A reader recently asked a question that has some ties to the Sonic the Hedgehog series:
I’ve been curious about this mystery message you can find in Sonic CD.
Now, from my understanding, this is apparently either a pun on the similar sound between Madjin and majin (魔神) or because “Madjin” is a nickname for Masato Nishimura. Is this just some clever pun?
This question actually goes kind of deep unless you already know Japanese, so this will be a bit long.
The Secret Screen
For the uninitiated, the deal is this: there’s a secret sound test in Sonic CD, and if you select the proper combination of stuff in that sound test, a spooky screen pops up with some Japanese text.
First, for clarification, here’s how to access this spooky screen to begin with:
- At the title screen, press Down, Down, Down, Left, Right, A. This will take you to the secret sound test screen.
- On the sound screen test, select FM No. 46, PCM No. 12, and DA No. 25.
- Press Start, and the game will switch to a new screen. Here, some Japanese text appears and some creepy music and sounds play:
So, what does this text say? Here’s a look at the text side-by-side with a translation:
|Japanese Text||English Translation|
Image by Majin
The bottom text seems to be what’s causing a lot of confusion. This confusion is a result of different romanization methods – which is the same reason for the Yoshi/Yossy confusion that we looked at a while back.
Basically, the name まぢん is pronounced “mah-jeen”. As such, this would usually be written as “Majin” in English using the romanization method that most Japanese-to-English translators and students use. But other romanization methods might spell it as “madin” or “madzin” or “mazin”. In all cases, though, it’s still pronounced “mah-jeen” regardless of spelling.
What makes the problem a little weirder is that ぢ is rarely ever used in Japanese; instead, じ is normally used. It has the same pronunciation – using ぢ instead of じ in this case is just a stylistic choice. But sometimes they get romanized differently too, so it just adds more confusion to the fire. Regardless of all this, though, it’s still pronounced “mah-jeen”.
This “majin” word is normally written in kanji as 魔神 or 魔人 and generally refers to a powerful supernatural being with human-like or god-like qualities. There’s no singular translation into English; you’ll see everything from demon to devil to genie to djinn to warlock to magus. So if you see rumors say that this message is supposedly from the devil or something like that, this might be why.
The truth in this particular case is that “majin” is simply an alternate way to read Masato (真人) Nishimura’s given name. And apparently this was his nickname since he was a kid – I guess the easiest way to explain it is that it’s like how I would sometimes call my friend Sean “Seen” instead of “Shawn” as a kid.
In any case, Masato Nishimura hid this child nickname in other games too, including Shenmue!
He revealed all this info in an old Japanese interview here. He says he added his nickname to stuff because he wanted it to stand out… and given gamers’ reaction to this secret Sonic screen, I’d say he succeeded at that!
Back on Track
The real question, though, was if this Majin name on the Sonic CD screen was a pun or if it was just because it was Masato Nishimura’s nickname. The answer is… that it was because it was his nickname… but he got the nickname as a kid because it was a goofy way to read his name. So it’s sort of both. And because of this and the romanization issues and everything else, it just got lots of fans confused.
Incidentally, if you're a Sonic fan, I've written a few other articles about the series that you'll like here!