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Lost in Translation - You and I pt. 3

Happy August!

DzyDzyDino here again.

So we were talking about the I’s two weeks ago and how that gives insight into a character’s tone. It’s only natural we do the “you’s” now!

If you’ve ever opened a Japanese 101 textbook or tried to teach yourself any, you’ve probably at least gotten through “Watashi” means “I” and “Anata” means “You.”

And then you start learning some conversational Japanese and realize “wtf. Nobody says this. Why teach it?!”

There’s lots of ways and roundabout ways to refer to oneself and to a second party in a conversation -- It’d be awkward to never have any way to. But a direct “you” has a little more weight to it. In many other languages, you generally avoid directly saying “I” or “You” altogether -- referring to yourself by different words based on gender and age difference, social position, work position, familial relation, etc. I wouldn’t say it’s outright disrespectful (Though it can be depending how you use it), but how you choose to refer to people reflects on you and how you present yourself.

So when creating a character for a manga, obviously a lot of thought is going to be given to their speech as well. As I mentioned before, in Japanese it’s common to omit subjects and the like when they’re implied already via context. This makes leaving out “I’s” and “You’s” a lot more convenient. So when a character is actually saying a “you”, they’re often putting some oomph behind it and you can use it as an opportunity to provide some “color” into the dialog.

Since we’re talking manga characters, I’m going to be generalizing when I say a lot of this as usual, so don’t take this as a “guide to Japanese” and instead just how these generally get interpreted via Manga. (No shortage of Japanese guides online if you’re interested!)

Though in reality, you’d probably avoid saying “you” a lot more as although not every form is “rude”, it does stand out a bit. The kind of manga series you’re reading is going to color this a lot. If it’s a present day school slice of life series, you’d kind of apply exaggerated reality rules to it. If it’s a fantasy or fighting series, expect a lot more “you”s thrown out with a lot less weight behind them. If you’ve got razor sharp fingernails to someone’s throat, whether or not you’re calling them “Gido-san” or not really isn’t going to matter.

Anyways, let’s go through a couple of the more common “you’s”!

 

Anata -
Anata no namae wa nan desu ka? or Okaerinasai, A.na.ta~
貴方の名前はなんで何ですか? ・ お帰りなさい あ・な・た~
What is your name? / Welcome home, Ho~ney~Pie~

The Day 1 Japanese “you.” The most common usage you’ll see this in is a wife to a husband or a lovey-dovey girlfriend playing wifey -- in place of the usual romantic pet names. In manga you’ll also see it used in impersonal situations, like an AI/Robot/Computer Prompt greeting someone. Also professional capacities where they don’t know the person’s name. “Anta” is pretty much the same but tosses any “professionalism” that might have been there. 

If there’s a character that might be a little silly/light-hearted a lot of the times and is suddenly very cold and serious, they could swap to calling the person they’re talking to “anata” instead of what they normally do, and it would add some weight to the conversation.

Either way, if you don’t know someone’s name in a conversation, usually you’re trying to figure it out pretty quick because...

 

Someone’s Name
Zoro no houkoukankaku wa hidoi yo.
ゾロの方向感覚は酷いよ。
Your sense of direction is awful, Zoro.

Calling someone by their name is the safest way and most neutral way to refer to someone. We do this a bit in English too, but usually to get someone’s attention. 

“Hey, John. What are you doing later?”

“John, do you know how to get to Round One?”

But what we don’t do in English (that is done in Japanese) is…

[Speaking to John]
"What is John doing later?"

"Does John know the way to Round One?"

Reading those like that in English, you’d assume the speaker was speaking to someone /other/ than John. Though if you were to try to be overly literal with a translation, that’s what you’d end up with. “But the original doesn’t say ‘you’, it says ‘John’!” -- yeah, well… that’s Japanese, this is English.

Of course even with a name, that ties back into the suffixes with -san, -kun, -chan, or just none at all. Last name? First name? All that still ties into the character’s tone.

 

Kimi -
Kimi no na wa
君の名は
Your name.

This can be a nicer “you”, and still holds an intimate/romantic context as well (though not always). Just like with the I’s and the suffixes, anything not purely polite is generally reserved for someone of a higher standing (Older to younger, senpai to kouhai, higher rank, etc). 

