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Heroes is a TV show from America’s NBC. It follows a group of men and women who suddenly develop superhuman powers.

There is a woman with a split personality, a man who can fly, another who can paint the future, and a girl who can regenerate her injuries.

But my personal favourite1 character is 中村広2, who can bend time and space. Not only is his superpower the coolest, he has the added power of being able to speak Japanese at a native level.

中村広 (広 for short) has a sidekick, Ando, who he speaks almost exclusively in Japanese to. Try closing your eyes and listening to what they say; you might find out you will understand more than you think you could!

Here are some words I have learnt from Heroes:

運命・うんめい Destiny/Karma. Chinese learners will recognise3 the characters as the same as the Chinese, except backwards: the Chinese word is 命運. Whenever Ando doubts their mission, 中村広 tells him that it’s their destiny: 「運命だよ!」 or something similar.

ピンチ・大ピンチ A problem. Taken from the English word ‘pinch’, as in ‘I say, I’m in a bit of a pinch, can you help me out?’ When 広 gets a gun pointed at him (I won’t spoil the plotline for those who haven’t seen the series, but suffice it to say that it happens a lot) he gets a sheepish look and says 「ピンチ!」

やった! よし先生4 explained this Japanese word in a Jpod lesson much better than I ever could. “Sometimes I just wake up and the sun is smiling and I just say… やった!” I’m paraphrasing though, as I can’t find the right lesson. It was one of the funniest lessons I’ve heard. なつかしい!I can’t for the life of me find which one it was though… Perhaps someone with a better memory could put the link in a comment to this post? But I digress. The first time 広 successfully uses his superpower to teleport, and at other moments of elation, he pumps his fists into the air, closes his eyes, and yells 「やった!」

I’m now going to write a little about the latest episode. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to stop reading now, as I’m going to talk about plot points that might ruin the story for those who haven’t seen episode 16.

In last week’s episode, 広 and Ando were separated, so there wasn’t much dialogue in Japanese. They meet up towards the end of the episode, and 広 reluctantly tells Ando that he will be continuing his journey on his own. Ando isn’t too pleased. He says,


After seeing that line, I did the same thing as many readers did just now, I typed the line into Firefox, toggled Rikaichan, got no answer on the じゃん part of the line, and scratched my head. I kept watching until the end, taking note of the celebrity cameo appearance made during the scene between 広 and Ando.

愛香5 explained quite simply to me that じゃん=じゃないか and that she had explained this to me before. 「おぼえてる、じゃない?」 she said, which just confused me even more. Is Ando saying that it’s not destiny? Was 愛香 saying that I didn’t remember? It was all too confusing. Then I did something I should have done a long time ago.

I called up the Jpod grammar bank in the learning center, looked under ‘J’ for ‘じゃない’ and found out what it meant. I won’t get into too much detail, I’ll let you have a look through it yourself!

After jumping through all those hoops to find out the meaning of those 3 syllables, it took me about 10 seconds to find it in the grammar bank. 早かった、じゃん?

Check your local guides for when Heroes airs, or watch it at the NBC website.

1 favorite
2 なか・むら・ひろ or ‘Hiro Nakamura’ in the show
3 recognize
4 せん・せい
5 あい・か