How the “Thanatos” and “Tanatos” Name Change Was Handled in Kid Icarus: Uprising


A reader named Chris recently asked a question about the Kid Icarus game on the Nintendo 3DS:

In Kid Icarus Uprising for the 3DS, in Chapter 7, Tanatos, the god of death, says “I go by Thanatos now, the H stands for hamazing!” I heard that Nintendo did this to correct a mistranslation in the previous Kid Icarus games since some people over there forgot it was mythology.

So I’m wondering, what does this line say in the Japanese version?

I’ve never played the game, but I’ve been catching bits and pieces of chuggaconroy’s current LP of the game, and he just recently got to this point in the game so let’s take a look!

First, here’s the text in question in both the Japanese version and the English version:

Whoa I'm impressed they gave Thanatos that voice in EnglishWhoa I'm impressed they gave Thanatos that voice in English
Basic translationOfficial translation
Thanatos: Ho ho ho…
Palutena: Thanatos!
Thanatos: And I thought the defenses were impregnable! Having guests is certainly a surprise!Thanatos: Oh, goody – guests! Protecting an impregnable fortress can get awfully lonely.
Pit: Thanatos!Palutena: Is that you, Tanatos?
Thanatos: BOTH of you don’t need to call my name, you know.Thanatos: Actually, I go by Thanatos now. The extra H is for hamazing.
Pit: …Have we met before?
Thanatos: I’m wounded, truly I am.
Thanatos: You might not remember me, but it’s long time, no see, Pit.Thanatos: I know it’s been awhile, but surely you haven’t forgotten your old foe?
Pit: He could tell I didn’t remember him…Pit: Sorry… There are just so many foes and only one of me.

And for easier reference, here are videos of each scene, queued up to the right spot. If you’re reading this way in the future, one or both videos may be down, but hopefully they stay up a long time:

As you can see, the Japanese text is a bit different from the English text, not only with the name change part, but with some lines added, some lines removed, and some extra attitude injected all around. It actually reminds me a lot of how modern Sonic games are handled; in fact I almost want to believe the script was originally written in English. If not, this game went through a really thorough localization process!

Actually, the way the Japanese version of Pit is played as a more kid-like, straight-laced hero and the way the English version is more of a wise-crackin’, boastful hero reminds me a lot of how the Kirby get changed in all the Western box art:

He'll suck you up
and spit you out
and then identity theft you

In fact, I think the Kid Icarus 3DS game DID get its box art changed in this way too:

That little facial expression might make or break the game's sales

(Image from Unbound Gamer)

This same “Americans want attitude” thing reminds me of a lot of the 4Kids anime localizations too (which includes Sonic!), so this seems to be pretty par for the course when it comes to localizing stuff for this specific demographic. ‘Tude rules, yo:

Wait, was THIS the start of it all?!

Anyway, hopefully that helps answer the question about Thanatos! I don’t really know about the mistranslation of his name and all that, I guess whenever I go back and look at the series in detail someday it’ll make more sense. I’m guessing someone back in the old days probably forgot to spell it right in English and this was just an attempt to fix that old mistake.

I gotta say, that’s an interesting voice casting choice for Thanatos! And from what little I’ve seen of the game, it looks pretty cool! Maybe I oughta play it myself someday.

If you liked this write-up and know someone else who's a Kid Icarus fan, let them know about this article. It'd be a great help!
  1. Wow yeah English voice acting… Thanatos sounds a little goofy in Japanese to me though too. Nice that they got Detective Conan to voice Pit lol!

  2. If you have a look into it, you’ll find that a lot of names from the first game (and forgotten Game Boy sequel) are butchered mis-Romanisations of Japanisations of Greek mythological figures. Tanatos is just the tip of the iceberg. Calling attention to it and revising it like that in Uprising was a very clever way of addressing the issue. Didn’t help Ganewmede or Hewdraw though.

    1. To be fair, ヒュードラ is a really bizarre way to write hydra (ヒュドラ or ヒドラ is what I’d expect). Ganymede is also traditionally written as ガニュメデス in Japanese (there is an S in the actual Greek name). If the differences were intentional, that’s a different translation beast than if the differences are just poor, uh… kana-ization back to Romanization, or however you want to put it.

      Not that Japan has a great track record with this stuff anyway, even a decade later. Grumble grumble Valkyrie Profile grumble.

  3. Also, wasn’t “Palutena” supposed to be “Parthena” in the first place?

    1. Nope, Palutena is a contracted form of Pallus Athena, the god Athena’s full name

      1. Not necessarily. Parthena is an actual Greek female name, and apparently means “virgin”; considering Athena in Greek myth was supposedly known for maintaining her status as a virgin maiden (so I heard), PLUS there’s the Greek temple the Parthenos which was used to worship Athena, that still leaves a pretty strong connection between Palutena and Athena.

