The main problem with Aldnoah.Zero…

“The princess of the Vers Empire has turn
“The princess of the Vers Empire has turned her people against her.”

I bet you didn’t expect me, of all people, to begin my final reviews of Aldnoah.Zero with this subject line, right? And there are so many possibilities for what my choice might be—not Inaho, obviously, but there’s Slaine, or Asseylum, forced plot twists, characters that appear out of nowhere, bad medical science, too much technical jargon…what else have I missed?

I can assure you, however, that my choice is a little unusual: the shot I’ve chosen as the picture header reflects it, though I’ve never actually written about the issue with regards to that specific scene before. But if you’ve read most of my musing and reflections on Aldnoah.Zero, then at the very least, you won’t be particularly surprised… So without further ado, the very worst thing about Aldnoah.Zero throughout its run, was…

THE TRANSLATION

I started pointing out many of the mistakes as the second cour was airing, especially after I realised how badly the translator was misconstruing Slaine’s character because of his or her terrible work. But there were a number of them in the first cour too. For example, in the scene above, which is from episode 11, I believe Asseylum’s actually saying that “For the princess of the Vers Empire to have turned against her people…” In other words, instead of lamenting that her people have turned against her, this line represents her resolve to stop the fighting, even if it means turning against the Vers citizens that are attacking Earth.

Why do I make this argument? The grammar of the line (「ヴァースの皇女たる私が、ヴァースの民を敵にするとは」) leaves room for either interpretation, and Asseylum’s self-criticism that “That this war began is my responsibility. I am to blame” can also be interpreted as her believing that her unworthiness as a ruler has ‘turned her people against her’. To me, however, the dialogue in a previous scene seems more supportive of my take. For example, straight after the base is attacked, Asseylum voices her realisation that her life didn’t matter at all, that “right from the start, the objective of the Orbital Knights was war.” This suggests a belief that they think of her merely as a means to an end, rather than as the object of real enmity that ‘turning against her’ suggests. She does not–and cannot, because Saazbuam and his faction were always careful to hide their contempt and hatred for her family–know that there are Vers citizens with a real grudge against her. In this case, then what Asseylum is blaming herself for is not that she ‘turned her own people against her’, but rather than she couldn’t stop the knights from starting the war and bringing pain and suffering to the people of Earth. .

I’m not sure if this would have made any difference for all the viewers who kept criticising her for ‘not understanding the problems of Vers’. The ‘official’ translation implies that, although she knew about it, she wasn’t doing anything to fix it. What I believe Asseylum actually said doesn’t actually indicate how much she understood of Vers’s problems, but it does show that she regrets and blames herself for believing that establishing formal diplomatic relations with Earth would easily solve the problems of her homeland, and for having to turn against her people in order to stop the rebellious Vers knights who plotted to kill her in order to begin the war.

Unfortunately, she does not get the chance to reflect any further on it, or even to learn about why Saazbuam hated her family so much that he wanted to take revenge on them. In fact, it’s unclear whether she even knew, at that point, that what was driving his actions was hatred, combined with the desire to invade and conquer Earth in order to improve life for the people of Vers. It also says absolutely nothing about whether Asseylum herself wanted to improve the life of her people, though personally, I feel that that is the natural assumption from her original objective of seeking trading relations with Earth. Perhaps the seemingly widespread condemnation of this comes primarily from people who believe that ‘free trade’ brings more disadvantages than advantages?

By far the most problematic scene, however, was this one from episode 12:

Aldnoah.Zero_final-posts_02
“I will defeat all who hate… I will break the cycle of hatred.”

This scene is particularly important, because Saazbaum’s line here is the key to all of Slaine’s actions in the second cour, where he decides that the only way to achieve peace is to destroy or assimilate all of one’s enemies. I’ve gone back over several discussions from 2ch, and some Japanese fans actually called it right when the episode aired back in September! But it’s not surprising that no one in the English-speaking fandom did, for the translator screwed up again. What Saazbaum actually said was:

“I will defeat all those I hate, thus breaking the cycle of hatred!”

