A while back I got an e-mail asking about the Donkey Kong 64 rap:
Hello, Mr. Mato. My name is OmniM and I have been reading over your fascinating articles on your Legends of Localization site; it’s very informative and the site really expanded my mind on the Japanese/English translations of the games I play. There’s a line I would like you to translate in the Japanese version of Donkey Kong 64 (it’s the famous “one hell of a guy” line in the intro) and I want to know if they changed the line or not. Thank you for your time and keep up with updating the site.
So I did some quick digging around and found a video of the Japanese DK64 intro:
…Yep, it’s just what I expected: it’s the same as the English version. Completely the same – it doesn’t even have Japanese subtitles!
The reason I’m not surprised is because I’ve seen this happen lots of other times. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a pain to translate / re-record songs or if it’s because English stuff is too “cool” as-is or what, but this is pretty normal for English stuff going into Japanese. I can only assume the Japanese version didn’t get get Japanese subtitles there because the song was meant to be sung to.
A quick search online shows that a Japanese translation of the lyrics is available on none other than Shigesato Itoi’s website here.
So there you go – this is a case of something not getting localized. It also makes me want to someday take a look at the Donkey Kong Country games and see how they might’ve been handled too. It’s gotta be really weird that a Japanese-made character/series is being imported back into Japan with such a different vibe to it.