How Pearl Fey’s Gravy Accident Was Handled in Japanese Ace Attorney

22 Comments

A while back, I got an e-mail asking about one of the Phoenix Wright games that might or might not have had some interesting localization issues:

Hello. If by chance you’ve played Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations, there’s one section of the game in which I’m quite curious how the translated dialogue compares to the original. If you haven’t played the game but would still like to check out what I’m referring to, here’s a video:

Oh, and just to be safe, the rest of this e-mails contains *MAJOR SPOILERS, *so don’t read on if that’s a concern to you.

During the final case of the game, Pearl Fey unwittingly follows a plot to murder Elise Deauxnim, aka Misty Fey. However, the instructions Pearl is given tell her to “Gravely roast the Master in the fires of Hades and bring our vengeance to fruition.” Given her young age, Pearl takes these instructions literally, and actually splatters gravy from a roast onto a hanging scroll that features Misty’s picture.

Obviously, there’s a creative play on words in this scene. I’m assuming the events are the same in the Japanese version (ie Pearl splatters the scroll with gravy in both versions), but I’m curious as to how such a play on words would actually work in Japanese. Although I haven’t studied the language since 2004, I don’t believe their equivalent to the word “roast” works as both a noun and a verb like it does in English. Moreover, the similarity in sound between “gravely” and “gravy” is also unique to English.

By chance do you know how the Japanese version compares to the English version? Any response would be appreciated. The fact that this word play actually plays a key role in the plot is what makes it so interesting, because it indicates that the translators had to be VERY careful on how they handled it.

It’s been 5+ years since I played the Japanese version, but checking online videos and some sites I was able to figure this out. Here’s an in-game look at the specific lines in question:

NOW I'M HUNGRY RARGHNOW I'M HUNGRY RARGH

And here’s a look at the correct text:

Japanese textBasic translationOfficial translation
家元に、華麗に引導をたたきつけてやりなさいPut a splendid end to the head of the house.Gravely roast the Master in the fires of Hades and bring our vengeance to fruition.

The deal in the Japanese version is that since she’s a kid, she can’t read fancy Japanese kanji yet. So she mistook the 華麗, which is pronounced “karei” and means something like “splendid” or “gorgeous”, for the Japanese word “kare-“, which means “curry”. She also mistook 引導, which is pronounced “indoh” and means something like “requiem” or “last rites” for the word “Indo”, which means “India”.

In short, in Japanese she misread the phrase and thought it was some weird sentence about throwing India and/or curry on the master of the house. And that’s why the scroll gets covered in it.

In the English version, this misreading isn’t quite the same, but using “gravely” and “gravy” accomplished a similar result. It was a pretty clever idea, and I wonder how it was handled in other languages too.

Actually, now that I think about it, I seem to recall using “grave” and “gravely” in a lot of similar puns in professional stuff I’ve worked on too. And apparently fan stuff too:

Coming soon! Gravely gravelly graboids!

“Gravely” is such a handy word for things like this – it isn’t used often in everyday situations, it can mean several different things, AND it can be applied to all sorts of different contexts. So if you’re an aspiring translator or writer (or comedian?), be sure to add “gravely” to your repertoire!

If you liked this article and know any other fans of Ace Attorney, let them know about it. It's a great way to help support Legends of Localization!
22 Comments
  1. First!

    Sorry, i couldn’t help myself.

    I’ve been wanting to try the Pheonix Wright games for so long, but i can just never get around to actually buying one. I think the early ones are available for download on Wii for like $5. Maybe someday when i’m bored and got some extra money, i might finally getting around to trying it.

    Reply
    1. I almost never play games anymore, but oh man did I love the Phoenix Wright games. It sounds like you have a similar taste in games as me, so if so I can’t recommend them enough.

      Reply
    2. You definitely want to play the DS versions, the Wii versions, or the original iOS versions. Avoid the HD remake for iOS if you can; it’s vastly inferior to all the other versions in almost every way.

