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:
And here’s a look at the correct text:
|Japanese text||Basic translation||Official 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:
“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!