I’d found the translation odd back then, especially given Saazbaum’s earlier line that he “would gladly hate a Terran just for being a Terran,” but I simply wasn’t invested enough in the show at the time to bother looking into it (not to mention that I was busy with fieldwork by then). If there is one thing I could go back and change about my experience in the English-speaking fandom, that would be it…

Aldnoah.Zero_final-posts_04
…for THAT was the line that struck Slaine to the core.

I trust I don’t need to elaborate on how this one mistranslation screwed up how most of the Western Aldnoah.Zero audience interpreted Slaine’s arc and the rest of the show, right?

NB: this post was heavily edited in October 2015, after I realised that I hadn’t explained why the difference in the Asseylum line above is so significant to how viewers interpret her character, especially amongst Western viewers.

edit (2015-04-07 — or rather, 2015-04-08 if we go by my usual time zone…): Interestingly, the episode 19 problems were apparently fixed on Crunchyroll within a few hours. Did someone make enough noise about them? Because, funnily enough, none of the others have been fixed… Does anyone have any updates? Or have you spotted any other translation issues? I’ve got a couple more I haven’t previously pointed out, but given how slow the streaming has been even though I’m currently in the States, I honestly can’t be bothered watching the entire series on the website again just to check what else the translator screwed up…

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist in training. I also love musicals, photography, travel and believe it or not, the game of cricket. よろしく!

14 Responses to The main problem with Aldnoah.Zero…

  1. pira97 says:

    No matter how the translation is, the fact is Slaine betrayed the princess. Slaine didn’t go all the way because he has a gentle heart which is the quite opposite of Inaho (cold heart ice).

    PS: I am in Brazil now and I went to a tour in Rio, I met 2 ladies from Australia, I could swear that one of them is you, lol

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    • karice says:

      Slaine was doing what he thought would ensure that Asseylum would never face death again. And that’s one of the reasons he threw in the towel once Asseylum put herself in a position of power against him. A detailed explanation of how and why he thought that way requires more time than I have at present (the previous post I wrote about what A/Z is saying about war and conflict is a good place to start)…though if you’ve got your heart set on hating him, I doubt it’ll make any difference, so can you please drop it already?

      Also, Inaho is kinder than most people notice. He just shows his kindness in very strange ways: e.g. in the final episode, when he didn’t confirm to Slaine that he lost his eye in their encounter 2 years before, instead painting it as if he’d just decided to have a robotic eye implanted because he needed it for the war.

      And no, sorry, I’ve never been to South America.

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  2. azurestratos says:

    Well… what the heck? That explains a lot!

    I thought Saazbaum sees himself as a martyr and hypocrite, since his words were rather contradictory. Now I understand. And now Slaine shooting Inaho in S1 finale seems less random.

    And that Asseylum’s line, would have clarified a lot of people misconceptions.

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    • karice says:

      Doesn’t it? If I was annoyed with the translator after noticing some of the other screw-ups, I was incensed when I realised this one last week. And I was cheesed off at myself for not looking into it when the first cour ended last year!

      Personally, I’d thought that Saaz had done that to trick Slaine into helping him — after all, he opened the communication channel just when Inaho had really gotten the upper hand on him. But to me, it makes more sense if this is what Saaz meant, and he really believed it.

      About Asseylum’s line though: I’m really not sure it would have clarified that many misconceptions. A lot of people still hate her for something that I think requires an understanding of Japanese behaviour in the first half of the 20th century as well as how that behaviour is regarded in Japan today…and I believe most Western viewers don’t really get anything about it.

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  3. azurestratos says:

    I find it nice how they explained a little about the ending in that magazine page (was it Animedia?). Its got whims of philosophy and realism.