      Apollo Justice, or the fourth Ace Attorney game, and the spin-off Miles Edgeworth game are DS only though.

      Also, the fifth main series Ace Attorney game, Dual Destinies, is being released on October 24 on the 3DS eShop, and a demo for it was released today. The creators of the game said they made it such that new people to the series could play it without playing the other games, so check it out!

      Reply
      1. Not to mention Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, which is a charmingly insane idea.

        Reply
        1. But of course. Too bad we have to wait for 2014 (early 2014 for EU).

          Reply
      2. Thanks for the heads up. I’m downloading the demo now. I can’t really afford a brand new 3DS game at this time (especially since i’m already gonna be buying pokemon X and Y in a week), but i think i heard the downloadable Wii ports were fairly cheap.

        Reply
  2. There was this weird running gag in AA3 case 2 where Phoenix Wright keeps cleaning the toilet in his office for some reason. And it seems completely random that he keeps doing that, especially when he doesn’t do it in other cases. I’m wondering if the same randomness happened in the Japanese version, if he was cleaning the toilet there too, and if there was a pun or something lost in translation.

    Or maybe there is something funny about that in English other than randomness that went completely over my head.

    Reply
    1. *Giant Comment*
      Actually, I haven’t played the case my self, but from YouTube videos…

      マヨイ
      「ね、ね、なるほどくん!
      ちょっと聞いてよ!」
      Maya
      ”Hey, hey, Nick!
      Listen for a sec!”

      「ほらほら、トイレ掃除なんて
      あと、あと!」
      ”Hey! You can clean the toilet
      later!”

      ナルホド
      「・・・・うるさいな。
      何をハシャいでるんだよ。」
      Phoenix
      ”…Be quiet already.
      What are you so excited over?”

      マヨイ
      「ふふん。」
      ”Heehee.”
      「このあたしに向かって、エラそうな
      口をきけるのも、今日かぎりだよ!」
      ”I’m only listening to that bossy
      mouth for today!”

      ナルホド
      「・・・・?」

      マヨイ
      「あたしたち、
      ついにビッグになれるかも!」
      ”We could
      finally get big!”

      It doesn’t seem like anything’s happening… it seems to be pretty much the same as the English version. Anyways, the next instance was only one part away. 😮

      マヨイ
      「な、な、なるほどくん!
      タイヘンだよっ!」
      ”N-N-Nick!
      It’s terrible!”

      「・・・・もう! また
      トイレ掃除なんかやってるし!」
      ”…Really! You’re
      still cleaning the toilets?!”

      「そんなトイレに好きだとは
      思わなかったよっ!」
      ”I didn’t think you
      like that toilet so much!”

      ナルホド
      「なんだよ朝っぱらから・・・・」
      Phoenix
      ”What is it, so early in the morning…?”

      ハルミ
      「あの。わたくし、
      テレビつけますから!」
      Pearl
      ”Um, I’ll turn
      on the TV!”

      Just from these two, I don’t think there’s anything behind it.

      Reply
      1. The third mention of toilet cleaning is…

        ハルミ
        「さあ。お茶がはいりましたよ、
        真宵さま!」
        Pearl
        ”Well, the tea’s ready,
        Mystic Maya!”

        マヨイ
        「あ・・・・どうもありがと・・・・」
        Maya
        ”Ah…thanks…”

        ハルミ
        「ささ。なるほどくん。」
        おだんごをめしあがれ!」
        ”Come on, Mr. Nick!
        Enjoy your dumplings!”

        ナルホド
        「うん・・・・ありがとう。
        あの、晴美ちゃん・・・・?」
        ”Yeah…thanks.
        Um, Pearls…?”

        ハルミ
        「あ! わたくし、おトイレ掃除の
        途中ですので・・・・!」
        ”Ah! I’m was going to
        go clean your toilet…!”

