Gender Norms

[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. Also, Nintendo Dual Screen (NDS) text from the North American localization will appear above all other text outside of the boxes.]
As described extensively in (SNES Gender Norms), Chrono Trigger is filled with gender expectations and roles, with men and women segregated into the separate spheres of “work” and “home,” as well as “authority” and “submission” they strikingly resemble that of historical Japanese and Western gender norms, and in turn comment on real-life cultural influences. On the other hand, shifts towards less gender disparity (present in current societal trends) are prevalent in the video game as well, embodied through the likes of protagonists Marle, Lucca, and Ayla.

A decade later, the subsequent Nintendo Dual Screen (NDS) re-release of Chrono Trigger brought many changes to the original North American localization. In particular, the re-release introduced a revised English script by translator Tom Slattery. With this partial retranslation came the revision of gender and gender-specific stereotypes within the Chrono Trigger universe, inevitably altering previous ideas found in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

One of the more mysterious and influential behaviors in the English language (the usage of gender pronouns to refer to inanimate objects) was, and to some extent is, a common form of speech. This linguistic feature is found in the revised translation of Chrono Trigger, in particular, as the pronoun “she,” which has been used to refer to ships, planes, guns, nations, and armies.1 It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why or how such gender pronouns became accepted as commonplace ways to anthropomorphize machines and abstract concepts, especially when examining the most prevalent example of such linguistic-behavior: that of ships although not a ship exactly, the Blackbird aircraft functions as a vessel:
Voice: All is well with the Blackbird, I presume?

Soldier: She is fully operational, Lord Dalton!

Dalton: Of course she is, you blithering idiot! Were she not, we'd all be in trouble. You! What are you doing there?

Personified as inherently feminine for much of history, ships have sometimes been consciously or unconsciously symbolically viewed as wombs, carrying and nurturing their cargo:
“Ships, like, for example, vases, generally symbolise femininity because they are vessels; like the womb, supposedly a woman's defining characteristic, their function is to contain.”2

This is very much like the phenomenon of phallic architecture, in which towers and other tall buildings may represent masculinity.3 Interestingly, in Latin, the word for “ship,” navis, is feminine, which may explain why this personification has occurred, especially since Modern English still has remnants of Old English (which is mainly derived from Latin). Another widely believed notion is that:
“it stems from the tradition of boat-owners, typically and historically male, naming their vessels after significant women in their lives — wives, sweethearts, mothers. Similarly, and more broadly, ships were once dedicated to goddesses, and later also to mortal women of national or historic significance, thereby bestowing a benevolent feminine spirit on the vessels that would carry seafarers across treacherous oceans. Figureheads on the prows of ships were often depictions of such female namesakes, denoting the name of the ship for a largely illiterate maritime population. This practice dated from the early 18th century, before which superstition had it that the presence of women aboard sailing vessels — whether in human or representative form — was an omen of bad luck.”4

In the above instance, when Dalton and the fellow soldier anthropomorphize the Blackbird, they are reflecting the remnants of Old English. This usage of gendered pronouns, as such, helps Slattery create a somewhat authentic-sounding “middle english” culture and atmosphere (see NDS Cultural Linguistics)  a place in which men exert control over women, much in the same way they exert control over these machines and vessels  a very real parallel in Chrono Trigger:
Dalton: See these beautiful wings! This is a throne truly fit for a king! I name it…
The Aero-Dalton Imperial! And those meddlesome interlopers shall be her first victims!

These personifications also express a trust in them, as well as help justify “her” servitude, “a reminder that [she] works for you, that [she] exists within a human construct”1:
Ayla: Epoch, sky… It can fly!?

Dalton: Her name is not the Epoch! It's the Aero-Dalton Imperial!

[Later on...]

Lucca: Is the Epoch all right!?

Another fascinating note, is the fact that only Dalton and one nameless soldier refer to these vessels as feminine. Because of this, it could be speculated that within the context of the new North American localization of Chrono Trigger the majority of individuals who use such language patterns are those who primarily participate in combat. As seen above, Ayla and Lucca only specify the Epoch by its name or as an “it.”

In addition to this speech pattern, a trace of Old English
in the form of gender-specific nouns based off of an individual's natural gender made its way into the first few lines of the revised script:
Mother: It's about time! By the way, you're going to go see—
Oh dear, what was her name? That young inventress friend of yours…
ジナ「やっと起きたのね。 そうそう、あの、おさななじみの発明好きな子…… アラ、ドわすれしちゃったわ。 なんていったっけ、あの子?

