That’s what she said?! Kubo Mitsurou and the kiss(?)

Today, I’m going to look at what Kubo Mitsurou has said about the scene at the end of episode 7, where Victor had a surprise greeting for Yuuri as he came off the ice after his Cup of China free skate. Well, I’m stepping right into a minefield here, so I might as well just take the plunge:


Personally, I believe it was a kiss, for reasons I’ll go into below. That being said, I fully support anyone who believes otherwise, which brings me to my next point.

What I’m really concerned about is the view that “Kubo implied that it was obvious”—especially when this is used to bash fans whose interpretation of Yuuri and Victor’s relationship is not the same as the dominant one. Read more of this post

That’s what she said?! Kubo Mitsurou and Yuri!!! on ICE

If you’re a member of the hard-core Yuri!!! on ICE fandom, what has happened over the past few weeks can hardly have escaped your attention. On February 7, the March issue of CREA saw Kubo Mitsurou—who’s credited for the original story and the scripts—indicate that Victor and Yuuri can be thought of as “soulmates,” inciting cheers and celebrations in various places around the web. Then on February 10, her comments in Pash! about the rings being akin to items worn by “members of the same circle” created a fair amount of consternation amongst fans who believe Yuuri and Victor to be engaged.

(Thank you to @sounatsu_ for passing me this scan from CREA!)

The fallout was immediate. Some fans started criticising Kubo for again leaving mixed messages over what she really stood for. In response, others pointed out that what she said did not negate “just how much Yuuri and Victor truly love each other,” an interpretation that the show itself amply supports. But the order of the day seems to have been confusion—one person even asked that a major YOI translator not to translate what Kubo said about the rings so as “to keep everyone in YOI fandom happy.”

toraonice responded as I would have, Read more of this post

The Five Moments that made Joker Game work for me

Joker Game is a show that drew some mixed reactions over its run. Early on, the dark and stylish atmosphere of the promotional videos drew attention, presumably because that’s an aesthetic that Western viewers want to see more of. Given the setting, a number of voices also expressed hopes that we’d finally have a series that seriously tackles the question of what Japan did in the first half of last century.


As the season wore on, however, most people started to complain about a range of things they didn’t like. From the explanatory monologues to the unexplained reasoning that some of the spies used to solve their cases1—I was quite bemused by these contrasting views—and the episodic nature that prevented us from even recognising which of the spies we were watching, much less form some kind of emotional attachment with any of them. Some soon rationalised the latter, in particular, as being reflective of the nature of these men: we’re not meant to get to know any of them because they’re meant to blend in and take on any role required of them. Whilst this worked for viewers interested in learning about techniques and tools of espionage, others found the lack of handles for engagement problematic.

Personally, I found Joker Game to be one of the more compelling shows I followed in the Spring season. Part of it undoubtedly has to do with the veteran voice actors, all of whom have distinctive voices. I picked out five of the eight spies from the PV itself, as well as Seki Tomokazu, and I’m sure fans of each of the other three would have recognised them immediately, too. In any case, that’s how I knew who was whom, especially after I sat down one evening to match each voice to a name and appearance. What can I say? I’m first and foremost a seiyuu fan, after all.

But the main reason that this show will make it onto my 12 Days of Anime list this year is actually due to the writing. Yeah, I know: what the heck is ‘writing’, right? But after months of reading interviews and listening to podcasts about screenwriting, I do have an answer for that, at least for the purposes of this post. Here, I’ll be talking about five character moments that got me completely invested in Joker Game. In fact, these five moments suggest that the show’s writers had a very clear idea of what the show was about: Yuuki, the spymaster holding the strings. Read more of this post

The truth about Urobuchi Gen’s involvement in Aldnoah.Zero

Disclaimer: This overview of how AZ came into being is based mostly on interviews I have collected and read over the last eight months, so any translation errors or misinterpretations―though I hope there are none―are entirely my own. Corrections and clarifications are always appreciated. You’re also welcome to link to this or quote parts of it, but please don’t copy and paste substantial amounts elsewhere. And without further ado, let me begin…

Last major edit on September 24, 2015

I am well aware that my love for Aldnoah.Zero makes me an outlier in the Western anime fandom. A lot of my posts and arguments probably make me seem like an apologist, or maybe just someone completely out-of-touch with everyone else. But believe me, although I take pains to justify why I appreciate this show despite its flaws, I’m not trying to convince anyone else that they should like it. Some of its flaws are, indeed, issues that would drive me up the wall if I did not consciously overlook them. But what frustrates me is that people will channel their hatred of the show into ‘talking crap’ about its creators, based on little more than speculation over the deal with Urobuchi Gen. Personally, as someone who enjoys finding out about the creative process, I just want to set the record straight.

