The World of Sekiro: Miscellaneous Items I. Carp Scales and Mibu Balloons.
Hi! This is the first of two final posts where we'll take a look at the rest of the items in Sekiro. I tried to group them somehow, so today we'll talk about Mibu and Fountainhead related items, including everything to do with the Great Coloured Carp, and also a couple more items that have a little bit of lore in their descriptions. In the next post we'll cover miscellaneous items like Ceramic Shard and Fistful of Ash, and also all Sake items and all Sake dialogues.
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.
Why do kanji (Japanese characters) have different readings?
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.
Tiny Transcription Legend
[:] — 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.
There are 5 types of Mibu Balloons in the game, and, as I mentioned in one of the previous posts where we discussed Mibu Balloon of Spirit, 4 of them have the same naming pattern:[...]寄せのミブ風船 - Mibu Balloon of Collecting X.
People are often confused by how ミブ風船 [mibu fu:sen] - "Mibu Balloon" part is written, why ミブ [mibu] is written in katakana, and not in kanji 水生 [mibu]. There are even doubts whether or not Mibu in the Balloons' names is the same Mibu as in the name of the village. Yes, it is the same, the descriptions of Mibu Balloons of Wealth and Possession say so. As to why it is written in katakana and not in kanji, there might be a few reasons to it. Might be a stylistic choice, katakana is often used for emphasis. But I personally think that it was done just for the sake of better parsing. It's just easier to read and understand ミブ風船 than 水生風船. Another reason, also very possible, is that [mibu] is not a typical reading of 水生, not at all, it's read [suisei], "aquatic life", and if it wasn't for katakana and the description of the Mibu Balloon of Wealth, we wouldn't really know how to read 水生 in the context of Sekiro.
Mibu Balloon of Wealth
Its original name is 銭寄せのミブ風船 [zeniyose no mibu fu:sen] - Mibu balloon of collecting sen, or money. Interesting that each balloon has an alternative name in their description, this one is 「招財祈願のミブ風船」- Mibu balloon [containing] a prayer for inviting wealth. The part about these balloons hiding the water of the Fountainhead inside is identical across all Mibu Balloons.
The second paragraph was localized accurately. Let's look at the last one:
「ミブは水生。水が生まれることを指す」- "Mibu (ミブ) is aquatic life (水生 [suisei], also [mibu]). It indicates [things] born from water".
"Worthy of worship" is not quite accurate, the original says 「詣での対象」- "object of pilgrimage", and we'll read more about this "pilgrimage" later in other items.
When you pop this balloon, or any other Mibu Balloon, the kanji you see on the screen are 御利益 [goriyaku] - divine grace, blessing or answer to a prayer.
Mibu Balloon of Possession
Its original name is 品寄せのミブ風船 [shinayose no mibu fu:sen] - Mibu balloon of collecting items. The description specifies that it is a 「招福祈願のミブ風船」- Mibu balloon [containing] a prayer for inviting good luck. I love that you can see butterflies inside the balloon - when you encounter items in the world, there are little golden butterflies floating above. It makes sense that the balloon that gives a higher chance of item drop would have butterflies inside.
The rest of the description is identical to that of the Mibu Balloon of Wealth, save for the color of the balloon itself.
Mibu Balloon of Soul
Its original name is 魂寄せのミブ風船 [tamashiiyose no mibu fu:sen] - Mibu balloon of collecting soul. It is a 「鎮魂のミブ風船」 - Mibu balloon for the ceremony for the repose of a departed soul.
The next paragraph was localized accurately, it's very similar to all the other descriptions, only the color of the balloon and the effect itself are different. The last paragraph is unique and the localization did a great job translating it. Mibu Balloon of Soul is the original Mibu Balloon, the oldest of them all. Chief Mibu priests popped them 「魂鎮めを役目としていた」 - to quell or suppress souls. This is one of the ceremonial Mibu Balloons - if you remember, Mibu Balloon of collecting Katashiro is also a ceremonial one: people pop it when mourning someone.
