Hi! It's time for us to explore Abandoned Dungeon; it's not a huge area but I felt like there are enough notes and cha racter art for it to be a separate post. Also, as usual, we'll go through all the Sculptor's Idols and see how they were localized and what interesting bits we can derive from their original names.
Disclaimer #0 — common sense is still everything. Please do not assume that I have access to some secret true knowledge; I'm just entertained by reading Sekiro in Japanese. My lore theories are just theories so treat them accordingly.
Disclaimer #1 —
trust me, I'm a professional if this fact is somehow important - I am a certified linguist. My major is English and Japanese as foreign languages, my minor is intercultural communication. Fun stuff!
Disclaimer #2 — I am not a professional translator, I have never worked in localization. Yes, I will say that something is translated poorly and something is not, and it will be my personal point of view. People have been complaining that I am picking on minor things or have weird opinions when it comes to "better translations". I want to emphasize that it's okay to have those :) Ultimately, my goal is to give you the information so you can see if the localization was good or not, whether something important was lost or not. My opinion is just that and I choose to share it, however odd it might seem.
Disclaimer #3 — I am not an expert on Buddhism or Shintoism, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D I will leave links to the religious terms that we will undoubtedly encounter so you can read more on your own, if you are interested.
This is a popular question in the comment section. In a nutshell, Japanese kanji usually have two types of readings: on-reading and kun-reading, there might be a number of them in each category. On-readings have carried over from Chinese since kanji were borrowed from there, and kun-readings are native to Japanese. When a kanji stands on its own and is used as a single word, it is read with its kun-reading. When a kanji is used as a part of a multi-kanji word, it is read with its on-reading. It is slightly more complicated, but in broad strokes I think it explains it.
As far as I know, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was localized into English by Mugen Creations.
[:] — colon after a vowel means that it's a long sound;
['] — apostrophe after a vowel or before a vowel (or between two [n]) means that these are two different syllables, not a single long one.
The transcriptions I give do not follow all academic rules, and I don't think it's necessary. They are just here to represent the pronunciation.
For this research I mostly used Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Official Artworks, English wiki and a number of dictionaries.
In Japanese this area is called 捨て牢 [sutero:] which translates more to "abandoned prison" rather than "abandoned dungeon". The Abandoned Dungeon Entrance Idol is 捨て牢入口 [sutero: iriguchi] - abandoned prison entrance, nothing exciting here.
To be completely honest, Abandoned Dungeon is the only area in Sekiro that I do not care about one bit :D The same goes for Doujun and his weird quest, I just do not care. Took me two playthroughs to understand that he has the split personality thing. Both Kotaro's and Jinzaemon's questlines are so much more interesting if you don't lure either of them to Doujun that I never do it, and Doujun just kind of hangs in the Dungeon forever doing nothing.
We'll skip the Memorial Mob, we have already discussed all of them in a corresponding post. The wooden scaffolding built over the deeper parts of the dungeon is called 足場 [ashiiba] - literally "scaffolding". There are also bone clusters with hooks protruding for them that are called 鉤掛り [kagigakari] - hook barbs or hook-like things.
I tried to find zombies in the artbook but couldn't, and then I realized that they are probably the same as the Mibu villagers. Turns out, it's true - they have the same character models, just dressed differently. The zombies are called 施術体 [sejutsutai] - in English I believe it's "test subjects" but in Japanese it's just "treatment bodies" or "bodies for the procedure" which I think is more harrowing, not even considering them people or subjects but just bodies to experiment on.
Then we meet Doujun. He does have his own character art in the artbook, and he looks much like bomb-throwing monks from Senpou Temple except their garment is yellow. Doujun wears white temple garments, pointing at the fact that he was also a monk, like Dougen. You know who wears almost exactly the same clothes? The centipede-infested guys from Senpou Temple, that's who.
He stands in front of the room that is called 道順の施術場 [do:jun no sejutsujo:] - Doujun's procedure room. Interestingly, body remains on the straw mats are called just like zombies - 施術体 [sejutsutai], "bodies for the procedure".
The corridor you walk through is 地下牢通路 [chikaro: tsu:ro] - underground passage, pretty straightforward.
Underground Waterway is not very exciting as an Idol, it's 地下水路 [chika suiro] - underground waterway or canal.
Weird cages you've been seeing in these parts are actually for 水牢 [mizuro:] - punishment by being placed in a water-filled chamber. Since the Dungeon is a former prison, that's probably why these cages are here.
As for the Dougen's elevator, it's just called an "elevator" in Japanese - 昇降機 [sho:ko:ki].
Bottomless Hole - both the Idol and the place - is called 身投げ場 [minagejo:] - literally "a place for throwing oneself", where the 身投げ [minage] part also means "throwing oneself from great heights or in water to commit suicide", so that's another morbid detail to add to the general image of the Abandoned Dungeon. In Japanese dialogues when Wolf tries to solve the riddle with "throwing oneself", that's the part he ponders about the most because the word implicates death and you can't really get on with your mission if that occurs. Well, unless you're a shadow that dies twice that is.