The project was revealed on February 16, 2014,
with Urobuchi credited for coming up with the “story.”

This post presents a summary of how Aldnoah.Zero was created, focusing in particular on the pre-production period. One of the triggers behind my decision to torture myself was that some of the things people kept saying about Aoki Ei and co. reminded me of the fandom of another series, where misinformation someone had deliberately spread led to some wild fan speculation and myths that were then used to criticise its creators. In this case, fans just took the ‘fact’ that “Urobuchi was replaced by Takayama Katsuhiko” and ran with it, resulting in a number of theories that are contradicted by what Aoki, Urobuchi and all of the other creators have said. But I’ll leave the verdict up to the reader. You can either believe what they said in all the interviews I reference here, or you can speculate about how they’ve all conspired to cover up what really happened—prizes are available for the most believable and the most outrageous theories!


  • Urobuchi wrote the plot and the history of Earth and Vers; Aoki created the characters and their storylines. This is what they agreed on right from the start (Spring, 2011).
  • Takayama was brought on board towards the end of 2012 because they knew that Urobuchi wouldn’t be able to write all of the screenplays himself.
  • Urobuchi left in early 2013 because of scheduling conflicts (with Kamen Rider Gaim).
  • Despite the switch, Urobuchi’s plot outline has largely been maintained.

As for the non-TL;DR, let me begin with an annotated timeline. Read more of this post

Chihayafuru: an update on the “teki” debate

What do I see you as?

Since I asked one of my Japanese teachers in Tokyo about the term late last year, I’ve been meaning to follow up on this post about what Taichi meant when he referred to Arata as a “teki.” I’ve just been putting it off because I had a whole lot of other things I wanted to write about more—I’ve even fallen really far behind on my reviews of the manga. Well, hopefully, this post will galvanise me to get back into it, though I make no guarantees whatsoever…

Read more of this post

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…

Read more of this post

Memories of 2013 part 9: Enemies, opponents and rivals

One thing I really enjoy about following a show closely is the language that it can teach me. The first series I remember fondly for this is Bakemonogatari, which taught me what in the world an “amateur virgin” was. Translating a certain drama CD back in the day also taught me a lot about how love is expressed differently in English and Japanese. Now, as I’m watching more Korean dramas, I’ve also finding the nuances of this particular aspect of human interaction fascinating. But to return to what I found to be the most contentious term this year, Taichi’s “teki” in episode 19 of Chihayafuru 2; whilst the debate over what is the correct interpretation has been really frustrating for me, I’m really glad that all the research I had to do has given me a much better grasp of how ‘enemy’, ‘opponent’ and ‘rival’ are expressed in Japanese. Care to have a gander?



Read more of this post

The Japanese language and the thing called ‘love’

*Sighs* just three more posts and I’d have been able to hold on to my resolution to post more regularly. Ah well…here’s a little interlude. I’d intended to publish it after another post, since it was relevant to the series in question…but I’ll get back to that one in another two weeks.


In the quaint district of Montmartre in Paris lies that which is known as the ‘Wall of Love’. It’s a wall covered with words meaning ‘I love you’ in well over a hundred languages. Some languages are even represented twice – Japanese being one of them.

…though I only just noticed: where’s the て??

Read more of this post

Translation headaches

Putting aside the oft recurring honourifics debate for the time being, just a few thoughts based on what I’ve encountered or worked on personally over the last few years.

I’ve written about “was dumped” vs. “was turned down” issue before, but at least, in this case, there are appropriate translations even though you’d have to base it on the context in the story.

