This is another post in my ongoing Fire Emblem Fates localization comparison posts! I discuss anything from major to minor changes here as I play through the game.
Today, I take a look at the change in a class/race name. What was originally Youko and Kyuubi no Kitsune became Kitsune and Nine-Tails.
I covered Garou and their class/race change yesterday, which can be found here.
Please note that this post is purely informative and may share some opinion, but this does not mean the change is necessarily good or bad. A change is just a change that is being looked into, and you can be the judge of whether you like it or not!
It is all just for fun and curiosity for me. : )
Classes change names between east and west, it is nothing new. A friend of mine wrote a great post regarding Tenma and Pegasus over here. I encourage you to read it to get the idea!
In this game, there are shape shifters similar to the Taguel in Awakening and Laguz in Path of Radiance / Radiant Dawn, though they work more like manaketes (dragons) did throughout the series since FE6. They use beaststones to transform.
So, there is a race that can transform into fox-like beasts in this game, on the Japanese-inspired Hoshido side.
In Japanese, they are referred to as Youko (妖狐), or literally “fox spirits.” They are part of Japanese folklore, mischievous fox-demons that shape-shift into people (often for tricky purposes). However, they are not always tricksters, with loyalty/friendship/keeping promises often playing a big part in their stories (in case you were wondering why Nishiki/Kaden often spouts on about repaying favors).
In English, this became Kitsune. This sounds odd to any Japanese speaker, as… it just means fox. Literally. 狐 (Kitsune) is the word for fox. If you look at this character [狐], you can see it actually is the second character in Youko above, too (妖狐). However, the reason for this is rather plain. In English, the Japanese word kitsune refers to the fox-spirits specifically in the folktale contexts, rather than plain foxes. So, straightforwardly, they made Youko into Kitsune. It keeps an exotic touch for English audiences, and maintains the Japanese folklore and intention of the spirit-fox known to presumably a wider audience.
In Japanese, the upgraded class is referred to as Kyuubi no Kitsune (九尾の狐) which literally means “nine-tailed fox.” This instance does not use Youko as the “nine-tails” already gives the implication of its other-worldly nature. Basically, to understand the intention, one has to understand that a number of tails on a fox indicates how much wisdom and power it has. They often have up to nine tails as a maximum.
So what did it become in English? Well, “Nine-Tails.” This time the literal approach was taken. I find this interesting, because they went with kitsune for the first class, yet the straightforward English “Nine-Tails” here.
Does the above sound familiar to Pokemon fans? That’s because the Pokemon Ninetales is built off the same mythology (though with a pun in this case to emphasize the wisdom/longevity). They are quite abundant in Japanese popular culture. The “nine-tailed fox” is a big thing in Naruto, too, and other characters in Japanese popular culture I can name off the top of my head are Shippou (InuYasha) and Kurama (Yuu Yuu Hakusho), among many others. As such, the word kitsune works to convey the intention of “fox spirit/demon of Japanese origin” to English audiences. It may not have several years ago, but by now I suppose this is the assumption.
So why then go with “Nine-Tails” instead of naming it the more exotic Kyuubi? I understand Kyuubi no Kitsune is likely too long to fit in the limited space they had, but it does take away from the exotic element as I mentioned. It’s curious, as I discussed the changes from Garou/Managarmr to Wolfskin/Wolfssegner on a previous post. They changed it to a “wolf” name, but kept the more exotic “-ssegner” in there. Here, it’s just a plain Nine-Tails. There is no real power implication behind it. A Japanese reader who sees “kyuubi no kitsune” will be aware that this is indeed a powerful spirit, but if you cut off one end (Nine Tails) or the other (Fox) then it loses that meaning.
From an audience understanding standpoint, it is more straightforward, which is perfectly fine. The audience does not have to research kitsune too much, perhaps, but may be confused at Nine-Tails if they do not understand or have too much of an awareness of the Kitsune beyond the name.
I wonder if they could have used Kitsune for lower class and Youko for higher class? It would play well with Japanese conventions in that sense, too, while remaining exotic. That is just a passing thought, however.
Lastly, I took a look at the descriptions in the game to see how they handle them:
A class of Hoshido. Long-lived foxes that bewitch humans. Have great speed and magic.
This is from the Japanese version. Here they are addressed as long-lived foxes that enchant/bewitch/trick humans (be it via shape-shifting or otherwise). A clear reference to the folklore where stories often told of such deceit.
Hoshidan. A shape-shifter with a long life span. They have high Spd and Res.
The English one erases references to tricking or bewitching humans, simply referring to their shape-shifting and long life span. It may have been an attempt to make the Hoshido look even better (as the games lean toward them being the more clear-cut “good guys”), but I assume there were space limitations in this description as well.
Next, the comparison of the Kyuubi no Kitsune:
A class of Hoshido. Eminent foxes with great spiritual power. They hold even greater power than the Youko.
They are compared directly with the previous class (Youko) here. Now let’s take a look at the English one:
Hoshidan. An eminent kitsune with a powerful spirit. Wise and learned.
They are referred to as Kitsune here probably in reference to the previous class without directly comparing them (as the Japanese does). Instead, “wise and learned” is added. Again, likely for space limitations. But it also serves to present the Nine-Tails as wise and learned, which is a connotation that is lost in translation by naming it such. In this sense, it is nice they added “wise and learned” to the description to make up for that loss.
So, overall, the change to kitsune is rather nice and informed. It keeps the connotation of the spirit-fox (of Japanese origin) even to the English audience. However, “Nine-Tails” is a bit stranger, now in English and losing a lot of the magic that kitsune contained. They make up for it in the description, but I personally think they could have gotten away with using Youko here, or even Kyuubi, as just two possible examples. I’m open to hearing more imaginative names too!
The Fire Emblem Fates comparisons will continue! I’ll begin the 4Koma Kings translation project soon, too.
What do you think of the class name changes? Do you prefer the English or the Japanese? What sort of name would you come up with? I look forward to your answers and preferences : )