Spoilers for Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade (GBA) lie ahead!
In Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade (Known as 烈火の剣/Rekka no Ken in Japan), a well-known translation mishap occurs during Nergal’s true death speech. This is unlocked only during Hector’s story (third path in the game) and by doing the proper side quests. It is a rather sorrowful moment, a subtle twist to things to make him a deeper enemy than he appears to be.
However, as a lot of fans already know, the localization made a mistake that sort of dampened the intended impact of the scene. But you don’t often see the exact text compared to it, which is why I did this today.
What is the mistake? Well, first let’s look at the dialogue:
|Japanese||Lit. Translation||Official Localization|
|なぜ私が敗れる・・・？？||How could I lose…?||Why must I lose?|
|もっと力を･･･||More power…||More power…|
|もっと強くならねば･･･私は||If only I were stronger… I||I…|
|私は・・・||I…||must be… stronger…|
|何のために･･･||Why did I||I…|
|力が欲しかったのだ・・・？||want more power||Why? Why did I…|
|･･･ぐっ･･･このまま･･･||…gah…Now…||Gaa… Not like this…|
|このままでは・・・死なんぞ||Now…as I die…||I will not die…like this.|
|我が最後の力･･････||With the last of my strength…||With my last breath…|
|絶望に･･･震えるがいい・・・||You all will…tremble in despair…||tremble…and…despair.|
|フハハ・・・・・・||Fuhaha…||Hwah ha ha…|
|ハ・・・ハハハ・・・||ha…hahaha…||Ha…ha ha ha…|
Now, the localization did great with his speech. The overall meaning is there and preserved. But, you may notice an interesting difference involving the use of the word “Quintessence” where it shouldn’t be. Instead, it is supposed to be “Aenir.” Let’s take a look at the significance of this word.
Through a particular sidequest in the game (Chapter 19xx on Hector’s mode only), you learn learn that dark magic is powerful but often makes the user lose their way and forget why they even started when they fall victim to its seductive power, as seen by the level boss’s quote below:
“Yes. It’s the fate of those who study dark magic. If you covet the dark, you must enter it of your own free will. You must erase yourself and become an empty vessel. Only then will you be able to receive the dark and master it. If your disposition is weak, the dark will overwhelm you. You will be…lost… …Ofttimes, you will forget why you seek the power to begin with. Only a few people ever gain true power. To win such a prize, one’s self is a small and insignificant sacrifice.”
On the same level, you get a glimpse back in time of a man who is with two young children, where the following dialogue occurs.
“Daddy has to go to Aenir. …I’m going to get Mommy.”
“…Mommy? Where is she?”
“Some bad men took her away. They can’t have gone very far, though. I have to go after them and save Mommy. You wait ten days… If Daddy’s not back by then, take your brother and go to the other side. You’re a clever girl. You know the way, right?”
Here we see the name Aenir appear in the localization, so we know they are aware the name is different from that of “Quintessence” (a note for later on).
However, in the above dialogue, things get a little iffy as it sounds like it could be a location name in the localization. Did you read it that way? Many have! For good reason, too.
Let’s take a look at the Aenir line in the Japanese version:
“Daddy has to go and get mommy –Aenir– back.”
Of course I have plenty of context to produce the above. The original line reads more literally as, “Daddy, see, has to go to Aenir…[to] mommy.” One can see how a translator could assume it is a location where the mother is, especially if doing this quickly. The direct object however, is both Aenir and mommy, which would equate to the “–” usage in English.
In English, thanks to this scene in 19xx, Aenir can be read as a location name where the mother is, rather than the mother’s name. In Japanese we can see the direct object particle for both implying they are one in the same (hence the literal translation making use of the “–.” That comes off slightly more awkward in English so would need to be rephrased understandably (especially when you are saying it to the children who are likely very well aware who their mother is). So, the localization wrote what they did. If you already know the name refers to the person, it makes perfect sense.
But, as this is the first time players are introduced to her, it can be confused for a place where the mother is at. An important distinction! Translations are often done out of sequential order, and devoid of context, both of which matter as this is one of the few mentions (if not the only one) of her by name the entire time.
