Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Add Blasphemy to Taste

Or, how to take a Japanese comic that's skating the edge and push it right over in English translation.

Now, I generally feel that God has a sense of humor, can look out for Himself, and doesn't need constant defense by His children. So I'm not throwing around the term 'blasphemy' lightly. I think ADV Manga has crossed the line with their translation of Chrono Crusade. I think they did it more out of ignorance than malice, but they did it just the same.

For the uninitiated, Chrono Crusade is the saga of the Magdalan Order, priests and nuns who fight demons with the power of God and guns. Sister Rosette, a novice of the Order, is one of the more enthusiastic and destructive members. Her partner is a demon named Chrono who's willingly been bound to a pocket watch and her own soul; this makes him look less demonic and act nicer. He can't use his full demonic powers while he's bound, although she can allow him to draw on her own life to do various magical things. She also interacts a good bit with the Order's technical consultant, a layman who's the usual sort of anime dirty-old-man. Since the show's set in the Roaring Twenties and she's a nun, though, the usual "pantyshots" are replaced with pantaloon shots. When Rosette goes undercover, though, her action sequences almost always require showing some leg.

Ohhhkay, you're saying. A nun who hangs out with a demon under magical contract, and some fan service. Yes, that's skating the edge (and probably isn't good theology), but it's not necessarily offensive. In fact, the manga has a remarkably wholesome spirit about its slapstick, and some very nice bits in its dark fantasy combats.

So what's the blasphemy?

Sister Rosette is equipped at present with two special types of bullets. One is a sort of enspelled silver bullet originally known as a "Good Word Bullet", which ADV Manga translated as a "Gospel" bullet. Okayyyy. The second type's center is filled with chrism instead of explosives, more or less acts as an incendiary, and was originally known as a "Holy Fire Bullet". ADV Manga translated this as "Sacred Spirit" bullets.

Well, number one, it's dumb. Obviously the manga was referring to the Easter Fire, which is appropriate to an incendiary, especially since chrism is blessed at the same Easter Vigil Mass where the Easter Fire is kindled. It skates the edge, but it is a great image.

Number two, it's dumb. While I appreciate that ADV Manga attempted to avoid calling these "Holy Spirit" bullets, I think it's fairly obvious that that's just what they're doing.

Number three, it's dumb. Not only does this translation do violence to what was meant, it also sounds stupid. If you're gonna blaspheme, at least make it cool. Call them "Paracletes" or "Advocates" or "Doves" or something!

Number three, it's blasphemous. And the manga writer is blameless; this is all the fault of Americans, who live in a country where Christianity is not a minority religion.

Sigh. It grits me, especially since the translation is otherwise well done, includes all the relevant English sound effects without deleting any Japanese sound effect art, and even uses attractive and readable fonts. The manga seems very cute, fun, and has a good heart, while still providing realistically tense and dark adventures. Sister Kate, the Mother Superior, is great. There's a well-deployed Fatima subplot (this is, after all, only a few years after 1917, though the Order must have good sources to know about the Secrets). Plus, you gotta love a manga with a character named "Father Remington".

I am concerned about seeing yet another demon contract, especially since it's in a Christian instead of a Shinto or Buddhist context. (Shinto/Buddhist demons aren't necessarily all that evil; they're just nasty monsters.) Demons, one feels forced to point out, are eeeevil. Traditionally, they made their choice back in the beginning of time and will not get a second chance -- can't, because angels are beings of spirit, not soul. But if you take Chrono as being able to repent, then you can enjoy his backstory of rebelling against the rebels against the rebels against God, and allying with a human holy woman (the founder of the Magdalan Order) in order to defeat his fellow demons. OTOH, an equal partnership is better than the coercive elements originally included in Inu Yasha, and still found in many fantasy anime and manga. (Yes, I'm all for grrrrrl power. No, I'm not for magical enslavement or "Sit, boy.")

Anyway. Buy the manga, read the manga, but scratch out every "Sacred Spirit" and replace it with "Holy Fire". Then send a letter to ADV-Manga telling them to mend their mistranslation.


  • At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You just don't like what they did with your mythology.
    I'm sure they would say the same for many works foreigners have made referencing their religions.


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