Hi and welcome to the second Remnants post, I'm super excited :3. If you've missed the first one, here it is. Just a reminder: if I don't discuss something that is seemingly connected to the boss, it's probably better suited for another thematic post. Don't worry, nothing will escape my linguistic attention.
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-reding 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 these posts we are looking at Remnants rather then Memories, if you need a reminder what those are and how they are different, you can read about it here.
Let's start with probably the most interesting boss name of the bunch. The Guardian Ape is called 獅子猿 [shishizaru], literally Lion-Monkey. Isn't it awesome? This word actually denotes a real life species of monkeys, Lion Tamarin. It's the cutest monkey with a luxurious golden or ginger mane. Despite the fact that lion tamarins are the largest tamarins, they are still relatively small and weigh up to 500-600g, which is not even the weight of a poop the Guardian Ape flings at you when he gets the chance. Lion tamarins have claw-like nails on all their fingers instead of flat nails that other primates have, and Guardian Ape does too, just look at his hands. These monkeys are native to Brazil and are not present in Japan. Important to note that lion tamarins are social animals and they are largely monogamous: they have their little monkey-babies with one partner and raise them together, dividing the responsibilities. The lore of Guardian Ape actually mirrors this real-life lion tamarin description. As for the fact that his fur is white, while his fiancée is brown, I think we can assume that he wasn't always white. You know, those marked with immortality - and it seems to me, any immortality - kind of pale over time. Kuro has white streaks in his hair, Wolf does too, why not the monkey that's been around for a long, long time?..
The "infested body" part is quite accurate, the original names this condition 「身中蟲」 [shinchu:mushi] - internal parasites, parasites residing within one's body. 蟲 [mushi] actually denotes various insects, bugs and worms, so yeah, centipedes can also be included here.
Too bad they didn't translate his name as it is in the original. You don't need to tie this boss to the real tamarins and call him Lion Tamarin, Lion Ape would've been awesome. "Guardian Ape" gives people an incorrect idea that the ape is guarding the Lotus so that Wolf wouldn't be able to get it. In reality, the ape doesn't care about Wolf. It's his flower, and he is taking care of it, that's all. He has not been put there to guard the flower from those who might want to steal it, and thus I think the localization shouldn't have named him "Guardian".
As for the sword stuck in him... I have a theory, we'll talk about it in the next post, so stay tuned.
Lotus is actually rather mysterious, its original name is 馨し水蓮 [kaguwashi suiren]. 馨し means "sweet-smelling, fragrant" or can just refer to something beautiful, but we'll take the fragrant part. The noun is very curious, 水蓮 [suiren] is a coined word, it consists of "water" and "lotus". There is another word that sounds the same but is written differently: 睡蓮 [suiren], water lily. I spent quite a lot of time thinking whether this flower is a water lily or, indeed, a lotus, and why it's called 水蓮 [suiren]. I think that 水蓮 [suiren] is here to emphasize the lore about the special water in which this flower grows. The description does say quite unambiguously that it's a lotus, not a water lily.
The original describes the colour of the Lotus using the word 青白い [aojiroi] - pale, bluish-white. The original description also quite clearly conveys the fact that this flower is not unique and is not one-of-a-kind - these lotus flowers can be found where the Fountainhead Waters are "thick".
I was quite disappointed to see just "incense". In Japanese the aroma you're trying to construct with the Lotus and Shelter Stone is called 源の香気 [minamoto no ko:ki] - Fountainhead fragrance, would be nice to see it somewhere. The original description says that the Lotus exudes the Fountainhead fragrance, and thus it's one of the incense ingredients.
As you see, there is nothing "of the Palace" in the original name. Lotus of the Palace sounds like the Lotus was sent from the Palace, or grows in the Palace but by chance ended up in the Valley, when in reality these flowers are naturally occurring in the places where the Fountainhead waters pool deeply. Should've been something along the lines of "Fragrant Lotus" or something.
We'll cover Slender Finger that the Lion Ape drops in the next post, don't worry, I haven't forgotten about it.
I was really confused if the Headless Ape was the next stage of the Guardian Ape or they are not the same boss and there are two giant Apes living in the Sunken Valley. Well, the original doesn't let anybody get confused because the Headless Ape is called exactly what the Guardian Ape is called, but, well, plus "headless" - 首無し獅子猿 [kubinashi shishizaru] - Headless Lion Ape. So yeah, technically it's the same boss but since we didn't kill the centipede, he came back to life.