Mibu Pilgrimage Balloon
If you pursue Black Badger's personal quest, upon death he'll give you this unique Mibu Balloon. Its original name is 竜泉詣でのミブ風船 [ryu:sen mo:de no mibu fu:sen] - Mibu balloon of Dragonspring pilgrimage. You might remember that you've heard about Dragonspring pilgrimage from somewhere! When Wolf goes back in time to Hirata Estate, the dying Nightjar shinobi tells him that it is currently "The Year of the Dragonspring Pilgrimage", three years before the events of the game. It is likely that this Mibu balloon also comes from that time.
「子の健やかな成長を願って作るミブ風船」- "Mibu balloon that is made while praying that a child grows up healthy".
This item is similar to the Bundled Jizo Statue in a sense that both these items are made by parents while praying for the health and safety of their children. While Jizo statues, I think, are made when the child is born, the Pilgrimage Balloon appears to be a special item that is crafted during the year of Dragonspring Pilgrimage.
Some balloons increase your chances of finding something - like Balloons of Possession and Katashiro, while others increase the amount of stuff - like Balloons of Wealth and Soul. This Balloon, as the original says, increases both the amounts and chances of gaining resources. I think, "increased gains of all sorts" covers it.
「下手な字で、何か書かれている｜「ムジナから、テン吉へ」と読める」 - "Something is written on it in crude letters. It reads "To Tenkichi, from Badger"".
Undoubtedly, this balloon was made by Badger, possibly three years ago when his son was still alive. When the boy passed away, Badger held on to this balloon, and after his death it found its way to Wolf.
When you use Dragonspring Pilgrimage Balloon, the kanji you see are still 御利益 [goriyaku] - divine grace, but they change color to show you that you have received blessings of all the other balloons.
Great Coloured Carp
Treasure Carp Scale
Let's talk about the items that have to do with the Great Coloured Carp and generally with Fountainhead Palace. Treasure Carp Scale is called exactly that: 宝鯉の鱗 [takaragoi no uroko] - a scale of a treasure carp.
So, why are carps so important in Japan?
Koi are colored varieties of the Amur carps that were bred for ornamental purposes to inhabit water gardens and ponds. The oldest mention of a coloured carp in Japan dates back to Nihon Shoki (completed in 720). Carps were bred in China more than a thousand years ago for different color combinations. Koi are coldwater omnivorous fish, and they are exceptionally hardy and can live up to 100-200 years. As we already discussed in one of the previous posts, because of the Chinese legend where a carp who jumps over the waterfall becomes a dragon, carps are considered symbols of perseverance and achieving success in the face of adversity. In Japan specifically koi fish are also symbols of love and friendship since the word 鯉 [koi] - carp - sounds like 恋 [koi] - love.
Interesting that the Great Coloured Carp - who is also a nushi, a god of the land - is apparently of a Showa variety (Showa Sanshoku (昭和三色)) with his black body and red and white markings. Showa carps were developed in 1927, which is way too late for it to be present in Sengoku period. However, this type of koi fish is one of the most recognizable along with Kohaku and Sanke, so probably that's why it was chosen.
Back to the scales! The localized description is mostly accurate, you probably already guessed that "master" is "nushi" in the original. Probably the English localization should have introduced the term "nushi" after all because I feel like a chunk of the lore was lost because they didn't.
This description also introduces the vocabulary that is used constantly when Harunaga and Koremori talk about the Great Carp - the words 貴ぶ [to:tobu] - to value, to prize, and another related word 貴い [to:toi] - precious, valuable. When they talk about the Great Carp, carp scales or their future once they become carps, they constantly use these words that are also present in other descriptions concerning the Carp.
「だが、これを欲しがる者もいるだろう｜「ぬし」を貴ぶ者にとり、何しろ鱗は貴いのだ」- "However, there are those who desire these scales; for those who value a certain god of the land, these scales are precious".
