Editorial – I only know one truth, viewing The Last Jedi teaser in Japan is very interesting.

I only know one truth, viewing The Last Jedi teaser in Japan is very interesting.
By Dave Hackerson

The two previous Star Wars Celebration extravaganzas were jammed pack with exciting announcements that left fans in a frenzy ahead of the upcoming releases Disney has had in store for us following its purchase of Lucasfilm and rejuvenation of the Star Wars franchise. The infamous “Chewie, we’re home” line from the very first full length trailer for The Force Awakens at SWC 2015 and the gripping behind-the-scenes look at Rogue One in the teaser trailer shown at SWC Europe last summer are probably seared into the minds and memories of legions of Star Wars fans around the world. SWC Orlando in 2017 did not disappoint, providing fans with a beautiful tribute to Carrie Fisher, a gorgeous retrospective on the franchise’s 40 years of history, and last but arguably the most anticipated of them all, our first real look at The Last Jedi.

It was the early hours of the morning here for me in Japan when I saw the trailer via the online live stream. I had responded to a call I had seen put out on Twitter by other Japanese Star Wars fans to live tweet The Last Jedi panel in Japanese (#SWC翻訳) so that fans here watching the live stream could get a better idea of what was being discussed. For many of them, the English language is not necessarily their forte, and given that the live stream was not subtitled, live tweets such as the ones I and others put out were their only means to better understand the panels. I still vividly remember the profound impact of Luke’s statement at the end of the trailer: “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Right after the trailer ended I tweeted out in Japanese “Luke said the age of the Jedi should come to a close! Is this the meaning behind the last Jedi?!” After making this tweet, I began to wonder if the Japanese subtitles for the trailer would resemble what I had written in Japanese.

In doing these live-tweets in Japanese, I was constantly reminded how blessed Star Wars fans in the English-speaking world are because we get the information right away, and perhaps more importantly, in an “unfiltered” form. However, for speakers whose native tongue is not English, they must wait for this information to be digested and then conveyed to them via the filter of “translation”. The quality of this filter can have a major impact on how these fans perceive the same things we see and “hear” in English. A good translation ensures that they almost assuredly respond to what they see transpiring on screen in much the same way native English speakers do, but a “dodgy” translation can give rise to interpretations that stray far from what the creators intended for us to derive. When the panel came to a close, I began to wonder about the quality of the subtitles we would get for the Japanese version of the teaser that would surely drop the next morning.

My hunch proved to be right on the money, and when I had a few spare minutes after taking care of some things at home in the morning I sat down to watch the trailer. The first thing we hear Luke say is “Breathe…just breathe”. I initially expected a fairly straightforward translation, so I was surprised by the liberties the translator took with a rather simple piece of dialog. The subtitles read “落ち付け…心を鎮めるのだ (Ochitsuke… Kokoro wo shizumeru no da), and when reverted back to English, we get something like “Relax… and still your mind.” Meditation requires one to empty their mind and heart of thoughts in order to relax and focus, and one of the most effective means for doing that is by taking deep breaths. Just as Luke did with Yoda on Dagobah, we can probably assume that Rey is learning how to meditate on the Force, so in this context the translation fits because it reflects the implied meaning of what Luke is saying.

“So far, so good” I thought until we came to the next line, “Now, reach out.” Here the Japanese was merely “そうだ。それでいい。(Sou da. Sore de ii).” This translation left me scratching my head a little, for the subtitles merely say “That’s it. Just like that”. While not completely off, this translation simply fails to convey the fact that Rey is supposed to reach out with the Force. Here, we have no reference of the Force at the all, and thus the viewer does not fully understand what Luke is telling her to do.

