Honorifics - Persona

I'm sure all of you are familiar with what honorifics are. They're a major part of linguistics all across the globe but Japan is quite infamous for having such a broad array of them. For example, the -chan and -kun at the end of names to the ever famous -senpai. In the English speaking world, you'd probably use Mr or Sir but nothing as extravagant as those used in Japan.

If you've ever seen dubs alongside subs or localised video games alongside the original Japanese, you can definitely tell that most of the honorifics get dropped along the translation line. Things like Lord to replace -sama usually make their way into the translation but almost everything else gets dropped. But it isn't the fault of the translation, the English language simply doesn't have that many honorifics.

But then, enter the Persona series. My first time picking up the Persona series was with Persona 3 and I remember distinctly that I was incredibly gratified by the fact that all the characters spoke with Japanese honorifics. It was a perfect blend of cultures and it was something I didn't know I REALLY wanted until I played the game. Whenever Yukari says Fuuka-chan or Junpei calls Mitsuru-senpai, it just fills me with satisfaction. Firstly, it sounds great in English (I don't understand how people can cringe at that considering they're not real!). Secondly, you feel this much closer to the source material. It's something I loved when I saw it and ever since, can't help but want with every new thing that comes out.

Now, I understand that the Persona series HAS to use the honorifics simply because the main character is not named. I mean, you can't really see this in Persona 3 but let's take Persona 4 as an example. Rise calls you senpai in the game because your character's name can actually be anything. But instead of making it weird by keeping only that in the game, it makes more sense to keep almost all honorifics in the game itself.

Sure the argument can be made that a good translation should be able to remove all Japanese words and terms and replace them with our own localised slang (or American because it's localised there). But I feel that they made the choice they did out of respect for the audience playing the game. They're not appealing to everyone (because not every person will understand Japanese honorifics). They're appealing to people like us, the ones who watch subs and wish we could live a life in Japan. It brings their culture closer to us without having to butcher every aspect of it.

There are way more arguments to be made for the translation they chose to go with, for example, with Japanese specific wordplay and references or around the fact that they do want to give us the full Japanese life experience which would mean not compounding on their language. Or even arguments against where you preach how you're not a weaboo and the English language shouldn't be butchered for the translation.

But those are arguments for another day. I like the translation they did but I'm not a weaboo. I like the translation they did but I can accept great English literature as well. It's just what it is and it was done well.

I'll be talking more about this topic in my next post!


Popular Posts