Jay asked a really, really long time ago about the Banjo-Kazooie games. I’ve never played them (I’m sorry, don’t hurt me!) but they always seemed to be full of charm, so let’s take a look:
Can you look at how Grunty’s and Jamjars’ rhyming was handled in the Japanese versions of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie? Thank you.
Grunty has a nice-sized scene right at the start of the game, which is handy, so the first thing I did was record some videos of both versions of the game. The original English release is on the left, and the Japanese release is on the right:
(I think the scene might cut off early due to “technical” issues)
As we’ve seen already, rhyming isn’t really a thing that’s done in Japanese – the language is built upon a syllabary in which almost every single syllable automatically comes with a dozen or so of rhyming syllables. That’s why rhyming poetry isn’t really a thing in Japanese, and why you got things like haiku and tanka instead. And it might be why a lot of Japanese songs tend to sound odd at first – the rhyming’s usually not there, although the rhythm and meter are.
Anyway, because of this, translating rhymes into Japanese is one of those tough things that Western language->Japanese localizers have to battle with. In the case of Grunty here, the Japanese localizers removed the rhyming and tried to make up for it in a few different ways:
- First, Grunty was given an “old lady” Japanese speech style. This is a pretty standard thing, and if the game had originally been Japanese I feel this is the most that would’ve been done with her text.
- This style was altered a little further into something a bit more unique – for example, the “old people” speech style often ends sentences with じゃ, pronounced “ja”. It’s basically a variation of だ or です, which mean something like “to be” or “is”.
In the case of Grunty, this was changed from the regular “old people” じゃ to ぢゃ, which is also pronounced “ja” but is a REALLY unusual and unique way to write it. The localizers were clearly trying to give Grunty an especially unique speaking style.
- The rhyming was removed, but the localizers opted to have her hold some of her vowels extra long. Even if you don’t know Japanese, you can sort of see it in work!
So this is another level of uniqueness the localizers tried to add to her text.
The end result is that Japanese Grunty speaks in a unique, unusual way. But the flow of the scene and the charm of the original rhyming text is lost in translation. It’s one of those situations where no matter what you do, something’s going to be lost. It also makes me wonder if some big fans of the series in Japan have made sites or done translation patches that try to translate the game the way they think it should’ve been translated. That’d be interesting to see!
All that aside, how does the full scene compare when translated into Japanese? Here’s an attempt to show it, but keep in mind that as this is a translation of a translation, even more is lost here:
|English Version||Japanese Version||Basic translation|
|Grunty: Dingpot, Dingpot by the bench,|
who is the nicest looking wench?
|Grunty: ナベの ディングポットよ！|
1ば～～～ん きれいなのは ダ～～～レぢゃ？
|Grunty: O Dingpot the pot!|
Whooooo is the prettieeeest of all?
|Dingpot: Why it’s Grunty any day,|
she really takes my breath away…Cough!
|Dingpot: それは もちろん！|
|Dingpot: Why, you, of course, Mistress Gruntilda!|
(Tohoho, not again…)
|Grunty: Yes you’re right, I’m rather proud,|
my looks stand me out from the crowd!
Iiiii am preeeetty.
|Dingpot: Err…but there IS this girl…||Dingpot: おっと、 こんなきれいなコが．．．||Dingpot: Oh, there’s a girl this pretty…|
|Grunty: What d’you mean, this cannot be,|
there’s no one prettier than me!
わしより きれいなコなど おるわけな～～～い！
There can’t possibly be a girl prettier than meeeee!
|Dingpot: Why, it’s Tooty, young and small,|
she’s the prettiest girl of all!
|Dingpot: 「チューティ」 という わかくて、かわいいコです！||Dingpot: She’s a young and pretty girl named “Tooty”!|
|Grunty: No no no you must be mad,|
nicer beauty can’t be had!
|Grunty: Don’t be stuuuuupid!|
There can’t possibly be such a giiiiirl!
|Dingpot: Unfortunately I think you’ll find,|
it’s Tooty, she’s cute and kind!
|Dingpot: いいえ！ チューティが １ばんです！||Dingpot: No! Tooty is the prettiest!|
|Grunty: Well… We’ll see about that!||Grunty: ホウキよ、チェックに行くよ！||Grunty: Broom! Let’s go check!|
As you can see, although the rhyming isn’t in the Japanese translation, it’s definitely not normal-looking or normal-sounding text. It’s still lacking, but it was probably as good as an attempt as it could possibly get.
There are a few other things of note too:
- The Japanese translation has to specify that Dingpot is a pot. The English writers didn’t specify this because it was assumed that players would immediately make the name connection.
- Dingpot calls Gruntilda “Grunty” in the original English text, which suggests a level of familiarity. In the Japanese translation, Dingpot refers to her in a very formal way, using her full name and a “-sama” name suffix. This equates to something akin to “Mistress Gruntilda”.
- The “Mirror, mirror on the wall” reference has gone missing in the translation.
- The joke about taking breath away and coughing is gone. It’s replaced with “(Not again…)” which refers to the fact that Grunty apparently asks this question a lot.
- In the Japanese translation, Grunty calls out to the broom, but this wasn’t in the original text at all.
- The final line, “We’ll see about that!” is translated as “Let’s go check!” Although this is an okay translation, I can’t help but feel that the original line was more of a “Not if *I* can help it!” threat rather than a, “Let’s go confirm if this is true!” sort of thing. Especially since she already just saw Tooty’s image in the pot.
Whew! So there’s actually a lot going on here, even in just this tiny intro scene! Hopefully that answers some questions about Grunty, rhyme translation into Japanese, and all sorts of other stuff!
As for the Jamjars character in the sequel, for those not in the know, he’s a drill sergeant type of character who sings and rhymes drill songs in English:
|English release||Japanese release|
As with Grunty, the translation lacks the rhyming text found in the original script. Unlike with Grunty, though, his text doesn’t seem to have been given as much attention, so he mostly just comes off as an assertive guy. And the drill song music that plays in the background doesn’t match up with the words or the flow of the words at all – in Japanese, he just says regular explanatory stuff.
Anyway, hopefully that helps answers those questions! And someday I’ll play these games, I swear!