Lost in Translation #6 – Gabriel DropOut

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Hey guys! Time for another Lost in Translation! This entry comes, yet again, from Gabriel DropOut, this time from episode 6. But before we move on, I’d like to clarify that the current translator for this show is very liberal in his/her translation style, so there are some lines that are translated more with regard to context and perceived character idiosyncrasies as opposed to literal meaning. The reason for this is because some Japanese phrases lend to characterization by sheer delivery, whilst in English, characterization lies more in the choice of words than just manner of execution. This is doubly true for subtitles in that you have to read what is said.

It is for this reason that one character’s utterance of shikataganai (仕方がない) can mean (literally) “It can’t be helped”, but depending on context or even character archetype, can change in meaning to “whatever” or “guess I have no choice.”

That said, the current translations for this show lean quite heavily towards the liberal side, which means these type of lines are translated with these assumptions in tow. Now that in itself isn’t bad — to some extent, it allows the characters to be more relatable to an English audience — but what happens here is that the translator makes assumptions that might not necessarily be the case from the intent of the original author. Unless the translator is a direct member of the production team from the Japan side, it’s very hard to assume character intent without consulting the source first.

But yeah, I’m diverging quite a bit, so let’s get back to what was lost in translation! Today, we’ll talk about a strange Trick or Treat care of our resident Shut-in Angel.

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In the second half of the episode, the girls decide to do a little Trick-or-treat-ing and visit Gabriel at her house. Although they have the basic mechanics down, including the classic taunt “trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat“, Gabriel does a typically “Gabriel” move and throws out a packet of soy beans at them.

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If you’ve watched enough animu by now, you might already be familiar with this custom, which is known as mamemaki (豆まき lit. “bean sowing”) and is performed during a festival known as the Setsubun (節分, celebrated on February 3). It is considered the Japanese lunar new year, similar to how the Chinese have a separate date for their new year, and involves people throwing roasted soy beans called Fukumame (福豆  lit. “fortune beans”) either out through the main door of the house, or at family members dressed up as Oni (鬼  lit. “demons”). This was performed as a ritual of purification and a symbol of good luck for the coming year. While doing this, people chant out the phrase “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi!” (鬼は外、福は内), which literally means “Demons out, Luck in!” This practice dates all the way back to the Muromachi period (approx. 14th to 16th century CE), and is still practiced to this day.

Gabriel is obviously pretty cheeky, but even her humor can be quite crafty at times. And the act of not even bothering to open up the package to throw the beans at them makes for a very Gabriel thing to do.

But while we’re at it, let’s talk about another thing the Japanese fling around to exorcise demons and purify things — salt. Of course, this is just to make the article a bit longer, but I figured I might as well. Salt is ritualistically purified and used to drive away spirits, as is seen in Sumo wrestling matches where each contestant chucks a fistful of salt across the arena. Some homes even place a little saucer containing a mound of salt at the entranceway, which serves as a deterrent to evil spirits. So now that you know this, you can enjoy the silliness of the following video, and why NOthat salt isn’t meant for you — unless you’re a demon, perhaps?

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3 thoughts on “Lost in Translation #6 – Gabriel DropOut

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