  4. I gotta admit, while the gameplay in KI:U may be hand-cramplingly insane at times, i friggin’ love all the character dialog in it. All the actors they got do a great job, and the things they say can be absolutely hilarious at times.

  5. Hey Mato you made a mistake in your comparison chart; you wrote that Pit said “Is that you Thanatos?” instead of Palutena in the English side.

  6. Um, hello. This is OmniM’s big sister here. Anyway, have you received the email she had sent you? Not trying to be a bother here. I enjoy reading all your posts about this stuff! It’s fascinating! Over the past few years, I’ve been catching up on my Japanese since I’d played video games most of my life-since I was 6! And that was in the mid-1990’s! Back on subject, these articles are very interesting and informative! Thank you for using your time to do these! And, yes, you are right. Chuggaaconroy himself was wondering about this very thing in one of his videos on Youtube! Could you tell him about it? I have no way of getting in contact with him. I don’t have a Twitter account, an Android account, or a Facebook account-and he’s at a convention with the Runaway Guys right now. If you could, thanks. If not, oh well…I can try telling him myself.

    1. I’m actually still working to catch up on all my e-mails, but is there a specific e-mail I should be looking for? Was it about .hack stuff?

      I’ll let chugga know though!

  7. I always had the feeling that Kid Icarus was written in English as well, though I really doubt that it actually was.
    Anyway, the localisation for the title seems to have done a very good job. I like this scene so much more in it’s English version than in the Japanese one. It’s so much funnier.
    And if this scene’s anything to go by, I would not have enjoyed the game with it’s Japanese script half as much as I did enjoy it with the English one.

    1. That’s what I find so interesting – the tendency for American localizations to need to be funny. When I try to imagine Pit talking like this in Japanese, I think he’d just come off as a huge, unfunny jerk instead. Maybe it’s because sarcasm works differently in each culture. Same with Sonic. But maybe it’s that attitude that’s made him more popular outside of Japan. Attitude and chili dogs.

      Man, I find this stuff fascinating, so I gotta sit down and plan a good, big article on the subject sometime!

      1. My brother keeps telling me that the Japanese have no understanding of sarcasm. Unlike the Chinese, for some reason. Maybe that’s partly why I sometimes find Japanese humor kind of lame. Well, that and because it seems very keen on explaining jokes, just in case you didn’t get it.

        1. Japanese definitely has a different style of humor that I have yet to fully pin down myself. That’s another thing that I’d really like to sit down and do serious research into sometime, since it’s like one of THE big, major things that localization revolves around.

        2. There’s certainly sarcasm in Japan.

          But no, it’s not the prevailing form of comedy. Right now, they’re pretty entrenched in the whole tsukkomi/boke thing, which in its defense, does closely resemble vaudeville-era comedy in the US where the ‘jokes’ were frequently pointing out the misunderstanding or error with the actual punchline where a laugh was expected being smacking them with something or a pie in the face. Half a century has whittled it down to just the cream of the crop/what more modern society still finds funny (eg. Abbott and Costello/Three Stooges) leaving all the rest forgotten.

      2. If you don’t mind me asking, is your article on the differences between Kid Icarus in Japanese and English, or just American localization in general? I’ve been steadily working on translating the Japanese dialogue from Uprising so that I can compare it to the English version and see what they’d changed (haven’t posted anything on that yet, though), but I might stop it if you’re already planning on doing it. (^^;)

        1. Oh, I’m not sure what article you’re referring to, but in my previous comment I was just saying how someday I’d like to write an article that goes into detail about Japanese writing and how localizers often choose to inject attitude. And then I’d like to try to find out why this is the case from a cultural viewpoint. I don’t have any other Kid Icarus-specific articles in mind, although someday I do hope to compare the Famicom and NES games in great detail.

      3. I know this comment is almost a year old, but one of the interesting things about the game is that Nintendo had a lot of freedom in localising the game, since the original referenced Japanese culture often.

        I think this id kind of interesting.

  8. Yes, it was. The title of the email is //.hack G.U. Screenshots. Hey, Mato. Have you played Icarus Uprising or its prequels? Just wondering.

    1. Yeah, I got the e-mail, and I’ve even replied back to it. Basically, I have the screenshots but because these updates are pretty random without planning it might be a little while until I post about them. But I’ll get to them for sure!

