Having finished the first week of shows, it’s time to move on to the second episode of each! Now that we’ve got the premises out of the way, maybe we can get through them a bit more quickly. If you don’t know what this is, you can check out the landing page for a detailed explanation of how and why this came to be. If you missed the previous part, click here. Or, you can simply start at the beginning. Otherwise, let’s get right into it!
Cut the Villain!
|とある村人の親子。||A certain parent-child pair.||A father and son are talking.|
|“Haa, if there’s no change, we’re gonna starve to death.”||“*Sigh*, if this keeps up, we’re gonna starve to death.”|
|おらもうがまんできねぇっ！||I can’ take it anymore!||I can’t stand anymore!|
|だいかんのとこに行くだっ！」||I’m goin’ to the Daikan’s place!”||I’m gonna give the Daikan a piece of my mind!”|
|「まて、のりぞう。||“Wait, Norizō.||“Hold, Norizō!|
|はやまるんじゃねぇ」||Don’ be so hasty.”||Mind your temper.”|
|「だども、おっとう…」||“But, Dad…”||“But… Dad…”|
|親子の運命やいかに！||I wonder what the fate of the parent and child will be!||What will happen to this family?|
|つづく||To continue||Tune in next week to find out!|
We’re finally back to a show we’ve seen before! No need for a synopsis, this time! Cut the Villain continues, introducing new characters. Norizō and his father are on the verge of starvation due to the daikan‘s exorbitant taxes. Norizō is ready to take a stand, but his father’s afraid of the retinue of bodyguards the daikan is sure to have.
An important concept to understand going forward with this show in particular is dialects. Consuming Japanese fiction (especially with exaggerated characters like those found in anime and video games), you’re going to quickly encounter a whole lot of dialects. They’re regularly used as a shorthand that offers a quick overview of a character’s personality or mood. Some of the patterns of any given Japanese dialect will be pretty simple when you know to look out for them, but you’ll always run into specific examples you just have to learn by rote.
Luckily, the dialect featured in this show is 江戸言葉 (Edo kotoba). Literally “Edo words”, it’s a dialect that is pretty appropriate given the show is set in the Edo period! If you’re wondering why this is lucky, it’s because the Edo dialect bears a strong resemblance to 関東方言 (Kantō hōgen), the way of speaking in Japan’s Kantō region. It’s also how characters speak to show they’re tough and masculine. Or, at least, it shows they’re trying to seem that way.
If you’re wondering why similarity to Kantō hōgen is good news, it’s because Kantō is the home of Tōkyō, and Kantō hōgen is pretty much the go-to dialect on TV. So, learning this dialect is likely to pay dividends later in your Japanese study!
The simplest and most noticeable implementation of the Edo dialect throughout this series is the conversion of the ai sound to ē. You’ve probably seen this a lot if you consume Japanese media, though you may not have realized exactly what was happening. Generally speaking, dropping enunciation like this doesn’t change a word’s meaning, but will modify its tone. Depending on the context, it can convey that the speaker is fatigued, comfortable, laid-back, uneducated, confident, etc.
It’s typical to see thugs say something like 「いい度胸してるじゃねえか！！ブチ殺してやる～～っ！！」 (Ii dokyō shiteru janē ka!! Buchi koroshite yaru!!, “You got some nerve, doncha!! I’ll beatcha to deaaath!!”), casually slurring じゃないか (janai ka, isn’t it?; don’t you?) into じゃねえか (janē ka). I gave another example on our Twitter a while ago:
Dialects can be really troublesome for newcomers to the Japanese language. The best advice I can give you is to try and understand the “rule” behind the dialectical change, rather than memorizing a bunch of individual examples. It can also be really helpful to go to website like pixiv to find examples of characters who use an exaggerated version of the dialect, to help you put a face to the words. For Edo kotoba, some popular examples that jump out to me are the titular characters of Crayon Shin-chan and Detective Conan. Even Dragon Ball‘s Son Gokū has an accent that resembles Edo kotoba.