Here we have a chance to speak to Jinzaemon again: he's been following the mysterious melody and it has led him here. It'll be a while till we meet him again.
It's only now that I look at this place with intention, and I find that it's utterly fascinating. Many times I just skipped jumping from here and entered Ashina Depths from the Poison Pool but I think that this place deserves way more attention that I've ever given it.
There is an old torii gate here. Torii gates usually mark entrances to shinto shrines and generally symbolize the border between mundane and sacred. The lanterns here are also not just any lanterns, these are, as I figured, Nozura-doro (野面灯籠) stone lanterns or lanterns made with unpolished stones, one of the most ancient types of stone lanterns from around the Heian period. And look how much incense is placed all over, and how many little towers of stacked stones litter the floor: these might be here as a sign of worship, or a sign of good fortune, but people used to come here to leave theirs. This place at some point in time was a shinto shrine, just like the Serpent Shrine up above near the Ashina Castle. The torii gate have some strange texture of them as if to suggest shell growth. I wonder if this place was flooded at some point in the past.
Here again we can talk to an old lady, I have no idea if it is the Rice lady or not, I think it makes little sense for her to be here since she would've pointed to the elevator rather than the Depths. This one just prompts you to jump, I do not think that the lady holds any significance other than just being a guiding character for this particular situation.
What you might not know - I certainly didn't - is that after you visit the Abandoned Dungeon, the Rice lady before the Ashina Castle Idol has a different dialogue: she straight up tells you about the Divine Child and how to reach her: go to the Abandoned Dungeon, swim the cold waters and ride the elevator. I never spoke to her more than once on that bridge and it's the first time I've heard this dialogue.
That is all the artbook has on the Abandoned Dungeon as far as the environmental artwork goes, it's just a couple of pages. Let's now discuss all the bloody notes and letters we find here - or those that Doujun gives us - and also investigate a Shichimen Warrior that lives here.
Surgeon's Bloody Letter is given to Wolf by Doujun upon their acquaintance and starts the wave of correspondence between him and his master Dousaku, which is also him. The original name of this letter is 血に汚れた施術師の文 [chi ni yogoreta sejutsushi no bun] - Surgeon's letter stained with blood.
The contents of the letter were localized correctly, the original uses the word 熟達の侍 [jukutatsu no samurai], "master-samurai" to describe the warrior needed.
For the second part of this quest Doujun will give you another letter, 血に塗れた施術師の文 [chi ni mamireta sejutsushi no bun] - Surgeon's letter covered in blood. Even though the English name doesn't make the change all that dramatic, the description does - great job! "A tattered, blood-covered letter" - if you look closer at the pictures you'll see that the second letter is basically half red and more tattered because Doujun's mind has been getting worse. This letter sends you to get the immortal Red Carp Eyes.
The contents of the letter are localized correctly. That carp is actually called a Sakura Carp, huh. I always though it was some kind of mistranslation because the fish looks crazy, but in Japanese it's actually 桜鯉 [sakuragoi] - sakura carp.
Dousaku's Note is 道策の手紙 [do:saku no tegami] - Dousaku's Letter, even though judging by the picture it's a whole book.
"[...] hypocritical quack" really piqued my interest because I am always eager to learn the Japanese original phrasing behind the localized English insults. Interestingly, the "hypocritical" part is correct - 偽善 [gizen] means "hypocrisy" - but the "quack" part is not really accurate, in the original Dousaku calls Dougen 卑怯者 [hikyo:mono] - coward. Hypocritical coward. There is actually a lot to think about. Dousaku and Dougen, both monks of the Senpou Temple, apparently pursued eternal life. However, at some point, probably because Dousaku's methods had grown too extreme, Dougen left him, transitioning more towards his tinkering and mechanical inventions, and their disciples unanimously followed Dougen because they did not want to "dirty their own hands" - meaning, conducting experiments on people. Apparently, Dousaku thought that Dougen still wanted to pursue immortality but did not want to really commit to it with all the horrid experiments, hence "hypocritical coward". I think it all makes sense because Dougen's elevator connecting the Dungeons with the Mt. Kongou, is right there, so they probably did work together for at least some time.
Dousaku's Letter is, honestly, one of the more interesting pieces of lore in this whole questline.
... followed closely by the Rotting Prisoner's Note. Its original name is 朽ちた囚人の手紙 [kuchita shu:jin no tegami] - rotting prisoner's letter. This is an exceptionally curious item because it talks about Okami and Fountainhead Palace.
