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The Great Passage 

Fune wo amu (original title)
A major publishing company Genbu Shobo has moved ahead with a publish plan of a new Japanese dictionary named "Daitokai". A young sales staff in Genbu Shobo, Mitsuya Majime is poor at ... See full summary »




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Series cast summary:
Takahiro Sakurai ...  Mitsuya Majime 11 episodes, 2016
Hiroshi Kamiya ...  Masashi Nishioka 11 episodes, 2016
Tetsuo Kanao Tetsuo Kanao ...  Kohei Araki 11 episodes, 2016
Mugihito Mugihito ...  Tomosuke Matsumoto 11 episodes, 2016
Yoshiko Sakakibara ...  Kaoru Sasaki 11 episodes, 2016
Maaya Sakamoto ...  Kaguya Hayashi 8 episodes, 2016
Chiwa Saitô ...  Remi Miyoshi 7 episodes, 2016
Ikuko Tani Ikuko Tani ...  Take 7 episodes, 2016
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A major publishing company Genbu Shobo has moved ahead with a publish plan of a new Japanese dictionary named "Daitokai". A young sales staff in Genbu Shobo, Mitsuya Majime is poor at expressing himself, and he loves books. A veteran lexicographer Araki finds out that he has a natural facility for the Japanese language, and headhunts him to the Lexicographical Department. So Majime becomes a highly competent lexicographer over time.

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Version of The Great Passage (2013) See more »


Sea Breeze
Performed by Taiiku Okazaki
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User Reviews

The Great Passage
22 April 2020 | by Shostakovich343See all my reviews

It befits a series about dictionaries to put some effort into its title. And what a perfect choice "The Great Passage" has been. It may seem like an overstatement, but give the matter some thought and you will see the nuance that title implies. Let Merriam-Webster guide you through the series.

Passage (noun): 1.a 'a way of exit or entrance...'

When we meet our protagonist, Majime, he is desperately in need of an exit, even though he doesn't realise it. He works in a big publisher's sales department, and is wholly unfit for the work he does. As a result, Majime is an unhappy man, strolling through the streets of Tokyo like a living shadow.

Note how we only know of him what we can see. I was bemused by a clueless commenter who said he disliked the whole series because the protagonist's backstory is never relayed. We need no flashback to know Majime. It is already clear that he is calm, shy, clumsy, honest, heartfelt, hapless, and fond of words. We can glance it from his speech, from the way he moves, and the fact that he looks like my Christmas cactus after I'd forgotten to water it all summer.

Majime's exit from his life in sales appears in the form of two editors, who notice his affinity with language. They work in the same publisher's dictionary department, and stand on the verge of creating a new dictionary from the ground up. When Majime enters their small office, stuffed on all sides with dusty volumes, we know this is where he belongs.

3.a(1) 'a specific act of traveling or passing especially by sea or air'

The project's supervisor often uses the image of a wide ocean. The new dictionary, after all, is the eponymous "Great Passage": a safe way to cross the frightful sea of (mis)communication that is life. Over the course of at least a decade, its 210,000 words will be carefully selected and redefined to distinguish the book from all its precursors.

5.b 'something that takes place between two persons mutually'

It is through the passage of information, banter, and even vows with the people around him that Majime grows during his work as editor. He will never be 'normal', but is more than capable of living a functional live. It is just that he cannot change too much. And that turns out to be a strength, for the nuanced development he undergoes comes closer to how people change in real life than a complete hero's journey would.

Particularly well done is his friendship with his co-worker, Nishioka. In many ways, Nishioka is the opposite of Majime: extraverted, resourceful, and (more traditionally) attractive, but he lacks the passion and precision with which Majime does his work. You can already see how they supplement each other. As the mutual influence seeps through in their personal lives, both characters begin to grow, their arcs intertwined like a double helix.

The other characters are explored with a bit more restrain, which suits an eleven-episode series. The results remain more than adequate in any case. Who can resist the kind-hearted professor, or Majime's grandmotherly landlady? And if we know virtually nothing about the secretary Sasaki (played by Yoshiko Sasakibara, no less) outside of her office behaviour, what's wrong with that? Such things tend to happen between co-workers, and Majime isn't one to chat.

2.c 'a continuous movement or flow // the passage of time'

The only point where the writing wobbles a bit is after the series' halfway mark, when the story jumps thirteen years ahead in time. Such a thing was bound to happen, of course. This narrative's heft lies at the far ends of a very long process, and four thousand episodes of comparing word lists wouldn't have benefitted immersion either. And smart direction helps you adjust to the new situation. Note, for example, how flip phones have been replaced by smartphones, and that no self-aggrandising emphasis is put upon this.

6.a 'a usually brief portion of a written work or speech (...) noteworthy for content or style'

Is it farfetched to call the whole of "The Great Passage" a passage? It is after all but a miniseries. At least, the creation of this specific dictionary is a passage in Majime's life, and it may well become one in yours. A well-told story such as this is deserving of your attention. There are many worse ways to pass the time.

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13 October 2016 (Japan) See more »

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