I’m sure you’ve heard this tons of times in love songs. It’s gender neutral but leans more towards effeminate (but depending on how you use it, it doesn’t have to be.)

 

Omae -
Omae wa mou shindeiru.
お前はもう死んでいる。
You're already dead.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. If you’ve seen an episode of any anime, there’s no way you haven’t heard this as well. If you’re studying Japanese from anime or dramas -- don’t go using this with the same frequency in your regular speech as you see it in manga (which is like… every other line sometimes.)

This is a bit more masculine and “tough” -- “Ore” is to “I” as “Omae” is to “You”... kinda. Not as gender specific as Ore, but still a bit “tough.”

If friends are talking, this might just be standard to show they’re super close, the kind of friends that’ll sling insults at each other out of fun-level of close.  

If someone is talking to someone they’ve just met or aren’t close with, it’s going to be provoking/insulting or condescending normally, but in manga and anime this is often a go-to “you” for characters to use, so you really need to go off of context.

 

Temee -
Oi, Temee. Yameta hou ga ii ja nai? Korosareruzo.
オイ、テメエ。止めたほうがいいじゃない? 殺されるぞ。
Hey, punk. I wouldn't do that if I were you. You're gonna wind up dead.


This one is almost certainly insulting and will sometimes get translated to a straight insult depending on context. If someone’s calling a friend this, it’d be like calling a friend a jerk or an ass. There are friends that’ll do that and mean nothing by it, but if you’re gonna say that to someone on the street, it’s gonna be weird as hell and insulting.

This and the next one kind of go hand in hand.

 

Kisama -
Kisama shinitee ka? Joutou da!
貴様 死にてぇか?上等だ!
You got a death wish, dickhead? Bring it on then!

How common in manga and anime? Yes.

Real life? In actual serious situations, probably… never -- if you’re in that situation, you’ll hear “temee” over it.

But we’re here to talk about translations! A straight insult. Definitely derogatory, definitely looking down on someone. Depending on the character and tone it could be translated to so many different things. There are times it may end up needing to go as  “You” for contextual reasons, in which case you just need to make it clear with everything around it that this is a “not nice you.”

Otherwise it will just get straight translated as in insult --

You bastard, you son of a bitch, or get creative with it and fit it into the situation.

I mentioned that Japanese doesn’t have nearly the spectrum of insults as the English language does. Make use of that rich palette and paint some profanity. Just kidding. Not really.

Some more manga/anime ones are

 

Onore -
Onore! Ore wo nameteyagaru!
己!俺をなめてやがる!
Curse you! You're underestimating me! (I hate that translation but wanted to keep it more literal here)

Not as insulting as Kisama, often gets translated to “Curse you.” Pretty lame example, since nearly all of these can stand alone as examples lol.

 

Kono _______
Kono kusogakyaa!
このくそガキャァ!
You little shit!!

“Kono” literally means “this” but in context can mean “You” -- most of the time will have something filling in that blank, though sometimes they’ll leave the blank implied “Kono! Kono!” while stomping someone. Otherwise the ol’ “kono baka!” or “kono boke!”  “kono kusogaki!” sometimes with a “ga” after it for some emphasis. “Kono baka ga!” -- now based on context it could mean other things. I’m sure “Kono Dio da!” is running through your head somewhere -- where it’s used to make himself sound big.

This is essentially always going to be used as an expletive/insult. Throwing a "me" at the end of it also adds kind of a "damn" to it.

"Kono gaki me" - You damn brat.

Other than that, peoples’ titles/positions/familial relations.

 

Sensei, Oniisan, Senpai, Shachou, Oneesan, etc -- You’ll notice with all of these, people always refer to those above them with their titles. A teacher doesn’t go to a student and go “Gakusei!” to address them. An older brother doesn’t little brother and go “Otouto-san!”. They be one-way streets.

You can pluralize most of the above by adding -ra to it. Omaera. Temeera. Kisamara. If using a title, you’d add -tachi. Sensei-tachi, Onii-san-tachi, etc. Though Sensei-tachi wouldn’t necessarily mean “Teachers” (although it could), it could mean “Teacher & Other People the Teacher is With.”