Basically Aenir is the mother, not the location where the mother is! Through this we learn that she is the mother of two major characters, Nils and Ninian, and heavily implied to be involved with the main villain, Nergal (calling himself daddy here).
After you clear the level, Nergal appears briefly as a green/neutral unit (as opposed to red/enemy every other time) and simply wonders why he came back here, but then figures it is trivial and goes back to his business. This helps seal the implications, but, more importantly, show he’s already having this issue that Teodor described earlier. He seemingly fell for that dark power and forgot his entire purpose revolved around Aenir. This is something players only learn in this third run through the game. I mention this as another note that is relevant for the end game dialogue.
So now that we know what (or who) Aenir is, let’s take a look at the other word.
Quintessence is the essence or life force of people that Nergal harvests throughout the game to gain power. It is pretty central to a lot of things he does. With the above context in mind, saying “Quintessence” instead of “Aenir” at the very end may change the implications of his character and as a villain. What the English reader may have read regarding his motivations and characters now differs from what the Japanese reader may have got.
So the important question: How did they confuse the word Aenir with…Quintessence?
Well, it’s not as simple as it may seem. In the Japanese version, the word that translated to “Quintessence” was in fact “Aegir.” You can already see from this alone where the problem may have arose!
To compound this fact, in his final moments, Nergal says “Ae…r” specifically with the third syllable (ni or gi) missing. The beauty of this is, in Japanese, that he could be referring to either Aenir or Aegir, which fuels that sort of confused daze he is in for a moment, obsessing over Aegir when his real reason was Aenir, see?
However, the game always wrote (in every instance I saw) “Aegir” as エーギル and “Aenir” as エイナール (more literally read as Aenar, but localization wrote Aenir, so I continue to use it). Note that the original dialogue for the above has エイ instead of エー at the beginning –which is used exclusively for Aenir. For those who speak Japanese, this gets more complex yet more straightforward, as エー is ee, but エイ is as well! They both represent a long vowel, but were likely written in this way to specifically differentiate the two very similar words.
And so, in the end, to also make it more obvious to players that he is, in fact, referring to Aenir, rather than Aegir/Quintessence. This is helped by the fact the post credits scene shows a picture of a man and an ice dragon only after the requirements (and so this true speech) are unlocked.
The localization may have simply assumed that エイ was just them writing エー in another way, perhaps? Or maybe they translated the end dialogue first? Often translation occurs out of order or entirely removed from context. Or maybe they had different translators and one did the side quest where Aenir is mentioned and one did the standard story where only Aegir is mentioned? Or perhaps they really did think Aenir is a place (where the mother was at, rather than being the mother) and ruled it out as something for Nergal to desire in his final moments. I would love to hear the story behind this issue, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure!
On a final note, I want it to be known that this does not mean the English version was not tragic. It just means it was a different kind of tragedy than intended. Indeed, one can perceive the English version as Nergal being completely lost to the darkness, rather than having a bit of hope that then gets extinguished once again. Both are tragic, but different kinds of tragedy.
Either way, it is a powerful scene with the original context in mind, so I do hope you learned something new!
To finish this article off, players of FE7/Blazing Blade who were originally unaware may better understand the brief dialogue afterward involving Nils (who you discover to be the aforementioned Nergal’s son). It is the same in Japanese.
“…Nils? What is it?”
“…I…don’t know… Why…am I………crying…?”
It’s a subtle tragedy which exists in English, but perhaps to a lesser impact than intended in Japanese due to a potential error in the translation.
What was likely meant to be Aenir, the name of the mother, was instead perceived as Aegir, a word that the English version translates into “quintessence.” As a result we have a slightly weakened scene regarding Nergal and his motivations to pursue darkness in relations to her. The mistake likely came from the similarity of the two words in Japanese (Aenir and Aegir), not helped by the phrasing in 19xx about Aenir possibly being read as a location name.
Note: This original article was written September 23rd, 2015. I updated some terminology and made some edits for better flow of writing on May 15th, 2018.
And that’s that! If you would like to see more of these sort of brief comparisons, feel free to leave a comment or suggestion (or email me under “Contact”).