フラグ [furagu]

March 21, 2008 at 3:54 pm (doujin(同人), otaku word)

 Yes, I often hear this word lately, but everytime I came across this, I wondered what it was meant to be. フラグ[furagu] merely means a flag, but I assume when you come across it, you might be playing a bishoujo or otome game. When you pursue a certain girl/boy in such a game, you would definitely encounter some questions which enable you to go forward at the certain points. You need to choose a right answer, otherwise you would fail to pursue her/him. Yes, those questions don’t seem to be so important, but actually they are. Because if you don’t choose a right one, you can’t get a happy conclusion. The right answer must be hiding in the questions…that is フラグ[furagu]. If you can tell the answer you selected might be correct, you could say like フラグが立った[furagu ga tatta] to mean “successfully passed the point,” or “it is going to be okay.” But don’t get reassured until you have a happy ending! 

 Having said that, I feel フラグ things are actually used in real life, especially in real love. In the song 愛しの彼が振り向かない[Mikuru’s version], she says フラグ twice like フラグを立てる[furagu wo tateru]. Literally it means to stand a flag, but something is missing. It should mean to stand a flag in order to make him/her come to you. To get to the point, it means to make passes at him/her. This is a bit old way to say this, but we used to say モーションをかける[motion wo kakeru]. So if a girl/boy whom you don’t know well speaks to you, don’t miss it, he/she would be trying to stand a flag in order to get you!

 Technically, this kind of flag shall be called 恋愛フラグ[ren-ai flag, a flag of love] since this can be seen in the process of love. There’s a spin-off, 死亡フラグ[shibou flag, a flag of death not Death Note].  If you tell a premonition of someone’s death, watch out, there would be a 死亡フラグ on the person. Well, I think if I give you a better example, I shall definitely some detective/horror films, manga, anime or whatever. In Kindaichi’s File (yes, I know it’s too old), I used to have fun in guessing who gets killed first. Such a person always is evil-looking. When everyone in the episode gets together, someone accidentally mentions what happened there a long time ago…That chills the atomosphere so badly.

 “Don’t mention it! Let bygone be bygone!“[←upon hearing this, Kindaichi tells something bad happened there and they do know about it.]

 The one who says like above is absolutely going to die soon. Or the one who really gets surprised to hear it. Yes, a 死亡フラグ is standing on him. Next morning his carcass can be found in front of everyone else. Kyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!! This is just a prelude for the nightmare…To be continued…

Nah, this is something like a お約束? That’s too cliched, though…Yes, we have seen this kind of フラグ everywhere. In a war film, when a man who is going to the warplace says, “If I could come back, we will get married(or open a small restaurant),” he never comes back since there is a 死亡フラグ on him. During the battle, when either of the two says, “You can leave it to me, just go!” or “I will follow you for sure, I’ll be fine!,” yes, there is a 死亡フラグ on him[for example; Titanic, Brotherhood]. In a yakuza film, when he turns himself in to stop being a yakuza, there is a 死亡フラグ on him since he gets stabbed just before he reaches to the police station.

 Well in real life, if your friend rings you all of a sudden, and talks about the old memories, watch out, there might be a 死亡フラグ on him/her for some reason. No, don’t hang up! Keep talking! Get rid of the flag!


  1. w said,

    There’s a word that’s slightly similar in meaning to “flag” as used here, I think, but it’s just slipped my mind… not landmark or placemark or milestone, dammit, what was it? When there’s obvious foreshadowing to an event. Argh… I won’t remember it at 3:29 am.

    I say some 死亡フラグ and so on ARE a subset of お約束, it can’t be denied. The fact that you can take it as a “marker” of things to come means you’ve seen it so often that you can predict the situation, which isn’t that different from a cliche… and a lot of galgames utilize cliches too.

    I think any pair falling in love before a big battle or tragedy is a honking big 死亡フラグ for at least one of them, if not it’s the other way around – SAPPY MIRACULOUS HAPPY ENDING (I don’t think it’s a cliche if there’s something bittersweet like one of them getting disabled though!)

