The main problem with Aldnoah.Zero…
April 6, 2015 14 Comments
|“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…
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:
|“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…
|…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…