Gina: I see you finally got up. Oh yes, your childhood friend, that girl who likes inventions... Oh, it's slipped my mind. What was that girl's name?

MOM: Finally! By the way, that inventor friend of yours... know...! Oh, dear, I've forgotten her name!

As evidenced from these scripts, “Inventress” permits gender-specific context from the get go, but even so, it is still not an accurate way of translating the Japanese script, as even “inventor friend” loses the 「幼なじみ」 “childhood friend” context. It is also important to note that 「発明」 “invention” is detached from “childhood friend,” and only later is the Lucca’s gender pronounced as 「あの子」 ano ko, “that girl.” The reason why gender-specific information is not introduced until the explicit mention of ano ko reflects the fact that in contrast to English linguistic behaviors the Japanese language has no grammatical gender (although semantically, certain expressions may refer to a specific gender). This means, that clearly, “she” or “her” was never utilized in Chrono Trigger at any point in time to refer to an aircraft like the Epoch.

As such, Slattery’s retranslation is inaccurate in light of Japanese culture, articulating an unreliable version of original cultural material to North American gaming audiences. Instead, Japanese culture shows us a gender differentiation in the gender-specific speech among men and women. This can be seen in Azarla, (Azala in the North American localization). It is a misconception among Western players that Azala was a gender-neutral character to begin with. In the North American SNES script, this gender-neutrality is a mainstay. However, when examining the original Japanese rendition, Azala speaks with masculine speech patterns (which are noticeable at the ends of questions and sentences):
アザーラ「やはり来たか……。 これが、最後の勝負になりそうだな。 おそかれ早かれ、決めなければならぬのだ……。 我々恐竜人か、きさま達サル共か。 この地に生き残る方をな。

Azarla: So you really did come... It looks like this will be our last match. Sooner or later, we must decide it... We Dinomen, or you monkeys? Which will survive on this earth?

AZALA: are here at last. This is it, then. The showdown. Today there shall be a conclusion. Will it be the Reptites, or you silly apes who end up ruling the world?

「だな」 da na, and 「 な」 na, are prevalent characters that are considered masculine, acting as sentence enders. 「きさま」 kisama, and 「最後」 omae, are informal ways of referring to someone else, and are typically utilized by men as well. In particular, kisama is a rude form of “you” and is mainly said in heated situations between enemies  depending on the context, it can be translated as “you,” or even the word “bastard.” From the perspective of a Japanese player, these intricacies help indicate gender, but this is only due to the patterned behaviors of men and women over time. In fact, these unique “feminine” and “masculine” words and characters did not originate as gender-specific.

Pre-Meiji era Japanese language considered da na and na to be gender-neutral, but within the course of a century, modern Japanese adapted new gender norms, being influenced by the emergence of institutionalized education which standardized the Japanese “national” language and proliferation of popular media in the form of entertainment, publications, and advertising campaigns. Through these channels, popular notions in the Meiji era (1868-1912) emphasized the use of feminine speech according to the ideal of 「良妻賢母」 ryosai kenbo, “good wife, good mother.” This social ideology is evidenced in the following etiquette book, written by Yanagi Yae in 1941:
“a. The first characteristic of [women’s] good language is elegance (with examples of court-women’s speech).
b. Women’s speech must, first and foremost, be polite.
c. Women should avoid speaking directly and … should make descriptions and express emotion that present no more than 70% of what they actually want to say.
d. Women should never fail to use honorific language.”5

In contrast, males were instructed to use more blunt and harsher sounding characters to modify their speech. It was also considered fine for men to be less formal in their dealings. More examination reveals that Azala also uses two other gendered speech patterns:
アザーラ「今の声が聞こえたか? フフ、後でたっぷり聞かせてやるわ!

Azarla: Did you hear the voice just now? Hu hu, I'll let you hear your fill after this!

AZALA: Hear that lovely voice? You'll soon become the best of friends!

「か」 ka, is a masculine sentence ender that is specifically used at the end of questions, and lastly:
アザーラ「……だが、おぼえておれ。 この大地は我が恐竜人の物だという事をな……。

Azarla: ...but remember. This earth belongs to we Dinomen...

AZALA: But remember, WE Reptites will rule the world!

「おれ」 ore, is a very informal form of “I” or “me” and is typically only utilized by men. It has the potential of being considered vulgar and rude as well.