“Shake It Now, Baby!”
|歌ってナイトのお時間で～す！||It’s time for Sing Nigh-tah!||It’s time for Sing Tonigh-tah!|
|今日のゲストは、ロックバンド！||Today’s guests, are a rock band!||Today, we have a rock band performing!|
|“シェキナベイべ”で～す！||Iiiit’s “Shake It Now Baby”!||Let’s give it up, baby, for “Shake It Up, Baby!”|
|「ラララ～今日は天気だ～♪||“La la la~ It’s today’s weather~♪||“Oohhh~ Tonight’s forecast caaalls~♪|
|夜空がまぶしいぜ～♪」||The night sky will be radiant, I can tell you~♪”||For shooting stars to faaall~♪”|
|しぶい味出してますね。||It produces a bitter flavor, doesn’t it?||You kids might not be ready for this one, but your parents are gonna love it!|
|ありがとうございました～！||Thank you very much~!||Thanks for watching!|
In this episode, our guest is the mysterious シェキナベイべ (Shekinabeibe). I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the odds anyone reading this fully knows what this is referring to are slim to none. Well, from my translation alone, you can see that it’s pretty close to シェイク・イット・ナウ・ ベイビー (sheiku itto nau beibī), or “shake it now baby”. The more musically-literate among you will probably recognize that as a reference to the song “Twist and Shout”.
You might know this song best as being sung by The Beatles, but it was initially recorded by an American band called The Top Notes in 1961. By now, covers from The Beatles and other bands have eclipsed them for us Westerners, but in Japan, the song actually conjures a different connection, to a musician named Yūya Uchida.
Starting his musical career in the mid-1950s, he didn’t really find success until about a decade later, when he found his footing bringing the same boy band/rock music style of The Beatles to Japan. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say he brought rock & roll to Japan, having traveled Europe in the 1960s, and carried the influence of musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd back with him after seeing them live. He even opened for The Beatles in 1966 and became friends with John Lennon.
During his performances, Uchida would incorporate シェキナベイべー (shekinabeibē) to the point it became a catchphrase synonymous with him. Shortly before he died, he even recorded a song named for it. I suspect most of the singers in this show have similar references embedded in their names, but, since I’m not a 70-year-old Japanese person, I’m pretty sure I missed a couple. I’m having a hard time imagining what the first episode‘s Marshmallow Nuts could be a reference to, for example. Still, Uchida is a major figure in Japanese music history. He even ran for governor of Tōkyō at one point!
As for vocabulary in this episode, I wanted to draw attention to the host’s analysis of the song, 「しぶい味出してますね。」 (Shibui aji dashitemasu ne.) Taken literally, she’s referring to the taste of the performance as “bitter”, but that can’t be right, right? 渋い (Shibui) has quite a few connotations.
In the context of the arts, shibui is probably closest to elegant or sophisticated. It’s associated with things that appear minimalist on the surface, but actually contain a great deal of complexity and detail that one can only appreciate with time and effort. They’re not “easy” to get into. Much like bitter foods, you have to develop a tolerance to really appreciate it. Under the premise that young people like popular music, it’s sort of the opposite of Back to the Future’s Johnny B. Goode scene.
What exactly qualifies as shibui will vary from person to person (much like what’s “sophisticated” varies for Westerners), and I’m certainly not an authority on musical taste. That being said, musicians like Leonard Cohen, Nat King Cole, and Tom Waits spring to mind as examples that most Japanese people would probably classify this way. The most important feature for shibui music is a subdued nature. Anything too flashy will be automatically disqualified.
Shibui extends well beyond the realm of food and music. In fact, it’s considered a staple of Japanese aesthetics to the point it’s in English dictionaries! You can ascribe a lot of basic cultural Japanese stereotypes to the value of shibui as an aesthetic principle; things like tea ceremonies, rock gardens, even their platterware. Naturally, this value isn’t universal; otherwise, how would ギャル have come to be?
