Thursday, February 28, 2019

-suru ga ii ~するがいい

In Japanese, suru ga ii するがいい, or any verb plus ga ii, means literally "it's better to do [something]."

In anime, however, it's pretty much always used by evil-looking characters who're full of themselves to pretentiously tell someone "do this, I allow you to do," a permission, or "it's better you do so," which sounds like an order.

In either case, ga ii is often not translated to English at all.

アハハハっ 私は地獄の支配者になるもの 胡桃沢=サタニキア=マクドウェル この世の悪しきことは私のためにあるっ!! 人間ども!! 私におののき恐怖するがいい!! quote from manga Gabriel DropOut ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 3)
Manga: Gabriel DropOut, Gavuriiru Doroppuauto ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 3)

Explanation

The reason why suru ga ii can sound like either a permission or an order to do something comes from the fact that the i-adjective ii いい means literally "good."
  • suru ga ii するがいい
    To do is good.

It means a permission because it's the answer to the following question:
  • To do is bad?
  • No.
  • To do is good. (you're allowed to do it, it's okay.)

And it sounds like an order because of its opposite:
  • To do is good.
  • Therefore:
  • To not do is bad. (you don't want to not do it.)
  • There'll be consequences.
  • Do it... or else!!!

In this latter case, since not doing it is bad, doing it is "better" than not doing it. That is: "you better do it."

Note however, that suru ga ii isn't normal Japanese, it's evil anime character Japanese. For reference, let's see a verb with ga ii compared to more normal ways to say that "verb is good:"
  • miru ga ii 見るがいい
    To look is good.
    It's better you look. (or else!!)
    I allow you to look. (and you should.)
    Look. (what else needs to be said?)
  • miru to ii 見るといい
    If look: good.
    It's good if you look. (not telling you that you should, but it's good if it happens.)
  • mireba ii 見ればいい
    If look: good.
    It's good if you look. (and maybe you should, because, why haven't you looked yet?)
  • mitara ii 見たらいい
    If looked: good.
    It's better if you looked. (that could also not happen, though.)
  • mita hou ga ii 見た方がいい
    The way [in which you] look is good.
    It'd be better if you looked. (this is an advice.)

And there's other ways to tell someone to do something as an order, a command:
  • miro 見ろ
    See.
    • Imperative form.
  • minasai 見なさい
    See.
    • nasai form, tends to be used by female characters instead.
  • mite 見て
    See.
    • te-form. Doesn't sound as assertive as the forms above.

Furthermore, by modern Japanese grammar, suru ga ii するがいい sounds kind of wrong. That's because normally you can't use a case marking particle, such as ga が, right in front of a verb, or clause. It must go after a noun.

See above how suru hou ga ii has the noun hou between suru and ga. The verb suru, and whatever comes before suru, becomes a relative clause for noun hou:
  • The way [in which you] do [it] is good.
  • ...hou ga ii ~方がいい
    The way... is good.

If we were to use the most generic nominalizer Japanese has to offer, we'd end up with this:
  • suru no ga ii するのがいい
    Doing is good.

Which is a much more normal phrase and doesn't have the evil-sounding nuance of suru ga ii.

To explain why this happens first we need to get why suru ga ii is used even though grammatically it doesn't fit.

It's old Japanese. It's an old way of saying. From older times. When, maybe, it made more sense grammatically. Nevertheless it's still used today, specially in period pieces and anime.

Note that, also in the same old Japanese, the word yoi よい was used instead of ii いい. For example:
  • hanasu ga yoi 話すがよい
    To speak is good.
    • You may speak.
    • I allow you to speak.
    • I allow thee to speak.
  • saru ga yoi 去るがよい
    To leave is good.
    • You may leave.
  • suru ga yoi するがよい
    To do is good.
  • shinu ga yoi 死ぬがよい
    To die is good.
    • It's better if you die.
    • You've disgraced your honor.
    • Your ancestors.
    • Shame on u.
    • Commit sūdoku 数独.
  • korosu ga yoi 殺すがよい
    To kill is good.
    • You may kill him.
    • In fact, KILL HIM, KILL THAT DUDE!!!

So now we have the two components needed to understand why suru ga ii is used by evil-looking villains in anime.

First off, it's because, being either permission or order, it ends up sounding like both. So the evil guy sounds like he's doing a favor, being a benevolent superior being, allowing good stuff to happen, even though in practice he's pretentiously ordering stuff.

The second reason is because it comes from old times. This is just like how the word kisama 貴様 isn't used in modern Japanese, but you see it in anime all the time anyway.

If the character is anachronistic, a time-travelling feudal lord, or maybe the anime is actually set in the past, in a samurai era, then they'll naturally use it. If it's not anachronistic, then they're just mimicking the nobles of the time, or may he's a chuuni who has seen too many samurai anime and is trying to sound cool.

Examples

For reference, some examples of evil characters using suru ga ii and verb ga ii in manga.

恐怖するがいい

Let's start with the evilest one.

アハハハっ 私は地獄の支配者になるもの 胡桃沢=サタニキア=マクドウェル この世の悪しきことは私のためにあるっ!! 人間ども!! 私におののき恐怖するがいい!! quote from manga Gabriel DropOut ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 3)
Manga: Gabriel DropOut, Gavuriiru Doroppuauto ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 3)
  • ahahaha'
    アハハハ
    *evil demon maniac laugh*
  • watashi wa jigoku no shihaisha ni naru mono
    私は地獄の支配者になるもの
    I'm the person [who] will become the ruler of Hell.
  • Kurumizawa Satanikia Makudoweru
    胡桃沢=サタニキア=マクドウェル
    Kurumizawa Satanichia McDowell.
  • kono yo no ashiki koto wa
    watashi no tame ni aru'!!