    Though a lot of viewers will still miss that, I guess they still expecting/wanting satisfaction through blood of thine enemy, and holier-than-thou verbal smackdown. To be fair, I too was looking forward to it but because its the norm of anime. I enjoyed the new non-traditional ending.

    In a trend where everyone is pushing for more extreme, more gore, and attitude, which the western audience liked, (AoT, Death Note, Kill-la-Kill) A/Z might seem counter-intuitive despite having more quality and realistic message?

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    • karice says:

      ?? You mean the snippet posted on the AS forum? I think I can see what you might mean by ‘whims of philosophy’, but I’m not sure what you meant by ‘whims of realism’.

      I think most A/Z viewers took a very black and white view of things: they either wanted Slaine to be completely black and thus to deserve death, or to have a goal that would be proven righteous by the improvement that he would bring about in Vers society. Well…that’s a simplistic way of putting it, but the general reaction to the ending seems to suggest these two extremes… To be honest, I really didn’t think anyone could have written a show with what Slaine stood for (= invading another state for resources) to be judged as ‘the right path’, not with what Japan did in the first half of the 20th century… And since Slaine did not completely throw away his humanity, I was afraid that they were going to make him go out ‘in a blaze of “glory””…without anything positive ever happening to him. So…yeah, I’m glad they chose this ending instead.

      Though ‘non-traditional’ ending?? But…what is a traditional ending? Do you mean a traditional Western ending? I’ve been watching Japanese media for years, and to be honest, I’ve seen quite a few endings which have left me with a similar feeling: ‘it’s not a romantic ‘happily ever after’ ending, but it’s a suitable ending’.

      In sum, I feel like a lot of viewers expected character arcs that fit better with the narratives that Western blockbusters tend to favour. But A/Z is a lot more like The Godfather: in fact, the creators have likened Slaine to Michael Corleone (CUT, March 2015 issue, IIRC)… As you suggest, it’s arguably the more ‘realistic’ message, especially given Japanese behaviour until the end of WW2…

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  4. Pam says:

    Personally I would’ve been fine with the ending had the staff not used the “and then Slaine was picked as a scapegoat for Asseylum’s assasination whoo peace for everyone” ending. It’s so stupid and contrived to me because it reminds me of Code Geass’s Zero Requiem, except I loved the execution in that show. In A/Z, it felt out of place to me. At that rate, I would’ve preferred the usual putting the prisoner on trial outcome for him. Now, I don’t think that Slaine should leave scot-free because he did do a lot of bad things for the sake of his goals (reforming Vers and keeping the princess safe). Heck, if it ended with the newscaster saying “the hero of the UFE, Inaho Kaizuka defeated Count Slaine Saazbaum Troyard in battle, thus leading to his death which brought upon an era of prosperity and peace” while still keeping Slaine in a hidden prison and Inaho keeping Asseylum’s promise of saving Slaine, that would be so much better, IMO. Other people might still complain, but I can go “nah, it’s not supposed to be a glamourized Hollywood-style ending happy, but I’m okay with this.”

    Sadly I have to agree with the rest of fandom. Even most Japanese fans didn’t care for it, from what I’ve seen and mentioned on 4chan and other places. There were complaints on 2ch, IIRC.

    On a different note, I think you were asking for May’s Animedia scans that mention A/Z, right? Someone posted the pages on Asuki! I’d like to hear your thoughts on the staff/cast interview. Aoki said that Slaine willingly took the blame. Do you think it was his suggestion all along to bring in the peace? I’d rather hear it from an unbiased point of view like yourself than say, the 4chan anons who I suspect skew things since they’re generally the anti-Asseylum crowd. I don’t like Asseylum at all myself (which saddens me since I used to like her at first), but they’re just too much. Sheesh.

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    • karice says:

      I’m going to try and post a proper review over the next few days – would you mind if we put off the discussion until then? I do talk about some of the issues you had (if I recall – I’ve been trying to work on that post for a few weeks now), so it would be really helpful for me if we could.