The Monmon Show
|みなさん、こんにちは。||Hello, everyone.||Hello, everyone.|
|モンモンTVの時間です。||It’s time for Monmon TV.||It’s time for The Monmon Show.|
|さて今日のなやみはなんでしょう？||Well then, I wonder what today’s trouble is?||Now then, let’s hear today’s problem.|
|Housewife: “I started gardening, but……||Housewife: “I started gardening recently, but…|
|お花、なかなか育たなくて…」||My flowers, they don’t really grow, so…”||I can’t grow flowers…”|
|Mon: “Are you properly watering them every day?||Mon: “Are you taking care to water them every single day?|
|Setting aside crops and pasture, flowers are very delicate.||Unlike grass and crops, flowers are very delicate.|
|If you accidentally forget to water, there will in fact be withering.||If you forget to water them, I can guarantee they’ll wither.|
|気をつけましょう」||How about being (more) attentive?”||Try to be more careful in the future, okay?”|
Another episode of The Monmon Show! Like I said last time, this show tends to have game-adjacent concepts and function as a sort of bonus tutorial. This one’s a little weird, because it’s not actually true! To double check, I bought some flower seeds in the game, and watered them on a rotation. Despite leaving some unwatered for a whole week in various growth stages, they all grew at the same rate. I guess it helps to instill some fastidiousness in the player, but I sure hope the rest of Monmon’s advice is more useful!
Since the episode’s light on detail, I’ll cover some more grammar points, this time. Let’s zoom in on こと (koto). Koto has a tremendous amount of use cases and nuance. I’m only going to talk about one for now, but it’s important to remember that this explanation will absolutely not be applicable to every single use case. As it’s used in this episode, it serves the purpose of verb nominalization. In other words, converting a verb to a noun.
With the above strip as a touchstone, you can simply think of verb nominalization as nouning if the technical grammatical term is a bit overwhelming. It’s not a terribly complicated concept if you find a good equivalent in your native tongue. In English, there’s a number of suffixes that serve the purpose of nominalization: –ment (to nourish→nourishment), –ion (to hydrate→hydration), –ence (to differ→difference), and many others. However, in translating from Japanese, I often find the most fitting suffix to be –ing. In the episode above, for example, the verb かれる (kareru, to wither; to dry up) is easily converted to a noun as かれること (karerukoto, withering; drying up).
Using koto is far from the only way to make a noun. If you want a deeper dive on the subject, I recommend this article from briefjapanese, who is far better at explaining this precise linguistic stuff than I am, and way more knowledgeable about the history.
You may have noticed that I chose not to preserve the nouning in my localization. This is for the sake of avoiding awkward wording. The original sentence ends with a formal conjugation of ある (aru, to be) that essentially amounts to “withering will exist”. This indirect way of speaking is pretty unnatural in English, but is common in Japanese. In translation, it’s often necessary to write around it. Changes to wording can be a contentious topic, but I think most people agree that, ultimately, the final translation should resemble something a native speaker would actually say.
As for interesting vocabulary, let’s round out today’s article by looking at the word ちゃんと (chanto). This word can be information overload if you look into every single detail about it, so I’m going to try and offer a brief overview. The common one-word definition of the adverb chanto is properly. It conveys that something is done thoroughly, promptly, and without laziness or cutting corners. Just like shibui in today’s Sing Tonight, it’s actually helpful to connect it to a stereotype. In this case, the archetypical Japanese work ethic, which takes great care to ensure something is done, er, properly!
Here, Monmon is telling the housewife, “Hey, you can’t just be all willy-nilly watering these flowers! They need it every day or they’ll die! Take it seriously!”
That wraps another part up! ちゃんと日本語を勉強したければ, feel free to download the Anki deck and start studying. You can get more info about that from the landing page. If Anki’s not your bag, you can also check out the item-by-item study guide and make flash cards of your own, or plug them into the SRS application of your choice.
Make sure to check back soon for continuing translations of each episode. If you want to stay abreast of updates as soon as they happen, you can do so by following us on Twitter, joining our subreddit, or (for the tech-savvy out there) subscribing to our RSS feed.
Lastly, if you still want more Japanese, maybe check out this analysis of Live A Live‘s fan translation, focused on the cowboy Sundown’s chapter, which contains more detail about dialectical speech and how it conveys an era or personality. Or, for another situation where dated cultural knowledge of Japanese art was important, how about this article about why Mokou from the Touhou series is afraid of jelly donuts, and how it relates to traditional Japanese storytelling known as rakugo.