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Lost In Translation / Final Fantasy

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  • Final Fantasy V:
    • Based its villain's name on a pun where the generic scary Faux Symbolism villain name "Exodus" sounds the same as "ex-death", hinting at his origin as a congregation of evil spirits that have returned to ruin the world of the living. In English, you kind of have to go with one meaning or the other, leading to him being named "Exdeath", a name which Western fans still laugh at when talking about how V was a weak entry.
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    • Krile's strange name is a joke that's only comprehensible in Japanese kana, where it would be spelled Kururu Mururu Barudezion, a name that rhymes and is obviously goofy. Japanese players, knowing the game is a European-style fantasy setting, would have attempted to pronounce it as if it was an English word, leading to something close to 'Kryrh Mryrh'. Since this would be unpronounceable to actual English speakers, her name was localised as 'Krile Meyer Baldesion' (or 'Cara' in some fan translations), which doesn't have the same ring of absurdity. This later creates a Dub-Induced Plot Hole in Final Fantasy XIV, in which a Lalafell mage is named Krile - a gag playing off the fact that "Kururu Mururu" would be a valid name under Lalafellin name structure, which in the English becomes nonsensical.
  • In the English versions of Final Fantasy VI, Celes is told she has to dress as Maria to trick Setzer into kidnapping her. She yells "I'm a general, not some opera floozy!" before entering the dressing room very quickly to practice her opera, which just makes it seem like she's sulking. In the Japanese version, Celes instead states that generals don't do dirty things like that, indicating that her sudden burst into the dressing room is enthusiasm - she's realising that becoming Maria is her best hope of ever getting some.
    • The Signature Move of the Cactuar enemy was translated as "Blow Fish" in the SNES version of the game, because it wasn't clear at first that the name was a reference to the Japanese rhyme kids say along with a Pinky Swear. Idiomatically, that reference is used as a general term for a blowfish, so presumably Ted Woolsey thought that it was referring to the slang term for the animal rather than the childhood rhyme it referenced. Later games (and later releases of Final Fantasy VI) caught on and used "1000 Needles" for the attack instead (though the fact that it always does 1000 damage should have been a clue).
  • Many legitimate complaints can be made about Final Fantasy VII English translation. Concentrating on things made untranslatable by differences in language rather than flat-out mistakes:
    • Cloud's first line in English is "I don't care what your names are. Once this job's over, I'm out of here." The Japanese version of the line is「あんたたちの名前なんて興味ないね。どうせこの仕事が終わったらお別れだ。」"anta tachi no namae nante kyoumi nai ne. douse kono shigoto ga owattara owakare da". The latter is more youthful and playful, and he suddenly switches to a more formal, pretentious choice of wording at the end (「お別れ」 "owakare"), which - just like in English - is something that you would do if you were trying to be funny. The result is that in English he comes off as a straightforward jerkass who only cares about his pay. In Japanese on the other hand, he comes off as a mouthy, condescending poser who thinks that it's appropriate to talk to his coworkers like they're idiots. A loose translation for feel might be, "You know I'm not interested in the names of any of you people, right? Like, once this job's over, I'll be bidding you adieu."
      • In Mobius Final Fantasy, this line was retranslated as "Not interested in your names. Once this is done, I'm gone." This is, if anything, even further from the tone of the original.
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    • The original script gave Cloud a habit of speaking with clichéd idioms, with the idea being that he's someone whose own words weren't his own — a habit strongly associated with the character by Japanese fans, and Lampshaded in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. In the English version it's Woolseyfied into him using a lot of understatement and undercutting his own words, which isn't as memorable and hasn't carried over to any of his future appearances.
    • Cloud's Catchphrase was inconsistently translated as "not interested", "don't really care", "don't care", "not my thing" etc., with the effect of diluting the fact that he has a catchphrase. His later appearances all strictly used "not interested" (the most accurate translation from Japanese:「興味ないね」"kyoumi nai ne"), which many English-speaking fans assumed was a retroactive attempt to flanderize his disaffected attitude and make his character more brooding and apathetic. In fact, it had been part of his character from the very beginning.
    • English and Japanese do share the same allegorical meanings around the term 'spiky' (e.g. a spiky personality, a pointed comment, etc.), but it's fair to say that calling Cloud 'spiky-headed' in English just sounds like a reference to his hair. In Japanese, it's 'tsun-headed', which comes off like a childish insult about his character as well as a reference to his hair.