「褒美を求めるなら、集めてみると良い」- "If you wish to be rewarded, try collecting [more of them]".
The last line points at the scales being a sort of special currency.
Here we can yet again see the word 貴い because the original name of this item is 貴い餌 [to:toi esa] - precious bait, or precious pet food.
The localization is accurate, there isn't anything special about the text apart from "master", again, being nushi - a god of the land. The original is more straightforward in saying that the nushi loves to eat "things with horns", and for some weird reason it seems important to me but I can't see in what way :D Do we know if the Carp ate someone with horns? Does anything in Sekiro have horns that is relevant to the Carp? I don't know, seems important but I can't say why :D
Harunaga's Truly Precious Bait
When you spend enough scales and reach the Palace, Harunaga will give you his Truly Precious Bait for you to give to the Carp. Koremori says that Harunaga was banished from their clan and from the Palace because he attempted to kill the Carp, however it doesn't seem that Harunaga abandoned his ambitions even in exile.
Its original name is まこと貴い餌 [makoto to:toi esa] - truly precious bait. The original says that if the bait has hair, it is "even more precious"
The localization skipped the most important line of this description - it is somewhat of an idiomatic phrase. They most likely lacked the space to fit it but honestly, I'd rather throw away any other line than this one.
「生きた心地もせぬほどに」 - as far as I can tell, the phrase 生きた心地がしない means that someone is not likely to survive a certain event. This bait is "even more precious, to the point that one might not survive it".
The localized description doesn't really say that the Carp would die if you feed this bait to him, but the original does.
「平田屋敷の壷の貴人は、ぬしになりたい」- "Pot Noble from the Hirata Estate wants to become a nushi".
The next paragraph is indeed direct speech.
「仙郷の、ぬしの鯉に与えてたもれ｜さすれば、我は鯉となり。。。」- "Give this to the Carp god of the Divine Realm | Therefore, I shall become carp..."
This is pretty different from the localized version, there is nothing about the scales in the original but an instruction what you need to do with the bait and how it will affect Harunaga. I remember being really confused when doing this quest for the first time: I didn't really expect the Great Carp to die after feeding him this bait, and this direct speech part was also confusing to me.
The way people use the word 仙郷 [senkyo:] in this game drives me nuts. I thought that there is a difference between the Palace and the Divine Realm, that the Divine Realm is specifically the place where the Dragon resides. However, some NPCs use these two words interchangeably, like Harunaga here. He says "Nushi Carp of the Divine Realm", but the Carp lives in the Palace, not in the Divine Realm. In the artbook, 仙郷 [senkyo:] is specifically the place where the Dragon dwells, and when Wolf arrives there he says it, he is like, "Oh, this is the Divine Realm". This detail is kinda important because of Takeru and Tomoe: they couldn't reach the Divine Realm because they couldn't craft the aroma, does it mean the aroma is needed to get to the Dragon, or do you need it to get to the Palace too? If the former is the case, couldn't they still get to the Palace? Drives me nuts.
Koremori's Truly Precious Bait
One more bait! Its original name is exactly the same as Harunaga's, まこと貴い餌 [makoto to:toi esa] - truly precious bait. The first two paragraphs are also identical, including the line about the bait being precious to the point one might not survive it that the localization skipped here too.
「源の宮の壷の貴人は、実にぬし思いである」- "Pot Noble from the Fountainhead Palace indeed cares deeply about the [Carp] nushi".
Koremori's motivation always escaped me, to be honest. He obviously also wants to become the Great Carp but while Harunaga is just obsessed with this idea of becoming "a carp that never grows old", and his story is more or less clear, Koremori is another matter. He has managed to get to the other shore of the Fountainhead pond and not be sniped by Shizu, he is perched all the way up there and is kind of just hanging out. He never expresses his motives, why he wants to become the Nushi Carp. To never grow old?.. The description of his Bait doesn't say that he wants to become a nushi, like the description of the Harunaga's bait does, it says that he really cares about the nushi carp. Weird.