The next few lines were more words rather than full sentences, and the subtitles faithfully translated these verbatim. We then arrive at the last line of the trailer, the one that has the Star Wars fan community buzzing with speculation and trying to read in to what Luke says: “I only know one truth… It’s time for the Jedi to end.” When I first heard this line, I took it to mean that Luke—after of years and wondering and exploring the Force—had come to realize that it was time to call an end to the Jedi’s chapter in galactic history. The line “it’s so much bigger” in reference to Rey’s mentioning of the light and dark facets of the Force seems to reinforce this interpretation… implying that Luke has learned the Force is far more vast than the Jedi and Sith dichotomy. With these thoughts in the back of mind, the Japanese subtitles left me rather disappointed. Translation is by no means an easy task, requiring the translator to read between the lines and employ knowledge of the context to convey and preserve the original meaning as closely as possible. At the same time, the translator must also avoid reading too far into the text and adding their own interpretation. Star Wars makes this fine line even harder to walk, especially when it comes to something like a teaser trailer because the translator’s own personal interpretation could potentially mislead the audience or even reveal hints that were meant to remain undisclosed. Despite these admitted hurdles, though, I came away feeling the Japanese subtitles revealed a lack of understanding of Luke’s current state of mind and the sequence of events leading up to his meeting with Rey. The Japanese reads “真実はひとつ。ジェダイは滅びる (Shinjutsu wa hitotsu. Jedi wa horobiru),” which translated back into English becomes “There is only one truth. The Jedi shall perish/be destroyed/fall.” The first part of the translation works to a certain extent, but smirks of an “absolute” statement that Obi Wan said only Sith lords were prone to make, ones which exclude other potential “points of view.” The Japanese verb used at the end, “horobiru”, is an intransitive verb that means “come to perish, to fall away into oblivion, to be destroyed.” However, given the words Luke says, I do not believe he meant that the Jedi would simply pass away and perish. The simple phrase “it’s time for” reflects his belief in the need to end that chapter and perhaps seek a new beginning. That implies taking action, presumably by Luke himself, something that the intransitive verb in Japanese fails to convey.

I was curious to see if I was guilty of reading too far into the lines, so I posed this question to other Japanese fans on a Facebook Star Wars discussion board. I received a lot of positive responses from other fans, and nearly everyone said that I was right on point with my interpretation and critique of the Japanese subtitles. A few fans indicated that they were a bit frustrated by the translator’s desire to lend emphasis to the word “end”, claiming that it produced the opposite effect. One fan said that the word “horobiru” also produces the added implication of “everything falls to ruin”, which is not the case here because Luke does not equate the end of the Jedi with the end of all Force users. Another fan posited the theory that “the end” Luke is referring to could be somehow tied in with Kylo, while agreeing that the Japanese subtitles did not fit the context. In addition, the comments many of them left revealed an underlying sense of skepticism when it came to subtitles in Star Wars. A few people went so far as to say they completely ignored the subtitles of SW trailers because they 1) did not trust them and 2) did not want to let their interpretations be influenced by misleading translations. In reflecting on these comments, I once again returned to my original thoughts on the advantage English-speaking fans have in accessing the Star Wars franchise in its “unfiltered form”. Perhaps more importantly, though, I was deeply impressed by the simplicity of this tale and the power of the themes to speak to people all over world, and break through the obstacles language may pose in the process of relating the story. That alone is a true testament to the enduring legacy of the Star Wars saga and its deserved place within our shared mythology.

Incidentally, a few days after I posed this question I noticed another version of the trailer posted on Youtube. The trailer that I and many Japanese fans first saw was the one put out by Disney Studios Japan. However, MovieNex (which releases Blu-ray + DVD + digital download packages of Disney films in Japan) also put out a subtitled version of the title on the 15th, but it has not been viewed as many times as the official Disney Studios Japan version. I am a bit intrigued as to why Disney would have two different subtitled versions, but I’m glad they do because the MovieNex one is far better in every respect. I can only hope more Japanese fans see this one, for the translation does the English original justice, especially the last line: “私が言えるのは一つだけ。もはやジェダイの時代ではない (Watashi ga ieru no wa hitotsu dake. Mohaya Jedi no Jidai de wa nai) .” Translated back into English, we are given a statement consistent with the interpretation many fans seem to hold: “There’s only one thing I can say (one thing I know)… It’s time to leave the Jedi in the past.” Come December, we’ll find out if that is truly the case.