    • You may notice that Cloud's name is even odder than those of the rest of the cast, having two fantastical names, when the rest of the heroes have normal surnames. This is because Cloud's peculiar surname, Strife, was intended as a slight modification/pun on the common Germanic surname "Strauss" (「ストライフ」"Sutoraifu" rather than「ストラウス」"Sutorausu". Note that the name of Cloud's mother was given as 'Claudia Strauss' in the artbook). To Japanese ears, it sounds plausibly like a foreign surname, being only one tweak away from a well-known one. In English, it sounds like a ridiculous and Narmfully on-the-nose Awesome Mc Coolname.
    • Barret's name is a pun on 'Bullet' that also sounds like the ordinary surname "Barrett" - in Japan, they'd be pronounced the same way: 「バレット」"baretto". This ambiguity is lost in English, and the translators went down the more name-y route.
    • A Woolseyism led to Cloud getting "Mako poisoning", a sensible decision, since Mako energy allegorises nuclear power. However, the original Japanese called it「魔晄中毒」"mako chuudoku" which can not only mean "Mako poisioning", but also "Mako addiction". This created a drug-abuse allusion that adds some pop-psychedelic subtext to certain scenes, such as when Tifa finds Cloud lying in a city gutter. It also makes his recovery much later in the game make somewhat more sense, as his condition is more of a psychological problem than a physical one. Crisis Core used "Mako addiction" to describe Cloud's symptoms.
    • Another Woolseyism led to Sephiroth Copies being referred to as "Sephiroth Clones". This wasn't itself a bad move, since 'Copies' sounds silly, but the Clones aren't real 'clones' but a made-up Magitek concept. It ended up confusing the already convoluted plot as players attempted to find Cloning Blues tropes that weren't in the story.
    • Shildra Inn in Cosmo Canyon should have been Syldra Inn, a reference to Faris' sea dragon in Final Fantasy V.
    • Japanese Pronouns and modes of politeness were all lost:
      • Aerith's speaking pattern in Japanese comes across as being tomboyish and rough, to match her low-class upbringing and contrast with her girly appearance. In English, her speech pattern is made playful and almost cutesy ("Hmmmmm!"), meaning a lot of the irony was lost on English-speaking fans.
      • After we find out the truth about Red XIII's personality, he goes from speaking in a pompous and condescendingly formal way (with the pronoun "watashi") to speaking like a child (using the very cute pronoun "oira"). In Japanese, this change affected every line, with his party dialogue in early optional events having alternatives depending on whether his sidequest had been finished or not. This change does carry over to the English script, but thanks to English' more limited palette when it comes to indicating social status and politeness, it's much less striking, with a lot of the changes just being trivial tweaks in phrasing ("That's the reactor, and the condor." / "That's the reactor. And the condor.")
      • During Cloud's possession scenes, the Japanese version had him suddenly start speaking in a formal way to indicate that he'd become a completely different person (obviously Sephiroth). In the English version, he speaks in his usual way ("This place is about to get rough.") indicating that More Than Mind Control might be involved.
    • There's a clever Stealth Pun in the fact that Cloud is introduced as a Ronin (「浪人」- a former swordsman who abandoned his masters for unclear reasons and now works as a mercenary) and that we later discover that he's a ronin (a young person who failed their entrance exams to get the job they wanted). This is lost in English due to the latter meaning being an unknown cultural concept, and the former archetype being less easy to recognise in the distorted form it's presented in with Cloud.
    • A joke about President Shinra where President was his name, not his actual job/title in the corporation was lost in the English translation.
    • At one point, Elmyra recalls the young Aerith saying her husband had returned to the Planet - "I asked if she meant a star in the sky. But she said it was this planet." Baffling, unless you know that Japanese uses the same word for both "planet" and "star" (「星」"hoshi"). It also causes some of the symbolism concerning stars, planets and meteorites to be muddled because English has no way of referring to them all as the same concept - for instance, Tifa's concern over whether the stars can "hear us" is supposed to be a reversal of the 'You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet' motif, but it doesn't come across.