The next paragraph with the direct speech also differs from Harunaga's in a sense that Koremori talks more respectfully about the Carp: 「ぬしの鯉様に献上しておくれ」- "Present it to the Nushi Carp-sama", not only does he use the respectful suffix -sama, he also uses the respectful verb 献上する [kenjo:suru]. Maybe he does really care about the Carp in his weird twisted way.
Great White Whisker
When the deed is done and the Great Carp is washed away to the Ape's Watering Hole, you can pluck the Whisker from him. Its original name is ぬしの白髭 [nushi no shirohige] - Nushi's White Beard. Can also be "whisker" but I think the more accurate term will be "barbel", a whiskerlike sensory organ near the mouth of some fish.
I really wish the localization was more consistent and always localized 貴い [to:toi] either as "precious", or as "priceless", it would really reflect the original quite well. Otherwise the description is quite accurate, where the original says Nushi, the localization writes "the Great Carp", better than "master". The extra bit of information we can derive from the original is that Nushi in general are immortal but can be killed. Doesn't really go against anything we have learned so far.
For "heart's desire" the original uses 大願 [daigan] - great ambition. The last paragraph is talking about the Carp Attendant and whoever you supported when giving the bait.
Red Carp Eyes
Its original name is 鯉の赤目玉 [koi no akamedama] - carp's red eyeballs. The original specifies that this carp lived on the bottom of the Mibu Village Pond.
「目だけ赤い鯉は、「ぬし」の成りそこないだ」- "carps with only eyes that are red have failed/missed their opportunity to become a nushi".
I think, "with only eyes that are red" part implies that their scales should also be red to mimic the Great Carp. I wonder if this carp was also previously a Mibu Villager who tried to become the Great Carp but failed.
The next paragraph is indented as if it is direct speech but I'm not sure who will be saying these words. Doujun, maybe?
「鱗がたりぬ半端者。その身は錦に染まらぬが｜目玉は赤く、常しえに朽ちぬ」- "Incomplete creatures/fools lacking scales. These bodies will not be dressed in brocade, however their red eyeballs will never rot".
半端者 [hampamono] means "fool" but literally it is "incomplete creature". The phrase about the brocade was skipped by the localization and it's quite tricky but arguably the most expressive part of the description.
「その身は錦に染まらぬ」- "these bodies will not be dyed [the colors] of brocade". While 錦 [nishiki] does mean "brocade", a type of richly decorated fabric, here it most certainly refers to 錦鯉 [nishikigoi] - brocaded carp, the more formal name of coloured varieties of carps. This red-eyed carp will never become the brocaded, coloured carp.
In the last paragraph the original says that Doujun is a 施術師 [sejutsushi] - surgeon, not a researcher, and he needs these eyes specifically for 変若ち水の施術 - "rejuvenating waters' procedure", which would be nice to see added in the English version.
Mask Fragment: Right
Mask fragments are really straightforward, this one is 舞い面の破片・右面 [maimen no hahen・umen] - dancing mask or dancer's mask fragment: right side.
「古い舞い面の破片の一つ｜これは面の右側のようだ｜元は一つの面だったのだろう」- "This is a fragment of an old mask [worn when] dancing. It appears to be the right side of the mask. Probably in the past it was whole."
Mask Fragment: Left
The description of this fragment is identical to that of the previous one, the only thing different is that it is the left side of the mask. Its original name is 舞い面の破片・左面 [maimen no hahen・samen] - dancer's mask fragment: left side.
Mask Fragment: Dragon
Its original name is 舞い面の破片・竜頭 [maimen no hahen・ryu:zu] - dancer's mask: dragon head. The description is identical to the other two except it specifies that it is a 飾り [kazari] - a decoration part of the mask.
