Today’s post is a brief comparison of the Pokémon move name: “Night Slash.” Many have written on the subject already, I’m sure, but I thought to add my own post about it.
This Dark-type move has a rather mundane meaning in English on the surface, but it has quite the dark cultural origins in Japanese. In Japanese, the move is “tsujigiri.” (つじぎり)
Tsujigiri was a practice (and became a way to refer to the practitioners, too) in feudal Japan where samurai would wait by the roadside for unsuspecting individuals to pass by, and ambush them with the intent to kill in order to test out their new swords. It was a way to test how well their new swords could cut.
The rather barbaric practice came about during the chaotic sengoku jidai (warring states period, from 1467-1600) which was when Japan was in a state of anarchy. In 1603, shortly after the unification of Japan and beginning of the tokugawa period, tsujigiri was outlawed and became punishable by death.
Back to Pokémon, with the above in mind, no wonder it’s a dark move! A move with the connotations of lying in wait to ambush, cut, and kill a person simply to test out a new weapon is pretty “evil.” In Japanese, the “dark” type is referred to as the aku (悪 “evil”) type too, and so it makes sense.
In English, the move became “Night Slash.” That has the connotations of attacking and slashing someone in the dark, but the reasoning behind it is left more open-ended (slashing for fun? Out of revenge? etc). The specific act of doing it for a rather trivial matter (i.e. testing out a new sword) is lost in translation.
One can see how “night slash” comes from “tsujigiri” though. Waiting in ambush is likely done in the dark, and a slash is the end result, regardless of whether the opponent dies or not. I see that fans translate tsujigiri to “Crossroad Killing,” which is about the closest anyone can get to describing it in a word or two, but it still loses out on the connotation of just how evil it really is.
In conclusion, when one knows the origins of tsujigiri (and hence night slash), then one can appreciate it for how dark the move really is in both languages. However, for the average player who will not really bother to dig deeper than what is presented, the true meaning will only be presented to the Japanese players aware of the context, and not have as much of am impact aside from sounding “cool” in English.
I wonder what other Pokémon moves to look into that may also have a deeper meaning lost in translation… of course, the localization I think still did a good job considering what they had to work with!