I already talked about the failure with the Headless Ape dialogue in the post about Sugars and the Headless. I'll just copypaste it here for your convenience:
The fact that 首 [kubi] actually means "neck" and not "head" and yet it is often used as "head", usually turns many localizations into a mess. English localization correctly translated "Headless" but failed miserably with Headless Ape dialogue. Remember the bloody guy sitting on the ground as you go to the Headless Ape arena? He is moaning in pain, saying, "My neck... my neck...". I thought the poor guy broke his neck having been pushed aside by the giant raging ape but then I realized that in Japanese he is talking about 首 [kubi], like 'a HEADLESS APE just passed here!'
Ape's lore is very tragic, if you think about it, he was just mourning the death of his loved one and didn't want anything to do with Fountainhead Fragrances and stupid shinobis.
Bestowal Ninjutsu is a lot of fun because 1) its original name is not at all what you expect it to be, and 2) it's the only ninjutsu with an icon that corresponds to its description and not to its name. So, this technique is called 血刀術 [chigatanajutsu] - literally "bloody katana technique". The kanji that you see as an icon for this ninjutsu is borrowed from the description, it's 纏わる [matsuwaru] - to coil around, to follow around. Maybe the English localization actually had a decent option like "Bloodsword Ninjutsu" but it sounded too similar to Bloodsmoke Ninjutsu. "Bestowal" is so, so weird but you can see some logic behind it: the special quality of your enemy's blood is "bestowed" upon your sword for a short while. If your enemy has one, that is.
"Wreathe" is actually a good choice for 纏わる [matsuwaru], the original describes the process as "the nijutsu that makes the blood coil around the sword" and says that it is "a secret technique that turns the blood of the murdered person into a cursed blade", this part was moved by the English localization a little further along the description.
Probably the most valuable part of this description is the one that explains how Wolf learns ninjutsu in general - he discovers these techniques by fighting certain enemies. 「不死斬りの介錯を通し、狼はこれを見出した」 - Wolf discovered this technique by beheading an undying foe.
The original name of the Corrupted Monk is 破戒僧 [hakaiso:] where 破戒 denotes offense against the Buddhist commandments, and 僧 means "monk, priest". Interestingly enough, "the mask of a fierce guardian deity" mentioned in the description is actually 夜叉面 [yashamen], a mask of Yaksha. We discussed Yakshas in the context of Yashariku Sugar in the very first post. Yakshas are a class of nature spirits, mostly benevolent but sometimes mischievous, they can be seen in many temples as guardian deities. The yakshas in Buddhism have dual personality: they can either be harmless nature spirits, or ghosts who hunt travellers like rakṣasas. Their more aggressive embodiment is known as bhuta. Curious, that the Monk also has two aspect to her: an illusory one and a real one, and she also is a guardian.
Her mask is not a random yaksha mask but a special one called Hannya (般若). This word denotes prajna, a Buddhist term for wisdom required to attain enlightenment. We're already familiar with this concept from Bloodborne, although it was denoted with a different Japanese word. Anyway, what's more important is that Hannya is also a classic Noh mask, Noh being a form of Japanese dance-drama, you can say theatre. This mask was created by an artist monk of the same name, or some say that it's called "Hannya" because you need a lot of wisdom to be able to create such a mask. Hannya mask depicts a woman who has become a demon because of jealousy or some kind of obsession. If you look at this mask straight, it's demonic and scary, but if you look at it at an angle, slightly from above - it's sorrowful, as if the person is crying. The colour of the mask is also important: the white mask says that it's a woman with a refined character, an aristocrat; a red mask points at a less refined character, a peasant; and a dark red mask depicts a true demon. Corrupted Monk has a white mask.
This boss has a lot of duality going on: it has two forms, her Hannya mask also hints at two states: a demonic one and a tragic one. Reminds me a lot of Gwyndolin and his sun-and-moon personality.
Unfortunately, the localization didn't give enough attention to the word まぼろし [maboroshi] that is present in the original, it's the same word for "illusion" we've seen multiple times already. Instead, the translation says "her form was nebulous", which is beautiful, but Sekiro is a very consistent game. If you see the word まぼろし [maboroshi], it means there is an illusion, there is a master, all of that, and you can start snapping seeds right away.
As for "What reason could there have been for guarding the Mibu Village cave entrance" - we'll get there in a sec.