Dancing Dragon Mask
Finally, when you assemble the mask, you get a pretty impressive description unlike previous ones. The mask's original name is 竜の舞い面 [ryu: no maimen] - dancing mask of the dragon.
「竜頭が冠された舞い面」- "a dancing mask crowned with a dragon's head".
The description was localized accurately. With this item you can exchange skill points for Attack power. This is the item that confirms that the Okami warriors from the Fountainhead Palace are indeed women. They would offer their dance to the Dragon and it would leave them filled with power. It reminded me of the description of Sakura Dance, maybe that's the one?..
Water of the Palace
Well, Water of the Palace is WEIRD. Let's start with the fact that it's not "of the Palace", its original name is 京の水 [kyo: no mizu], and it is an archaic phrase that denotes "water from the capital" or "water from Kyoto" that is said to be particularly pure. What's more interesting, this type of water is rumoured to have whitening effect.
「杯に注がれた、宮の貴族が嗜む御神水」- "God's water poured into a sake cup that nobles of the palace are fond of".
First of all, this is a 御神水 [gojinzui] - water offered to a god, or water that is drunk before an altar when making a vow, or just in general miracle water connected to a god. However, what caught my attention more than this, was that the nobles of the palace are fond of it. And yet we never see them drink any of it while okami in their idle state do drink something from the little sake cups. I assumed it was sake but now I think it is probably the water. Who's the nobility of the Palace anyway?..
The rest of the description is quite accurate: when the wedding procession arrives, this is the drink that people are greeted with. Maybe that's why both Okami and Mibu are kind of white and translucent - because of this water's whitening effect?..
We know that this water is responsible for the transformation of humans upon arrival. When you give this water to the Mibu Priest, he is transformed into the red noble. Blue nobles, I think, come from the pesky blue-robed guys near the watermill that make the carp baits - that would explain Koremori and Harunaga having special baits on hand.
Since this water has to do with gods, and there are two gods in the Fountainhead Palace - the Dragon and the Carp, do you think that the people from the wedding procession are transformed according to the god they worship? That's why the Mibu are carp-like, and Okami are dragon-like? I know, it sounds weird but I don't really have an explanation why Okami and Mibu are so different even though both clans used to be humans and arrived at Fountainhead to pursue their gods.
The last item that has to do with gods is Divine Confetti! Its original name is quite beautiful: 神ふぶき [kamifubuki] - gods' blizzard. There is a wordplay in the description, it uses two words that are read as [kamifubuki] to denote the item: 神ふぶき [kamifubuki] as "god's blizzard" and 紙ふぶき [kamifubuki] as "confetti", or, literally, "paper blizzard".
Honestly, the process of making this confetti is kinda hidden in its original name but the localization chose to skip some details. Divine Confetti is actually very close to Divine Grass in terms of how it's made. For the same reason Divine Grass is called Gods' Food, this item is called Gods' Blizzard.
「紙を抄くというが、源の水で行うそれは、神を掬うことでもある」- "The paper is made with the waters of the Fountainhead, sometimes the gods, too, ladled onto it".
「神宿りの紙ふぶきは、浴びた者に加護を降ろす」- "Confetti, inhabited by gods, gives its protection to the one basked in it".
As you can see, this item is paper blizzard but also - gods' blizzard because these tiny pieces of paper are inhabited by gods. Probably it is again small nameless gods that live in the Fountainhead waters. Explains why there are not many Divine Confetti items lying around but still more than Divine Grass, that miracle cure that cannot really be made anymore.
When you use Divine Confetti, the kanji you see is (I think :D) 祓い [harai] - purification or exorscism.
And that's all for Mibu Balloons, carps and gods! In the next post we'll look at miscellaneous items that we have left: Fistful of Ash, Ceramic Shard, Sake and others. It will be the last post of this format, and then we'll move on to the next part of the project.
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.