Created By: ledge on July 24, 2009
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I Will Definitely Protect You

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Him: I will definitely protect you!
Her: Don't say things that can be misunderstood!

Seen often in anime and manga, "Zettai ni mamoru" literally translates as "I will definitely protect you" and is usually spoken by a male to a female. It's another of those Japanese Stock Phrases that don't translate well into English-speaking languages as the above exchange can demonstrate. It can be especially stilted and confusing if it's translated literally and left like that. Depending on context, it can mean one of several things:

  • Used lightly, it can mean exactly what it says: "I will protect you" or "I will keep you safe"
  • Used in a serious tone, it could mean, "I promise I won't let anything happen to you"
  • Used in a tender, or personal conversation it could mean, "I will always be there for you and I will never let anything bad happen to you"

It's seen in Unwanted Harem comedies when the boy and the girl don't exactly have the same feelings towards each other. He thinks it's a friendly relationship, she is secretly in love with him. He says "I will definitely protect you!" thinking he's being brave and manly, she thinks he is confessing that he cares about her. She will have an Internal Monologue, or occasionally even say it out loud, "How can he say something like that to me?" or "Don't say things that can be misunderstood!" because she isn't sure which meaning he attaches to it. It keeps everyone on their toes and the love triangles hopping.

("Don't say things that can be misunderstood" or something like it is one standard response from her when he says this, and yet another one of those Japanese Stock Phrases that doesn't translate well. In this context, it's probably something like "I'm confused, what are you telling me?")

Used more straight in series where a male lead Takes A Level In Bad Ass. After he says "I will definitely protect you" to the girl, their relationship means a little more than it used to, and he will now start to take a bigger role as the series' resident Bad Ass.

In romantic series, it's a very intimate promise, to always be there for your partner. And sounds even sillier to English-speaking ears to hear it translated as "I will definitely protect you" than the previous two examples.

"Zetta ni mamoru" is not to be confused with Zenyatta Mondatta, which is something quite different.

Please note, this entry was created by an English-speaker, so if he got anything horribly wrong, he accepts full blame.


Examples

Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • July 24, 2009
    ledge
    I don't speak or read a lick of Japanese (I know, I bring shame on the entire American Japanophile otaku community) so for all I know it's just translator's shortcut for anything from "Just stay behind me" to "My Lady! Allow me to humbly place my body front of thee such that no dangers shall threaten thee nor shall any harm befall thee! I shall sacrifice my life such that thou may not be injured with the merest scratch upon thy most belov'd skin!"

    translator: meh. paste "I'll definitely protect you!"
  • July 24, 2009
    TheAdversary
    Terra yells "I'll protect everyone" during her Limitbreak in Final Fantasy Dissidia.
  • July 24, 2009
    LarryD
    Showed up in early Inu Yasha too. The Phantom Sword arc. "Shut up! I am saying I'll protect you!"

    As I understand it, the phrase is significant because under certain circumstances, it's the same as a marriage proposal. So, yes, the woman involved has reason to start wondering just what the guy who said it feels towards her. Did he mean it that way?

    Definitely a Japanese cultural trope.

    Edit: I think we may want to start an index of Japanese romantic tropes.

    Edit: I've added "Zettai ni mamoru" to the list of Japanese Stock Phrases.
  • July 24, 2009
    TheChainMan
    You're right, the Japanese seem to have a thing for the whole "protect" thing (In fact, it's supposed to be the basis for Moe Moe). And it's indeed almost always said as "Zettai ni mamoru" ("I'll definitely protect you"). It's one of these phrases that tend to crop in manga/anime, like "I'll be your opponent" or "Don't say things that could be misundertood!". So Yeah.
  • July 24, 2009
    Ryusui
    And people who just copy-and-paste the obvious translation need to be walloped upside the head with a dictionary, dammit. :P People just don't talk that way in English.
  • July 24, 2009
    ledge
    trope-able? (my opinion, yes) and as "I'll definitely protect you" or "Zettai ni mamoru"?

    It seems like there are three pretty standard uses:

    • It's in at least a few Unwanted Harem that I've read to confuse the crap out of someone about their place in the harem, and probably more if I looked more closely.
    • In at least a couple cases (Rosario) to show the male lead does have feelings for the girl.
    • If it's said in tenderness, as in Ai Yori Aoshi, it means a serious romantic relationship is in place, or about to be started. (I think it was used in both directions here, with Aoi also saying it to Kaoru.)

  • July 24, 2009
    Seikai
    In Naruto, I'm pretty sure Kakashi said a variation of this to Sasuke when Sasuke got overly nervous during their first mission. Something along the lines of "I'll definitely protect you all, even if I die."
  • July 24, 2009
    ledge
    Trying to clean it up for launching. Help me out if I got anything horrifyingly wrong.

    @edit: heh. cocky ... I'm launching it just so I can use that

    @edit: with the japanese version of the phrase, it's easier to find more examples. definitely not something that comes across well
  • July 24, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Zetta ni mamoru is not to be confused with Zenyatta Mondatta, which is something quite different.
  • July 24, 2009
    ledge
    @86.176.76.97 - clarification on what Zenyatta Mondatta means?

    @edit: facepalm
  • July 24, 2009
    ledge
    gonna launch it, thanks for giving me solid hooks to dig in and figure it out.
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