As a tangent, this one is obnoxious to translate. If I’m doing Black Clover and someone says “Asta-tachi”, (obviously doesn’t mean multiple Astas), it means Asta and whoever he’s with. But if you say “Asta and his friends”, what if he’s not with friends? What if he’s only with one other person? In English we’d never say “Asta and friend”, we’d just name the other person -- so now I’ve got to go research and figure out where he is and who he’s with.

Asta’s group? What if it’s not a group, what if they coincidentally just happen to be with him? Then Asta’s team wouldn’t work either. Asta and the others? Again, still don’t know if plural or not. Just leave it out and say Asta? What if it’s a plot point that they’re referring to multiple people?

Or what if it was just two people and you named the second person so it sounded proper in English, but later it comes out there was supposed to have been a miscommunication and the person speaking meant “Asta and Charmy” but the listener assumed when they said “Asta-tachi” they meant “Asta and Yuno”.

Anyways, different tangent, different topic, different day!

 

Let’s hop back onto today’s topic and take a look at some comparisons -

“Dare” means “who”

Anata wa dare desu ka? - Who are you?

You can leave out most words of this sentence and it’s still the same question.

Dare desu ka?

Anata wa?

Dare?

And though they all mean the same thing, they all have different feelings associated with them.

 

All these could be done so many different ways depending on context, I’m just giving one example.

Anata… dare?
Who… are you?
Just straight-forward.

Kimi… dare?
Hey… who are you?
(“Oi, Kimi!” “Kimi!”) is a pretty neutral way you’ll see a lot for getting someone’s attention.

Omae… dare?
Who are you?!
Someone could be shocked/scared, have lost their composure and said this. Someone could be pissed and trying to intimidate. Someone could just be maintaining their tough guy position. It could just be how that character talks to everyone. So much variance, this one is super versatile in manga and anime.

Temee… dare?
Who the hell are you?
Just a tough taunty "whodafuqizyou"

Kisama… dare?
You bastard… who the hell are you?
Depending on context could be any range of insults. Or just really mean/tough.

 

A really common thing in manga and anime is to slap the subject at the end of the sentence for impact like --

“Dare da… Kisama?”
Who are you… bastard?

Kind of words awkwardly sometimes (a lot of the time) -- especially when they run across multiple bubbles or across pages…. Where they set up a phrase with the “punchline” on the next phrase, but the English just doesn’t work that way. (I’ve talked about this before as well.)

In manga and anime, characters tend to have pretty defined characteristics. This helps them be recognized and exaggerate their personality. They almost always have set ways that they will refer to other characters. If Yuno, Asta’s rival, 99.99% of the time is either calling him an insult or referring to him as “Kisama”, then when he’s being sincere and heartfelt in that 0.01% of the time, he’ll switch it up and call him by his name properly and it’ll be much more meaningful.

Or the classic Tsundere archetype can even switch up how they refer to people depending if they’re in Tsun or Dere mode, which also helps readers distinguish which they are at the moment. Of course there are there tsundere that keep the insults up in dere mode as well, but something about the speech is usually different. Often it’s a dialog point too, “Did you just call me ‘anta’? What happened to ‘temee’?” at which point they’ll blush and double down into tsun mode.

If it’s a possibility, I think it’s always nice to clarify and point out these interactions via translator notes, but depending on the format (Official subtitles and releases, etc), that’s not a possibility -- which I think is a shame. Nobody’s forcing you to read translator notes. Even in official releases, rather… /especially/ in official releases where so much gets trimmed and cut for brevity and localization, it’d be great to have a page or two or three or four after each chapter explaining what got changed.

There are many official releases that tend to turn every dialog box into a summary of what was said rather than a translation, and removing anything that might not be fully grasped by a Western Audience, or any references to anything outside of the series.

Oof that’s a whole other rant, and I’ve been going on way too long as usual.

Gonna call it here and go get some lunch!

We’ve got the basics out of the way so now we can get into some more fun topics without needing a primer before each point! I haven’t decided exactly to write about next week yet. If you ever have any questions or anything you’d like to hear about, you can always click the title of the post to comment!

And as always, I stream 5 days a week on twitch at

http://www.twitch.tv/dzydzydino

Currently playing through Yakuza 5 HD Remaster and Live Translating -- almost done though! On the Second to last chapter.

Thanks for reading my posts and thanks for reading Mangastream! Take care!

-DzyDzyDino