Before we begin, let us pray for Japan again. One year after the March 11 earthquake, there was yet another earthquake in Japan. We have not received any official report of any casualty yet, but let us pray for everyone’s safety in Japan.
Death flags. You must have heard about it at least once. I have discussed it once. The thing is, do we really know what a death flag is?
“Flag” is actually a computing term, but we take this word out to name the events or actions (X) which would lead to a specific consequence (Y): if X happens, Y would then happen. A death flag is a specific kind of flag, in which the consequence (Y) is the death of the character: if X happens, the person would die.
Typical death flags include:
- Saying things in the form of “after I [do this event], I will [do that even]”.
- Asking others to take care of pets/things.
- Face-heel turn of bad people.
- Buying time for friends to escape from enemies.
- Attacking very powerful villain, and looks as if successful.
- Confessing to your beloved before entering an epic battle.
As you can see, there is no real causal links between X and Y – seriously, merely mentioning the plan to marry your girlfriend won’t get you killed in the real world. Still, it is a well-accepted fact that, if a character in a manga says that he is going to marry his girlfriend after the current war, the probability of him meeting his fate is over 9000%. Without causal link, the only reason for X leading to Y is that, the authors want Y to follow X. A death flag, as such, represents the intention of the authors to kill the characters. With the intention of the authors, anything is possible.
The above listed X are (arguably) good events, but they lead to the same bad Y – the death of the character. Why would authors want the characters to suffer a bad consequence, following a good event? One of the main reasons is to point out the sad fact that, happiness and good things are simply out of reach for some characters. Their tragedies add a bit of “depth” and “reality” to the story, making it more, um, outstanding.
So, what’s a death flag got to do with Ch. 354? The answer is that Nagi said it out loud: “After these exams are over, I want a reward.” This is exactly out Type 1 death flag. If it really was a death flag, Nagi would die in the exam days, and she would never see the day exams ended. This, of course, was worrying for Hayate and Maria.
Why did Nagi want a reward, anyway? It was that she saw herself going to school on time everyday for the exams a huge achievement, and she deserved a reward for achieving something so remarkable. She might be exaggerating (From the point of view of a normal student, Nagi WAS exaggerating things.) things, but even if we take these exaggerations out, finishing exams is still worthy of a celebration.
It therefore was up to Hayate and Maria to think of a reward which would get Nagi’s heart racing. Maria began by telling an old story of hers. Long ago (Just how long was long, Maria-san?), Mikado had given Maria a sea monkey kit – a small aquarium which raised a species called sea monkey.
I must say, the sea monkeys look extremely disgusting for me, so I don’t understand why Mikado gave such things to Maria, or why Maria was so excited about such an ugly species. In any case, Maria had wanted to raise the life form by – let’s see – 250 times, but as the sea monkeys died, the excitement turned into disappointment…
So, what Maria was talking about was an incident in which excitement became disappointment. This was a subtle warning for Nagi: Don’t expect too much from anything, or you will suffer a huge setback.
Nagi began complaining about the disappointment, but Hinagiku heard her as she entered the dining room – she wasn’t going to school early this day. As she did not hear the first half of the conversation, she mistook that Hayate and co. were telling stories of disappointment. She then began telling her own story right away, despite the constant protests from Nagi.
When Hinagiku was eight, her father – her foster father, to be exact – told her about Nagashi Soumen. As a small child who had not heard of the food, Hinagiku was very curious about Nagashi Soumen, and she thought such a way to have noodles was amazing. In her own imagination, Nagashi Soumen could have been a very excited way to eat.
I don’t think I have to explain what Nagashi Soumen is, as the Katsura family was kind enough to demonstrate what it is to us. After Mr. and Mrs. Katsura finished setting up the scene (The funny thing is that, the family did have a Nagashi Soumen set ready for a set-up…), Hinagiku’s first ever Nagashi Soumen experience began!
Noodles slid across the tunnel for her to catch, and if she did not catch them, they fell into the water at the bottom of the set. She successfully caught the noodles on the second attempt, but it did not look really special, and the noodles did not taste especially good. If we ask why Hinagiku was so disappointed with Nagashi Soumen, perhaps it was because, well, it was not as special as she had thought.