Editorial – It’s So Much Bigger

It’s So Much Bigger
By Jason Gibner

I can freely now admit that I have a problem.  That problem is the teaser trailer for The Last Jedi.   Now, I definitely do not have a problem with any aspect of that first look at the next chapter in the Star Wars Saga.  My problem is that I just can not stop watching it and non stop thinking about it.  I try to do work and all I can do is think about is that handful of brief images that were first shown to me at Star Wars Celebration.  I try to clean the house and all I do is think about just what is happening there on Ahch-To.  Ancient books about The Force in trees, weird tree caves, multiple islands… as someone who usually trips out about any kind of talk about the will of The Force, the whole thing has got me straight up bugging.

Now this morning as I replayed the teaser in my head, as all normal people do, one moment and one line in particular really hit me.  Rey describes her vision into the Force as seeing the light, darkness and the balance.  As we hear the old master Skywalker say, “It’s so much bigger”, we are shown the beautiful and instantly iconic shot of Rey on edge of a mountain practicing with the saber of The Chosen One as Luke stands behind and above her watching on.   In this moment, Rey and Luke are shown as being very small against the massive sight of the Ahch-To waters and mountainside.   As I thought about this, my mind immediately went back to my college and my endless amount of art history classes I took and i realized the rest of my day may be shot.

One of the more interesting classes was an Asian art history class where we looked at countless very old Japanese works of art where one of the overriding themes was that nature was always presented as being bigger and more powerful than people.  In so many of the pieces my professor showed, if there were people in a piece they were tiny compared to the majesty of the wave or the mountain or the trees that were so often depicted in the art.  Now we know the Force is an energy field created by all living things and it surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together, right?  As Luke may reference at the end of the trailer, the will of the Force in the future of the saga may be something bigger than any Jedi has ever recognized before, thus calling for a whole new way of thinking about and/or using the Force.   This moment, at the side of the mountain perfectly speaks to that as an important as Rey and Luke’s story may be going forward, they are still very small next to the power of nature or The Force.   Like Luke reminds us, “It’s so much bigger.”  The true nature of the Force may be a greater power then any Jedi has felt before.

I admit, I’m getting carried away here but all that got me thinking too about some of the other important symbols in Japanese art like shape, balance, animals, birds, mountains and waves.   The uneasy balance seen in The Last Jedi poster of Luke and Kylo’s faces with Rey’s gleaming saber of light separating the two.  The combination of hard and soft lines in both Rey and Luke’s very grey costumes.  The birds that rumored to be inhabiting the island with Luke.  The mountain, which in Japanese art represents the unmovable and power almost being a symbol for The Force itself.  The waves that crash into the island, which Rey stares out to in teaser, representing power, strength and the very unpredictable aspect of nature.   Rey, perhaps being very much the unpredictable new vessel for the Force which may have the power to move the unmovable mountain?

It’s clear that this island, which may have be the location of the first Jedi temple, has quite a bit more going on in both story and symbolism then what we saw with our brief look at it in The Force Awakens.   Much like Dagobah, Mortis or Moraband, Ahch-To is seemingly a planet that has a deep connection to The Force just as The Last Jedi appears to have a connection to the Japanese art and cinema style that got George Lucas going all those years ago.   Until December or our next look at the film, we will have to “breathe…. just breathe…”

Rogue One – Rebelling In The Land Of The Rising Sun

REBELLING IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN –
a look at Rogue One in Japan by Dave Hackerson

I took a bit of a detour on the way home Friday evening to go see the Japanese dub of Rogue One. This viewing marked the third time I had seen the film, with my previous two viewings being in the original English. Though the movie is doing really well in theaters, it has been tough finding theaters that are doing multiple showings of the dubbed version in the evenings. Fortunately a Japanese user on Twitter provided me with a pretty comprehensive list of theaters in the greater Tokyo area showing the dubbed version, so I was able to make my mission a success.

