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Personal Seals
A personal seal with red ink pan
A person receives a package or is filling out a contract. However, there's a delay, because they can't find their Personal Seal. No, not an animal.

In Chinese law, and Japanese, one needs a stamp to 'sign' documents in one's name - 'signatures' as Europeans know them are an impossibility as written Chinese doesn't have an alphabet. Also called a 'chop', one's stamp must to be registered with the authorities before it is officially recognised. These stamps, referred to (by the Nipponese) in various contexts as hanko, inkan, mitome-in, or jitsu-in, are usually used with red ink to mark a document.

The inability to locate one's inkan can be a delaying action to build tension or comedy, as appropriate. Alternatively, a person can accidentally stamp a document far more easily than they might sign one, leading to unintended results.

The practice was once common among European nobility and royalty, specifically through the use of signet rings to impress a personal seal into wax bindings on messages. (Wearing your personal seal on a ring also prevents the usual application of this trope, conveniently enough.)

Examples

  • Hand Maid May: Kazuya Saotome receives a package from the Cyberdyne Company, he needs to go look for his seal. When he turns around, however, the delivery person is nowhere to be found.
  • Please Teacher!: Kei Kusanagi is filling out forms to officially marry Mizuho, ostensibly to protect themselves from reprisals from his school. He is very hesitant about whether this is right to do, but a distraction takes the decision out of his hands, causing him to accidentally put his stamp on the paper.
  • Excel Saga: The Cold Opening for every episode, often has a scene of Rikdo Koshi's personal seal being used to signify his 'approval' of the contents of the episode, whether this is a Dating Sim, action movie, science-fiction movie, or whatever Nabeshin and company came up for that week.
    • It also features probably the most over-the-top usage of a stamp in anime: in one of the openings, we see a huge meteorite destroying an entire city and carving an enormous crater... and the meteorite turns out to be a building-sized version of Rikdo Koshi's stamp.
  • Despite driving like a maniac for her driving tests, Natsumi in You're Under Arrest! gets a driving licence anyway, since the examiner passed out during the test, conveniently letting the stamp fall on the requisite box on the form.
  • Zeniba's golden seal in Spirited Away turns out to be a major plot point, and in one DVD special the English staff talk about the addition of the word "golden" to keep the mostly young audience from mistaking it for the other type of seal that barks and dives underwater, viewers being morons and all that.
    • And since the seal is in essence Zeniba's name, her sister's theft of it is not just robbery, but an attempt to gain magical power over her.
  • Adron's personal seal is an important plot point in the Dragaera novel The Phoenix Guards.
  • An example of the western version appears in Dan Brown's novel Deception Point. Evil Conservative Senator Sedgewick Sexton places self adhesive wax seals on manilla envelopes which contain "evidence" that the president was behind a vast conspiracy to...make it look like aliens exist to make himself even more insufferable impress the journalists he plans to hand them out to.
  • A package being delivered, and the subsequent search for the seal, takes the place of the opening sequence in the first episode of Seven of Seven. It also allows us to see the deliveryman get totally freaked out, and prove that voice actors can count to seven and deliver Title Drops at the same time.
  • In Dune, the signet ring of House Atreides is mentioned.
  • In the movie "A Taxing Woman" tax evaders use all sorts tricks to hide the extra personal seals associated with their hidden bank accounts.
  • IClaudius brings us this in Ancient Rome. Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso has been receiving letters from Livia, with her late husband Augustus' Imperial Seal on them. She still has free use of that seal, and notes with annoyance that Tiberius (with good reason) never shares his seal with her.
  • The significance of the physical object is hard to overstate. In real life, local managers have stolen entire companies by making off with the chop.
  • In one episode of Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin, Maya refuses to approve Fumiaki's proposal to allow Mikaze's shop to sell bread at the school. In fact, she throws her official seal at his head hard enough to leave a mark and enough ink for him to transfer to the paper.
  • The Prince and the Pauper. The prince hides the Great Seal of England before "temporarily" swapping clothes with a Street Urchin.

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