I know it’s kind of a rite of passage for new HikaGo fans to think Sai’s a girl until they see like, a YouTube comment or something that’s all “Sai’s not a girl! His appearance and personality would have been considered very manly in the heian period!”, but that’s not entirely true.
While his clothes are fairly typical for an upper class man during the heian period, you know how during the flashback Sai stood out a lot compared to the creepy-looking generic background guys? Yeah, those guys are actually pretty standard heian dudes.
Heian aristocratic men generally had shorter hair that was pulled back and then bound up into a topknot underneath their hats. Little pointy beards and moustaches were also considered attractive, and both men and women often covered up their eyebrows with makeup and drew on little dot eyebrows higher up on their foreheads, although I don’t think either of these things were that big a deal for men tbh.
Here’s an example of a historical reenactor (I think?) in an outfit very similar to Sai’s:
You can see his hair is nothing like Sai’s at all.
Meanwhile, for women of the time, the fashion was to have extremely long, flowing hair, similar to Sai’s. (This style was known as taregami.) It was a huge deal and also very difficult to maintain. Washing and brushing taregami was something of a group effort that took all day, and a lot of women paid a lot of money to have special shampoo recipes developed for them.
So TL;DR, Sai seems to do his hair like a very fashion-conscious lady. Do with this information what you will. (Also, I want you all to know that in researching this, I googled “Heian era man” in both English and Japanese, and in both languages, Sai popped up…)
May 5th is forever cemented in my mind as the day Sai moved on.
I was going to leave the background plain white but then thought that Sai, as a Heian noble, would be appalled by its simplicity. So here are some (sketchy) autumn grass-like plants because autumn is when things start to die and May 5th…well…not that Sai was alive to begin with, but still…
What with having both a journey and a game the following
day, Hikaru’s second visit to Yashiro’s residence provided no more opportunity
for a party than the first. Technically, they could get drunk and stay up most of the night, but that would be a
bad idea for all sorts of reasons.
Btw, another note on Sai and gender: As far as I know, in the heian court women were generally segregated from men, and could only speak to them from behind an opaque screen unless they were in that woman’s immediate family, or they were literally having sex.
There’s a brief flashback scene where Sai joins a group of women playing go, and this isn’t seen as ~scandalous~ or anything, it’s just a pleasant surprise for the women.
So yeah, honestly, the more I look at things the more I think Sai was definitely consciously intended to be an androgynous figure.
It’s almost May, which means it’s once again time to revisit one of my favorite manga/anime series of all time, Hikaru no Go! It’s something of an old hidden gem with not much of a fandom these days, so I’d love to introduce new fans!
Hikaru no Go is a coming-of-age story centered around the game of go (known as weiqi in China and baduk in Korea), a real life east Asian strategy game dating back thousands of years, which is still played today with very little changed from its original form.
The story focuses on three people: Shindou Hikaru, a rambunctious and hot-tempered young boy who seeks the attention of Touya Akira, the son of one of Japan’s top go players; Touya Akira, a boy widely hailed as the hope for the next generation of go players, whose life is overturned by the appearance of Hikaru; And Hikaru’s mentor, Fujiwara no Sai, the sweet-natured but overly emotional, go-obssesed ghost of a go master from 1000 years ago.
So basically, it’s a sports manga but about board games, and one of the main characters is a thousand-year-old ghost. Pretty sweet if you ask me. It’s very well written, with character development I’d almost put on the level of Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s also notable in that it’s a manga published in Shonen Jump that was written by a woman, something you don’t see in the most famous Jump manga.
Also, it’s full of go puns, which is the entire reason it’s associated with May 5th (5 = 五 = go).
Throughout the first week of May, I’ll be streaming choice episodes of the anime every night starting at 9 PM EST. I’ll be showing the first episode on Monday, May 1st. I hope to see a lot of people there!