Cultural Context

[The script text referenced throughout is from the Chrono Trigger Retranslation Project via the Chrono Compendium, completed in script form on March 30, 2007. This fan translation, thanks to KWhazit, creates "a clearer portrayal of Chrono Trigger as intended by its Japanese creators," that forgoes, "Nintendo of America's censorship standards," and overrides the video game's inability to hold all of the original text when translated to English. Please note that blue text is used to highlight specific Japanese characters and differentiate the North American Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) localization script.]
A major drawback witnessed in the North American localization was the loss of context that transpired during translation. In particular, Japanese honorifics were a large part of the original Chrono Trigger script and helped define how the characters related to one another or if they belonged to specific groups. The exclusion of this cultural phenomenon was self-evident, but with it came English equivalents that could never quite match the praise and submission of certain Japanese titles.

For example, 「君」 kun, is mostly used for males. Superiors use this honorific to address inferiors, as well as males of the same age and status to each other, and in speaking to male children.1 Below, the Chancellor addresses Crono as “Crono-kun,” which emulates Crono’s hierarchal position as inferior:
大臣「お言葉を返すようで悪いがざいさん目当てと言うのはどうかなクロノ? 王女のざいさんに目がくらんだのだね?

Chancellor: Sorry to contradict you, but what if I say your purpose is her wealth, Crono “-kun”? You had your sights on the princess's wealth, didn't you?

CHANCELLOR: What about ransom? Crono, her fortune DID tempt you, did it not?

「ちゃん」 chan, is another honorific found in the Japanese script. It is a form of 「さん」 san, that is used to address children and female family members, as well as close friends and lovers. Those who are 「可愛い」 kawaii, “cute,” are also represented with chan. “The change from san to chan is typical of a kind of "baby talk" in Japanese where "sh" sounds are turned into "ch" sounds.”1 This kind of “baby talk” is represented in the Japanese script with 「わたち」 watachi, instead of 「私」 watashi, whereas the English script decides to leave her with regular speech patterns:
わーん! わたちのネコが……。

Waah! My cat...

Wahhh! Where's my cat?!!

In fact, chan is also used for pets and animals:

Thanks for bringing me back my kitty “-chan”.

You brought back my cat! Thank you!

Here, Mayonnay uses a kawaii form of Japanese speech, with instances of the chan honorific:
マヨネー「サイラスちゃんがいなくなってさみしーのヨネ、カエルちゃんは。 オマケに、そんなにみにくい姿にされちゃって……や~ヨネ!

Mayonnay: With Cyrus “-chan” gone, you must be lonely, Frog “-chan”. And turned into such an ugly form to make things worse... yuck!

FLEA: Poor little Froggie! You must be lonely now that Cyrus is gone. And to be turned into something so hideous! Dreadful!

Lastly, one of the more prominent titles used throughout the video game is 「様」 sama. It is the formal version of san, and addresses those of a higher rank, like individuals of nobility.1 When examining this passage, it is noticeable that Yakra has no formal title in the English rendition when he should:
よくぞ、来られた。 ここの主人ヤクラもきっとおよろこびになるであろう。 ささ、ヤクラがアイサツにみえるまでこの部屋でゆっくりと休むがよいぞ。

Good of you to come. The master here, lord Yakra, will surely just as pleased. Now then, rest here in this room until lord Yakra can see to you.

How nice of you to come. I'm sure Yakra will be just as pleased. Why not rest in here until he's available?

Along with honorifics, Japanese language also provides strong gender cues. In Chrono Trigger, certain characters speak either a more masculine or feminine form of speech. These imbue a character with particular traits and help us visualize them when they are speaking from off screen. As an example, Ayla and Mayonnay (known as Flea in English script) both use 「 あたい」, a unique form of “me” or “I” that is both feminine and tough. The Queen of Zeal uses 「妾」, which translates to either “concubine” or “mistress”, but in this context, it is also a humble way of referring to herself. Mayonnay is also personified as a female due to a particular speech pattern, using the stereotypical and kawaii 「ヨネ」 yo ne, sound to allude to his depicted gender.2 In fact, even his name is said with a yo ne sound at the end. Later on in the story, the Master Golem also speaks with a feminine style (with an emotional emphasis on the 「の」 character)2 in this case, it probably implies a sexist remark pertaining to how “weak” or “scared” of heights it is:

Master Golem: I can't handle heights!

GolemBoss: I HATE heights!

As evidenced from these numerous examples, Japanese and American linguistics and cultural references vary incredibly and are prone to removal or mistranslation. Because of this, Chrono Trigger was inevitably articulated in a vastly different way when compared to the original. In the end, Japanese cultural linguistics were replaced with American jokes, idioms, and references, and at the same time, lost valuable context that inherently colors Japanese speech patterns ultimately, it was this revised English script that influenced North American gamers’ thoughts and perceptions of specific characters, events, and cultural ideas.

Works Cited:

[1] Bullock, Ben. "13.5. What Is the Difference between San, Sama, Kun and Chan?" Sci.Lang.Japan Frequently Asked Questions N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2015.

[2] Koichi. "Japanese Gendered Language." Tofugu. Tofugu, n.d. Web. 28 July 2015.

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