Prior to going to see the film, I did some research on impressions of the dub and the voice actors who handled the characters. One thing that struck me was the number of people who recommended that parents wanting to see the film with their children should go see the dubbed version. Unlike English, where we learn all 26 letters we need to know and the basics for putting them together to form words in our first two years of school, Japanese uses a combination of two phonetic alphabets (which combine for over 100 characters) and Chinese characters (or kanji, with the average person expected to be able to read over 1200 by the end of middle school). Star Wars is filled with lots of specialized sci-fi vocabulary and expressions, many of them including kanji characters kids won’t learn until they are far along in grade school. The daunting task of following along with subtitles that you can only partially read would quickly dim any kid’s enthusiasm, not to mention concentration. In addition, subtitles in Japanese are generally kept short and must eliminate some information in order for people to keep up with the pace of the story. However, a dubbed version spares you all the trouble of reading and allows you to focus nearly entirely on what is transpiring on screen. I was not a big fan of dubs in the past, particularly when it came to anime, but after seeing a number of western films dubbed in Japanese now over the years, I have a greater appreciation for their ability to engage you and help you better experience a movie free of distractions.

Ultimately, the success of the dub relies on the quality of the voice actors, and fortunately for the Japanese audience there is a wealth of outstanding voice actors here in Japan. I would say that the Japanese dub of Rogue One did the original justice, so much so that I forgot I was actually watching a dubbed version at times. Here I will introduce the characters, the respective voice actors, and their profiles.

Jyn Erso: Haruka Shibuya
Veteran of numerous Western film dubs. Often handles the dubs for Keira Knightley and Rachel McAdams.

Cassian Andor: Yasuyuki Kase
Popular voice actor known for simply outstanding work. Recent dubs include Dead Pool and Captain America: Civil War.

Orson Krennic: Satoshi Mikami
Actor/voice actor that often covers parts acted by Benedict Cumberbatch. Recent dubs include Dr. Strange and Imitation Game. Rogue One marks his SW voice acting debut.

Chirrut Imwe: Yasuhiko Nemoto
Voice actor that specializes in mainly western films and animated features. Has done a lot Disney film dubs, such as Frozen, Toy Story, and Brave. Also has done many of the Marvel films.

Baze Malbus: Katsuhiro Kitagawa
Another veteran voice actor with an outstanding track record, including Transformers, Frozen, and Disney animated series.

Bodhi Rook: Takuya Kirimoto
Wide-ranging voice actor who has done many Western films and dramas. Possess a dramatic flair that he puts to good use for roles acted by Bradley Cooper and Robert Downey, Jr, as well as Asian stars such as Andy Lau and Hyun Bin.

Galen Erso: Masahiko Tanaka
Original Gundam veteran. Often handles roles acted by Alec Baldwin.

Lyra Erso: Marika Hayashi
Voice actor responsible for the dubs of major actresses such as Cameron Diaz, Claire Danes, Kate Winslet, and Mary Lyn Rajskub.

Saw Gerrera: Fumihiko Tachiki
Voice actor that has done a number of anime titles. Most recently “appeared” in Independence Day: Resurgence. Has done Forrest Whitaker roles numerous times in the past.

K-2SO: Hideki Nonaka
Best known for his dub work on the CSI series. Has covered a number of foreign films, dramas, and Japanese anime titles as well. Rogue One marks his first major blockbuster.

Mon Mothma: Ai Satou
Voice actress that does primarily anime, Western films, and foreign dramas. Wide variety of work, including the Space Ranger series, Speed series, Ghostbusters, and 007 series. She also did the voice of Mon Mothma in Return of the Jedi.

Darth Vader: Taiten Kusonoki
The second person to voice Darth Vader after Toru Ohira. Pretty much handles all of Darth Vader dubs today. He’s done a tremendous job in Rebels.

