How Symphony of the Night’s “Miserable Pile of Secrets” Scene Works in Japanese

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The Castlevania series is infamous for its goofy translations and funny-sounding lines, and probably one of the most well-known is from the beginning of Symphony of the Night.

During the intro scene, Dracula and Richter have a short conversation, and at one point Dracula says:

How do vampires flirt? Batting their eyes

This wacky line coupled with the hilarious voice acting quickly made this scene a fan favorite. I got to thinking though – what does the Japanese text say? And how does the Japanese voice acting sound? So I picked up a copy of the Japanese game to find out!

Here’s a comparison of the two versions. I also quickly translated and subtitled the Japanese text for reference:

The first thing I notice is how much better and cooler the Japanese voice acting is. I think this is partly because the Japanese voice actors/director had more experience, but also simply because the scene was originally written with Japanese in mind. Actually, voice acting, dubs, and dub-versus-sub issues are something I deal with every day during my professional work, so there’s a lot more I could say on the subject. It’s probably better suited for a big post of its own someday, though.

Anyway, getting back to the dialogue, here’s a side-by-side comparison for easy reference:

Japanese VersionEnglish Version
Richter: Begone! This world is not yours to live in!Richter: Die monster. You don’t belong in this world!
Dracula: It is not by MY power that I am revived.Dracula: It was not by my hand that I am once again given flesh.
It is because of the greedy humans that I live once more.I was called here by humans who wish to pay me tribute.
Might is the one and only justice that exists, after all.
Richter: That’s nothing but your self-centered interpretation!Richter: Tribute!?!
Guided by common beliefs, people seek each other out, gather together, and move forward.You steal men’s souls and make them your slaves!
Dracula: However, is it not true that GREED has driven the humans’ development and that FAITH has led them?Dracula: Perhaps the same could be said of all religions…
Richter: Power alone cannot lead people.Richter: Your words are as empty as your soul!
Respect and a loving heart are what truly lead humanity!Mankind ill needs a savior such as you!
Dracula: Foolish drivel.Dracula: What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.
I will prove to you which of us is right… with death!But enough talk… Have at you!

A quick look shows that the “What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.” line wasn’t really in the original text. In fact, the English text strays quite a bit from the Japanese version. The original text is actually extremely common, standard-sounding stuff in Japanese entertainment. But this hamfisted use of love, respect, faith, and togetherness comes across a bit cornier when put into English. It’s hard to explain, I guess it’s a cultural difference.

In any case, I’m guessing that the localizer picked up on this and tried to rephrase the text a little while trying to maintain the general point of the lines – that Dracula isn’t fit to lead humankind. The localizer’s good intentions sort of fell flat when it came to the voice acting, but then again this was the 90s, when serious localization and serious voice acting was just getting started.

Image 1

I also feel like the localizer was hoping to give the scene a dash of that “ye olde” flavor to match the scene’s context, with things like “mankind ill needs” and “Have at you!” I think the intentions were good but might’ve only made the silly voice acting sound sillier. Incidentally, it turns out that the miserable pile of secrets quote is a reference to the French writer André Malraux.

Image 1

It sounds like some English remakes/ports have since redone this scene to be closer to the original text. I haven’t played them so I can’t comment on them, but because of how memorable this scene is I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of fans were disappointed that this text was changed. Was that the case? Or was it a welcomed change? Let me know!

Summary: The famous intro dialogue between Dracula and Richter in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is indeed very different between the original Japanese release and the original English release. The Japanese version plays the scene very seriously, while the English version arguably goes a little over-the-top.

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27 Comments
  1. I have to say, I love the PS1 Symphony of the Night translation.
    The dub, as I understand it, was a rush job when SCEA surprised Konami at the last minute with a request for an english dub that they’d been assured they didn’t need through the entire localization process. So they recorded all the lines in a single weekend, and probably not in a proper recording studio(a lot of the clips have a strong hint of what I call “bathroom echo”). Even without that constraint it’s a remarkably credible dub, Richter’s propensity for overacting aside(and Dracula is SERIOUSLY channeling Star Trek’s Quark with the way he says “humans”).

    It’s a real shame that the internet adopted it as a massive joke and Konami’s ashamed of it.
    The edited script is bland, and the new dub lacks any real sense of energy, and comes across as bored. If you’re going to rewrite your game to stop the internet laughing at your terrible dub, don’t make the new dub worse.

    Reply
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phmcDUwqAWU Can you see if the fan translation is good?

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    1. Looks pretty good, much closer to the original and sounds nicely edited, or at least as much as is possible with such wacky original Japanese text.

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  3. I can’t get enough of Norio F. Wakamoto’s Dracula. Good lord, the man could make Pee Wee sound like a total badass. Shame he sounds like Dick Dastardly in the dub. But well, if SCEE did drop the bomb on Konami a tad late as Jistuce said, that’s pretty much what can be expected. Alucard didn’t sound too bad, at least.