From the above evidence, it seems only natural that translators would pick up on the gender cues. Ted Woolsey, in the first localization, decided to play it safe, opting to incorporate no explicit references to Azala’s gender. To make matters more complicated though, a decade later, Slattery decided to assign Azala as a female:
Nizbel: Lookin' for Azala? She's just through here.

Nizbel: You'll have to go through to reach Azarla.

NIZBEL: Azala's in the back.

Today, this addition of “she” makes all of the difference, altering previous notions concerning Azala’s character. Intuitively, Azala’s gendered speech patterns seem to reflect “his” true gender as a male. However, it is still plausible to read these linguistics as “tomboyish” characteristics, since Japanese men and women are not forced to talk in a specific way they are just expected and taught to do so. As such, Azala is indeed not gender-neutral, and although evidence points to male gender assignment, it is wrong to assume such due to ever-changing cultural and societal norms.

In the end, Slattey’s characterization of Azala as a female is not wrong, per say, since it does inform North American gamers and helps them identify Azala as a character. In fact, the implications of this identification inherently color the Reptite civilization in the North American localization as a matriarchy not the presumed patriarchy in the Japanese version. By enunciating Azala as a female, ideas regarding her rise to power and ultimate rule are construed and, since matriarchal societies are historical outliers, Azala could be perceived as one of the strongest and most cunning individuals of Reptite society due to the prevailing notion, people have been conditioned to believe, that females are intrinsically less capable than males.6 Simultaneously, however, this designation articulates Japanese culture in an insufficient manner, since the intricacies in gendered linguistics, between males and females, cannot be fully translated to English.

One last detail is what occurred during the following two passages. Originally imbued with gender expectations, these sections give insight into the Chrono Trigger universe. As mentioned in (SNES Gender Norms), these notions were removed during the subsequent SNES localization effort. However, along with many other areas, these portions of the Chrono Trigger script were retranslated, in the end restoring the original gender norms in place in Japan’s version of the video game:
Lucca: Dad promised to go hiking with me, but blew me off again, because of his research. I don’t get it. But whatever. Who cares about stupid science anyway? Girls don’t need to know about that stuff!
『AD990/6/24 ハイキングのやくそくをしたのにお父さんは研究ですっぽかし。 ルッカには全然わかんない…… でもいいの。 ルッカはふつうのおよめさんになるからカガクなんて知らなくていいんだもん!

A.D. 990 6/24 Dad promised to go hiking, but he skipped out on it to do research. Lucca doesn't get it at all... But that's fine. Lucca's gonna be a normal bride, so she doesn't gotta know about science and stuff!

6/24/990AD Dad promised to go hiking with me, but blew me off again, due to his work. I hate science! I loathe it!"
Ayla: Kino man… Ayla die, Ayla have baby, then Kino chief.
エイラ「キーノ 男…… エイラ 死んだり 子供出来たらキーノ酋長。

Ayla: Kino man... If Ayla die, have baby, whatever, Kino chief.

Ayla: Kino is man... so if Ayla die, Kino chief then.

When regarding the various discrepancies featured in the revised NDS script, it is apparent that Slattery was inaccurate at times, introducing gender-specific pronouns and words non-existent in the Japanese game, as well as in Japanese society as a whole. However, other instances reworked lost content and helped North American gamers identify with Azala and “her” character, regardless of the implications surrounding untranslatable gendered speech patterns. As such, gender norms in Chrono Trigger were, at best, articulated imprecisely, at least in terms of authenticity to the original concept of Chrono Trigger. Though inaccurately informing North American gamers of Japanese culture, Slattery also aided players in their comprehension of events and appealed to their familiarity with gendered words, in the end helping in the creation of a “middle english” atmosphere indicative of the North American NDS localization.

Works Cited:

[1] LaFrance, Adrienne. "Why People Name Their Machines." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 23 June 2014. Web. 31 July 2015.

[2] "Semantic Enigmas: Why Are Ships Always Female?" The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, n.d. Web. 31 July 2015.

[3] Gezgin, Ulas Basar, Dr. "Psychology and Architecture in Cities: Phallic Architecture." 01 Nov. 2013. SlideShare. Web. 31 July 2015.

[4] Louise. "Why Is a Ship a She?" Web log post. Glossophilia. N.p., 30 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 July 2015.

[5] Nakamura, Momoko. Gender, Language and Ideology: A Genealogy of Japanese Women's Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2014. Print.

[6] Lerner, Gerda. The Creation of Patriarchy. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Print.

This page has paths:

This page references: