So I thought for a million years about starting my blog with something else – anything – to avoid making Sacred Seven the subject of my first (ever!) blog post, but then I decided to suck it up and deal. So we’re going to talk about Sacred Seven.
Sacred Seven is a summer 2011 anime by Sunrise that sucks donkey cock. It has decent action, dull characters, a derpy plot, and a bunch of ham-handed rock shit I don’t care about. Despite all this, I’m the translator, because months ago we had the impression that Ishi was the name of the main character and I made an offhand comment about how it would be funny to name him “Will” (as in William) in the subs, for reasons I’ll probably talk about later, and that sealed my doom. It turned out his name wasn’t Ishi, and also that the show sucked donkey cock, but I had gotten myself trapped in a web of my own weaving by then, and now I get to see this through to the end. Unless it’s two cours. Or they kill Hellbrick. Then I’ll drop it like a hot rock.
Since this is my first blog post, it’ll probably go long, and there’s a risk that other rants I’ve been holding onto for a while will attempt to creep in. I’ll try to keep them out, and you can probably tell where they are by phrases like “that’s a story for another day.” Those are mostly for my sake, so try to stay with me.
Anyway. Sacred Seven: Arma of the Rocks.
I think this might be the biggest thing people whine about in gg’s Sacred Seven.
There used to be a lot of people bitching about the main character’s name. One camp suggested Arma, for “weapon,” citing the character’s various tools he pulls out of his ass over the course of the show. The other side demanded Alma, which apparently means soul (some kind of parallel with Ishi, I guess). A third side demanded Aruma for reasons too stupid for me to discuss.
Then, around episode 4 “School Fair from Hell,” the word ALMA appeared on a radar blip in the show, and the whole thing turned derpside up. People think Japanese graphic designers should have final say on what names mean and how they should be spelled in English, you see. This caused the “Alma” side to go berserk with the scent of victory. I, and I will dare to suppose gg as a group, do not believe that Japanese graphic designers should take priority over other transliteration concerns, such as what the name is known to mean, flow (see: “Dashing Entrance! Ginga Bishonen!”), or in this case, consistency. Basically, we had been using Arma for lack of a compelling reason to use anything in particular and the blip was not reason enough, on its own, to switch.
What was reason enough to switch, however, was the continuing and increasingly obnoxious whining on gg’s blog. So I switched. To Squall.
(Tangent: I did switch from Banishing Age to Vanishing Age in Star Driver when it appeared on a cell phone. Don’t read too much into that. Switching or not switching is a matter of the individual case, and in both cases it went the way of the best judgment of myself and the rest of each show’s staff.)
This actually turned out to be a lulzy gamble when it became glaringly clear that Squall (Tandoji, not Leonhart) was going to follow Squall’s (Leonhart, not Tandoji) character arc of having to work with an annoying girl and gradually gaining respect for her and falling in love, except much more boringly. And when I say more boringly, keep in mind I have never been able to make myself complete Final Fantasy 8. Ramza, likewise, is just continuing the joke, but referencing the fact that Squall and his poodle of a girlfriend are incredibly dense and getting manipulated by every other (both) parties in the show.
TheFluff has said that all of gg’s trolls have a moral. If this one has one, it’s “don’t get so worked up over how someone’s name is spelled, jeez.” (As with all things, there are exceptions to this, but that’s one of those things I’ll leave for another day.)
There’s a second, hidden moral, at least from my point of view, but it’s also for another day.
The only thing that makes this show not completely boring, and it’s not even anything the Japanese did.
I think every other extant sub of this show, including Crunchyroll, uses the transliteration Oni-gawara for this old granitepa. The first draft of my episode 1 script used Demontile, in fact (a fact that wouldn’t bear mentioning, except I’ve actually heard people complain that Oni doesn’t mean “Hell”). There were a few reasons for the move.
The initial one is that “Demontile” sounds stupid and dumb and terrible.
About “hell,” the type of Japanese stone tile (the kawara part of his name) Hellbrick is a sentient version of (he’s literally an animated one of these) is kind of like a gargoyle, warding off evil and whatnot. This should be evident in his demonic appearance, with the fangs and eyebrows and such. So I figured drawing parallels from the Japanese oni through daemons, and finally through hell, wasn’t such a bad move. There was another, much more important reason for choosing “Hellbrick,” and it’s related to the reason I’m still doing the show and what might be the only value add gg’s subs bring to the market.
