What’s in Shin Megami Tensei V’s Powder Box?

Shin Megami Tensei V came out not too long ago, and with it, a whole new sand-blasted post-apocalyptic wasteland in which to tame the world’s demons, gods, and cryptids. I was looking for something to scratch the itch for a bygone era of punitive JRPGs, so I picked it up. On top of that, Soul Hackers 2 is coming out in just a week, so it seemed like the perfect time for an Atlus article!

Largely taking place in a far-future version of Tokyo, the game has vendor trash known as Relics: modern-day items that have been damaged beyond repair by sand and the passage of time. Usually, the player can tell what these are from the name and description, with a little thought.

Items like the Melted Capsule Toy have helpful descriptions that make it clear they come from gachapon machines, which even Western audiences know of (though perhaps not by name). While the description of the Cartridge Game Console doesn’t explicitly say if it’s a Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or something else, players get the gist. And we’re certainly all familiar with Cloth Masks.

Some of the items took more work than others, but I was able to suss out their real-world counterparts without too much trouble. Except for one, that is: the Powder Box.

The Japanese name, 粉まみれの箱 (konamamire no hako), doesn’t offer much extra insight, as it translates to Powder-Covered Box.

The game describes the powder box as “A box with a strange powder spilling out from the cracks. There are several types, but they all smell good.” This description is just a touch too vague to figure out what it actually is. At first, I thought maybe it was a cooking ingredient, like coffee grounds or spices, or perhaps even some kind of makeup. Those are certainly powders that come in several varieties, but age tends to make them smell pretty bad.

With the other items being so clear, I wasn’t satisfied with just “maybe”, so I went to take a look at the Japanese text. This was pretty frustrating since, in contrast with most localized Switch titles, SMT V doesn’t automatically change its language in accordance with the system language setting. You actually have to buy the Japanese version separately if you want to play that one, too!

I was pretty annoyed when this happened to the recent Harvest Moon Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town remake, too. I wanted to write articles about the localization!

Thankfully, the Japanese text was easily available on a fansite. Let’s see how it compares to the SEGA’s English localization:

JapaneseOfficial EnglishDirect Translation
A box with a strange powder spilling out from the cracks. There are several types, but they all smell good.A box containing powder that is leaking out of an opening. There are several varieties, but each one smells like gentle detergent.

The important word missing from the English localization is 洗剤 (senzai), literally ‘detergent’. Combined with 優しい (yasashī, gentle/tender) and のような (no yōna, like/similar to), the omission becomes more clear. Rather than simply smelling good, the each powder box smells like “gentle detergent” used for baby clothes. As for the other differences, they’re largely down to wording choice.

So what’s in the box, what’s in the box?! Well, you’ve probably formed a guess by now, but it’s most likely powder laundry detergent. Powder detergent is a little uncommon in America these days, but sees more use worldwide, since they’re lightweight and more shelf-stable than liquid or pod detergents.

The only hitch in this explanation is just how direct the description is. I mean, how often do you describe the smell of something by saying it smells similar to itself? Still, I can’t think of anything that turns to powder and smells like detergent with age. If you can, feel free to leave a comment! Also, if you found this interesting, check out the other posts on the site, or follow me on Twitter for updates when the next article gets posted.

The Twitter also posts smaller localization trivia throughout the week, so you actually get a little more content out of it, too. This week we posted about The Wonderful 101’s very interesting approach to localization that was considered throughout the game’s writing, as well as how Tactics Ogre’s name change in localization could be a source of confusion for some.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *