Hi! In this post we'll continue looking at Shinobi Prosthetic Tools. In the previous post we discussed Shuriken and Firecrackers, and today we'll talk about Flame Vent and Shinobi Axe and their related items.
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, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D FromSoftware had a theological consultant who helped them build the religious narrative in Sekiro. I will leave links to the Buddhist 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.
Before Wolf encounters Flame Barrel in Hirata Estate, he has a chance to learn about it from Anayama. If Wolf pays for the information, he will receive Flame Barrel Memo where Anayama carefully describes what he saw during the night on the attack.
I love the style in which the original note is written, it's hilarious. This note was written by Anayama several years ago when he wasn't an honest businessman but a bandit. First of all, he doesn't know what to call this item so he and his gang call it 火が出る筒 [hi ga deru tsutsu] - fire-spewing barrel, a barrel from which fire comes. Secondly, this note - that he clearly wrote for himself - is labeled as "Lucrative info #36", which I think is a very fitting and pleasantly concise localization of 売れそうな情報 [ureso:na jo:ho:] - "information that can be sold". If you look closely at the picture itself, you'll see that he even managed to depict the Flame Barrel to the best of his ability!
The original description is not just a text but a bullet list. Apparently, when Anayama realized that this Flame Barrel can be a piece of lucrative info, he scribbled a list of facts on a piece of paper instead of writing them down as a text in a more coherent way. The language used in this description is quite simple and uses onomatopoeia - words that phonetically imitate the sounds they describe, like English words "cuckoo" or "hiss".
- When we attacked Hirata Estate
- Noticed a barrel that spewed very big fire
- Lit a bonfire for our drinking; the fire went BOH BOH
- Surely, a shinobi tool
Forgive me for the haphazard style of this translation, I just wanted to show you how expressive the note actually is and how hastily it was written all those years ago at the Hirata Estate as Anayama and his bandits were starting a fire with a Flame Barrel :D
Its original name is 火吹き筒 [hifukitsutsu], literally "fire-breathing/fire-blowing barrel". The translation is very accurate, the only thing that kind of catches my attention is the word "resisting". The original uses 抗する [ko:suru], which means "to confront" or "to oppose", those probably would fit better.
Let's look at the artbook to see how it works!
This picture shows that the upper metal loop in blue ink goes onto the Prosthetic, and the lower loop holds the ignition chamber of the Shinobi Tool. The lower loop is fixed at a slight incline in relation to its counterpart - I'm guessing, so that Wolf can freely move his hand. There is also a reel between them that allows him to open the Barrel at will.
When fitted to the Shinobi Prosthetic, Frame Barrel becomes Flame Vent. The original name for it, however, is exactly the same: 火吹き筒 [hifukitsutsu]. There is a certain inconsistency between the description of the Flame Barrel and Flame Vent: they share a couple of identical lines, however the English localization translates them a bit differently and for some reason puts "Red Eyes" into quotations marks. The meaning is all there, so it's more of a structural remark.
Here we can see the verb 怯む [hirumu] again in relation to enemies' behavior when hit with Flame Vent. As we discussed in the Firecrackers section of the previous post, it means "to recoil" or "to flinch from something". In the localization of this description it was translated as "to tremble".
I thought it would be fitting to look at the item that makes Flame Vent all the more pleasant to use - Oil. Its original name is exactly what you would expect: 油 [abura] - oil. The description overall corresponds to the original, oil weakens enemies' resistance to Burn status, and makes them more vulnerable.
As we discussed in the previous post, most Shinobi Tools have a spring-load upgrade, and here's the Spring-load Flame Vent. Its name falls in line with all the other spring-load Tools: 火吹き筒・バネ式 [hifukitsutsu baneshiki], literally spring-load flame barrel. The original states that it is "a flame barrel with an added mechanism that you can load up with gunpowder". This upgrade offers an alternate attack that releases an explosion.
The original goes into a bit more detail when describing how the spring mechanism works: when you release the energy, accumulated by the spring mechanism, the compressed air burns violently and causes and explosive flame that can blow your enemies away.
There is one more picture from the artbook that offers a little more insight into how the Flame Vent is constructed.
Here you can see that the back stem part is getting slightly wider as it joins the Flame Vent itself, and at the start it has a diamond-shaped cross-section that later becomes round at its thickest part. The metal loop on the side of the Flame Vent is secured with ropes, and the little note says that the other side is constructed identically.
Okay, we're drawing closer to Okinaga's Flame Vent but we have to talk about Pine Resin Ember first. Technically, it is an upgrade material but it's unique, like Phantom Kunai and Malcontent's Ring, so we'll talk about it here. Its original name is くすぶり松脂 [kusuburi matsuyani] - smoldering pine resin. I think, this name wouldn't fit due to the symbol restriction, that's why in English it's "ember". The Japanese description states: 「消えぬ火が、くすぶり続ける松脂」 - "it is a piece of pine resin continuously smoldering with unquenchable flame". The localization doesn't really explain why people needed tp burn this special resin to find their way but the original does: it refers to the forests as 「水生村を覆う森」 - "the forests that conceal Mibu Village". So, some time ago there were these black pines in the thick forest of Mibu Village, and the resin taken from those pines, when lit, produced continuously smoldering flame that was used by people to navigate their way so they wouldn't get lost.
The localization says that people of Mibu Village came to loath the flames, the original uses the word 忌み始めた [imihajimeta] - started tabooing. 忌み [imi] in general has a lot of religious or cultural meanings like "taboo", "abstinence", it can refer to things prohibited by etiquette and describe things that are agreed upon as undesirable. Thus, I think, here it implies that something major changed in Mibu Village so now they don't just hate the flames, fire is a taboo so they resorted to fireflies as a means of lighting. The do still burn some candles though.
However, not everyone in Mibu Village agrees with this practice as evidenced by Shosuke's dialogue where he describes someone named Inuhiko - a village outcast and a hunter who eats animals - something that apparently is also considered inappropriate. He burns resin on top of his house, I'm guessing, to keep his friendly neighbors away. Despite the fact that Shosuke has not yet lost his mind completely, he speaks of Inuhiko with disdain and describes his resin-burning practice as 忌々しい [imaimashii] - annoying. I think, this is meant to show you that since merely speaking of fire causes such a reaction from Shosuke, he might be too far gone already.
I like how Pine Resin ties Flame Vent to Mibu Village in the same way many other items form associations between Shinobi Tools and certain characters or places so none of them exist just by themselves. Shuriken Wheel is tied to Dougen and Lady Butterfly with her Phantom Kunai, Shinobi Axe belonged to the Sculptor, Finger Whistle - to his partner, the Spear was Gyoubu's and Sabimaru is associated with Okami and their attack on Ashina a long time ago. In the same fashion Flame Vent can be associated with Mibu Village where fire used to be an indispensable tool for getting around and safely coming back home, but is now loathed as well as people who bring it to the village.
A big part of my excitement about writing this post came from Okinaga's Flame Vent. Since there wasn't anything in the whole English localization of Sekiro that mentioned Okinaga even once apart from the title of this Flame Vent upgrade, I just assumed it was lost in translation and I will undoubtedly find something in the original text. You know, the story of Okinaga and his - or her! - Flame Vent. Maybe Okinaga was someone from Mibu Village who never gave up fire and stocked up on black pine resin, or maybe they were for some reason immune to the changes inflicted by the water... I had like a million ideas and was impatient to see what turn the epic Tale of Okinaga takes. And then I looked at the original name of this upgrade.
息長の火吹き筒 [ikinaga no hifukitsutsu] - long-breathing flame barrel.
You know, because now it can work as a flame-thrower and continuously breathe fire chipping away at your Spirit Emblems.
Okinaga doesn't exist.
Well, technically 息長 can be read as "Okinaga" when it's a family name but I highly doubt that's the case. This word consists of 息 [iki] - breath and 長 [naga] - long. It's basically the same thing as the 長火花 [nagahibana] upgrade of the Firecracker that was correctly translated as "Long Spark". This is literally "Long Breath".
Well, so much for the epic Legend of Okinaga.
During my research I saw that many people were frustrated by Okinaga and the fact that there isn't a single mention of this person anywhere, and this frustration gave way to several theories the most popular of which is that Inuhiko, the hunter from Mibu Village that burns Pine Resin, is actually Okinaga Inuhiko. However, I don't think that's the case. It's very uncharacteristic of Sekiro lore to just drop a name and never give any remarks, any comments on the character beyond that. Even Lord Sakuza - god knows who this guy is - has not only a name but a dialogue and an associated item and two NPCs that are connected to him. I am pretty sure that Okinaga doesn't exist at all, and was born as a result of a localization mistake. So, this version of Flame Vent is 「くすぶり松脂を筒薬とした火吹き筒」 - "a fire-breathing barrel loaded with smoldering pine resin".
This Flame Vent can maintain a continuous stream of fire. The main takeaway from this whole ordeal is that Okinaga does not exist, the upgrade is literally called 息長 [ikinaga] - Long Breath, one more mystery solved.
Its original name is 瑠璃の浄火 [ruri no jo:ka] - literally "lazulite sacred fire" so the localization is on point. The first paragraph is identical to the previously discussed Lazulite upgrades, all of them talk about the favour of the Fountainhead Lapis Lazuli.
「瑠璃の浄火は、神宿り」 - "lazulite sacred flame is god's abode". The original line implies that the lazulite flame houses gods, OR that is was blessed by gods, the localization opted for "divine".
The last line of the description is the most interesting one and I think the localization did a great job translating it.
「凝った怨念は、その火に焼かれよう」 - "cleanse the deep-seated hatred with flame".
凝る [koru] means "to get absorbed in", "to become obsessed with" and 怨念 [on'nen] denotes hatred or deep-seated grudge. This word is basically a synonym of 怨嗟 [ensa] - deeply held resentment, it's the word that Demon of Hatred has in his name - 怨嗟の鬼 [ensa no oni]. I haven't tried Lazulite Sacred Flame on Demon of Hatred, I usually just use Suzaku's Umbrella and Malcontent but the description of this Flame Vent upgrade very clearly tells you that you should try using in on the Demon. If it was your Prosthetic Tool of choice when fighting him, please leave me a comment below and tell me whether it was effective or not :D
That's all there is to discuss about the Flame Vent so let's move on to the Axe!
Its original name is 飛び猿の忍び斧 [tobizaru no shinobi ono] - shinobi axe of the jumping/bounding monkey. As both the original and the localized descriptions state, this axe has two main traits: its shape is unrefined, rustic, and it's very heavy, that's why it wasn't used so much for cutting or slicing things off but for breaking and shattering.
飛び猿 [tobizaru] - Jumping Monkey - is one of the names of the Sculptor. His shinobi nickname was 猩々 [sho:jo:] - orangutan or Shoujo, a Japanese sea spirit with red hair and red face who is particularly fond of alcohol.
Sculptor's shinobi past might be in part based on Sarutobi Sasuke (猿飛佐助) who was a leader of the legendary group of ninja called Sanada Ten Braves. This group operated during Sengoku period assisting Sanada Yukimura, a samurai warrior and a warlord. Sarutobi has the same two kanji as Tobizaru but reversed 猿飛 [sarutobi] -> 飛び猿 [tobizaru]. Sarutobi was known for his incredible agility, especially in trees, and if you remember, that is how the Sculptor describes his training in the Sunken Valley when you give him the Monkey Booze:
To run, to jump, to clash swords... where one slip would mean your doom. That was how we trained. ... We came to move exactly as monkeys did after a time.