        ナルホド
        「ちょ、ちょっと待って。
        トイレなら、ぼくが今朝・・・・」
        ”W-wait a sec.
        I cleaned it this morning…”

        マヨイ
        「行っちゃった・・・・」
        ”She’s gone…”

        I really think it’s just toilet cleaning even though I’m not going to look for another mention of it…

        Reply
        1. So, unless there’s a pun in there, it’s just complete randomness. Whut.

          Reply
  3. The french version has a clever play on words too, I don’t remember eactly how it was since it’s been a long time since the last time I played it, but I think it’s somewhat similar to the english version.

    Reply
  4. Haha, I remember that scene. I seem to remember thinking something in the back of my mind for a second or two about how they came up with that. But the Ace Attorney games are just done so well, I often forget they were originally in Japanese. Not to say I start thinking it’s an American game. Just that I get so engrossed in the game that I don’t even think about it. xD

    Still kinda working through Apollo Justice. After seeing the opening of Dual Destinies (The anime scene), I kinda wanna know what happens. xD I should probably play Investigations too, but I could never really get into that one… Just didn’t feel the same, I guess.

    Reply
  5. I’m so glad someone thought to ask this! I remember wondering this very thing when I played that case, and then I kind of forgot I wanted to know it, but now that I’ve been reminded it’s such a relief to have an answer!

    The translations in these games are generally so good that I don’t usually think about how certain things were translated, but I just remembered another bad-pun-in-a-final-case that I wondered about the time. The “muffler” thing in Rise from the Ashes (from the first game). It took me all of five seconds to discover that the same exact joke would work in Japanese though, so it was surely a stupid thing to wonder. :p

    Reply
    1. Huh, I forgot that one. How did the muffler pun go again?

      Reply
      1. It was (spoilers?) referring to a muffler (scarf, clothing) or a muffler (tailpipe of a car). Not a pun, just similar words.

        Reply
    2. Shooting Star Max

      The Spanish translation was a really bad pun, but I don’t know if it could have been done in a different way.
      The scarf was called “un fular Scapa” (meaning “a Scapa foulard”, with Scapa being the brand, or something like that. A foulard is a French handkerchief.). The Spanish expression for a tailpipe of a car is “tubo de escape” or just “escape”, and so the confusion is between “Scapa” and “escape”.
      So you see, it was pretty cheap to just make up a brand name in order to create the pun.

      Reply
  6. Oh hey, cool to see my E-mail included in the Q&A! I thought it might be a question of interest for other Phoenix Wright fans as well. And props to you Mato… I remember you replied to my letter within a half hour or so!

    There was another play on words from the first case of Apollo Justice that caught my attention, in which Phoenix’s locket is discussed during the testimony. The Judge makes a comment that if he had a locket he would “take it with him to the skies” (or something to that effect), and Apollo replies with “You know we’re talking about a locket and not a rocket, right?” I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of what the characters say.

    Anyway, I found it interesting because according to Google Translate, the Japanese term “roketto” can mean either “rocket” or “locket.” I’m guessing the same confusion occurred in the Japanese version of the game, but it’s unique how the joke is nearly identical in the English version and still makes sense.

    Oh, and thanks for the additional translational notes above, SomeUser!!

    Reply
    1. Oh, thanks for thanking me, I guess. I only just noticed this comment. ;;;;
      I was going to go find the clip but I don’t remember where the Judge talks about the rocket.

      Reply
  7. For those of you who are interested, there is a really amazing translation of Ace Attorney investigations 2 on Youtube that you guys should look at. The guy who did it is called dowolf. You should check him out Mato. I think he deserves some mad props. Here’s a link to his first video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzQuGq21Dlc&list=PLjRAU3j6cNaixtcLDixVlaz7Vcthm0rmh

    Reply
  8. The American localizations of the Ace Attorney series get a lot of attention to detail and they really are fantastic as you demonstrated here. : )

    Reply

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