A little while back I posted an article about the Metroid series’ Varia Suit. After posting it, someone asked a follow-up question which went something like:
Samus is revealed as a woman at the end of the game, but the English manual for Metroid calls Samus a “he”, probably as an attempt at misdirection. Does the Japanese manual do this too? Does it call Samus a man, or was this misdirection a product of localization?
This was a good question, and it’s something I’ve wanted to know for a while myself, so let’s take a look at the manuals again:
|Japanese Metroid manual||English Metroid manual|
I started to write out a text comparison for reference, but realized that the translation is surprisingly very close to the original text.
Anyway, some quick background info: the Japanese language doesn’t use pronouns very much, so things like “he” and “she” aren’t used very often at all. Instead, you’ll usually use the name of the person in question, or, if it’s already clear from context who you’re talking about, you don’t need to say anything at all. In fact, Japanese sentences often don’t even include sentence subjects at all.
What this means is that it’s very easy to write Japanese text without specifying someone’s gender. There are even some Japanese books and series where the writers don’t even specify gender at all. I know the popular “Kino’s Journey” series keeps the main character’s gender unclear for a really long time, at least in the original Japanese version.
I bring all this up because it would’ve been extremely easy for the Japanese writers to keep Samus’ gender a secret. But the Japanese text does use the Japanese pronoun for “he” – three times in fact. I’ve highlighted them for reference here:
|Instances of 'he' in the Japanese text|
This was clearly intended as misdirection – the Japanese writers definitely intended for the player to believe that Samus was a man at first. So this wasn’t a localization thing at all, this trickery was included in the Japanese manual from the very start.