    この世の悪しきことは私のためにあるっ!!
    The evil things of this world exist [just] for me!!
  • ningen-domo!!
    人間ども!!
    Humans!!
    • domo is a pluralizing suffix that implies inferiority, being humble toward oneself but derogatory toward others. (in this case, the demon girl thinks humans are inferior to her.)
    • It's like saying "you lot" in a bad way, for example.
  • watashi ni ononoki
    kyoufu suru ga ii!!

    私におののき恐怖するがいい!!
    [Shiver in fear before me!!]
    • Literally: to tremble and fear me is good.
    • ononoku 慄く
      To tremble. To shake. (in fear.)

蒸発するがいい

岩をも融かす炎で蒸発するがいい!!太公望!!! quote from manga Houshin Engi 封神演義 (Chapter 2)
Manga: Houshin Engi 封神演義 (Chapter 2)
  • Context: evil guy attacks Taikoubou, the main character.
  • iwa wo mo tokasu honoo de
    jouhatsu suru ga ii!!

    岩をも融かす炎で蒸発するがいい!!
    With this flame [that] even melts boulders, evaporate!!
  • Taikoubou!!!
    太公望!!!
    (character name.)

吸い込むがいい

そう 毒蛾の粉よ!! さあ 体が腐れ落ちるまで配布の奥に吸い込むがいい!! quote from manga Houshin Engi 封神演義 (Chapter 4)
Manga: Houshin Engi 封神演義 (Chapter 4)
  • Context: all according to the keikaku.
  • sou
    そう
    [That's right.]
  • dokuka no kona yo!!
    毒蛾の粉よ!!
    [It's] poisonous moth powder.
  • saa
    さあ
    [Come on.]
  • karada ga
    kusare-ochiru made
    haifu no oku ni
    sui-komu ga ii!!
    体が腐れ落ちるまで配布の奥に吸い込むがいい!!
    Until [your] body rots and drops,
    breathe [it] into the depths of [your] lungs!!

見るが好い

Sometimes ii いい is spelled with kanji as ii 好い instead.

王 (嘲笑う)生意気な! わたしのマントルの力を見るが好い。
Book: "The Three Treasures," Mittsu no Takara 三つの宝 (Page 148)
Author: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke 芥川龍之介
Published: Year 3 of the Shouwa 昭和 era, a.k.a. 1922. (see years and eras.)
Source of the image: 三つの宝 - 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション - dl.ndl.go.jp, accessed 2019-03-22.
The book in plain text, slightly different: 三つの宝 芥川龍之介 - www.aozora.gr.jp, 2019-03-22.
  • ou (aza-warafu.) namaiki na! watashi no mantoru no chikara wo miru ga ii.
    王 (嘲笑ふ。)生意気な! わたしのマントルの力を見るが好い
    King: (sneers.) naive, [aren't you]! [You shall] see the power of my mantle!

哀願してくるがいい

An important reminder that not every time suru ga ii is used it's by an evil demon doing evil things. Sometimes it's just an awfully pretentious character who's full of pride and looks down at other people.

くく・・・その完璧なお嬢様の仮面を崩し赤面しながら俺に哀願してくるがいい quote from manga Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 1)
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 1)
  • kuku...
    くく・・・
    *chuckle*
  • sassato さっさと
    Already.
    • As in: do the following thing already.
    • Hurry up and...
  • sono
    kanpeki-na ojousama no
    kamen wo kuzushi
    その完璧なお嬢様の仮面を崩し
    Destroy that mask of perfect rich girl.
    • ojousama お嬢様
      Daughter.
      Rich girl. (daughter of a rich family.)
    • kuzusu 崩す
      Destroy. (by crumbling, falling apart. Not with a hammer or something.)
    • i.e. ruin the facade of being a perfect girl, stop putting on appearances, etc.
  • sekimen shi-nagara
    ore ni aigan shite
    kuru ga ii
    .

    赤面しながら俺に哀願してくるがいい
    While blushing, come supplicate me.
    • TL note: supplicate means beg.
    • sekimen 赤面
      Red face. (literally.)
      Blushing.
    • shi-nagara しながら
      While doing. (the verb suru plus nagara.)
    • shite-kuru してくる
      Come do. (the verb suru plus the auxiliary verb kuru.)
  • kaichou...
    会長・・・
    [Student] council president...
  • oshitai moushi agete orimasu......
    おしたい申し上げております・・・・・・
    [I luv u.]
    • No, really.
    • This is a confession spoken in some polite keigo.
    • oshitai moushi agete orimasu
      お慕い申し上げております
      [I'm] saying to you: [I] love [you].
    • o- お~
      Polite prefix.
    • shitau 慕う
      To yearn for [someone]. To adore. To love dearly.
    • mousu 申す
      To say.
    • ageru あげる
      [To do] for [someone].
      [To do] to [someone].
      (auxiliary verb.)
    • oru おる
      To be.
    • -masu ~ます
      Polite suffix.

Further Reading

References

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