But there are many areas which don’t have direct or even appropriate translations, especially in the realm of linguistic routines. Linguistic routines are recurrent phrases or exchanges that are typically used functionally rather than to convey meaning through themselves. Greetings are a typical example, and the best one in English is the “How are you?” / “Not bad. Yourself?” / “Good thanks” exchange. Answering a “how are you?” literally is a major faux pas in most situations, but most native speakers probably don’t understand why it often puzzles the second language learner so much. The answer is simple really: linguistic routines are very different from culture to culture. A German-born lecturer I had at university once illustrated how the lack of similar routines in German can make conversation with e.g. Americans a frustrating experience for both parties (see Lana Rings’s article, linked below). And unlike what most people assume, the casual greeting in Chinese (and most if not all of its various dialects) isn’t “Ni hao“, which is typically taught as the equivalent of “How are you?”, but rather something along the lines of “Ni chi le ma?”, or “Have you eaten?”.

Similarly, there are many linguistic routines in Japanese that aren’t always used in English. To examine the challenges translators face, as well as solutions we might use, let’s look at three of them.

(1) いってきます (ittekimasu) and いってらっしゃい (itterasshai)

Literally, these mean “I’m off” and “Go and come back safely”. The first makes sense in English, and the second can easily be replaced by variations of “Have a good day”..

(2) お先に失礼します (osaki ni shitsurei shimasu) and お疲れさまです (otsukaresama desu – or deshita)

This one’s a a bit trickier. The literal meaning is something along the lines of “Excuse me for leaving before you” and “You worked hard today”. Workplaces in the English-speaking world probably don’t have a set routine, but you might hear something like “(Alright, I’m off!) See you all tomorrow/next week!” and “(Good work today!) See you!”, or perhaps “(I’m off!) Have a good night/weekend!” and “Thanks, you too!”. But it’s doable.

(3) and the worst is probably 宜しくお願いします

“Yoroshiku onegaishimasu”. This may be the hardest phrase to translate, ever! Or the easiest, depending on how you look at it. Basically, it’s used in so many situations that there are lots of different ways you can localise it to an English-speaking setting.

For example: when you use it at the end of an introduction speech – “I look forward to working with you”; in a message to a seller on some auction site – “I look forward to hearing back from you”. This pattern is pretty useful in a lot of situations, so you might think it’s the best one.

But then we have: after asking a friend to do something for you – “Thank you” or “I’m counting on you”. And for the final chapter of Seven Days though, I might have gone with “Thank you for everything.” rather than “Please look after me from now on too” or something to that effect. Though I suppose it might sound weird coming from a guy.

And that’s what I mean by headache. Though it’s much more enjoyable than a real one.

Further reading:

Beyond Grammar and Vocabulary, by Lana Rings
The Ethnography of Speaking 1 and 2, by Dell H. Hymes

“Good morning”? But it’s 5pm!

Polite as ever

“Ohayou gozaimasu” = “Good morning”

Simple to translate, yes?

Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was quite amused to hear Jiro use it in the middle of the night during the first episode of Black Blood Brothers. Sadly, that was primarily because I didn’t actually understand what it meant.

During my second year as an ALT however, I once heard a student greet his homeroom teacher with “Ohayou gozaimasu”…at about 1.30pm. I jokingly asked him…shouldn’t it be “Konnichiwa”? To which the teacher grinned, but noted “Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen him today – he slept in.” Not exactly an explanation, but it finally clicked when episode 11 of WORKING!! came around.

This thread on the “Bag of Wisdom” on Yahoo Japan lists two uses for “ohayou gozaimasu”.

(1) the morning greeting, and
(2) the greeting used when you start work on any particular day

The BBB case may be interpreted either way (protecting Kotarou is Jiro’s “job”, so-to-speak, but it was also ‘morning’ for him), but WORKING!! clearly had Takanashi using this phrase in its second capacity.

GoodMorning2 GoodMorning3
"Good morning"?

Now, the all-important question is: how should a translator represent this? In my opinion, “good morning” would be ridiculous, because we simply use the appropriate greeting for the time of day (or, in the case of Australians, perhaps even a “g’day mate!”). But changing it to the appropriate greeting for the target culture would probably raise eyebrows amongst everyone who knows at least a smattering of Japanese, as the incongruity of what is heard and what is read sinks in.

Conclusion: the oft-despised translation note still has its uses, don’t you think? It’d be interesting to see what the translator working on WAGNARIA!! will do (though if they choose to use a TN, I hope they place it at the end – or in the materials – rather than in the episode itself!).

p.s. According to the 2nd poster at the “Bag of Wisdom”, the use of “ohayou gozaimasu” as a greeting at the beginning of one’s work/school day is dying out, but isn’t it an interesting piece of Japanese culture?