    There’s a lot of other フラグ that are just dramatic techniques for developing plots/romances and foreshadowing to future events, but I think they really become as obvious as teh word “flag” implies when it’s clear that the writers/director is just using formulas and calculates when to plant certain “flags” as if it’s a programmed game even though it should feel natural in an anime. Man, it stops being fun when it’s like that (unless yuo’ve known the characters for ages and just want them to get together, dammit)

  2. bi said,

    Oooh, this was very interesting!
    Now I know what to say about my preogresses in Tokimeki Memorial (GS, obviously) LOLOL

  3. w said,

    On a related topic, I just came across this really nice wiki for literary/entertainment tropes – basically all the themes, devices, etc used in writing that they have nicely classified (and given delightfully smarmy names too, like Colour Coded For Your Convenience referring to the pattern of clothes/hair colours of groups of people in Magical Girl shows, superhero comics etc…)

    I’m still poring over various bits (a number of bits are really just the contributors poking fun at shows, but it’s all so fun to see!) but it really reminds you that everything is really quite Recycled. It’s a matter of how well they’re hidden.

    You might want to check it out, there’s usually a good number of anime/manga referred to for each trope and it’s interesting to see how some techniques are mainly Eastern-based while others are shared by both. Of course they have stuff like Tsundere and other Japanese terms too.
    I’m sure any media fan would be able to identify with a good chunk of phenomena/tropes mentioned there. Maybe you’ll find it of reference if you need to see how people explain certain cliches in English? 😀

  4. w said,

    Sorry for the 3rd nearly-consecutive comment on this post – but this particular link listing all the various death-related articles in the wiki would be particularly relevant to the post, I think. Nah, it’s not about Japanese words or anything but as a comparison perhaps it’s a fun read if one is bored.

    There’s methods of death, cliches of death, ways of calculating who’s likely to die, when it’s used for Character Development or when Just To Get Rid Of Someone, situations where Someone Will Die, Anyone Will Die, Everyone Will Die, some people Don’t Really Die, as well as common directorial/writing tactics dealing with death… or how dead someone is. Some people just can’t die!

  5. bangin said,

    w: I am sorry, wordpress filtered the two of your comments for some reason, so they didn’t show up until I noticed. Anyway, wow those links are so informative. This is how they explain anime terminology in real English. Darn it, I wish I could make a better explanation like that.

    Speaking of getting rid of a 死亡フラグ, we have seen this in not only anime but whatever. In anime, maybe Tokikake, Harukanaru toki no nakade 3, and in TV drama series, it should be Tru Calling. Time leapers can save someone who is supposed to die…

    I think black and red quite embody evil, yes Lelouch and Yagami Light really are. 😀

    bi: Haha, did you succeed in pursuing Himuro-sensei? I know his flag is hard to stand. XDD

  6. bi said,

    Ahahaha, I succeded! He was my first target, but somehow I made it!
    Actually, for me, Kei (the main character) was more difficult to get than sensei °__°
    I’m an atipycal otome game player XD

  7. bangin said,

    Good for you. I know, Kei is the most difficult since his ideal is too perfect. So did you already finish the hidden butler?

  8. Neohybrid_kai said,

    Ah, I see, so its like that kind of “premonition scene”
    well depend on how its executed, sometimes I like that kind of thing (like when I know that person will die, but how)
    Or when it comes to comedy series, where cliches is something intentional
    overcliches is always fun too watch XDD

  9. bangin said,

    Isn’t it obvious? When they go to bed separetely, it always follows the person who has a 死亡フラグ. When he is taking a shower, he starts to bubble something about the incident he doesn’t want to recall…and when he feels someone is behind him, GYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

    This takes place in Kindaichi’s File. XDDD

  10. KRTsan30 said,

    Many “Shibou-Flag”s are seen in Hot Shots 1.

    Ex. breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder, black cats, etc…

    I think “Shibou-Flag” means “bad omens to death” maybe.

    • bangin said,

      Oh yes! breaking a mirror is a shibou flag. That is common out there? It is in Japan.

  11. do-san said,

    mmmmmmmmmmmmm im new here!!

  12. Mai88 said,

    Oh, this was really helpful for my doujin translation 🙂 I was quite confused why フラグ was suddenly used after a statement in quotation marks, but now everything makes sense! Thanks for this explanation!

    • bangin said,

      You’re welcome!^^

  13. wtrmute said,

    For completeness’s sake, a bit of history: The term “flag” is actually a computing term used in game development. Flags are binary-valued variables which are kept inside a game’s state to tell whether an event happened or not, like for example, whether a character has been met or not, or whether the player has ever been in a given place.

    The verbs used in English are usually “set” and “reset” (although in games flags are only ever set), but the verb “raise” can also be used sometimes, and yielded Japanese 立てる. The actual name “flag” comes from the analogy to those little red flag-like levers which used to adorn the side of 50s-style mail boxes, and which the mailman raised to signal that he had put some mail inside it.

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