to do it with or something, it looks like you're not getting any, Sai!
Comment: Sex is used for gender here, not for penetration. Am I a step ahead or a step behind you?
Someone hasn't discovered the wonderful (or terrifying, depending on how you look at it *_*) world of HnG doujinshi...
I know this page is long since dead, but I think this should be added. In the first opening song we see Sai in a field playing a flute. In pre-modern Japan, playing a flute was perhaps the most masculine thing that one could do (specifically, samurai warriors? I'm drawing off my World History class here).
Naustin-Well here's another question for historians. If Sai did happen to be a woman, would she have had to pose as a man to obtain a job at court teaching the emperor, or even a lower lord of some sort?
Now that I recall, didn't he have his hair (comparitively) short and confined to the hat in the early drawings?
I read up on the history behind this depiction - there is some of it on Wikipedia's page and other pages on gentlemen of the Heian Period, and even more on sites about homosexuality in Heian Japan. Sai is male, but his extremely long hair denotes his aristocratic position: the only people who had this length of hair were aristos who had teams of servants to wash this hair for them. Homosexuality was common: think Rome and its society of men - it was fairly common for men to bond completely with other men for political power, etc., and this didn't even mean that they were "gay" in the sense that we use the word today to mean someone who ONLY likes men. It was a common social aspect of life, especially for aristocrats, monks, and the warrior caste. These bonds were considered vital to a good life. Sai's skin is very pale, in keeping with the ideal skin tone for Heian era aristos. Pale people led lives indoors (the upper class), and darker-complected people were thought of as such because they worked in the sun (working class). As a result of this aesthetic, people going to an arisocratic gathering often powdered or painted their faces whiter, especially if their natural pigmentation wasn't pale. Sai's clothing interested me, too. You can see that he's wearing a long, flowing garment over a suit of clothes. Apparently, to denote one's aristocracy, one wore intricate clothing combinations. People often layered their outergarments so that each layer's sleeve showed individually. The colors of these garmets had to be closely coordinated for the highest aesthetic impact - anything less was an embarrassment. Sai carries a fan, which is another sign of one's aristocratic rank in court. Higher ranking persons had fans with more folds, and lower ranking persons had fewer folds. There were thirty separate ranks among people at court. My theory is that Sai might be the Emperor/ Ruler's special man, because in Epi. 1 of HNG, Sai's rival Go-Teacher at court wants him out because he is upset or jealous about something. I think he wants Sai dismissed because he knows that Sai's special favor with the Emperor threatens his status at court.