So that was the story of Hinagiku. It was a pointless story for Nagi and some readers, but I found it interesting that, the face of Hinagiku’s foster father remained unseen. Either Hata had not yet settled on what he should look like, or that the identity of Mr. Katsura had to remain a secret for now. Who could he be, then?
Unfortunately, we do not have enough evidence on hand to figure out the identity of Mr. Katsura, so let us come back to Ch. 354 for now. Nagi was having no more of stories of disappointment. She insisted that she wanted a reward which could get her heart racing. The question, as Hinagiku put forward, was: What exactly could get her heart racing?
“Yakiniku.” Out of nowhere, Chiharu came up with this suggestion. In plain English, Yakiniku means “grilled meat”. It is a special kind of Japanese cuisine, in which you grill the meat by yourself, and you eat it along with rice. It is very delicious, and it certainly would make one’s heart racing, but it sounds a bit odd for a girl to suggest to another girl to “Eat! Eat! Eat!”
Besides, I am not sure why Chiharu looked so agitated…
Nagi then asked Chiharu if she would take her to Yakiniku. Chiharu refused furiously (Again, I don’t know why…), saying that she did not want to take anyone to go, because she wanted to be taken to go. You might think that she was actually the one who wanted the reward.
As Chiharu refused to take Nagi to a Yakiniku restaurant, Hayate began to think if he should make the offer. After consulting Maria on whether Nagi had been to a Yakiniku restaurant (Ans: No.), and whether these restaurants were expensive (Ans: Yes.), Hayate made his offer. However, there were two hidden conditions in his offer: First, he was only taking Nagi to go; second, he would only go to a very cheap restaurant.
Of course, given his feeble communication skills, none of these two conditions was noticed.
For the first condition, the context was wrong. He was making an offer right after Chiharu said that she wanted to be taken to the restaurant herself. Hayate’s offer would mean that he would take whoever had taken the exams to go, so Nagi, Hinagiku and Chiharu all assumed that they would be taken. As Hayate did not say from the beginning that he was only taking Nagi, he also gave room for any other people to join as well, so there came Alice and Kayura, and we have to expect that Maria would come too. As such, while Hayate expected to take one to go, he ended up having to take five or six.
In any case, forget about only taking Nagi to go, Hayate. Singling out someone from a group for a special treatment is social suicide. Well, at least we finally know why his sociability is said to be zero.
For the second condition, Hayate actually had dug his own grave. If you have agreed to take someone to a restaurant, nobody would ever expect you to fool him/her with pathetically cheap and old meat! Such was the case with Nagi, and she reasonably expected to have a good meal. Chiharu added to the hype by naming a good Yakiniku restaurant, and it meant that Hayate could never take them to anything cheap anymore.
Hayate must have regretted deeply with his offer, but what he offered had been offered, and Nagi’s expectations had already gone up. There was no way for him to take back or alter his offer, even (or especially) when Nagi expressed her worry that it would be too costly for him. Hayate had no choice but to confirm his promise: He would take everyone to Yakiniku when the exams were over…
As you can see, this is once again our Type 1 death flag, and this time it came out of the mouth of Hayate. If it really is a death flag, then Hayate would die before the exams ended, and he would have no chance to take the girls to Yakiniku…
Well, as explained above, a death flag is made to point out that, happiness is out of reach for the character. For the Type 1 death flag, the happiness lies with the fulfillment of the wish/promise made. The promised thing, therefore, should have been something happy for the character. Yet, wasting a lot of money on a meal was clearly not a happy thing for Hayate. To him, it would be much better if he did not have to fulfill his promise, so it can be argued that his promise did not really qualify as a death flag. As such, Hayate would not die – not before the exams ended, anyway.
But if he survived the exams, he would have to fulfill his promise and spend a lot of money. Besides, let us not forget that he had suffered a cold on his first day of exams, so in the very worst case, Hayate would have to take the girls to Yakiniku while grieving over his expulsion from Hakuou…
Sometimes, death is probably an easier choice.