Hey guys! It’s time for another Lost in Translation. This entry comes from episode 4 of Gabriel DropOut where we see Satania throwing out a strange suggestion whilst the girls are discussing plans for their trip to the beach.
Of course, none of this really makes any sense. The idiomatic expression “everything but the kitchen sink” is, indeed, used in contexts pertaining to itineraries and whatnot, but there’s more to this joke when we take a look at Satania’s original Japanese line:
(Banana wa o-yatsu ni fukumaremasu ka)
Lit. Banana (is) snack/sweet (be) included (interr.)
Yup. She says the word “banana”. In fact, this is a variation of the idiomatic expression バナナはおやつに入れますか (banana wa o-yatsu ni iremasu ka), wherein the verb is just slightly different, but the meaning is otherwise the same: “Do bananas count as a snack/sweet?“
The origins of this obscure joke takes its roots in the 1950’s, where it was common for local schools to budget allowances for students during field trips. In particular, they allotted around 300 Yen (roughly $8 in 2016) for students to purchase their own snacks (“o-yatsu“), which is inclusive of sweets and some other savory snacks.
This joke plays on a certain paradox in classifying whether or not a banana is considered a fruit or a snack. To the Japanese, fruits are considered a part of a packed lunch set (i.e. the “bento”), but at the same time they can be eaten as a snack. If a banana can be both part of the bento and yet an o-yatsu at the same time, it becomes a slippery slope that opens a pandora’s box of infinite things to bring on a trip.
A classic dialogue of sorts gives a little context as to how this joke was used, and was often between a teacher (the one organizing the field trip) and his/her students:
Teacher: Alright class, you all have 300 Yen each for snacks. Make sure you plan ahead what snacks you will be bringing with you on the trip.
Student A: Teacher! Do bananas count as a snack?
Teacher: I suppose not.
Student B: What about oranges? Do they count?
Teacher: Well… I guess those aren’t snacks, either.
Student C: What about Fanta? (a fruit-flavored fizzy drink)
Student D: Or a watermelon!?
So basically, the phrase バナナはおやつに入れますか is meant to tease the teacher (or any person arranging an event), and has extended its uses for whenever there is an exploitable loophole in the general mechanics of a planned trip (or event). This is the reason why Raphiel gives a very matter-of-fact answer to Gabriel’s inquiry:
But then you might ask, why a banana? For one, the word banana sounds funny to the Japanese, especially since it’s considered an exotic fruit. Secondly, banana’s were quite expensive at the time, so any mention of bringing bananas to a trip was likely to generate some puzzling looks. And lastly (and this is the weird reason), banana’s were tricky to place inside bento boxes. Since fruits were typically a part of the bento, it was easy to cut up apples or oranges and place slices in a box. But the Japanese weren’t particularly fond of slicing up bananas and placing them inside the Bento for god knows what reason. The sheer hilarity of trying to shove an elongated fruit inside of a Bento makes for an odd piece of visual imagery to the receiver of the joke, hence this fixation for a banana.
But the joke doesn’t end there. Apparently, this idiomatic expression has been seeing some revived usage as of late, particularly from older generations that sympathize with the older style of humor. It’s kinda like how uncle Bob just keeps on making those silly puns and you’d wish that he’d just stop it. Quite similarly, younger generations have found this joke not only obscure, but basically not funny. And you can’t really blame them, because the word banana isn’t exactly that humorous of a word, anymore.
And this is where the true punchline of this joke lies — Gabriel’s curt dismissal of it being stupid. It’s a very subtle commentary towards an older generation of jokes, which for the purposes of this gag, actually help to characterize Gabriel as more in tune with the modern ethos of the detached millennial. It’s a smart nod towards characterization that might not be obvious at first, but is definitely something that was Lost in Translation.
And there you have it! Any suggestions on things you think might have been Lost in Translation? Do let me know in the comments below! Until next time — ciao!