Sarutobi is also often portrayed as an orphan raised by a band of monkeys, hence his monkey-like abilities. This is also quite funny because there is an actual band of monkeys in the Sunken Valley :D
Sarutobi Sasuke has an arch-rival and a best friend, another member of Sanada Ten Braves, Kirigakure Saizō (霧隠才蔵). I got really excited because I thought that maybe, if the Sculptor was in any way inspired by Sarutobi, his partner Kingfisher might have been inspired by Kirigakure. Unfortunately, Kingfisher and Kirigakure don't have anything in common :D Kirigakure's name literally translates to "Hidden Mist", he is associated with fog and illusion magic, so he is more of a Lady Batterfly character. Or a Mist Noble character!
Anyway, I can't say with any degree of certainty whether or not Orangutan the Shinobi was based on Sarutobi Sasuke but it's an interesting parallel to explore nonetheless.
Loaded Axe is 仕込み斧 [shikomi ono]. 仕込み [shikomi] has a lot of meanings, this Prosthetic Tool can even be translated as "Training Axe" but I have nothing against Loaded Axe, it's consistent with Loaded Shuriken that we explored earlier. The localization is accurate, the original text draws the player's attention once more to the fact that the main feature of this axe is its weight.
Of course, the Axe also has a spring-load upgrade! 仕込み斧・バネ式 [shikomi ono baneshiki]. The original description attributes the devastating sweeping attacks not only to the spring mechanism but also to the axe's weight, so the attack isn't effective "despite its weight" but rather "because of its weight". The original literally says "Power, stored in the spring mechanism, when joined by the weight of the axe, allows for wide sweeping attacks".
Its original name is 仕込み斧・火打ち式 [shikomi ono hiuchishiki], where 火打ち [hiuchi] conveys the process of starting a fire, creating sparks. It's a part of both 火打石 [hiuchi ishi] - flint/firestone and 火打ち金 [hiuchigane] - striker, a piece of steel used with flint to create sparks. Sparking Axe is a great name for it.
This version of the Axe is upgraded with 「火打ちの撃鉄」 - "a percussion hammer that creates sparks".
The localization is very accurate when describing how this upgrade works. The last line emphasizes that this axe now has both a heavy blade and a firearm power.
If you look at the picture, you'll see that the axe is tightly secured to the metal loop that is attached to the Prosthetic. There is also a groove at the top part of its blade, where the fire is started before it engulfs the edge. Only Sparking Axe and Lazulite Axe have it.
Lazulite Axe! I'm so excited about this one :D Its original name is very simple, just 瑠璃の斧 [ruri no ono] - lazulite axe.
The little note says that this eroded and roughly made gap at the top of the blade is where the lapis lazuli is gathered. But that's not all that important, look at the blade!
It has a part of a kanji engraved on both sides, it's a "dog" radical that is present in many kanji denoting animals, notably dogs, cats and monkeys. "Wolf" - 狼 [ookami], "monkey" - 猿 [saru] and "orangutan" - 猩々 [shoujou] all share this part. I spent some time thinking what it should've been: a wolf or an orangutan kanji, and whether it was left ambiguous because Lazulite Axe upgrade can be made by either Wolf or the Sculptor. And then I thought - well, why am I treating this inscription like something unfinished? Maybe it's complete, it's what it's supposed to be. This Axe used to be the favorite weapon of Orangutan, and now it belongs to Wolf. It's incredible how these tiny details that are not even in the description card still manage to add details to the story. Oh, I love it so much :D
I know that not all Prosthetic Tools and their upgrades are exciting to look at :D Many of them are quite trivial and there is hardly anything that I can say about them except for their original names and possibly some interesting word choices. However, I still want to explore every single thing because, first of all, this is the very core of the "World of Sekiro" project - to look at everything and know the face of every single kanji in the game, and secondly, sometimes we do find something exceptional in items with seemingly boring descriptions. Sometimes it's not even the description that makes the item exceptional, like in the case of Lazulite Axe.
In the next post we'll talk about Sabimaru and the Spear.
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.