There is a whole bunch of interesting stuff in the original: the thing driving me insane the most was "that Okami tome". I was like, where is it?? I want to read that too! In reality, there is no tome, the prisoner is referring to 「淤加美一族の 」 - "the legend(s) of Okami clan", there is no item behind it, just the folklore. "Throw oneself" in the original has a second part - 「身を投げねば、辿りつけぬ」 - "throw yourself and you will reach (the village where the stone is enshrined)".
Another curious thing is that the original says "the women of this clan reached the Fountainhead Palace", yet another mention of Okami ladies discovering the way. The rest of the letter was localized accurately. In the last sentence the name "Kotaro" is mentioned twice: "Kotaro, Kotaro, forgive me".
There is only one Kotaro that we know of, the Taro troop warrior and a caretaker of the children of Rejuvenation that we find on Mt. Kongou. It may be his father, or maybe not, Kotaro is not exactly a rare name. What I wonder about the most is that why that man wanted to get to the Palace. It seems that he pursued this goal for his son, to whom he apologizes at the end of the letter, much like Armoured Warrior pursued immortality not for himself but for his ailing son Robert. If it is the Kotaro that we know, what did his father mean to gain for him at the Palace?
If you don't find this note and therefore do not know the recipe for reaching the Fountainhead Palace, Kuro will eventually give you Okami Note - an item that I never got until my third playthrough because I always collected this note first. Funny how such things happen.
Shichimen Warriors are probably the most annoying mini-bosses for me, I always struggle with them. They never jump for me to execute Anti-Aerial Deathblow, and it generally takes me a lot of time to deal with them. Another thing I never liked about them is the harrowing lack of context. Who are they? Why are they here?.. I wouldn't say that my research yielded some exceptional results but still, some things I managed to dig up.
I don't think in the heat of battle it's possible to get a good look at Shichimen Warrior so let's do it now. Even though they have no associated items and nobody talks about them, there are still some details we can derive from their appearance.
First of all, the name - 七面武者 [shichimen musha], Shichimen Warrior. Many people think that it is "seven-masked warrior" because 七面 [shichimen] is literally "seven masks" or "seven faces". However, at close inspection, you can see that a Shichimen Warrior has a whole bunch of masks, dozens of them, way more than seven. 七面 [shichimen] expression can also be kind of metaphorical: for example, in Japanese 七面鳥 [shichimencho:] - seven-masked bird - is actually a turkey, and it was named so because the skin on a turkey's neck can change colors. Shichimen is also a mountain in Japan, a site of religious pilgrimage, so I dug for a while in that direction and learned a lot of interesting things, none of which I felt like had anything to do with Shichimen Warrior. Maybe he is named so because of the shades of purple he turns during the fight, maybe because it sounds better than "28-masked warrior".
Shichimen Warrior actually has two bodies that are fused together at the waist, he has two spines and two necks, which is curious. His lower body bears remnants of Japanese armor, and his left side is more skeletal than the other one.
His weapon is probably the most distinctive feature of his appearance. It is very unique, no one in Sekiro bears a weapon remotely like this one. It looks like a slightly modified flaming Sword of Manjushri - the handle was lengthened so it's more like a staff with a short sword at the tip. Majushri is one of the Bodhisattvas in Buddhism and is considered a Buddha of wisdom. The sword is supposed to represent the sharpness of wisdom cutting down ignorance. I have no clue how it fits with Shichimen Warriors but the weapon is way too unique and really looks to me like the sword of Manjushri so make of it what you will.
Shichimen Warrior is also an apparition-type enemy like the Headless. If we look closely on the types of masks they wear, we'll see that these are not really masks but a bunch of samurai helmets with menpo faceguards fused together. Some of those helmets really stand out: for example, one with a golden centepede. Golden sentipede was a popular helmet embellishment among Sengoku warlords because centipedes always go forward and never retreat; Date Shigezane, a cousin of Date Masamune, was said to wear centipede helmets. I think, I also spotted a Dō-maru helmet from Muramachi Period as well as another helmet with a big disc that might have been used to depict the clan sigil. All the fused together menpou faceguards without the top helmet part, appear to be from early Muromachi period to Sengoku. Akazonae Troops that invade the Ashina castle in lategame wear similar ones, only more modern versions with moustaches.
All of the above leads me to believe that Shichimen Warriors are a collective sum of vengeful spirits of warriors who fell in battle. Or maybe Shichimen Warriors are warlocks consuming warriors who fell in battle. They are apparitions summoning whailing souls, so there is that. The weapon I cannot really explain but maybe there isn't an explanation and it was chosen just because it looks so cool. You know, Sakura Dragon also isn't supposed to wield a Seven-Branched Sword - in reality this sword isn't really for fighting even - and yet he does.
I hope you enjoyed our little exploration of the Abandoned Dungeon. Next up - much bigger one, Mt. Kongou and Senpou Temple. I imagine it to be quite a deep dive: the artbook has a lot of pages dedicated to the temple, and we also have some undiscussed items that would go nicely with that part of the research.
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.