      I haven’t played Uprising, but I loved the first Kid Icarus game as a kid and I’ve played the Game Boy game once or twice when it was released too. I don’t really use my 3DS so I’ve never gotten around to the latest game 🙁

  9. Oh, anyway-thanks! Tell Chuggaaconroy a fan of his sent this request!

    1. You should at least play it for once! I won’t tell you who’s the final boss is though. But if you already know…. Anyway, one of the chapters is really one big WTF episode. Your jaw will literally drop! (Hint: It has something to do with the moon and a Giant Space Flea Out of Nowhere-TvTropes will give you the details. However, I’d recommend playing the game first!)

  10. I believe that sakurai stated in some interview (either in Nintendo Power or in an Iwata’s Ask) that he gave NoA free reign to re-work/localize the script so that things would sound, flow and just work better in English. Particularly the numerous jokes that don’t really work in English (I think he cited going with a lot of Manzai-esque routines in the japanese version)

    Incidentally, Sakurai wrote the entire game himself iirc

  11. The Italian translation of that line is totally different from both, and also very interesting:

    Palutena: I wonder where he is now…
    Thanatos: Here I am! Thanathos, Thanporthos and Thanaramis, at your service!

    Yup, a Three Musketeers reference.

  12. Oh North America and its need to inject ‘tude into everything back in the 90s (and still doing it to poor Kirby evidently). For god’s sake NoA, Kirby is cute. He doesn’t need angry eyes to be cool to us. He’s a one-puff army, he doesn’t need ‘tude!

    As for the Kid Icarus differences, wow. Just like you’ve painstakingly showed us in FF4, they felt the need to add and subtract things during conversations.

    However, this reminds me of one drastic localization difference that made the dub of one anime far superior to its boring, dry and cut original audio: Ghost Stories. According to some folks, Ghost Stories was really straightforward and boring in Japanese, but once it came here, ADV cut loose and turned it into an anime version of South Park/Family Guy. XD

  13. Hey Mato, does the name “Blapi” mean anything in Japanese? I’m a bit hesitant to ask since it’s a minor spoiler for a character that appears in the game, being as you said you’ve never played it, but I’m genuinely curious. Is it just a goofy nickname or is it a play-on-words of some kind?

    1. It sounds like it’s short for “Black Pit”. In Japanese that’s “Burakku Pitto” or “Burapi” for short. There’s no play of words or anything that I’m aware of, it’s just a normal Japanese-style name shortening.

      1. Ah, thanks. I’m glad they went with Pittoo in the English version, it’s makes it so much better.

        Speaking of which, that raises another question. When Pit goes after Dark Pit and Palutena dubs him “Pittoo”, Pit mistakes her for sneezing. Was there any kind of joke in the Japanese version?

        And another thing. Pit makes a joke about hospitals being named after him (hosPITal, get it?). I’m assuming that doesn’t work in Japanese?

        1. As I haven’t played the game, I can’t really help too much more without more info, like what part in the game this happens, etc.

          1. The hospital joke is in Chapter 4 when you fight the first Eggplant Wizard and the Pittoo dub is in Chapter 6, at the start of the land battle.

      2. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that “Burapi” is also the Japanese pet name for Brad Pitt?

        1. It’s very possible, but I don’t know enough about either topic to say much more than that.

  14. Kind of amusing that Sakurai’s games keep getting ‘tuded up. But Uprising’s localization dialogue is genuinely very funny at times and it’s a big part of why the game was well-received. I think that’s a large positive aspect.

    What I’m curious about is whether the characters were played more to type in the Japanese version.

  15. Kid Icarus always felt like the translators had a lot of freedom to write. One can probably write an entire series about the extra jokes they slipped in or the changed lines. I heard Pit was more or less a “shounen” protagonist and much less goofy.

  16. Do you think maybe Thanatos’s use of です in the more unusual katakana form デス is a reference to Thanatos being the god of death?

    1. Indeed! I haven’t seen enough of his text to see if he has katakana in other unusual situations, but if this is the main instance then it’s definitely a death joke.

  17. Sakurai actually wrote the script himself so yeah, we’re talking about a very thorough localization process here!

  18. Pit Icarus the Kid Centurion?

    I wonder what the Japanese version of this tutorial dialogue is:

    Palutena: I’ll help you prepare for the battles ahead, Pit.
    Pit: Thanks! I’m honored to be at your service, Lady Palutena! But before we get started, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.
    Palutena: And what’s that?
    Pit: Who is this “Icarus” guy this game is named after? Can I meet him?
    Palutena: Uhm…Actually, no. But let’s not worry about that.
    Pit: …why not? What happened to Icarus?
    Palutena: Let’s just focus on you right now.

    In Japan, the game has a different title, and one character (Centurion) is named Icarus…

    1. I tried to find the Japanese version, but I only found the English one:

      But considering that the game is “Palutena’s Mirror” in Japan, Pit probably asks why her name is in the title instead of his name. (Like The Legend of Zelda not having Link)