0 Items | £0.00

VIEW BASKET

The best and worst puns in anime

Friday 20th April 2012


Helen McCarthy on anime’s best/worst puns

Mardock Scramble

Mardock Scramble: the title alone warns you this is one over-egged pudding. Doctor Easter's partner is an enhanced mouse named Oeufcoque. That's a bastardised version of the French for soft-boiled egg. Easter, egg, geddit? The villains are Dimsdale Boiled and Shell Septinos. The heroine, Rune Balot, might not look egg-shaped but she's named for the Asian delicacy balut - a boiled duck embryo eaten in its shell. Creator Tow Ubukata has a thing for eggs.

We Brits think we're pretty good at puns and linguistic jokes, but we're not the only nation to make that claim. The Japanese and Chinese also love to play games with words. They may even have an unfair advantage: their languages are packed with multiple readings for a single character and multiple characters that can sound exactly the same, opening up a world of opportunities for the dedicated punster.

Still, not all punsters are as determined as Zhao Yuanren, who wrote a narrative riddle in 92 Chinese characters, each of which is spoken as "shi", though with a slightly different tone. The romanised version, with no tonal variations, is ridiculous rather than humorous. The story, about a man named, naturally, Shi, killing and eating ten stone lions in a stone room, is also less fascinating in narrative terms than philosophical or linguistic ones. Sadly, many puns in anime share these tendencies.

For at least six decades, Japanese writers have used English to add a twist of foreign sophistication or wackiness to material for their home market. Blame Osamu Tezuka, postwar progenitor of this as so many other trends. He loved European languages and literature, and borrowed frequently and audaciously from both. Many of the character names in Tetsuwan Atomu contain puns or double entendres, an extra challenge for Frederik L. Schodt, translator of the English-language edition.

In 1963, when the anime version of Tetsuwan Atom was shown in the USA as Astro Boy, the adapters simply swapped the names for the kind of comical monickers common in Western cartoons. Dr Ochanomizu, possessed of a huge nose, became Dr Packadermus J. Elefun. Since the manga was clearly set in Japan, Schodt and the publishers wanted to keep original Japanese names and locations wherever possible. Schodt was able to translate the nickname of Astro's schoolteacher directly: Higeoyaji (Old Man Moustache) became Mr Mustachio. Instead of renaming other major characters he tried to work their jokes or puns into the script, but he managed to find equivalent English puns for some minor character names.

Tezuka did it again with Ribon no Kishi, translated as Princess Knight. Princess Sapphire, her horse Opal, and the kingdoms of Silverland and Goldland, are named for precious metals and gems, with a diversion into fairytale for hero Prince Franz Charming. The bad guys are named for cheap, mass-produced modern substances like nylon and plastic.

It doesn't always work. Foreign references risk getting lost in translation. Sometimes that would be a blessing. Naming Mobile Suit Gundam antihero Char Aznable after ageing chain-smoking Gallic crooner Charles Aznavour seems strange to most English speakers, but his second-series alias, Quattro Bagina, sounds laughably juvenile to any Western audience. It's better to stick to international pop-culture namechecks, like Kazushi Hagiwara's nods to favourite heavy metal bands in Bastard!!

There again, Bastard!!'s signature spell Venom is almost as gruesome as Rune Balot's gourmet-embryo namesake in Mardock Scramble. Venom summons an enzyme from the Gates of Hell to liquefy anything it's gobbed onto. That's enough to put anyone off their oeufs.

Mardock Scramble is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

MANGA UK GOSSIP

£
was £

FEATURED RELEASE

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

Ninja Scroll

Andrew Osmond on one of anime’s holy trinity
Ninja Scroll is crammed with memorable images, set-pieces and characters. Like many of the best international anime hits, the contents of Ninja Scroll are foreign yet familiar. Instead of the future megacities of Akira, we’re deep in the Japanese countryside. We’re weaving through fog and fireflies, springing through treetops, sneaking down rivers, hanging halfway down stone cliffs.

Tokyo Night Life

Japan Underground's Tom Smith on how to rock and roll all nite in Tokyo
I wanted to see bands playing live music, experience local pubs and bar culture, and not get back to my hotel until it was light. Now, my nights in the city are as busy, if not busier, than my days. Here’s a quick look at some of the Tokyo hotspots worth hitting for music fans.
Fray pays a visit to a Japanese canned food restaurant.
Welcome back, in part three we'll taking a trip to Shonen Jump's awesome J-World and hanging out in the greatest place for anime fans - Akihabara!
Dragon Ball Z Resurrection "F" hits UK cinemas September 30! Book your cinema tickets now

Gatchaman Crowds

Warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space
The colourfully mad Gatchaman Crowds is one of those anime which isn’t happy unless it’s doing umpteen things at once, all seeming completely different. It’s a campy, lowbrow action show and a thinky piece of SF and an otaku series with a taste for the meta and it’s anxious to engage with the real world. You can watch it just for the tangerine colours and the shouty panda. But if you want more pointers, read on…
Following its phenomenal success in UK cinemas last Autumn, Manga Entertainment are thrilled to announce the re-release of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' in 3D for a limited time in 56 sites across the UK.
Check out this exclusive clip from Takeshi Miike's hilarious action-horror, Yakuza Apocalypse!
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. The best and worst puns in anime from the UK's best Anime Blog.