This skill is called 水生の呼吸術 [mibu no kokyu:jutsu] which corresponds to Mibu Breathing Technique. There is a sentence that could've been translated more accurately: 「水生の御初代は、輿入れが決まった者にのみ、密かにこの秘術を授けた。」 - "The founder of Mibu taught [passed] this secret technique in private [secretly] only to the person who decided to participate in a bridal procession". Everything else is correct.
So, why do we get this secret technique reserved only for special people, after defeating the Corrupted Monk? Is she the founder of Mibu village? I think not. Did she steal or elicit this technique from the founder to ascend to the Palace? That's quite possible. I can't let go of this thought that the major character trait of the Corrupted Monk is jealousy. With her getting hold of this technique I think nobody else can ascend unless they defeat her illusion. She doesn't seem like a person who'd teach anybody anything.
How did the founder of Mibu village know how to breath underwater?..
I wasn't sure where to place Mist Noble, so let's talk about him here. I think it's the only character that is not present in the artbook. Villagers with pitchforks are, and he is not, it's hilarious.
Anyway, his original name is 霧ごもり貴人 [kirigomori kijin], something like "a noble hiding in mist" OR "a noble filling [space] with mist". English localization unfortunately didn't reflect the way that the guy we meet in the forest near a fire talks about the mist. He calls it 幻の霧 [maboroshi no kiri], "illusory mist" or "illusion of mist". Thus, Mist Noble is akin to Lady Butterfly, he is also the master of illusions, in this case - the illusory mist. That's why the mist disperses when we kill him: to dispel illusions, you need to defeat their master.
Of course, it's obvious that Mist Noble is the source of the mist. I just thought it was quite curious that the mist in this case is not just a random unexplained magic but an illusion - a type of art well established in the world of Sekiro. As I've already said, the game is very consistent.
Shelter Stone is a very interesting item, its original name is お宿り石 [oyadori ishi]. 宿り is indeed a shelter, a dwelling place, and 石 means "rock", so Shelter Stone does seem like an accurate enough translation. However, there is a similar word in Japanese that you can actually find in a dictionary: 宿り木 [yadorigi]. Shelter + tree = parasitic plant. I think we can safely assume by analogy that if 宿り木 is a parasitic plant, 宿り石 can be a parasitic stone. The honorific prefix お- tells us that this item is somehow worshipped or is considered sacred.
The localization says that this stone is just lying on the altar deep in Mibu Village but the original actually says that it is enshrined there because they worship it. The mechanics of how these stones come to be is mostly translated correctly, although in place of "appear" the original uses the same verb 宿る - to live or dwell. One of its meanings, believe it or not, is "to be a parasite". These stones sometimes live in the bodies of those who drink Fountainhead Waters.
There is also a vital piece of information completely lost by the English localization - 「お宿りは吉兆ぞ」 - "parasites are considered a good omen". I think that the word お宿り without the "stone" part is used to denote parasites, someone who lives inside of you. Since parasites are considered to be a good omen, this might tell us why they encouraged people to have said parasites and why they enshrined the stones. The fragrance of the stone is emphasized by the same word we've seen in the Lotus description - 馨し [kaguwashi]. I am very curious how parasitic stones relate to parasitic centipedes. Are they just different stages of infestation or two completely different processes, triggered, however, by the Fountainhead Waters?..
The stone is not unique, by the way, if you look closely at the altar you'll see a bunch of them lying there. The one you can interact with kind of outshines them, and you're likely to miss the others. I wonder how the future procession participants extract their stones...
While we're in the cave, I think it's a good time to look at some other things connected to this "bridal procession". The key word here is 輿入れ [koshiire], where 輿 [kago] denotes a palanquin. The literal translation of 輿入れ [koshiire] would be "entering the palanquin", however this word in used in a wedding context when entering another family, since the bride is supposed to arrive at the groom's house in a palanquin. I think that in Sekiro 輿入れ might not be the wedding/bridal procession that we usually think of, but rather as a process of transitioning from one state to another, from one "family" to another, from the mortal world and into the Palace. I don't think that somebody actually gets married, it's just a comparable ceremony - you kind of give up your previous life and transition into a new one.
All places connected to the procession have the word 輿入れ in their names.
The cave door guarded by Corrupted Monk is called 輿入れの岩戸 [koshiire no iwato] - the stone door of the procession.
The cave itself is called 輿入れの洞窟 [koshiire no do:kutsu] - the procession cave.