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    1. Yeah, Wakamoto’s voice is awesome, I’m always excited whenever I work on something that he’s been in. If I could have three wishes one would probably to have his voice 😛

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  4. Hey, Mato. I’ve sent you an email earlier, but I figured I’ll just post it her for everyone to read. I hope you look into the instruction manual for the original FDS version of SMB The Lost Levels, especially if the storyline is any different from the original (in terms of things not apparent in the actual game, anyway).

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  5. I’m not english speaker that’s why it was okay when played this game years ago but now my english has improved, I find it actually very funny 🙂

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  6. I cannot understand why anyone would want to retranslate or re-dub this scene.

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  7. The original English translation of Symphony of the Night uses tons of quotes and references, in fact. There’s very few scenes where some famous bit of literature isn’t referenced. Most of the enemies and items got renamed to be references to various bits of common folklore and to Tolkien’s Silmarillion, too. It’s one of the most Woolseyized translations I’ve ever seen that didn’t come out of Working Designs.

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  8. I found an interesting “fan rewrite” of SoTN, taking bits and pieces from both the original Japanese script, the original English dub and the Dracula X Chronicles rewrite:

    http://castlevaniadungeon.net/forums/index.php/topic,5602.0.html

    Thought it’d be worth a look.

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  9. I always loved the Dracula from the original English dub. As much as I love Norio Wakamoto, he just can’t compete with the scenery-chewing of his English counterpart. The completely over-the-top theatricality just feels so perfect for the character.

    I honestly never took issue with how the scene was written in general, it really only becomes humorous to me because the English voice for Richter has such tremendously wooden delivery of his lines. Sadly, Richter’s voice is more representative of the dub than Dracula – poor audio quality aside, the dub is also hampered by odd casting choices and lifeless line deliveries.

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  10. It’s even funnier how the “miserable pile of secrets” reference appears also in the Castlevania Lords of Shadows 2:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg44ZI9Td7s

    They really know their memes!

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    1. Too bad MercurySteam has no idea whatsoever about when to actually use them in the right context, that quote doesn’t fit the context of that cutscene in any way and the first game wasn’t any better with random references to Portal.

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  11. >The original text is actually extremely common stuff in Japanese entertainment and is meant to be taken completely seriously.
    No way, bro. It’s cheesy cartoon dialogue and it’s cheesy on purpose. While the English version isn’t really faithful it too is intentionally cheesy. In that way it is somehow appropriate.

    I think if you think either version of the dialogue was supposed to sound anything other than goofy cartoonish dialogue you’ve seriously missed the point. Castlevania has always been about corny cliches.

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    1. You’re totally right, I worded that poorly. I should’ve said that as far as Japanese entertainment writing goes, whether it’s manga or music or movies or games or whatever, this sort of writing is very standard, normal stuff. In that context, this scene is playing itself straight and ordinary.

      Indeed, when I try to read the English text without hearing the voices, it comes off as trying to achieve the same thing too.

      Reply
  12. I think one point probably lost on the American audience (at least at the time) is that Dracula gives this speech (or one very close to it) at the end of Rondo of Blood when you beat the game with Richter.

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  13. In the PSP game Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne confronts the enemy boss with “Die, monster! You don’t belong in this world!”. What makes it worse is that it FITS so well so that you only find it bizarre if you know what she’s referencing.

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  14. The “What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!” Is actually a verbatim quote from André Malraux’s Antimemoires

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  15. I can’t help but think of Sailor Moon whenever something involves the power of love and friendship.

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  16. Reading your text rundown of the Japanese dialogue, I’d hoped that the line “That’s nothing but your self-centered interpretation!” was a reference from the famous line in Gundam: Char’s Counterattack where Char says he wants to make humanity evolve and Amuro basically responds with “That’s just your ego talking!” 「エゴだよそれは!」. Sadly, the Japanese text makes it clear that this isn’t the case at all.

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  17. So the Simon/Richter Smash Ultimate trailer adds a third English version of the “Die monster” line:

    PS1: “Die monster. You don’t belong in this world!”
    PSP: “Dracula. Die now, and leave this world! You’ll never belong here!”
    Smash: “Begone! You don’t belong in this world, monster!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VrbkoWUyIg#t=2m12s

    Whereas the Japanese trailer leaves the line “Begone! This world is not yours to live in!” intact, simply rerecording it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiecU4cXvSA#t=2m12s

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  18. Is it true that the opening dialogue of SotN is, in the Japanese version anyway, basically word-for-word from the ending cutscene of Rondo of Blood?

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    1. I checked, and it’s very close to word-for-word, but not 100% the same. The changes are mostly due to the scene happening AFTER Dracula is killed and not before – the core of what’s said is all the same though. If you’re curious, here’s the scene in question although it’s in Japanese only:

      https://youtu.be/GoTQzhwilXc?t=79

      Reply
  19. I just finished replaying SotN via Castlevania: Requiem, which uses the PSP translation as well as the Japanese audio. One weird aspect of Requiem is that even though it uses that version, the trophies reference the original PS1 dialogue (as well as The Room, Elton John, and other Castlevania games.

    Anyway, I was curious if any of SotN’s dialogue has achieved any meme status in Japanese fandom the way the PS1 translation did in Western fandom.

    Reply

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