If you’ve watched anime enough, you’ll know what I mean long before I’ve finished. If you don’t, pay attention. The Japanese like leaving sounds at the ends of sentences. These sounds encode data like what kind of sentence it is, the confidence the speaker has in it or the purpose he has in saying it, and frequently (like with everything else the Japanese do) the absolute and relative social standing of the speaker and audience. The Japanese also like stuffing in random sound effects to make a character seem cute or quirky. Hellbrick is Sacred Seven’s comic relief character, so naturally he has to have one of these. His is simply the word/sound “oni.” The name of the monster his face is based on.
Crunchyroll is pasting the word to the end of his sentences post-translation. Shini is ignoring them entirely. Personally, I think the former approach is absolutely ugly from a flow standpoint (though mine might not be much better) and Shini’s is a simple copout for a comic-relief character with a silly catchphrase and no other reason to exist in the damn show.
The trouble with this end-of-sentence quirk is it works great in Japanese, where sentences with dangling tails consisting of random syllables are exactly how the language is designed and throwing in a couple of extra sounds, even onomatopoeia, doesn’t interfere with the flow too much. When you do it in English, though, it not only messes with rhythm, but the character stops sounding like a quirky clown and starts sounding like a babbling imbecile, hell.
Which brings us back to Hellbrick. I stole a trick from the Smurfs, who were doing this sort of thing in English decades ago to great memetic success, and folded the tic into the very way the character speaks. He shoehorns demons, so my Hellbrick will force the word “hell” into every sentence. Constantly and relentlessly. This is why I chose “hell.” English is full of idiomatic uses of the word “hell” that make my job fairly easy – “as hell,” “no way in hell,” “go to hell,” and so on. There are even puns, and I do love my puns. You can’t do that with “demon,” or god forbid, “oni.” Language does not work that way.
Yes, it’s forced and dumb, but no less so than it is in Japanese, and a lot more fun.
As for why it’s Hellbrick, “Helltile” sounds stupid and dumb and terrible.
This is one where I almost dropped the ball, but to the extent that it matters how I do on dreck like Sacred Seven, I was saved by my own trolling.
In episode 8, Tiny Rinoa suddenly gets buttmad that Squall keeps saying “whatever,” or if you want the tlnote version, a Japanese word (とりあえず) that indicates, generally, that you’re shelving the current topic in favor of some sort of action. The upshot is she thinks he’s being flippant. He ultimately reveals he doesn’t think about using the word (it’s just something he says, like teenagers do).
In retrospect, if I’d known it was going to be a thing, I would have followed bro EighthSin’s suggestion of using the word “just.” Maybe I should have anyway. I had been translating it according to the usage at the time, without thinking too hard about whether it was a catchphrase. But the thing about things like this is it doesn’t matter if you get the actual instances right, as long as there are instances, and by luck and whimsy I had been laboring to insert just a couple of “whatever”s (because hey, the Squall joke had been alive internally since episode 3) where it seemed appropriate, and maybe, just maybe, it all balanced out.
I have heard people complaining that this was “inaccurate”, but this part wasn’t supposed to be a rant. Just a story. It’s not all going to be whining.
I give you this stone as my will
Ass-covering. The Japanese soundset “ishi” is attached to one word that means will or determination (意志) and another word that means a rock (石), something the trailer nearly took glee in reminding all of us. When Lapis Laloli turns Squall into his superpowered super mode of superness, she says she’ll give him her will (maybe), and shoves a shiny rock into his chest. This translation is basically a hedge against the chance that eventually the pun will be pulled into the dialogue and I’ll have to explain that in the context of S7, stones mean will or something like that.
It’s the sort of thing a lesser man would put in a translation note and do something horrific with. What I do with fansubbing is supposed to be self-contained, but this is blogging. It’s my place and my right to be self-indulgent.
P.S. As of episode 9, it hasn’t come up yet, which kind of betrays both that line and the reason I’m involved in this mess in the first place.
They see me rollin’
It was a joke. Come on.
I had a long rant composed that was supposed to go here, about self-righteous stuff like why translation purity is bullshit and “What gg means to me”, but this post is long enough, so I’ll shelve it.
My bad. Basically someone asked if アラクネ was ready to move out, and at the time I didn’t realize there was a series of armors named after Greek monsters (the other one is Cyclops), so I parsed it as a Japanese person’s name instead of a machine’s identifier. Whatever.
Apparently Crunchy uses “Soulstone.” It’s technically accurate, I guess. Lightstone was deliberately chosen to be the opposite of Darkstone, which is not only also technically accurate but more or less universal, because the whole business is related to the duality of something or other. I’ve been vindicated in a couple of places (notably the title of episode 7) that support not only the words used, but the rationale (that they are opposites). On the other hand, it’s only Sacred Seven, and keeping pace with the puns they use in the episode titles is not worth too much of my effort.