    • The Western fandom has a different view of the main girls than the Japanese ones based on their clothes designs having slightly different connotations for each country. Since casual basic fashion for young women in 1997 Japan is more cutesy than in the West, Aerith's pink outfit and bow comes off as down-to-earth (while still well-put-together and special), while Tifa's cropped tank, leather skirt and Doc Martens marked her out as being the one who was really interested in fashion (and a bit alternative). In US 1997, Tifa looked like a casual low-maintenence girl-next-door type in old boots, while Aeris came off as being unusually girly and wholesome. Cue people who loathe her for being a Tastes Like Diabetes princess type... although that has mostly fallen by the wayside as the fanbase has matured and realized the script doesn't portray her that way.
    • Aerith is a lot more direct about her relationship with Zack in English. In English, she calls Zack "my first boyfriend", Cloud asks if they were "...serious", and Aerith denies it, saying she only "liked him for a while". In Japanese she says Zack was the first guy she liked, and Cloud asks if they were dating, which she denies, saying she only thought for a while that it would be a nice idea. (Since the English version seems to indicate that Cloud's asking Aerith about her sexual history, it might have been a Woolseyism to go along with the other changes to make the script more adult and swearier.) Her comments about him later are much less sexual as well - in English she says Zack "loved women, a real ladies' man... He probably found someone else", when in Japanese she says he probably met a girl and settled down with her, not implying any particularly possession of him at all.
    • When Aerith is in the prison cell explaining to Tifa what the Cetra are, in the English version she just says a few vague lines in her normal speaking style. In the Japanese version she recited a nursery rhyme about the Promised Land legend, indicating it was something her mother taught her as a child. The scene in Dirge of Cerberus where Lucrecia recites Cetra poetry to Vincent was supposed to be a callback to this, but this change means that this is lost on English-speaking players.
    • Aerith and Cloud have a weird conversation in the Temple of the Ancients, where Aerith reads out the word 'Black Materia' one letter at a time, Cloud says "Black Materia!", and she gets annoyed before saying, "...Black Materia". In the Japanese she read the word correctly, but inserted the space in the wrong place, coming up with the nonsense phrase「黒ま テリア」kuroma teria ("black-magic terrier"). Cloud corrects her on this with「黒マテリア」"kuro materia", embarrassing her.
      • This is a type of Japanese pun/word-play called "ginatayomi" (「ぎなた読み」) that simply does NOT translate out of Japanese. Written Japanese does not use spaces, so there can sometimes be ambiguity about where one word ends and the next one starts, especially when particles (the Japanese equivalent of prepositions) are contracted. For example, the phrase「パン作ったことがある?」"pan tsukutta koto ga aru?" (meaning "Have you ever baked bread before?") could also be interpreted as「パンツ食ったことがある?」"pantsu kutta koto ga aru?" (meaning "Have you ever eaten underwear before?"). There is really no way to translate this type of word-play. The only way to do it (short of removing it and replacing it with some sort of English pun) is to do it in the original Japanese along with text explaining the joke.
    • Cloud recounts a memory of looking in Tifa's drawers and finding what the English translation calls "Orthopedic Underwear". Fans often translate it as "Slightly Stretched Underwear". The 'stretched' in the phrase is meant to be understood idiomatically, with 'stretched' being in the sense of how a child might stretch to appear taller, so a more accurate translation would be something more like "Kind-of trying-to-look-grown-up Underwear", or, for a smoother localisation, "Sort-of Granny Panties".
    • A major game mechanic is the "PHS", a device with which you can switch your party members (and which is occasionally used as a phone in the storyline). In Japan, it was a reference to a late-1990s branch of entry-level mobile phones with reduced features called "Personal Handiphone System" or "PHS", with the joke being that Cloud's was a "Party Hensei System" (Party Summoning System, an existing Fan Nickname for the party-switching game mechanic in many RPGs of that era). In English, the PHS's name is left untranslated and the allusion to its in-game use is lost, and the total obsolescence of the technology it's based on hasn't helped either.
  • Final Fantasy VIII:
    • Squall's Catchphrase is probably one of the most famous examples of this - in the English, it's "...whatever". In Japanese, it's "warukkata", which means something more like "...sorry" or (perhaps more literally) " bad". It does have the same youthful, slightly rude connotation as 'whatever', but the change overall makes Squall a lot less like he has No Social Skills (the intended reading) and a lot more like he's just heartless and nasty. Opinions about Squall between Japan and English-speaking regions tend to be very different because of this.
    • The Japanese version of Rinoa's confession in Galbadia Garden plays out a differently from the English translation, and includes a line referencing that indicates that she no longer likes Seifer:
      Rinoa [Japanese]: "If I did I couldn't talk about it like this"
      Rinoa [English]: "If I didn't, I wouldn't be talking about it."