I was fairly impressed with the job that Disney did on the dub for The Force Awakens, but it pales in comparison to the job they did with the dub on Rogue One. As I mentioned earlier, the quality of the dub made me forget that I was actually watching a dubbed version for 95% of the film. One aspect in which the Star Wars franchise may have an advantage when it comes to dubs is that the films take place in a “galaxy far, far away”, so our willing suspension of disbelief makes it easier for us (or me at least) to further separate what we see on screen from every day life. I knew we were in for a great ride upon taking in that opening dialogue between Galen and Orson. Actors Mikami and Tanaka did a fantastic job of producing the same gravitas as the original characters, but almost perfectly matching the tone and delivery. Galen holding Jyn and then looking at Lyra and saying “Ike (“Go” in Japanese) sounded exactly the same. Time and again throughout the film, I found the Japanese in the dub matching how I imagined things to be translated from English, and that made it all the easier for me to fully immerse myself within the experience.

Shibuya’s portrayal of Jyn was excellent, and while the standard Japanese she spoke lacked the atmosphere we get from Jones’s British accent, her voice conveyed all the nuances of the character quite well. Indeed, I could sing the praises of every voice actor, but there are two that I believe are worthy of special attention: Nonaka (K-2SO) and Kirimoto (Bodhi). Nonaka’s portrayal of K-2SO was simply sublime, and sounded exactly how imagined the character would have sounded in Japanese. Nonaka produced the same dead-pan delivery that Alan Tudyk perfected for the character, and I found myself laughing at all the same lines as the English original. In a certain sense, the different levels of honorifics used in Japanese helped to further enhanced the character, adding another dimension that made his lines work even better. The language and expressions he used clearly indicate that K-2SO is there to serve Cassian and others, while at the same time the over-the-top politeness made his initial encounter with Jyn all the funnier and goofy. As for Bodhi, Kirimoto’s work on the dub made appreciate that character’s transformation all the more. In fact, and this might sound strange, but the dub left me more impressed with Riz Amed’s performance all the more. His performance provided the template for Kirimoto to work off of, and he did that and more. The sense of confusion and fear when he first meets Saw’s men, the growing confidence he gains as he interacts with the other members of the rogue motley crew, and the ultimate sense of assurance he exudes by the end of the film… each of these small elements were perfectly captured within the dub Japanese, and fully conveyed by Kirimoto’s delivery of the characters’ lines.
There are only two major gripes I have with the dub. The first is that dub removes the added flavor we enjoy from the accents of the truly global collection of actors, many for whom English is not their first language. Their performances lend a sense of authenticity to our beloved galaxy far, far, away, where many of the humanoid and alien characters speaking a first language that is something other than Galactic Standard. This is lost in the Japanese dub, where all the characters sound like native Japanese speakers and speak in a natural tone. I loved Kase’s work on Cassian in the Japanese dub, but I must admit I was momentarily taken aback when I first heard him speak at the beginning of the film. The second is the translation of one single line of dialogue. It may sound trivial, but Bail Organa’s response to Mon Mothma regarding Leia’s capacity to handle the mission to find Kenobi could have been handled much better. In English, Bail says “I would trust her with my life.” The Japanese translation contains far less gravity, and reduces this weighty line to “She’s more than up to the task (literal translation: “She’ll be fine”). Considering how well they did with the translation for the dub, I wish they could have done a little more to capture the implied meaning of Bail’s response in this scene. Again, a minor gripe, but reflecting back on the dub I can’t get this one point out of my mind. On an interesting note, I think they created a Japanese dub for the Death Troopers as well. I listened really close, and I swear I heard them utter things that sounded like Japanese, such as garbled “stop right there” to Lyra when she approaches Galen and Orson. Finally, and this will probably come as no surprise, but Two Tubes and all the other characters who spoke a dialect other than Galactic Standard sounded just as they did in the English original

Well, there you have it. In conclusion, I give the Japanese dub two very big thumbs up, and may choose to watch it again when I take my son for another viewing of the movie (he’s eager to watch it again, and now claims it’s his third favorite of all the films).