Dec
22
2009

Star Wars quotes… in Japanese!

So you want to know how to quote Star Wars in Japanese, do you?

I won’t pretend that I can come up with a useful or sane reason for such an endeavor, but follow me, 若きジェダィ (young Jedi), and I shall show you the ways of the フォース.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

遠い昔 はるかかなたの銀河系で・・・

Tooi mukashi, haruka kanata no gingakei de…

Scrolling prologue text

♪ ♪ Dum-Da-DAAAM!!!! Dum-DadadaDAM!!! Dum, DaDaDaDAAAAAM!!! ♪ ♪

Re-watching George Lucas’ trilogy was actually a kind of experiment for me. While it’s one thing to watch a Japanese movie with English subtitles and see how the meaning and expression fluctuates in translation, it’s another altogether to go the other direction. I wanted to see how a classic movie like Star Wars got translated into Japanese.

Note: I’ve included both sub and dub translations. My super-scientific research methodology (= searching a few of the quotes on Google.co.jp and comparing the number of results) indicates Japanese are by far (about 20x) more familiar with Star Wars quotes in their subtitle incarnations than the dub-over. Where there was discrepancy between the two (almost everywhere), I’ve included both versions, and the dub-over version is given in blue.

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!

Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope

助けて オビワンケノビ、あなただけが頼りです

Tasukete Obiwan Kenobi, anata dake ga tayori desu

“Help me Obi-wan” is right. While some translations are relatively straightforward, such as the one above, some of the famous lines from the movie have had their core meaning completely altered. For example, this next famous line for some reason had to be butchered twice, once by the subtitle translation and then once more by a completely different dub-over, neither of which really captures the original, if you ask me.

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

私を疑うのか?

Watashi o utagau no ka
(Do you doubt me?)

フォースを侮辱するものは許せん

Fo-su o bujoku suru mono wa yurusen
(I will not forgive those who insult the force)

Actually, not only that quote, but Darth Vader’s character in general changed quite significantly in the Japanese interpretation. Whereas the Vader we English-speakers know has a quiet evilness–a composed, methodical nature to his madness–the Japanese Vader has much more emotion in his voice, coming across distinctly “macho” in tone.

By the way, “Lord Vader” in Japanese is ベイダー卿 (beida- kyou). Remember that if you ever find yourself in the presence of the dark master… in Japan.

More Quotes!


I felt a great disturbance in the force...

I felt a great disturbance in the force
As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror,
and were suddenly silenced.

フォースの乱れが・・・
突然 無数の悲鳴が起き
一瞬に掻き消えたような

Fo-su no midare ga
Totsuzen musuu no himei ga oki
Isshun ni kakikieta you na

フォースに異常な乱れを感じた
突然、何百万もの人の悲鳴が上がったような・・・
そんな感じだった

Fo-su ni ijou na midare o kanjita
Totsuzen, nanbyakuman’nin mo no himei ga agatta you na…
sonna kanji datta

I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the wookie win.

I suggest a new strategy, R2; let the wookie win.

R2, 作戦変更だ
負けてやれ

R2, sakusen henkou da
Makete yare

R2, 作戦を変えるんだ
相手に勝たしてやれ

R2, sakusen o kaeru ‘n da
Aite ni katashite yare

Use the force, Luke!

Use the force, Luke!

フォースを使え ルーク

Fo-su wo tsukae, Ru-ku!

You have failed me for the last time, general.

You have failed me for the last time, general.

提督 お前は致命的なミスを犯した。

Teitoku, omae wa chimeiteki na misu o okashita.
(General, you’ve committed a fatal mistake.)

遅いのだ 提督
お前には資格はない

Osoi no da, teitoku. Omae ni wa shikaku wa nai.
(You’re too late, general. You are not qualified.)

Your mind powers will not work on me, boy.

Your mind powers will not work on me, boy.

おれには お前の術は通用せんぞ 小僧

Ore ni wa, omae no jutsu wa tsuuyou sen zo, kozou.

<yoda> Since such a characteristic way of speaking had Yoda in English, looking forward was I to seeing how translated into Japanese it would become. Disappointed, was I. </yoda>

Unlike the grammatically clumsy Yoda that we know and love, Japanese Master Yoda speaks perfectly well formed Japanese sentences… (well, at least as much as any really old Japanese guy does).

Oh well, at least they gave him a voice that sounded right and left his character intact.

Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.

Try not. Do, or do not. There is no “try”

やってみるのではなく、やるのだ。

Yatte miru no de wa naku, yaru no da.

やるか、やらぬかだ。「試し」など要らん

Yaru ka, yaranu ka da. Tameshi nado iran.

I am your father

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from this particular line. As probably the most famous four words in the whole Star Wars universe, I had high hopes for them, but alas, having high hopes for such a simple sentence turned out to be a mistake. The Japanese versions are quite literal and unimpressive (from a linguistic perspective, at least).

I am your father.

I am your father.

私はお前の父親だ

Watashi wa omae no chichioya da

お前の父はわしだ

Omae no chichi wa washi da

By the way, “the dark side” in Japanese is spoken ダークサイド  (da-ku saido), but is written using these kanji: 暗黒面

And now, finally…! (saved the best for last)

May the force be with you

May the force be with you.

フォースと共にあらんことを・・・

Fo-su to tomo ni aran koto o…

I was actually a little surprised to hear あらん here, since I had never before heard those sounds used in this way. The あらん that I know is an informal negative form, which would give the phrase the totally opposite meaning of what it was supposed to be, right? Not quite.

Apparently, the あらん form as it is used here is from old, old Japanese. (spoken honorific court Japanese, if my informants are correct) The old meaning in this case is close to あろう in more modern Japanese. So it’s not negative at all.

How do Japanese keep it straight? Well, …to tomo ni aran koto o is something of a set phrase. And I think it would be nearly impossible to find あらん used in it’s ancient meaning in any modern sentence that didn’t mimic this form pretty closely.

Another trick to this sentence which might confuse a Japanese beginner is that it ends with を. Yes, this is the same as the particle you (hopefully) already know, so the sentence is actually grammatically incomplete. If we were to add something to complete the sentence, it would be like to “wish” or “pray” or something like that, but in Japanese when you’re making a divine request it’s very common to omit the ends of sentences. It makes the sentence more mystical and ethereal.

“May the force be with you” in the subtitled translation always appeared as “フォースと共にあれ” (Fo-su to tomo ni are / Be with the force). But in my opinion the dub version is much more kick-ass and interesting… Plus, my preliminary super-scientific experiments (= testing out the quotes on random Japanese friends)  indicate that Japanese speakers have no problem picking up on the dub version of this particular Star Wars quote.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Now, go forth young Jedi and quote Star Wars to all your Japanese friends and… フォースと共にあらんことを!

Posted under Language & Study by Nihonshock.

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  1. Japundit says:

    Story added…

    Your story has been featured on Japundit! Here is the link: http://www.japundit.com/Miscellaneous/Star_Wars_quotes_for_the_Japanese_Jedi

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