In the middle of the Famicom game Bucky O'Hare, a cutscene starts with this text:

こうして 4人を きゅうしゅつした バッキーであったが・・・じつは それは バッキー オヘアを とらえる ために トードぐんが しくんだ わなだったのだ!!

The meaning of the sentence is obvious -- "Thus Bucky rescued the four, but [etc., etc.]" -- but I can't quite grasp this use of であった. I realize it's from である, but its role here doesn't seem to be a simple "was". What's going on here?

  • I guess I didn't really expect it to be an "it was X who..." sort of construction. The idea did occur to me, but it didn't seem right. But maybe that's what it is after all. トードぐん is correct, BTW. It's トード軍: the Toad Army. It's usually written in the game as トードぐんだん, but for some reason it's just トードぐん in this quote. – Kef Schecter Oct 27 '11 at 9:00
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    Somebody edited this article to tag it with "tense", but I'm not sure why, since I think tense is only peripherally related to the question. – Kef Schecter Jan 5 '12 at 21:11

"It was Bucky that...", by comparison with 救出{きゅうしゅつ}した のは バッキーであった, is an easy trap to fall into, but I don't think it's right.

The sentence こうしてバッキーは4人を救出した describes events from an objective global perspective, but the wording in the sentence in the question takes a small amount of time to reflect on Bucky himself as he existed at that point in time -- what he's thinking, feeling, etc.

であった asserts that Bucky was for a brief moment "Bucky, who in this manner had (just) saved the four". We briefly reflect on what this change feels like / means for him.

I'm finding this very hard to put into English phrasing, and this attempt takes a wrong turn or two, but hopefully it gets there:

"And so there was Bucky, having in this manner (just) saved the four--"

I think it would help to post a more powerfully emotive example, but I'm having trouble finding one... >_>

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    +1 I think you are right. I agree with you especially the point that it is different from のは~であったsentense. When it comes toこうして~した(noun)であった, I get a feeling as if some story (or a paragraph) before the sentence's completely and totally finished. Because of this noun+であった's effect, theじつは sentence carries greater meaning to express unpredictability. – user364 Oct 29 '11 at 6:12

The question is well put. It is indeed a special case of how 連体修飾 (the relative clause) is used in narrative.

Linguistically this is quite simple to derive:

ハッキーは4人を救出した 'Bucky saved four people' transformed into

4人を救出したハッキー 'Bucky, who saved four people'.

What is interesting is the use to which this particular structure is put.

4人を救出したハッキーであった... is literally 'Was Bucky, who saved four people...'.

But this doesn't make much sense. I think Hyperworm's rendition of this as 'So there was Bucky, who saved four people' is a good one. It could also be rendered 'So here we had Bucky, who saved four people'.

As a narrative style, this is not telling us that Bucky saved four people (which we presumably know already). It is telling us something about the situation -- here was Bucky, this guy who had saved four people. As Hyperworm says, this little sentence is a prelude to further information, namely, that this was actually a trap.

This is a device commonly used in certain types of Japanese narrative. To make up a silly example (sorry, it's the first thing that popped into my head) using the present tense rather than the past tense:

ブッサイクな女が大嫌いな次郎だが、この次郎はもうすぐ東京一の不細工な女性に出会うところだ。 Here we have Jiro who hates ugly women, and he's about to meet the ugliest woman in Tokyo.

This is setting the scene rather dramatically for what is about to happen. Of course we could say in Japanese as well as in English:

次郎はブッサイクな女が大嫌いだが、この次郎はもうすぐ東京一の不細工な女性に出会うところだ。 Jiro hates ugly women, but he's about to meet the ugliest woman in Tokyo.

But this would lack the dramatic flourish that the use of 連体修飾 (relative clause) provides.

Hope this clarifies what this structure is all about.

  • I disagree. I think the "setting the scene" effect is achieved not just by using relative clause. I think the phrase こうして plays quite an important role. – Flaw Jan 8 '12 at 9:40
  • It depends what you mean by "setting the scene". I think こうして here refers to what went before, i.e., the way that Bucky saved the four people, which could be some kind of description or actual events as observed. The meaning would thus be: "Here we had Bucky, who in this way had rescued four people". こうして could be omitted from the sentence and the relative clause would have the same narrative force. – Bathrobe Jan 8 '12 at 12:10
  • I concur with your assessment now. – Flaw Jan 8 '12 at 16:26

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