The strawman that escorts us to the Palace is called 輿入れのお迎え [koshiire no omukae] - the one sent to meet/greet/pick up the procession.
"True Monk" translation is very disappointing to me, it seems they just based in on the fact that the first one was illusory, instead of adapting the original. And the original is very interesting, her name is 宮の破戒僧 [miya no hakaiso:] - Corrupted Monk of the Palace. It would be a great opportunity for the English localization to add "of the Palace" somewhere where it actually matters instead of nailing it to the Lotus for some reason, but alas.
Sidenote: apparently, the localization wasn't able to fit more than ~14 symbols into the title of any Remnant, so "Corrupted Monk of the Palace" wasn't really an option. However, I think, they could've fit it into the description like they did with Phantom Lady Butterfly. Better than losing it altogether.
The most important detail is in the Memory of this boss, it was lost in translation, unfortunately. 「破戒僧、源の宮に至る」 - "Corrupted Monk who has reached the Fountainhead Palace". Thus, we can assume that she ascended to the Palace and then created an illusion to guard the cave so that nobody else can ascend. Again, her Hannya mask is a symbol of jealousy and obsession. Remember that these are all my theories and every bit of proof I have I'm sharing with you :D
Her real name is 八百比丘尼 [yao bikuni]. 比丘尼 (bhikkhuni) is a formal title in Buddhism, it denotes a fully ordained Buddhist nun. 八百 [yao] can also be read as [happyaku] which means "eight hundred". 八百比丘尼 [yao bikuni] - priestess Yao - is a character from a folk story about ningyo. It is called "Yao Bikuni" or "Happyaku Bikuni".
Make yourself comfortable, Shetani will now tell you a story.
Once upon a time a fisherman caught an unusual fish with a human face, monkey's mouth, shining golden scales and a quiet voice. He didn't know this creature is called ningyo (人魚 [ningyo] - human-fish) and catching it is a bad omen. The fisherman invited guests to treat them to the meat of this miraculous fish. It so happened that one of the guests peeked into the kitchen and saw a fish with a human face being prepared. He told everybody else about it. Secretly, the guests wrapped the meat served to them in paper and discarded it on their way home.
However, one of the guests, drunk on sake, forgot to throw the fish meat away. When he came home, he was foolish enough to give it to his little daughter who demanded a present. When he came to his senses, the girl already ate the fish. He was scared she would be poisoned but nothing happened, and in time he stopped worrying about it.
The girl grew up and got married - and then she noticed that she stopped aging. Her first husband grew old and died, and she was still young. The same happened to her other husbands. After many years of perpetual youth, she became a nun and travelled many lands. Finally, she returned to her hometown and ended her life at an age of 800 years.
If only Sekiro had a fish with a full mouth of human teeth, am I right???
... I don't think that the Monk somehow ate a piece of the carp, but it's a very interesting reference nonetheless.
Its original name is 竜の割符 [ryu: no warifu], which corresponds to "Dragon's Tally Board", or "a tally board shaped like a dragon". This item serves a double purpose: it's valuable to customers as they gain access to a wider assortment of goods, and - 「商い人にも格がある」 - it's prized by the merchants as well since with it comes a special position.
Merchants with this tally board are called 「竜の格の者」 - "people of the dragon rank". The English localization says that they "are recognized by the imperial palace", the original says 「宮に認められた」. Of course, 宮 [miya] can refer to the imperial palace, but in the world of Sekiro there is only one Palace - 源の宮 [minamoto no miya], Fountainhead Palace. Thus we can assume that those in possession of Dragon's Tally Board are recognized by the Fountainhead Palace and are given some privileges - maybe, special goods they can trade in the mortal world?..
It's an interesting item that points at the connection between the Fountainhead Palace and the lower world through merchants. Why does the Monk have this board? It's hard to imagine she needed to sell or purchase anything. Maybe she had the power to bestow the tally board upon worthy merchants? Maybe she drops it because it's endgame and the player needs craft materials and Divine Confetti? :D
I loved this Remnants part, the connection between the Palace and the world below is so interesting, I can just lose myself in theories. The localization is mostly on point but there are still many things that could've been done better, like Lion Ape, or Lotus of the Palace that is not "of the Palace", contrary to Corrupted Monk who is very much "of the Palace".
The next part will be the last one, we'll cover the remaining bosses and their items, so stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on Sakura Dragon.
Thank you for your time.