      On a different note, I think you were asking for May’s Animedia scans that mention A/Z, right? Someone posted the pages on Asuki! I’d like to hear your thoughts on the staff/cast interview. Aoki said that Slaine willingly took the blame. Do you think it was his suggestion all along to bring in the peace?

      Yeah, much gratitude to Cloudedmind as always!

      But did Aoki say that? Has someone on 4chan translated something? I’ve only had a chance to skim the interview, but I don’t recall Aoki saying that…

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      • Pam says:

        Sorry for the belated response! I was out for a few days, haha. And no problem. I’ll wait for your review until then!🙂

        A few anons from 4chan translated/put up the basic summaries of the A/Z Animedia article. Reading the translations again, though, I’m a little confused.

        https://archive.moe/a/thread/123916633/#q123925872, specifically the part that says “Also Slaine’s action are deceiving the society, and he is considered an evil person by the world, but I wanted to show his immature parts that are being wronged due to his kindness and pureness.” I’m guessing other anons took that to mean that Slaine made the choice to take the fault but is being taken advantage of. The “deceiving the society” part is what’s throwing me off.

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        • karice says:

          No worries. As you can see, I still haven’t finished my review…though that’s my own fault… (^^)

          That was from the Newtype interview…and let’s just say that I hung my head in my hands a few times reading that attempted translation. Admittedly, I was even more amused at what the posters there think war and politics is all about. The fact that very few people in the English-speaking fandom realised that Inaho was referencing Carl von Clausewitz’s most famous statement about war (and that even fewer bothered to look up what Clausewitz actually wrote) says it all.

          But anyway, going back to that part you’ve asked about, here’s how I’d have put it:

          According to social norms, Slaine’s actions are wrong, and he’s regarded as a villain by the world. However, it’s because of his inexperience that his pure and kind nature sent him down this misguided path.

          On twitter and in interviews, Aoki has been very firm that what Slaine did was mistaken/wrong — Slaine even lays it out for us in the final episode, with his “I deceived, I stole, I killed. I sacrificed many of my own.” But Slaine did all that because he believed it was the only way that a peaceful world could be created. In other words, his kind and pure nature is what made him believe in the possibility of a peaceful world of coexistance (which inspired Asseylum’s dream), and his inexperience is what leads him to the mistaken belief that ‘such a peace is only possible if one side is completely defeated’. And for Slaine, the only path that he himself could take towards that outcome was to rise up in Vers and unite the limited–in comparison to the thousands, perhaps even millions of people that the UFE can call on–but powerful Vers military strength towards becoming the victorious side. In his Animedia interview, OnoKen talks about how Slaine has been really unfortunate in terms of timing, as well as in terms of not having the incredible support network that Inaho had around him. But I think that this is just all part of what Aoki said here.

          Does this help? (In terms of understanding what Aoki was driving at, I mean.)

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        • Pam says:

          I figured that was the reasoning! I was confused by that anon’s wording so I was like “… bwuh?” I could see why some people thought that Slaine willingly took the blame from there. Poor Slaine. I’m always such a sucker for characters like him who do questionable things for the sake of a loved one, even if they have to suffer for it. His lack of proper experience in war and having crappy luck aren’t doing him any favors.

          Anyway, thanks! I look forward to your thoughts on the interview, if there is going to be a translation or a general summary. I’m really interested in Slaine’s portion of the article /biased Slaine fan here…

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        • karice says:

          Well…I’m not sure if it makes that much of a difference anyway, as Slaine was prepared to take the fall by blowing up the moon base with himself in it. And I’m with you in feeling for Slaine: but that’s precisely why I’m glad he got the ending he got…though we can discuss that more on my review post if you like. (It’s FINALLY done!)

          I’ll have a look at the interviews to see if any of them are worth a translation. The Newtype one certainly is, and the Aoki x Nagano one in Animedia too, but the seiyuu ones are a little more up in the air at this point ^^;

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