    • Although it's still possible to guess from Gilgamesh's comment about the Rift that he's the same Gilgamesh that appeared in Final Fantasy V, a single syllable confirming it was left out of the English translation:
      Gilgamesh [Japanese]: "Huh? Was it you... Ba—?" [referring to Bartz]
      Gilgamesh [English]: "Huh? Was it you...?"
  • Final Fantasy XIII
    • While Sazh and Vanille are waiting for a ship at the port to Nautilus in Chapter 6, Sazh mentions that everything that has happened so far (the Purge, the main party's transformation into l'Cie, and the subsequent burden of their Focus) was because Sazh's son Dajh ran into Pulse l'Cie at Euride Gorge. Vanille asks Sazh not to blame Dajh before cutting herself off, and Sazh responds, "Yeah, you're right. It was that scum from Pulse behind it." Vanille runs out into the pouring rain, overcome with emotion. The English translation removes the cultural reference to idiots not being able to catch colds, somewhat weakening the foreshadowing that Vanille wasn't branded at the same time as the rest of the party and was one of the Pulse l'Cie responsible for the Euride Gorge incident. The original wording does a better job of conveying Vanille's feelings of guilt, but wouldn't work in English due to cultural differences.
      Sazh [Japanese]: "You'll catch a cold out there."
      Vanille [Japanese]: "I won't! ...because I'm an idiot."
      Sazh [English]: "You're getting soaked."
      Vanille [English]: I'll be fine! It's only water."
  • Final Fantasy XIV
    • When the game was first being developed, Chocobos were being referred to in Kanji as "Horse-bird/馬鳥". This set off a small firestorm which led to a renaming, and accidentally being called "Chocopos" before finally being reverted back to the common チョコボ/Chocobo in both Japanese and English. It has since then been lampshaded in both the 2014 New Years "Heavens Turn" with a competition of popularity between some visitors from the world of Hydaelyn's Far East supporting horses, and calling the Eorzean region's popular Chocobo Mounts "Horse Birds".
      • Referenced again during 2.2's "Into the Maelstrom" story line, when Refugees from the Far East country of Doma arrive and upon seeing Chocobos for their first time, also call them Horse Birds.
    • For the English, French, and German speaking players, the name of one boss in the game had to be changed twice due to this. As part of the Crystal Tower story line, the enemies are designed, and named as one big shout out to FFIII. However, at the end of the Labyrinth of the Ancients dungeon, players face a boss distinctly based off of FFIII's version of Titan. Problem is, there's already a Primal being, and Summon in the game of a different Titan. Japan can get around this, because in FFIII, they used ティターン which is based on the Greek pronunciation (Tea-tahn), and for all other games and the Primal and Summon version of Titan as タイタン (English pronunciation: Tie-tun). However for the other major languages, they can't as regardless of pronunciation, it would still be Titan. So the English Localization team came up with a solution, and got permission to use the name of a similar design FFIII enemy named Acheron for English, French, and Germany.
    • When 2.3 dropped the name was forced to change the same enemy's name again from Acheron to Phlegethon (Both named after rivers of the underworld in Greek mythology), when the dev team decided to add in a minor enemy in the Syrcus Tower portion of the quest of of Acheron based on FFIII's palette colors of the enemy of the same name. This got an in-universe justification that the researchers mistranslated the text from the ancient Allagans due to it being a mostly dead language, and they rectified their mistake, hence Acheron being renamed to Phlegethon.
    • A similar case happened with the new class in the first expansion, Astrologians: Since the game came out, Astrologian was a catch all term for the astrologists of Ishgard, but when it was reported that the new playable class was from Sharlayan, a completely separate continent, the dev team had to admit that it was a translation error on their part.
    • Primal Brainwashing in the Japanese script only has one word that refers to all such brainwashing. The English script uses a specific term for each primal; Ramuh's thralls are "touched", Leviathan's thralls are "drowned", etc. But simultaneously, it uses "tempered" as a generic term, despite being a fire reference to fit Ifrit, simply because it was the first one introduced.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance:
    • Llednar Twem's class name in Japanese is "Bisquemata," a portmanteau of "Bisque Doll" (a doll made of biscuit porcelain) and "Automata." In the English version it was written as "Biskmatar," which is meaningless.

Example of: